Selecting and Caring for Rope
Selecting and Caring for Rope
Reprinted from Farm Mechanics Text and Handbook by Cook, Scranton and McColly copyright 1951 by Interstate Publishers
The Use of Rope on the Farm – Rope of one kind or another forms an essential part of the equipment of most farms. From clothes lines to hay ropes, from binder twine to halters for the livestock, ropes of many kinds and sizes are in constant use about the farmstead. Like any other piece of farm equipment, its efficiency and economy depends upon its suitableness as to size and quality for the purpose for which it is used, the load of work put upon it, and the care or abuse with which it is handled. Profitable farm operation requires that every piece of farm equipment be so selected and used as to get the greatest amount of service from it. Rope is no exception. In many cases a broken rope may be but a minor matter, but often it may be serious, causing inconvenience, delay and extra expense, sometimes even endangering life. Knowledge of the important factors in selection, care and use of rope, and skill in using and repairing it are certainly worth-while for any farmer.
Rope Materials – Many kinds of fibers may be used for ropes. Cotton makes a soft pliable rope, commonly used in smaller sizes for clothes lines, window cords, etc. Other materials sometimes used are hemp, flax, jute and similar fibers. Steel cables are in common use on heavy hoisting machinery. The two most important and most commonly used farm ropes, however, are manila and sisal rope.
Manila Rope is made from the fibers taken from the stalk of the “Abaca” plant which is a native of the Philippine Islands The plant grows from 15 to 20 feet tall with stems and leaves resembling the banana plant. The stalks are made up of many layers and in these are many thread-like fibers like the strings in celery. After the pulpy part of the stalk has been scraped away, these long fibers are given a special treatment and then twisted into yarns and made into rope. Manila rope is generally regarded as the best, being softer, more pliable and stronger than sisal rope, however, it is usually more expensive.
Sisal Rope is made of the fibers from the long pointed leaves of a cactus-like plant which is extensively grown and harvested for this purpose in Mexico and Yucatan.This fiber is generally somewhat inferior for rope making as compared with manila, being heavier, stiffer and not quite so strong. Most of our “binder twine” is made of sisal.
In either case there are many grades and qualities of rope manufactured from both manila and sisal fibers which sell at varying prices and may be expected to give varying degrees of service.
Construction of Rope – By unraveling the end of a rope, one can easily see how it is constructed. The fibers after being oiled and specially prepared have been twisted together loosely with a right-hand twist to form yards, similar to binder twine. A number of yarns are then twisted together with a left-hand twist to form strands. Three or four of these strands are then twisted together in a right-hand direction to form the rope. This twisting holds the fibers together and gives the rope strength. Since each twist is in an opposite direction, the rope does not untwist or unravel when used. A very hard twisted rope is heavier and stiffer, may have a greater tendency to kink and is more difficult to splice and handle. Most of the rope commonly used on the farm is made up of three strands laid with a right hand twist and is called “hauser laid” rope. A “shroud-laid” rope is one made up of four strands with a central core running through the middle of it.
Weight and Strength of Rope – Rope is sold by weight, but the person using it thinks of it in terms of diameter and length, for example, he may need “twenty feet of 3/4-inch rope” for his particular purpose. To estimate what this amount will cost at so much per pound, it is necessary to know the relation between size and weight. Since cheap and inferior rope may be adulterated to give it greater weight, the purchaser should be informed as to materials, quality and grades. The following Table has been prepared to show facts regarding rope weight and strength.
A general rule for computing the approximate breaking strength of rope is as follows:
Square the diameter in inches,
Multiply the product by 7200.
For example, the breaking strength in pounds of a 1/4-inch rope could be estimated in this way: 1/4 x 1/4 x 7200 = 450 lbs. = breaking strength. The safe load may be found by dividing the breaking strength by 7, thus: 450 divided 7 = 64 lbs.
Selecting Rope – In selecting a rope which will be under heavy strain, such as for lifting hay, a large factor of safety should be used. That is, if the load to be lifted is 500 lbs., a rope should have a breaking strength of at least 7 times that weight or 3500 lbs. For hard continued use, the best grades of manila should be the most economical in the long run. For halter ropes a more loosely laid soft rope is desirable since it will be more flexible, pliable and easier to handle.
