International Guild of Knot Tyers Forum

General => Chit Chat => Topic started by: Ulmenblatt on August 16, 2006, 10:57:04 AM

Title: Rope making machine
Post by: Ulmenblatt on August 16, 2006, 10:57:04 AM
I'm looking for a blueprint or a drawing of an easy to build rope making machine. Any hints?

Title: Re: Hi knotters
Post by: Willeke on August 16, 2006, 07:25:20 PM
Hello Ulmenblatt,
There are several simple machines you can buy or make yourself.
Which is the best depent on how big a rope you want to make, how much money you have to spend and how much technical knowledge you have.

The easiest for tiny ropes (up to 1 cm?) is the kind of haid braiding machines that have 3 or 4 hooks rotating one way and a head that can rotate the other way round. (If you are luckey you can find it second hand for nearly nothing, otherwise expect to pay up to 10 dollar or Euro or 7 pound.
Photo can be found at:

There is a device for sale made along the same principles, much sturdier, to put on a drill, (hand driven or electric,)
For sale on websites, I have never seen it for less than 100 euro/dollar, 70 pound.

Homemade, easy to make is explained in this website:
Two pieces of board, a way to fix one to a table or stand on the ground.
Through both pieces of board go metal rods. The rods end in a hook on the side of the fixed board.
Between the boards the rods make a 90 degree angle, go straight for a little while and make a second angle of 90 degree, continuing the same direction as they started of with.
The rods come out of the second board and should be held there, either by bolting them down, or by bending them over again. This second board will be moved in circles, making the rods to turn round.
This gives you a one on one ropemaker.
I have made one like this myself.

The next posibility is to have some cog wheels fixed in a frame, one big one in the middle, 3 or 4 small ones round it.
The smal ones have a hook each, the big one have a handle to drive it. (Or sometimes there is one more cogwheel involved to get an even better gear ratio.
A photo of this kind of ropemaker is to be found on this website:
Some more can be found in this book on the web:

Also you can use bicycle cogwheels and a chain. You need to make a closed case for a machine like that.
I hope I have given you some info you can start with, I think I can find on all of these machines more info, I will add some in a second reply, but if you find one machine interesting, ask and I will try to get you all info asap.

Title: Re: Hi knotters
Post by: Willeke on August 16, 2006, 07:55:40 PM
Hereby a few links to photos I put on the web before now, all about ropemaking during a meeting in France.
First a frame with pegs, string is placed between the peg on one end and each of the three pegs at the other end, next each string is wound, (a hook in a hand drill) till it is the length for the next peg. Then the 3 strings are put on the hook together and wound the other way, with a top to keep them in their place.
Run by Luc Profeur and his wife Odile. and next 6. and next 2 are showing one of the geared cogwheel machines, in this case freestanding. Owned, ( I think,) by Des Pawson but run in these photos by Terry Barns.

The last ropemaker in this album is one of the bend rod machines, but a very good one, if small scale.
It has 6 hooks and can handle a core too. Also owned and run by Luc, with help from visitors this time. and next 6 photos.
I will attach the best of these photos to this post.

Most rope machines have either a lockable free running hook or a hook with a handle at the other end, and all have one part that can move, either as freestanding part, as moving part on the same board or with a rope with weight that moves up.

Title: Re: Hi knotters
Post by: Willeke on August 16, 2006, 08:27:00 PM
3 ropemakers that where at the meeting in Den Helder, october '05, all owned by one of the German members.

Title: Re: Hi knotters
Post by: Willeke on August 16, 2006, 09:17:37 PM
Sorry to post so many times in the same thread, but there is so much info that I can not get it into a smaller size.
This time simpler ropemakers, on request., here are photos of a simple machine.
Most important is a sturdy bar, or a bar clamped onto something sturdy.
Make 3 holes in the bar, same distance between them, in a horizontal row.
Make 3 hooks out of rods, in z shape, but with 90 degree angles, place them through the bar and rotate the hooks at the same speed in the same direction.
One hook, on a handle again at the other ends makes work simpler.

Even simpler, on prehistoric way to make rope with just one rotating part:
Variation on the same principle 2 pages: and


this thread got locked by accident, sorry if you tried to post in it and it did not work, I will try not to lock threads by accident in the future.
Title: Re: Hi knotters
Post by: Ulmenblatt on August 16, 2006, 09:42:54 PM
Thank you so much

This is just about what I have been looking for. It'll take me a couple of days (or more precisely - nights) to study it. Willeke, I really appreciate it

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Willeke on August 17, 2006, 07:29:05 AM
To add to your workload, I have been looking at the site of Andre van der Salm, he has made many photos at our monthly knottyers meetings. In those albums, specially the early ones, there are many photos of ropemakes and rope being made.
In the albums of these months there are photos worth looking at, from a ropemakers point of view:
January 31st 2004
March 27th 2004
April 24th 2004
June 26th 2004
August 28th 2004
September 25th 2004

There are a few more in other months too, but I run out of time now.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Andre van der Salm on August 18, 2006, 11:20:39 PM

a bit later then wanted though but at first there was no way to reply. Here is the URL of a interesting website about ropemaking machines. You can even download scans made from the original booklets that came with some of the antique ropemakers.

