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How is Rope Made?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
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The rope, like the wheel, is a very important tool in human history. Much like the wheel, it is a simple invention that completely changed the capabilities of man. It allowed the earliest inventors to pull heavy objects, connect objects, and bind objects together. Furthermore, the combination of the rope and the wheel gave rise to pulleys, devices that are still used heavily today.

Rope is made by binding fibers into one continuous line by either twisting or braiding them. It is the largest in the family of string, twine, yarn, and cord. There are many different fibers that can be used to create a rope, including hemp, cotton, linen, sisal, and jute. There are also many synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon that can be used. For industrial use, it can also be made out of metal fibers. This may sound unusual. Consider, however, the bridges that you have walked, biked, or driven across in your life. There is a strong likelihood that you have seen metal rope in the architecture of one or more of these bridges.

Historically, ropes have been made out of whatever fibers were available. Therefore, ancient versions were often made of silk fibers, animal fur, even human hair. It is likely that the first that were ever used were simply plant vines. These vines were eventually collected and twisted together which yielded the idea of twisting or braiding many small fibers together to create a strong length of rope. There is evidence that they were made as far back as 17,000 BC. It is known that Ancient Egyptians used them as early as 3500 BC. We also know that hemp versions were created in China starting around 2800 BC. Since then, rope has spread throughout the world and has been used in many different countries.

Twisted rope, also known as “laid rope,” is the most common form used in modern Western societies. It usually is made up of three strands. That made of four strands is referred to as “shroud laid” rope while any that is made of three or more ropes is known as “cable laid.”

Twisted ropes are made from fibers which are first gathered and formed into yarn. These yarns are twisted and bound together to create strands. Finally, these strands are twisted together to create the finished project. It is important to note that the direction in which the yarn is twisted is generally opposite of the direction in which the strands are twisted. This internal friction within the rope reinforces its strength.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By DylanB — On Aug 15, 2012

@StarJo – That is so bizarre! I like the idea, though.

I have never seen a rope made of human hair, but I imagine that it would be rather strong. I've heard that you can hold up a horse with human hair, if you have enough of it.

The only rope I've ever made was a hemp rope. My friend used to make jewelry from hemp, and I helped her braid several of the necklaces. When you wear them, you basically tie the ends of the rope around your neck.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 14, 2012

It seems to me that polyester rope that has been twisted together makes the strongest load support. My dad always used this kind to build my rope swings, and even though I swung on them as an adult, they held up for years.

The back and forth motion causes a lot of friction on the rope where it comes in contact with the tree branch. Also, the knot in the rope beneath the hole in the wooden seat bears a lot of wear.

My swing finally broke when the rope underneath the seat gave way. Luckily, I didn't have far to fall.

If I ever make swings for my own kids someday, I will use the kind of rope that has been twisted. I have seen firsthand how much it can take!

By feasting — On Aug 14, 2012

My dog's favorite toy is a cotton rope. It was braided using three different colored strips of material, and I am surprised at how strong this rope is.

The manufacturers must have known something about the strength of braided rope. I really thought that because of his sharp teeth, this toy would tear up in no time at all, but it has even withstood battles of tug-of-war between him and another big dog.

By StarJo — On Aug 13, 2012

My friend grew her hair out past her waist before she had it cut, and when she did, she kept the hair to use in making a rope. She thought it would be really unique and cool to use her own hair as a rope belt.

She had the stylist secure the hair at the base of her neck with a rubber band before cutting it, and she also asked her to braid it and tie it off at the end with another rubber band. Her braid was long enough that she could use the hair rope as a belt around her waist and as a sash for the curtains in her room.

This fashion statement got her noticed. She has had a couple of people ask her how she made her rope belt, and she told them that she preferred to wear her hair around her waist instead of hanging from her head.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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