Sometimes referred to as plaited rope, flat rope is a rope design that involves plaiting rather than braiding. The end result of this design is a rope that is still quite durable, but does not have the rounded appearance that most people associated with ropes. Even though flat ropes are not braided, they are sometimes known as flat braided ropes.
Plaiting and braiding are very similar processes that are sometimes confused. Essentially, plating involves making a double fold that is flat. By contrast, braiding usually involves the overlapping of three distinct sets of material, most often two sets being woven around a third central set. Braiding tends to produce a result that is not flat, but somewhat round in configuration.
There are several features that distinguish a flat rope from a standard braided design. Along with the fact that the material is plaited, the creation of the rope itself normally results in a different texture to the finished product. Regardless of the type of fibers used for the roping, a flat rope is highly likely to have a texture that is coarser than that of a braided design.
One benefit associated with flat rope is its resistance to developing kinks. Because the process of braiding also involves twisting, a braided rope can often continue to twist while in use. The end result is that the twist becomes so tight that the rope begins to kink at different points along the length of the rope. Flat ropes can hold up to a great deal more use before a kink is likely to appear.
Along with being relatively resistant to kinks, many people find that flat rope is much easier to knot. The simple design makes the rope more flexible than other rope options, which can be important when there is a need to tie a knot as quickly as possible. The knots themselves will be just as secure with a flat cotton rope as with any other design, but still be easy to remove from the rope when desired.
The flat design of the rope is also sometimes considered superior when the rope is used to lift heavy weights. For example, the a nylon flat rope is much better suited for use with a small anchor on a fishing boat than the round braided design. The texture makes it easier to secure a strong handhold on the rope, and haul the anchor back into the boat. As a bonus, the texture also makes slipping less of an issue, thus decreasing the chances of sustaining rope burn during the process.
Storage is also easier with flat ropes. The flat plait design simply takes up less space than other rope designs. This makes it much easier to stow the rope under a seat, in a closet, or the hold of a small boat. When combined with its other benefits, it is well worth your time to determine if some form of flat roping would be the best option for the task you have in mind.