Care of Rope – Rope should be kept in a reasonably dry place, and, if it has become wet in use, it should be dried out in the sun before it is coiled up and put away. The fibers will weaken and loosen if stored wet in a very damp place or subjected to a great deal of wetting and drying.
Rope should be coiled to the right, the same direction in which the strands are laid, and when a long rope or bale is uncoiled, it should be uncoiled in a left hand direction from the inside, starting with the end that was laid down first. This prevents kinking and snarling. This is also true of binder twine which will twist and snarl if uncoiled from the outside of the ball.
If a rope has a tendency to twist and kink, it can be straightened out by fastening to the back of a wagon and dragging it over a grassy field.
An exceptionally hard and stiff rope can be made more pliable and easy to handle if placed in boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes, then stretched out and dried thoroughly. This decreases the strength of the rope considerably, however.
Inside wear on a rope may be detected by twisting it open with the hand and noting the “rope dust” and finely broken pieces of fiber that can be shaken out of it. Note the condition of the yarns and strands, even though the outside may seem to be in good condition.
Pulley, Blocks and Tackle – If a rope must do strenuous work through a pulley, care should be taken that the pulley is of such diameter that will give the most efficient service. See Table above for recommended pulley size for size of rope. A smaller pulley forces the rope to bend at too sharp an angle and causes undue wear and strain on the fibers.
Greatly increased power for moving, lifting or lowering heavy objects is secured by the use of a tackle, which is an arrangement of pulley blocks, hooks and ropes for that purpose. A block is a case or frame into which one or more pulley wheels or sheaves are fastened and which is equipped with a hook or ring for fastening it to a support or to the object to be moved. Blocks are designated as single, double or three-fold, depending upon the number of pulleys in each block. The block attached to the moving object is called the fall block and the other the fixed block. The end of the rope to which the power is applied is called the fall rope.
A tackle will increase the lifting power applied to the fall rope by approximately as many times as the rope passes to and from the fall block. For example, if the rope passes to and from the fall block three times, a force on the fall rope of 50 lbs. will lift a weight of nearly 150 lbs.
Using and Handling Rope – Whipping, Knots and Hitches
Practical Value – The knots and hitches now generally recommended for practical use are the results of generations of experience in the handling of ropes. Many of them were developed by seamen of the old sailing ships where ropes were such an important part of a ship’s gear, and necessity required that ropes be handled with the greatest possible speed, efficiency and safety. A great many special knots and hitches were perfected for special uses. Many of these have but little practical use on the average farm today, but a considerable number do have hence, ability to use them effectively is as important a part of farmer-training as is the handling of any other farm equipment. To develop skill in the use of ropes and in making the particular type of knot or hitch which is most suitable for a particular use requires close observation and a great deal of practice.
Elements of a Knot – The names of the basic parts or elements of knots, hitches and bends are (a) the round turn (Fig. A), (b) the loop or open bight , and (c) the closed loop or true bight. These terms are commonly used in describing knots and should be learned.
A hitch is a temporary knot used to fasten a rope around a timber, pipe or post in such a manner that it will hold securely and will easily unfastened.
A knot or hitch is frequently termed a “bend”, especially by seamen.
Essentials of a Good Knot or Hitch
Three requirements of a good knot or hitch have been stated as follows:
(a) Rapidity with which it can be tied.
(b) Ability to hold fast when pulled tight.
(c) Readiness with which it can be untied.
Speed in tying may not be of greatest significance for ordinary farm use except on special occasions, but undoubtedly the loss of time and effort in attempting to tie and untie poorly made and ineffective knots, hitches, and splices is considerable. Ability to hold when tied is an absolute necessity. Two fundamental principles which must be kept in mind have been given as follows:
The principle of a knot is that no two parts which move in the same direction, if the rope were to slip, should lie along side of, and touch each other.
A knot or hitch must be so devised that the tight part of the rope must bear on the free end in such a manner as to pinch and hold it, in a knot against another tight part of the rope, or in a hitch against the object to which the rope is attached.
Equipment Needed for Rope Work
A knife for cutting the rope and a large nail or a marlinspike for separating the strands are all that is needed. A marlinspike some 4 inches long and a 3/4-inch in diameter, tapering to a blunt point at one end may easily be whittled from a piece of wood. (See Fig. B) Pieces of half-inch rope may be used for practice work.
