Full Chisel Blog

August 29, 2009

Proper Rope

It is a pleasure to work with proper rope and I recently received a couple of samples of rope or cord from Trevor Tutt of Texas.  This is rope he makes and there were two types.  A softer larger rope made of hemp as were most ropes during the nineteenth century and before.  He also sent me a sample of rope made from flax or linen which was smaller, harder and more tightly made.

The ropes were wrapped with a small piece of the tighter flax cord and I tied a Matthew Walker knot in the end then seized the end with some linen thread, the stuff works well.

I decided to replace the rope on my bow saw tension device, the original was made of jute, which was alright but nothing like what it should have had if it were made in the time of its style, the early nineteenth century.  So I chose the flax or linen rope to make a replacement.  I removed the original and used it to layout the proper length for the end splice.

The above is the before picture with jute rope.

The above picture is the after with the flax rope.

Here is what the splices look like.  There is no comparison.  I untwisted about 8 inches from each end to a mark on the rope giving me the proper length, I then started the short end splice.  A long end splice is not necessary for this application.

The flax rope is much tighter than the jute and required a fid to open up the strands so I could finish the end splice.  The first couple of weaves are full size strands (it is three strand or yarn rope).  I then trimmed off a couple of cords in the strands and continued to weave a couple more times, then reduced it again by removing a couple cords of each strand.  This produces a nice taper to the splice.  I then placed it on the ground and with my foot rolled it back and forth to smooth out the splice.  I also used an alcohol torch (lamp) to singe off any arrant fibers.

I am also going to replace the rope on the 17th century style bow saw (one of three I made, the other two are at Plimoth Plantation) with the hemp rope.

Mr. Tutt also sent me a bottle of walnut ink that he makes, now I have black, brown, red and sympathetic ink. 



  1. A rope maker. Of all things how basic but over-looked. Thanks for showing his work and how well it looks on your work.


    Comment by Gary Roberts — August 29, 2009 @ 7:32 am

  2. Gary,

    You are right about how over-looked and fundamental the rope was in the development of mankind. Ships were held together and large objects easily moved with a rope. And the equipment is fascinating and a rope walk is a rather long building.

    Give me a piece of string (or rope) and a stick and I can be amused for hours. I am not sure where my interest in all things nautical came from, rather land locked here in the High Mountain Desert. But I have crewed on a number of sailboats from a 16 foot scow to a 37 foot sloop, even got a chance to handle the sheets of an Olympic class Star. I have owned two copies of Ashley’s Book of Knots and need to pick up another copy of D’arcy Lever’s Young Sea Officers Sheet Anchor and work on the Turks Head, a knot I find troublesome.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — August 30, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  3. Nicely done splyce on the rope! On the 18th century bow saws, were they using similar size rope as what yu used or smaler?
    Thank you for the great blog!

    Comment by David Gendron — August 30, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  4. David,

    I used manila rope on the two for Plimoth Plantation because I didn’t have hemp rope at the time. And hemp rope would have been the appropriate material to use. I will be replacing the rope on the one I kept with the larger hemp rope. One of my projects on today’s list.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — August 31, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  5. I took a length of the new hemp rope and made a loop for the 17th century bowsaw. It is an end splice that is tapered.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — September 9, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  6. You’ll never believe what just showed up at my door. when I sent you cord the first time, it didn’t get delivered. well it just arrived from its long, strange trip. the original postmark is 4/23/2009. If you want some more, it’s already boxed up and ready to go.

    Comment by trevor — August 28, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  7. Trevor,

    A year in the mail, know I know what snail mail means. Send it up and I will send you some hobnails.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — August 29, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  8. Hello Stephen,

    I was told this is a rope workers bench, probably for knotting. It is about 5′ long and a few hundred years old. Have you seen one of these and hold can it be?

    /Users/joe/Desktop/rope/rope 1.jpg /Users/joe/Desktop/rope/rope 3.jpg /Users/joe/Desktop/rope/cutting end.JPG /Users/joe/Desktop/rope/rope repair.JPG

    Thanks, Joe

    Comment by joe — December 11, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

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