Marine Rope Braiding Instructions

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Traditionally made from natural fibers such as hemp, linen, cotton, jute and sisal, marine rope is becoming more commonly made from synthetic and factory-woven fabrics such as nylon, polyester and polypropylene. Most often used for fishing or seafaring purposes, marine rope can be made from any sort of fiber and involve any number of strands in the braid. With some patience and a little familiarity with knots, practically anyone can become an adept student of marine rope braiding.

Selection

  • Pick and choose among the rope fibers available to you that are within your budget range. Especially for marine and seafaring purposes, the tensile strength and flexibility of the rope should be given a high priority. Although the synthetic materials found in Vectran and Spectra fibers are reputed for their elasticity and resistance to ultraviolet light (an important consideration for ropes that will remain in pulley systems or coils under the sun for long periods) synthetic ropes often come at a higher price. Cheapest among these tend to be polypropylene which, though less thick and sturdy than some natural fibers, is light enough to float on water. Check your finances and consult the prices of rigging and boating catalogs to calculate how much rope you will need, while adding an additional 20 percent in bulk quantity for slack and emergency supply, and decide on which fibers are best for your needs.

The Braid

  • Prepare the individual strands in separate coils in front of you to ensure that they do not tangle as you work. The single braid, most basic among marine rope braids, involves an even number of strands (eight or twelve typically) braided into a circular pattern, with half of the strands weaving clockwise while the others fold in counterclockwise fashion. If you have no prior braiding experience, then take three of the individual strands and practice the basic braid, labeling each strand as one, two or three respectively and folding the two outer braids above under each other in fashion: the first strand crossing above the second and under the third while the second crosses over the third, and so on. A double braid, known as the “braid on braid” can be made by braiding an additional braid above the single braid. This marine braiding technique can sometimes use two different materials: the interior single braid being chosen for strength while the outer braid is a fabric with UV and abrasion-resistant qualities.

Marine Knots

  • When you have completed braiding each of your rope lengths, you may attempt to fasten splices, slips, rings and hooks as necessary by looping or knotting certain ends of the braid. Of the knots used on ships and boats, the three most common are: the Hangman’s Knot, wherein a loop of rope is made and then bound with tight coils going up the loop, creating a “noose” effect; the Scaffold Knot, which is a smaller variation of the Hangman’s that acts very similar to the traditional Bowline Knot, and the three-tiered Gallows Knot. Additional marine knots include the Fisherman’s Bend, Surgeon’s Knot, Sheet Bend, Timber Hitch, Fisherman’s Knot, Figure-Eight Knot, Clove Hitch and Reef (Square) Knot. While some of these knots were designed for the use of traditional schooners and other multi-mast sailing vessels, and therefore can appear outdated, the marine knot enthusiast would do well to learn as many of the traditional marine knots as possible to prepare themselves for any seafaring or marine occasion.

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