Knots Commonly used for Finishing the End of a Rope
Unless the end of a rope in use is properly secured it will soon unravel and become frayed out so as to be useless. An ordinary knot in the end is inconvenient when the rope is to be passed through a pulley or ring. An ordinary wrap with cord soon loosens and wears out. A wrap with wire or metal, especially on a halter tie, may result in a bad cut or tear if the rope is accidentally jerked through the hand. A small amount of time spent in properly securing the rope end by one of the methods explained below is well worth-while.
Relaying Loose Ends
If the rope has become untwisted and raveled, the strands should be retwisted and carefully laid into proper place again. Hold the rope with the left hand just below the point where the unraveling begins. (Fig. C) Take one of the loose strands in the right hand, twist it tightly together again with a right hand twist and lay it across the other strands from left to right, holding it in place with the left thumb. Do the same with each of the other strands in succession, twisting them tightly and placing them in their original positions. Move the left hand along the rope, holding the strands securely in place to prevent their untwisting. Continue twisting each strand in order, laying them in position a little at a time until the end of the rope has been relaid. Fasten the end securely by whipping or other suitable method.
Whipping the rope end with a cord is the most satisfactory method for ropes to be passed through pulleys and for halter ropes. If properly made, it will last the life of the rope, will hold the end securely and does not increase the diameter of the rope. (Fig. D.)
- Select a strong medium weight cord about 3 feet long.
- Lay one end of the cord along the rope in such a manner that the cord extends about 3 inches beyond the rope end (a).
- Place the other end of the cord along the first, but pointing in the opposite direction (b), the main part of the cord forming a large loop (y).
- Hold the left hand as indicated in Fig. D.
- Take the loop in the right hand and begin to wrap down the rope and over both cords. Wrap tightly and neatly for one to two inches.
- Draw ends a and b tight, pulling the remainder of the loop under the wrap.
- Cut off ends close to wrap. The finished end should appear as in Fig. E.
The overhand knot is so simple in its construction and so commonly used as to need no further explanation. It may be used temporarily to keep the rope from unraveling. The overhand knot also is the basis for many other types of knots.
This knot is used to form a knot on the end of a rope. It may be used temporarily to prevent unraveling, but its chief use is to serve as a convenient knob hand-hold for a rope handle or to prevent ropes from pulling through pulleys or holes. (Fig. G)
- Throw a loop near the rope end.
- Give the short end (a) a complete turn around the standing part of the rope (b) and pass it through the loop at y.
- Pull up tight.
Wall Knot with Crown
This is a combination of wall knot and crown knot which makes a neat and fairly large knot, which will prevent the rope end from pulling through a small opening. Make the wall knot as follows: (Fig. H)
- Unlay the end of the rope about 5 turns.
- Hold the rope in the left hand, loose strands upward.
- Make a loop in the right hand strand (1), laying it across the front of the rope with the end hanging free as shown in Fig. H. Hold it in place with the left thumb.
- Bring the middle strand (2) down around the free end of strand (1) as indicated by the arrow, hold in place with thumb.
- Pass the remaining strand (3) under and around strand (2) from front to back and then pass the end through the loop in strand (1).
- Hold securely with left hand and draw each strand gradually until knot is tight. Pull strands at right angles to rope. Work the knot down against the twisted part of the rope.
Make a crown knot on top of the wall knot as follows:
- Bend the left hand strand (1) down between strands (2) and (3), forming a loop on the left hand side of the rope. (Fig. I.)
- Pass the right hand strand across to the left of the rope, laying it between the loop and strand (3).
- Pass strand (3) through the loop in strand (1).
- Tighten crown by pulling each strand. Cut off loose strands. The finished knot should appear as in Fig. J.
End or Crown Splice
The spliced crown makes one of the best ways to finish a rope end when a slight enlargement is not objectionable. It takes a little longer to finish than the more simple knots, but when carefully made is neat, smooth and permanent. It is especially good for finishing a halter rope. It consists of a crown knot with the ends spliced back into the rope. (Fig. K)
- Make a tightly drawn crown knot as shown in Fig. I. Then weave back the loose ends as follows:
- Strand (1) is passed to the right over the strand nearest to it on the main rope and under the next one, pulling through tightly in diagonal manner, almost at right angles to the twist of the strands.
