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Rope Rope Rope

November 9, 2009

A Leonardo” rope machine arrived, much to my glee, and I made maybe eight-feet of some two-ply (and each ply was two-ply) rope out of some really rough sisal twine to get a feel for it. The crudeness of the twine was an issue, since all the strands that were sticking out got caught in each other, making the rope twist together prematurely.

Soon, hopefully I can make a trip to a purveyor of cheap hemp rope which I can take apart and remake, or possibly a purveyor of thick hemp beading twine.

I’ve found a tutorial for conditioning hemp rope, and I was wondering if anyone had any other tips or information. The tutorial says to use mineral oil, but I vaguely remember hearing something about jojoba oil working, and I’d rather work with a plant oil.

Over at Twisted Monk, they apparently use French palm-and-needle whipping for the ends. Upon further research palm-and-needle appears to be the longest-lasting form of whipping, and I have tried in vain to find instructions for it. The closest I’ve found is instructions for sailmaker’s whipping, but I’ve also seen some references in books that look exactly like sailmaker’s whipping, but claim to be palm-and-needle.

So does anyone know:

  1. If there is a difference between French palm-and-needle and plain old palm-and-needle?
  2. If there is a difference between palm-and-needle and sailmaker’s whipping?
  3. If there are differences, does anyone know any resources for French palm-and-needle, and palm-and-needle whipping?
  4. What the hell is the “palm” in palm-and-needle? Is it some kind of tool?

Pretty, pretty, pretty rope… I keep working the rope machine just to see the hooks spin. Sometimes I am way too easily entertained. And other times I am not easily entertained enough.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2009 4:29 am

    From what I know, the sailmakers whipping (plain) wraps around the twisted rope several times then “binds” the horizontal bands with verticals that cinch between the twists of the rope at least twice.

    The ‘French’ come in by using half hitches instead of wraps around the rope. The horizontal bands, perpendicular to the rope, are a series of half hitches around; with or without the binding cinches.

    IMHO, I say go with the regular whipping, but make it at least half an inch wide for 6mm rope, 5/8 of an inch for larger, 3/8 of an inch for smaller, depending on the twine you use to finish.

    How does the Leonardo machine work? Would love to see pictures in action.

  2. ranat permalink*
    November 20, 2009 4:43 pm

    Cool! That gives me a better idea of what to do. The Leonardo machine twists the strands of the rope individually all in the same direction, then allows them to twist back on each other. I’ll get some pics up. Unable to find cheap hemp locally, going to have to import from Romania. For serious.

    Think I’ll make 6mm first, as that seems the most versatile. Ah, another project on the list…

  3. albesan permalink
    December 2, 2009 10:01 pm


    Most plant oils can go rancid. I’m not sure if jojoba oil will go rancid too but there is a high chance that anything organic will go rancid.
    Mink oil used to be used traditionally (goes rancidand it is super expensive)

    Hope this helps some.

  4. albesan permalink
    December 2, 2009 11:24 pm


    Me again.
    Here’s a description of the palm and needle method:

  5. albesan permalink
    December 4, 2009 12:11 pm

    yes, me again…

    Apparently jojoba does not go rancid according to to this:

    “Jojoba extract is not a typical vegetable oil, it is actually a liquid wax. All vegetable oils will go rancid and sticky, even nut oils. Boiled vegetable oils cure stiff. Jojoba extract does not go rancid or stiff, and has a very pleasant, slightly sweet woody smell.”


    Also, the “palm” in “palm and needle” must come from the tool used by sailmakers to push the needle through the fabric which is called palm. there is a picture of one in the link on the post above this one.

  6. ranat permalink*
    December 9, 2009 2:54 pm

    Hey there, thanks for these links! I’ve finally got some hemp coming to me, and I’m excited to start making.

  7. albesan permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:44 pm

    You are welcome :) Glad it helped.
    It is funny how I found this blog looking for the same information you were asking about and found it right after, aaahhh the wonders of the internet :)

    I’d be really interested to see both pics of your rope making machine and your newly made rope.

  8. January 21, 2010 6:49 am

    Can’t believe how difficult it is to obtain untreated hemp rope. I live near the hemp capital of Australia and the local shop is still only importing it from Europe … sigh …


  1. Hemp rope explorations…. |

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