Many of the ropes for sale at Ropes Direct are made at our own warehouse in Norfolk.
As silly as it may sound, we live and breathe rope. This is our area of expertise. Over the years, we’ve become incredibly skilled at making rope of a consistently high-quality. And – to demonstrate our know-how – here we share a little insight into the history and process of rope manufacture.
Rope manufacture dating back thousands of years
Essentially, rope is made by grouping individual fibres and either twisting or braiding them together.
The earliest recording of this type of product is from prehistoric times. Around 4000 to 3500 B.C., the Egyptians used special tools to weave plant fibres – typically water reed – together. The process required at least three people and was extremely time-consuming. But without modern technology and resources, their laborious process of rope manufacture was the best available at the time.
Fast forward to the middle ages, and rope making technology had made significant advances. By this point, the ‘ropewalk’ had been invented. Ropewalks were either set up outdoors or in very long buildings, and were designed to allow long lengths of fibre to be laid out and twisted into ropes.
To this day, some companies still choose to use this traditional method of rope manufacture. Take, for example, the firm lay cotton ropes currently available in our store. These are produced by an artisan UK business, which has stuck to its roots and continues to make rope in this classic way.
The introduction of rope-making machinery
Ropewalks were a massive improvement on the tools used by the Egyptians. But they still needed a large amount of labour and resources. Therefore, by the late 18th century, people began to create machines to help streamline the manufacturing process – whilst still producing high-quality ropes.
These machines proved to be efficient and effective, eliminating most of the manual labour previously necessary. And they’re the same machines that we use today. Whether creating rope from natural or synthetic fibres, the machine follows the same three-step process:
1. Individual fibres are processed and prepared
The fibres are first lubricated with natural oil and then cleaned, combed and separated. This creates continuous ribbons of fibre, known as silvers, which are then compressed in a drawing machine.
2. The silvers are twisted together
Once they’ve been compressed, the silvers are twisted tightly to create a yarn. If the silvers are twisted to the right-hand side, the final yarn is said to have a ‘Z twist’. By contrast, if they’re twisted to the left-hand side, the yarn is said to have an ‘S twist’. Either way, it’s subsequently wound onto a spool – known as a bobbin – ready for the next stage in the manufacturing process.
3. The yarn is twisted or braided
Lastly, the bobbins are set on a creel (i.e. a frame) inside the machine and either twisted or braided.
To make a twisted rope, three strands of yarn are fed into a tube, compressed and twisted in the opposite direction to the yarn itself. For example, if the yarn was created with a ‘Z twist’, the rope would be created using an ‘S twist’ instead. This ensures it’s strong and sturdy.
To make a braided rope, approximately 9-18 strands of yarn are added to the creel. The creel then travels in an oscillating pattern, weaving the yarns around each other to make a tight braid.
Tap into our expert rope knowledge
There’s more to rope making than it first seems.
Rope has a long-standing history, a technical manufacturing process, and its characteristics often vary depending on how it is made. And if you’d like to find out more, we’re the people to call.
Ropes Direct is a leading UK manufacturer and supplier of a diverse range of ropes. It’s fair to say, we have detailed knowledge of all our products – including where and how they were made and their individual properties – and we’re always happy to help. To pick our brains about rope manufacture or any of the ropes for sale in our store, feel free to get in touch at any time. You can either call us on 01692 671721 or send an email to [email protected] and we’ll get back to you.