- Strands (2) and (3) are handled in the same manner, passing over the main strands next to them and tucking under the next.
- Continue with each strand in turn until they have been spliced in, over one strand, under the next, for three or four times. A marlin spike is convenient for raising strands.
- Smooth the crown by rolling it under foot and cut off loose ends. The finished end should appear as in Fig. K.
Knots Used for Tying Two Ropes Together
It is often necessary to tie the ends of two ropes or cords together to get greater length. Such a knot should be quickly and easily tied, hold securely without slipping, and then be untied readily.
One of the most commonly used knots and one of the best for tying together ropes, cords or twine, is the square knot, sometimes called the reef knot. (Fig. L)
- First tie the ends together with a simple right hand form of the overhand knot.
- Then cross the strands, (a) in front of (b), and tie a lefthand overhand knot. Draw tight. Fig. L
Notice that in the square knot both parts of the same end lie together in leaving the loops. This is the chief distinction between it and the Granny Knot which although often used is a very inferior knot and has little value because it slips easily and is hard to untie. The granny knot is illustrated (Fig. M) for showing the contrast with the square knot for which it is often mistaken.
This is a modified form of the square knot. The difference lies in giving the first overhand knot two turns instead of one as in the ordinary overhand. (Fig. N) This extra twist keeps the knot from slipping while the second overhand knot is being tied. Note that the ends come out of the loops doubled back on themselves as in the square knot. The knot is especially good for tying cords and twine when they are to be drawn tightly about something. It is used in surgical operations.
This knot is especially good for tying heavy ropes together. It will withstand heavy strain and will untie easily. It is also used as a fancy knot in braids.
- Throw a loop in the end of one rope with the end y under the standing part of the rope a. Hold with the left hand.
- Pass the end of the other rope b under the loop x over the standing part at a under the end y. See Fig. O.
- Holding the knot together with the left hand, continue with end b, passing it over the right side of the loop x, under the standing part of b, then over the left side of loop x as indicated by the arrow in Fig. O.
- Hold parts in position and draw up tight.
Knots and Hitches for Fastening Animals, Forming Loops, and Tying a Rope to Rings, Hooks, Poles, etc.
The slip knot is so commonly used and so familiar as to need no explanation. It is used to form a loop that will slip up tight around an object. It often does not hold securely and is hard to untie.
This knot is also familiar to all farm boys. It is similar to the slip knot, but may be untied easily, hence is more satisfactory for tying halter ropes, etc.
This is one of the most useful knots and has a great many practical uses. It forms a loop that will not slip or draw tight. It is easily untied. It may be made by several different methods.
Beginner’s Method – Bowline (Fig. Q.)
- Place the end of the rope through a ring or around the object to which it is to be tied.
- With the left hand, throw a bight or loop in the standing part of the rope as shown in Fig. P.
- Bring end a through loop b from the upper side, pass it around the standing part of the rope at c, then up through loop b again as shown in Fig. Q.
- Draw knot tight.
The Cat’s Paw provides a good method of fastening a rope to a hook.
- Throw a double loop in the rope as shown in Cat’s Paw.
- Give each loop 1 ½ or 2 turns and place on a hook.
The half hitch is used for temporarily fastening a rope to a timber or pipe and will hold fairly well with a steady pull against it. After the end has been passed around the object it is given a turn about the standing rope and then under itself, binding the end against the object when pull is exerted. (Fig. R)
The timber hitch is a modification of the half hitch and holds much more securely. The end is given one or two wraps back on itself instead of being simply tucked under as in the half hitch. (Fig. R)
Timber Hitch and Half Hitch
A Combination of these two hitches as shown in Fig. R is much safer than either used alone for lifting or dragging long pipes, poles, etc., where a straight end pull is necessary. Make the half hitch first, then pass the end back and form the timber hitch. (Fig. R)
This is one of the most useful hitches for fastening tent ropes, guys ropes, etc., to stakes or poles. When properly tied, it will not slip, but may be untied readily. Two methods of tying are most commonly used.
