How to make a rope making tool

The first spin

Ropes have been part of our history as humans for an incredibly long time some of our oldest archaeological findings show it was in use as far back as 50,000 years ago but it seems the ancient Egyptians were some of the first people to create and develop specialised rope making tools and equipment. The development of such equipment allowed them to turn palm leaves and grasses into ropes capable of shifting stone large enough to build incredible monuments. As time went on ropes became more and more vital to humanity to the point where in the late 1700s the ropewalk at Chatham dockyards became the longest brick building in Europe, supplying ships like HMS Victory with an enormous 31 miles of rope that the ship was allocated.

But let’s get back to bushcraft, one of the basic bushcraft skills we can learn is making cordage from natural fibres such as plants or sinew. Up until recently I couldn’t work out a simple easy way to make a multi strand rope from single strand cordage while in the woods. After some research and trial and error I’ve got a method that is very quick and simple to make and can be done in the woods from start to finish in less than an hour.

What you will need

What you need
Tools you will need
  • Knife
  • Folding saw
  • A piece of straight growth wood about 2.5ft long and thumb to golf ball thick
  • Some natural cordage

Making the tool

Making the tool
Making the tool.

First start by separating your handle and spinning bar sections by cutting off about a third of your total length from the thinnest end of your stick, this becomes your handle and the thickest two thirds become your spinning bar. Next, we want to baton the spinning bar section down the centre and cut a semi-circle notch in each half about an inch or two away from the thinnest end of the stick. Once you have your notches cut in your spinning bar take your handle section and cut a round reduction notch near one end making sure that when you place your two spinning bar sections over the reduced area they can move freely.

Assembling the parts
Assembling the parts.

Next tie your spinner bar back together around your handle section making sure that the bar can still spin freely, I used clove hitches then some nice tight wraps to keep it solid but use which ever knots you feel comfortable with, all that really matters is that the sections don’t come apart.

Lastly you want to make a small notch about two inches below your handle which will hold your cordage as you make your rope

Tie it back together
Tie it back together.

Next you need to make a long loop of cordage held together with a simple overhand knot. I used jute cord for this but you could use cordage you’ve made yourself. Bear in mind that you will lose a lot of length in the spinning process so it might be worth trying it with a shop bought twine first to make sure you’ve got the hang of the process.

Getting started
Getting started.

Slip one end of your loop over a thin branch stub that will act as an anchor point and hold the far end of your loop in place while you spin the other end that you’ve slipped over the spinner bar and into your cord notch.

Checking the twist
Attaching to the tool.

Now its time to start spinning, the direction you pick isn’t important as long as you remember which direction you’ve chosen, I personally go clockwise on the first spin. Spin your spinning bar until your loop has formed one tight cord and the gap around your spinner bar is almost gone. A good way to check if you’ve spun long enough is by walking towards your anchor point a few steps and taking the tension of your cord if the cord starts to twist together by itself its spun enough.

The first spin
The first spin.

Walk towards your anchor point until you can reach the middle of your length of cord then take that centre point and hook it over your anchor making a loop that you can slide over the bottom of your spinner bar up to your cord notch.

Next its time to spin again but this time in the opposite direction to the time before, this is what twists your three cords and makes them lock together and form rope. Once you’ve spun until there’s no gap around your spinner bar its time to remove your rope. Do this by untwisting the ends just enough to slip them off your spinner bar and anchor point, then stick a quick overhand knot in your anchor point end to stop it separating. You could also use a whip binding on the rope ends which really is the correct way to finish the ends.

The first spin
The second spin.

Now your rope is more or less finished and can be used straight away but I like to run the rope through the flames of my fire or run a lighter along its length to burn off all the little fuzzy bits which makes it look far neater.

Almost done
Almost done.

And there you have it from stick and cordage to fully made rope making tool in no time at all, hope you enjoyed reading the blog and best of luck on your adventures into rope making,

The finished cordage
The finished cordage.

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