Hope this helps

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Ulmenblatt on August 19, 2006, 09:50:19 AM
Hi André

Thank you very much for this valuable link. I will try to rebuild some of the machines shown on the website. But since I'm not a blacksmith I'll focus on the wooden rope making machines.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Loren on August 21, 2006, 12:02:05 AM
A ropewalk doesn't have to be high-tech or elaborate -- I've used bent coat-hanger wire and a couple of wooden slats, though it's not as durable or fancy as the ones pictured.  Most of the time I use the drop-spindle method, but that's because it's far more appropriate for my specific purposes than a crank-type ropewalk would be.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: KnotNow! on August 23, 2006, 06:43:53 AM
Hi Loren, I am unsure what the "drop spindle" is (but I rush forward, don't read every post, jump to the end and then wonder why I can't understand.  You may have reffered to an earlier link.  I did download the "boyscoutropemaking.pdf" which seems even more complex than the method I would think of as "drop spindle".  Which do you call drop spindle?  I think my point is the same as yours.. we don't need but the simplest tool (or none at times) to make some wonderful rope.
  My point being in asking is that I can sit with a bunch of fluff (cotton, hemp, nettle, wool, innerbark... or... ) and make thread, yarn and rope (as can many others in our hobby today and all people anywhere can do with a bit of a hint, in case they had no previous exposure.)  In "Two Years Before the Mast" it seems that spinning old yarn into new was a full time project (and we know from ABOK that spun yarn, nettles and foxes made up much of the base for the knot craft on ship.
  I am reminded of my childhood.  We took rags and sewing scraps and cut them into patches, 2"x2".  These were sewn into squares of 8"x8" and then sewn into a quilt.  The squares were arranged by pattern of cloth to make art.  Moving images called "Ocean Waves"  or other descriptive names.  The whole was stitched together and backed with batting and a very inexpensive flat cotton.  Then we sat at a streatching frame quilted the resultant mess.  A good quilt from that time is worth more today than month's wage for my Dad at the time and we considered it to have no value... just the use of junk.  So it was with the rope making on board the ships.. making junk into useful stuff.  Now folks cut new cloth of the bolt to make quilts.. keeping the old patterns alive.  Yet we buy rope off the bolt to make foxes and nettles.  Where I live today wire rope is free.  We are coming to the close of it but wire rope and netting and polypro line are still free (some from logging and the rest from fishing).  Tons of it are free.  Often the cutting floor scraps from the fishing net folks are enough for 1,000 hammocks and 20,000 net bags.  This new stock.. still with the tar smell on it.  Next year or decade something else will be free.   Where ever you live some good line, thread or cord is being thrown away!
  Good luck on the rope making machine to Ulmenblatt.  I would love to collect them (along with kerosene lighting and ...... well all the junk I keep and cherish).  If you want to make some very fine rope all you need is a "raw" (to me recycle is the same as raw) material and almost no hardware.  If you want to make miles (kilometers) of completed line... maybe a simple machine.. but remember the "real" (that is industrial age) machines were designed for making kilometers or miles or all to the 10x.  The output of one machine for a day would take a knotter (or even a sailor) many decates to use up. 
   I know... someone will quote "chapters and verse" to show my error on "output" per day and usage per decade for each craft ... so I already stand humble and refuted.  I'll just ask you to go twist some yarn and see how much you make and then try to use it up in knotting.
Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Loren on August 23, 2006, 07:38:34 AM

The drop-spindle method involves suspending the strands and spinning them around each other to form the twist.  I don't really know that much about using it with yarn to make rope, but it is ideal for making 3-strand twisted wire, since, with strategic placement of swivels and weights, the strands "dosey-do" around each other without experiencing internal twisting stresses and the resulting rope-like wire is still soft enough to tie knots in without having to re-anneal it.  I've got some pictures of my earlier setup, minus the swivels, here on my website:

It takes a while to do enough wire to make a ring, but then it's easier to tie than solid wire would be, so it balances out.  :)