Sailor’s Clove Hitch (Fig. S).
- When rope is to be pulled tight. Pull up slack rope with left hand. Form loop with right hand and throw over top of post, Fig. S. Hold loop in place with left hand, make second loop with right hand and throw over post.
Beginner’s Clove Hitch (Fig. T).
- Throw two loops in the rope – one to the left, the other to the right. Move loop (z) over the loop (y), as shown in Fig. T. Place the hitch over the end of post or stake and draw up tight.
Adjusting Length of a Rope
It may be desirable at times to take up the slack in a rope or shorten it without untying the ends. The sheep-shank is the most satisfactory method of doing this.
- Make two loops in the rope, long enough to take up the slack, Fig. U. Hold with left hand.
- Make a half hitch with the right hand in the rope near one end of the loop and slip the half hitch over one end of the loop.
Making Common Splices and Repairing Broken Strands
Steps in Rope Splicing
In general there are three main steps involved in making a splice.
- Unlaying the strands of the ends to be joined.
- Fitting these ends together with the strands interlocking.
- Relaying and weaving the ends of the strands back into rope.
The short splice is used to join two ropes when it is not necessary for the rope to pass through a pulley. The splice is not as smooth as the long slice, but it is strong and satisfactory for straight pulling or lifting. (Fig. V)
- Unlay the ends to be joined for about 7 or 8 turns.
- Bring the two ends tightly together against the twisted parts so that the strands are interlocking, that is, each one separated by a strand from the opposite end. Note that the strands of opposite ends lie in pairs.
- Tie one of the pairs of opposite strands together with a right hand overhand knot. Be sure you tie the right pair so the knot will lie smoothly with the strands following their original twist.
- Tie the other pairs of strands in similar fashion. Draw all up tightly and securely so that the twisted parts of the rope are joined firmly.
- Tuck or weave the strands back into the rope as directed for the crown splice, Fig. K. Each strand is woven in diagonally to the left, passing over the main rope strand next to it, under the second, over the third, and so on. Give each strand one tuck at a time, twisting and working them to make a smooth even job. Each strand should be tucked under at least two times, and more, depending upon the weight to be carried.
- Cut off strand, leaving ends about ½ inch long. Roll spice under shoe or block of wood to make it smoother. A neater finish may be given by thinning out a part of the strands, tapering them towards the end and giving them several extra tucks.
The long splice is the most satisfactory method of joining rope ends when the rope will have to pass through a pulley. It is a strong durable splice and increases the diameter of the rope only slightly. It will, however, shorten the rope from 3 to 8 feet. (Figs. W to Z.)
- Unlay the strands of each end for about 15 turns. An inch rope should be unlaid about 3 feet.
- Place the two ends together as directed for the short splice, so that the strands are interlocking and alternate.
- Tie two of the pairs of strands together with overhand knots as for the short splice in order to hold the ends securely while splicing the other pairs of strands. Draw up knots, joining the twisted parts of the rope securely and firmly.
- Carefully unlay one of the untied strands, a turn at a time, and in its place lay the corresponding strand from the other end of the rope. Lay this strand carefully, twisting it tightly and laying it in place snugly and securely as though it were a part of the original rope. Continue until within 6 to 8 inches of the end of the relaid strand. Tie with an overhand knot.
- Turn the rope end for end, and untie one of the other pairs of strands. Proceed as with the first pair but in an opposite direction, unlaying one and relaying the other in its place.
- Draw all knots up securely and tuck the ends of the strands into the rope as explained in the crown splice and the short splice. Each strand end should be passed diagonally to the left over the strand next to it, under the next, over the next, etc., passing under at least twice.
- Cut off the ends and smooth by rolling under shoe or block of wood.
Repairing Broken Strands
If a strand is broken or badly frayed, it should be repaired by removing a portion of it and a new piece relaid in its place. (Fig. AA.)
- Unlay the ends of the strands as far as is necessary.
- Lay in its place as described in the long splice, a new or sound strand of similar size of sufficient length.
- Tie strand ends with overhand knots and tuck them over and under the main rope strands as explained for other splices.
The loop splice consists of a small permanent loop in any part of the rope through which another rope or a part of the same rope may pass. Its chief use is in the construction of a rope halter, and is explained here in preparation for halter making when reference will be made to this description.
