How Rope is Made: History, Manufacturing, Types
You may use it to secure your boat to a dock, make a rope swing, or maybe you’re using rope to hang your bird feeder - whatever it may be, rope has almost unlimited uses.
So how is rope made, anyway?
When you boil it down, rope is made by grouping individual yarns, fibers, or strands together, by twisting or braiding them to unify the strength of the individual fibers. But that explanation simply scratches the surface.
Read on to learn how rope is made:
A Brief History of How Rope Is Made
The earliest record of rope usage is from prehistoric times and dates back approximately 28,000 years! These early ropes were made from groupings of plant fibers. This advance in rope technology would evolve to become the twisted rope as we’ve come to know it.
Throughout history, rope was used by numerous civilizations, including ancient Egyptians, countless Chinese dynasties, and eventually spreading to communities all over Asia, India, and Europe.
During the Middle Ages, rope making technology made significant advances. With the advent of rope walks, rope makers were able to create longer, stronger ropes in continuous lengths of 300 yards or longer!
Rope walks were set up outdoors or in long buildings and were designed to allow long lengths of fibers to be laid out and twisted into large ropes.
Over the years, there have been many advances in the construction of rope, but ultimately rope is still just a method of combining individual strength members into a construction that takes full advantage of the individual parts.
While ropes are still made with natural fibers, rope making has expanded to include stronger, more durable synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
In order to make rope, the fibers must first be processed. For ropes of natural materials, the fibers need to be coated with natural oil, cleaned, spread and combed to create continuous ribbons of fiber, known as slivers. The slivers are then twisted into yarn, which is wrapped onto spools or bobbins.
For ropes of synthetic fibers, resins are extruded through machinery into a variety of fiber sizes. In the case of colored synthetic ropes, the color is often added to the resin prior to being extruded, providing a more long lasting, durable color.
The next step is to manufacture the rope by combining these fibers into one cohesive length. In the case of twisted ropes the fibers are first twisted into strands, which are then twisted together to create the final twisted rope. For solid braid ropes the fibers are combined using one of a few methods, including braiding, knitting and weaving.
Natural vs. Synthetic Ropes
While rope has remained relatively constant in its design, there have been many advances in the materials used to construct the rope. Today, customers have the choice or either natural or synthetic fiber ropes. Depending on what your application calls for, both natural and synthetic ropes have their places.
Natural ropes are made from fibers including cotton, manila, jute, sisal, and hemp fibers blends, whereas synthetic rope fibers include polypropylene, polyester, nylon and polyethylene.
Synthetic rope, like Nylon Rope, has a significantly improved lifespan in comparison to its natural counterparts. This is due to the superior resistances offered by synthetics, to include resistance to UV, moisture, mildew, rot, abrasion and chemicals.
Synthetic ropes are preferred for applications where strength or durability is a priority, making them the only choice for the majority of industrial and commercial uses. Due to the advantages synthetic rope offers, natural ropes are most frequently reserved for applications where the natural rope appearance is preferred, such as decorative uses.
As a common, everyday tool, rope is often taken for granted. We use it to hang our hammocks, pitch camping tents, or secure items to the top of our cars - nothing seemingly extraordinary.
However, when the question “how is rope made?” is posed, the intricacies of rope present a completely different story.
With a longstanding history, an extremely technical manufacturing process, and unique characteristics of different rope variations, there is more to rope and rope making than is initially apparent.