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How to retain good rope strength

bumper with rope

Whether you’re tying your ropes around posts, creating eye splices, or using ropes for decoration, you’ll need to keep them in tip-top condition. Unfortunately, ropes do tend to lose their strength over time, with all the bends and tying they go through, but there are things you can do to help retain good rope strength; let’s go through them. 

Using the right knots

Knots provide brilliant solutions, and there’s a wide variety of applications – from marine and yacht ropes to decking ropes. The problem lies, however, in the bending of the rope. Every time a rope is distorted, or bent around an object or itself, some of the strength is lost. When a rope is bent, some of the fibres on the outside of the curve will have to carry more weight. On top of that, parts of a rope in a knot may be compressed with the fibres not being able to move to share the load. This is why it’s important to use the right knots for certain applications. Here are the main types.

  • Alpine butterfly: Used for ‘Y’ hangs and for creating eyes in the middle of a rope. Typical retained rope strength with this is 70%.
  • Figure 8: Used for eyes, stoppers, friction hitch and to join ropes and attach them to objects. Typical retained rope strength with this knot type is 75-80%.
  • Anchor bend: Used for attaching a carabiner to the working end of a climbing line. Typical retained rope strength with the anchor bend is 80-85%.
  • Clove hitch: Used for attaching ropes to objects and great for attaching a rigging line to a limb or log being removed from a canopy. It can also be used in closing climbing systems to attach ropes to a climber’s harness before tying the friction hitch. Typical retained rope strength with the clove hitch is 60-65%.
  • Reef: This knot type is one of the weaker ones and is typically used for joining two ropes together. Typical retained rope strength with the reef ranges from 45-60%.
  • Sheet bend: Used for joining two ropes together of different sizes. Typical retained rope strength with the sheet bend is 45-60%.
  • Double fisherman: Used for attaching the working end of a climbing line to a carabiner in place of a splice. Typical retained rope strength with this one is 65-70%.
  • Round turn and two half hitches: Used for attaching a rope to an object. Typical retained rope strength with this one is 75%.
  • Bowline: Used for attaching ropes to trees for base anchors in SRS climbing systems or for attaching a rigging line to limbs or logs being lowered from a tree. Typical retained rope strength with the bowline is 70-75%.

Preventing ropes from fraying

Fraying ends are an issue for any type of rope. No matter the use, a rope can lose its strength and shape, suffer from wear and tear, all with the added burden of fraying ends. How do you combat this? You need to determine the rope’s fibre first. Is it a natural hemp rope, or a man-made one, like a polyester mooring rope? This will guide you on how to treat the ends. For instance, if the rope is plastic, burning the ends is a very effective solution for fraying because the melting plastic fibres fuse together, preventing any more strands from coming loose. 

Another method to help prevent fraying is to tape the ends. This one particularly suits your natural ropes. Duct or electrical tape can be used to cover rope ends, you just may need several layers to ensure no loose ends escape. Make sure the pieces are wide and flat to be able to fold over the end. Secure them in place by wrapping them around the rest of the rope’s end part. 

There’s also the ingenious whipping twine, which comes from a classic sailor’s trick. You simply use it to wrap the ends of your rope, and then create a whipping knot to secure the ends. For added security, you can also melt the twine a little because it’s made from a wax coating; this gives the rope’s ends a hard coating and an effective seal.

Storing the rope

When you’ve taken extra care to prevent your ropes from fraying, and made sure to use the correct knots for specific uses, you should also remember to store your ropes carefully. If you use ropes as part of your job and in a working environment, you can hang them on metal pins, but you need to consider the type of rope, as metal can oxidise and speed up the deterioration of a rope. 

Don’t leave them lying around for people to trip over or for them to get damaged. When you’re finished using the rope, make sure to coil it correctly – there is a right way to do this! Avoid coiling a rope over your head and elbow because this can cause excess twist and kinking. Instead, turn the rope as it’s being coiled. You can use a pin rail or an open hand to coil.

Drying ropes

When dealing with your natural ropes, especially manila rope, whenever it gets wet, you must dry it. This is extremely important because of its make-up. The organic hemp will rot if left damp. Just make sure to hang the ropes so the air can circulate. Keep checking them for any signs of rotting and deterioration. When manila ropes get wet, they can give off a distinct odour, so you can also test whether they’re drying by giving them a good sniff.

Rope stress and abrasion

Overstressing your ropes plays a huge part in weakening them. Time, apathy, and poor maintenance can also affect rope strength. A little TLC goes a long way, as well as making sure you’re using the right rope for certain applications. Avoid dragging ropes over rough surfaces and make sure pulleys and sheaves are grooved depending on the rope size, to protect them from abrasion. 

Whatever the job or use, our range of ropes is incredibly extensive, covering tons of purposes. Treat them right and make sure you choose the right one for your task. Contact our friendly, knowledgeable team for any help for your rope resources.

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