- Raise two strands in the rope where the loop is to be made.
- Pass the long end a, which will be the lead rope of the halter, through the opening under the raised strands. It is important that the rope a cross under the two strands at right angles to the direction in which they are laid in order to hold properly. (The dotted line indicates the improper direction for passing the rope under the strands.) Draw the loop up to the desired size.
- Raise two strands in the long part of the rope a as indicated by the marlin spike.
- Pass the short end of the rope through this opening.
- Work the ropes closely together, completing the loop splice as shown in Fig. AB.
Eye Splice or Side Splice
This splice is used for making a permanent loop or eye in the end of a rope, or for splicing one rope at right angles into another. It is used in making a rope halter. It provides an excellent means of attaching a lead rope into a halter ring, or for attaching the rope to the ring of a pulley block.
- Unlay the rope end for about 5 turns.
- Bend the rope end back on the main part to form the loop of the desired size. The two outer strands should straddle the rope, the center one laying on top of the rope.
- Raise a strand in the main rope and pass the middle loose strand under it in a diagonal or opposite direction from the twist of the main rope.
- Weave this strand into the main rope as for the short splice. (Fig. V), passing it over the strand next to it, under the second, and so on.
- Tuck in the other two strands in the same manner. Make sure that each loose strand passes over and under but one strand at a time in the main rope, and that each is separated by main rope strands.
- The finished eye splice should appear as in Fig. AC.
Making Rope Halters
Anyone who works with livestock will often find that ability to make a rope halter is worth-while. Such a halter is easily made and very serviceable for both horses and cattle. Halters for cattle are ordinarily of 3/8-inch rope, but for large animals, horses and bulls, the rope should be ½ or 5/8 inches in diameter. A halter for a medium-sized animal will require about 12-14 feet of rope, allowing a 6 ft. lead. A halter may be made either adjustable or non-adjustable. Each kind has certain advantages.
- Determine the necessary length of nose piece and head piece by measuring the animal’s head.
- Make a small loop splice (see Fig. AB), toward the end of the rope, leaving the short end long enough to form the nose piece.
- Measure off the proper length for the head piece from the loop splice.
- Fasten the end of the nose piece into the side of the standing rope with a side splice (see Fig. AC for directions for eye and side splice), making the head piece of suitable size.
- Pass lead end of rope through the loop splice, making the jaw piece.
- Finish the end of the lead with a crown splice. (See Fig. K.)
Since this type of halter when completed cannot be adjusted to different sized heads, it is necessary to measure the animal’s head in order to determine the length necessary for the head piece and nose piece. An advantage of this type of halter is that it will not loosen and slip down over the nose or head if properly fitted.
A halter which can be adjusted in size is often desirable, especially for horned cattle. Its disadvantage lies in the danger of its loosening and slipping from the animal’s nose.
- Make an eye splice (Fig. AC) in one end of the rope a. The loop should just be large enough to allow the standing part of the rope to pass through snugly.
- Measure from the loop of the eye splice the distance that will be required to reach nearly around the animal’s nose.
- At this point make a loop splice b (fig. AB) with the loop the same size as the eye splice.
- Pass the long end of the rope f through both loops as shown in Fig. AE, forming the jaw piece of the halter.
- Finish the end of the lead rope with a crown splice (fig. K).
Making Slings for Hoisting Bags and Barrels
This sling is useful for raising or lowering bags of feed, seed, fertilizer, cement, etc. A rope about three times as long as the distance around the bag should be used.
- Tie the ends of the rope together securely.
- Lay rope on ground, forming an over about 1 ½ feet across, and lay the bag across it.
- Lift both ends of loop up around bag, pass one loop through the other, and over the hook as in Fig. 88.
- Lay free end of rope on ground.
- Set the barrel upright on the rope, leaving the free end about twice as long as the height of the barrel.
- Bring both parts of the rope over the top of the barrel and tie with an overhand knot.
- Draw knot loose by pulling ropes to right and left sides of barrel as shown in illustration, forming a half hitch on opposite sides of the barrel.
- Complete the sling by tying the free end to the standing part of the rope with an overhand bowline knot. (See Fig. Q. for bowline knot.)