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: KnotNow! on August 23, 2006, 08:02:49 AM
Hi Loren,
  I thought that was you... recognized from earlier contacts with IGKT-PAB.  What you posted should help the fiber rope makers as well as wire workers and I thank you for posting the clarification. Once again, your wire work is so wonderful.  To any who have tried it... you already know.  Not to say it is rocket science as it is not... but if you can do what Loren does on your first try then you need to make rings for a living or contact NASA for a slot on the payroll.  I'll say; I've been making rings for 40 years and I don't earn my living at it, nor do I work for NASA.  So is it clear that I think Loren is beyond NASA?  But then hand craft isn't even on the NASA score board.
  I made simple three strand "machines" (term very much distorted) as well as a breast drill with plates to control the rewind. 
  Nice job Loren.
Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: KnotNow! on August 27, 2006, 06:55:10 AM
Hi Ulmenblatt,
  I hope we have not discouraged you.  Lots of machines, many ideas.  My Boy Scouts (BSA) learned to strip inner bark from trees, make it into thread, make that thread to a yarn and the yarn to a strand and the strand to a rope with no machine at all.  I think you will find a good mechanical casting.. from several possible times.. maybe 1929 America.. to turn fiber into thread, yarn and line.  I don't know.
  Often I get off thead and provide a solution to a problem not asked.
  I saw... "I am not a blacksmith"   Wow!  I think you are!  You may not be a brain surgeon... but this is not the task at hand.  Just think that twisting a few fibers into a thread and a few threads into yarn and some yarns into a strand.. etc.  You need not be a blacksmith (iron worker) to bend some hooks to your purpose.  You can cook an egg for your breakfast but you are not a "short order cook". 
Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Ulmenblatt on August 27, 2006, 07:16:54 PM
Hi Knotnow

No, I'm not descouraged at all - on the contrary: I'm very grateful for the help I recieved here. And I'm already busy constructing some of the more simple devices presented in this thread. As soon as they're finished I'll try to insert a few pictures in this forum.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: KnotNow! on August 29, 2006, 07:23:31 AM
Hi Cyprian,
  I am glad it his working out for you.  I just remembered there are knotters who enjoy a skill called "split ply braiding" the base material being 4 strand twisted cordage (small for the intended purpose... not rope at all).  No ready supply is available so the braiders make it themselves.  The machines used are quite nice and could easily make larger cordage (still maybe only 8mm or so but plenty of ideas to grow from).  I don't want to hand off someone's email but PM or EM me and I'll link you to a very skilled split ply braider... if you wish.
Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: squarerigger on August 29, 2006, 07:38:15 PM
Hi Cyprian,

Just wondering - a machine is something that does work, right?  How about the Boy Scout's spinning/twirling stick?  It probably has a better name than that, but I know that it is extremely effective and a very simple principle, that of twirling a stick with the cord around the end of it.  Here is a link to their site:

Hope this helps! ;D

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Willeke on August 29, 2006, 09:26:54 PM
did you follow the links I gave in reply 4?
If not, find the other scout link and follow that too, it is a like machine, just slightly different.
The link you just gave is also in that reply  ;) But if you have simple machines I missed so far I would be glad to see them.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Fairlead on August 29, 2006, 09:44:50 PM
Hi Lindsey,
I have always known the "Boy Scout twirling stick" as a "Foxer" - used in days of yore to make up foxes from yarns.
I turned one up on the lathe many years ago and was only demonstrating how it worked this past weekend at the Inland Waterways Festival on the Thames near Reading.
Although foxes are two strand, I have made three strand with it in a similar way to that shown in your link.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: squarerigger on August 30, 2006, 02:59:45 AM
Thanks Willeke and thanks also to Gordon,

Sorry I missed your post Willeke - I did not mean to repeat something already said. :(  Gordon I did not know that foxes term came from the stick known as a foxer!  In the US a fox and a nittle or nettle are the same thing; a piece of yarn wound in a figure eight and finished with a clove hitch, with the starting end then being pulled out to "supply" the piece being made, typically for macrame or hitched bottle coverings.  How was the Festival?  Did it rain or were you blessed with better weather?  If I find any simpler machines I'll let you know...

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Fairlead on August 30, 2006, 04:40:15 PM
From "Knights Modern Seamanship" 10th edition (the only US Seamanship manual I have)
Naval Terms and Definitions: " Fox - Two yarns hand twisted or a single yarn twisted against its natural lay; used for light seizings" (hence the twisting tool named a 'foxer')
No mention of nettles in there - But from Nares Seamanship (UK) 1897
Foxes - "Short yarns laid up by hand - laid up left handed".
Nettle Stuff - "2 or 3 left handed yarns laid up right handed" (used as clew lines from the ring to the hammock - hence the name 'nettles')
I use the figure of 8 twist over the thumb and little finger a lot (especially when whipping/serving the Pilot Cutter handrails) and was taught how to do that in my naval training at HMS Ganges - not with line, but morse and murray code paper tape! - so that it would feed through the autoheads without twisting and snagging.  No name was given as far as I can remember.


Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Fairlead on August 30, 2006, 08:11:34 PM
Photo of my "Foxer"
Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: Willeke on March 24, 2007, 09:44:50 PM
I did make photos of one of my 'rope making machines' today.
It is rather simple, home made with simple tools, but it works.
(There should be a plank under the single hook block, I still have to add it, now you have to hold it manually.)
The counterweight on the moving part is a plastic 2 liter milk jug, with a handle, that can have any weight from a few gramms to 2 kilo's when using water, today I used about half a liter, so it was about 500 gramms, (near one pound).
Instead of a top I used a branched stick, it is in one of the photos. Worked better for the children, they understood it and could handle it well.
It is a willow branch that I cut some years back, I have used it several times and it still works perfect.

Title: Re: Rope making machine
Post by: asemery on March 24, 2007, 10:43:19 PM
and another rope twister.  Tony