Men have always needed rope for the rigging of ships, for hauling things, and for tying bundles. So rope-making is one of the oldest industries in existence. The first ropes were knotted together from leather thongs, pieces of bark, or even roots. The ancient Egyptians made ropes from vegetable fibers, and these resemble the ropes made today.

An fiber used in making ropes is generally called “hemp,” but it may come from many different plants. The best rope material is the fiber of a plant called the abaca, which grows in the Philippines. This fiber is generally known as Manila hemp. It is easier to work with and stronger than other forms of hemp. The century plant of Mexico provides a material for making rope and so does coconut fiber. Rope can be made from cotton and flax fibers, but it is too expensive for general use.


Until the l9th century ropes were made entirely by hand on ropewalks. These were long, low buildings in which the ropemaker walked backward, step by step, unwinding the fibers from about his waist. At the upper end of the walk, a boy turned a wheel to which one end of the rope yarn was attached. This wheel kept twisting the yarn while it was being spun.


Today almost all rope is made by machinery. The fibers are passed through a series of machines called breakers, which look like steel combs. They comb the fibers out thoroughly, clean out the dirt, straighten out the snarls, and turn the rough mass of fibers into a “sliver.” This is a straight, continuous ribbon of loose threads, equal in thickness. These slivers are sent to the spinning machines. Here they are twisted into yarn and the yarn is wound onto spools or bobbins.


The bobbins are mounted on a revolving disk. The yarn is put through a metal tube which presses the separate pieces together and as it comes out it is twisted together into a strand. Then the same process takes three or four of these strands and twists them together to make a rope.


Each time the fibers are twisted the twist is made in the opposite direction from the last one. In this way the different twists counterbalance each other and keep the rope from untwisting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *