Author Topic: Rope  (Read 851 times)


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« on: February 13, 2017, 12:46:55 am »
                              ROPE         By James Watkins

ROPE  fulfills  a wide variety of purposes, both  industrial  and
recreational, and importantly this simple everyday implement also
provides a versatile survival tool to persons skilled in its use.
For example, in many disaster and rescue situations,  sometimes
under the worst weather conditions, it frequently is some form of
rope  harness or safety line that makes the saving  of  someone's
life possible.  Knowing how to apply rope to crosscountry travel
also makes  it possible  to tackle extremely difficult if not
dangerous  terrain obstacles.  Thus, learning the composition and
behavior of cordage as  well as  correct knot tying, should be an
important aspect  of  family survival education.  On both land and
sea there is a seemingly endless list of usage where rope achieves
its value as a tool. A person's proficient in knot tying, splicing,
weaving and coiling separates the  seasoned ropeman  from a rank
novice. The only way to acquire the  skilled use  of cordage is
with constant practice and practical  everyday experience.
Therefore, to begin a deeper look into this  subject, we  will keep
all applications and physical conditions,  particularly  a wet
environment, in mind when describing knots and  different aspects
of rope in general.   Essentially  cordage  comes manufactured in
either  wound  or woven Samson line. These two basic types of line
are  constructed from  both  organic and Space Age materials. For
any  considered purpose,  all  possess  varying merits  and
weaknesses.  Organic ropes,  for  example, include cotton and
manila  varieties;  and nylon, polyester, polypropylene and
polyethylene compose synthetics. As a last resort during a survival
emergent it's  relatively simple  to  form  a line of variable
strength  from  woodland  or grassland plant fibers.  The  secret
of rope strength lies within its stretch and  shock absorbent
capabilities. It's these factors that render it  important  to
wisely choose the correct line for a  specific  job  in mind.  In
simple terms, it would be near certain suicide  for  a mountain
climber to select cotton rope rather than  time  proven nylon line.
Now that we have discussed the basic materials utilized in rope
manufacturing,  let us quickly look at the various strengths  and
weaknesses in organic and synthetic lines. Cotton  rope provides
the best cordage for use with  horses  and pack animals because it
offers adequate strength for the  purpose and in general doesn't
cause rope burn if the animal becomes  ensnared.  However, the
glaring drawback to cotton is  its  limited strength, a tendency to
fray, plus a very short lived durability. Under  no circumstances
should a person trust this kind  of  rope during a life threatening
situation. Manila  rope is made from an Asian hemp plant called
jute  which contains  strong fibers that become the manufacturing
ingredient of  the strongest available organic cordage. It was
manila  which made  up  the mast and sail rigging of ships during
the  age  of sail,  and  this line still is respected as  quality
rope.  With proper  block and tackle it works efficiently with
minimal  friction.  While a good supply of manila rope may be
desirable,  this kind of cordage is subject to organic
deterioration, thus requiring careful maintenance to preserve its
strength and durability.  Now we cover synthetic cordage, the by-
product of petroleum and chemical  plastics.  Nylon  offers
excellent  tensile  strength, elasticity, and optimum durability.
This high performance plastic possesses a strength ratio of 3 or 4
to 1 over manila rope.  What makes  nylon  so  desirable is its
tremendous  shock  absorption capabilities, resistance to fraying
and rot, heat and acid,  plus its  almost  total  reliability as an
emergency  survival  rope. Mountaineering ropes, for example, are
woven from its  incredibly strong synthetic As a second choice,
polyester offers a good quality rope. However,  this line should be
considered only as a temporary  alternative  to nylon.  Its primary
attributes feature tensile  strength close to that of nylon, but
half the elasticity. Importantly both polyester  and nylon retain
nearly their entire tensile  strength when wet. Finally, only as a
last resort should a person consider polypropylene  or
polyethylene  rope. While this line  does  float  and offers  twice
the  strength of manila, it frays  easily  and  is stretch
resistant which results in poor shock absorption capabilities. This
synthetic also deteriorates rapidly in sunlight.Then, the least
desirable characteristic of this type of rope  is that knots slip
and untie easily, a bad property when considering a rope for
emergency survival use.Fiber  Rope - So far we've listed ropes
which are available  commercially,  but  what do you do during an
on-the-spot  emergency when  that  badly needed cordage  isn't
available?  Fortunately, unless  the terrain scenario features a
bare desert, the  world's plant  kingdom  provides the answer.
Fibers  composes  the  basic ingredient  for rope construction, and
three examples of  natural cord making materials include tree bark,
vines, and grasses.  Fibers  can be twisted clockwise into yarns,
which in turn  are twisted  in reverse, counterclockwise, to make
plies. Then  three plies  once again are wrapped clockwise to
finally become a  finished  rope  of variable strength. Indeed,
it's  this  clockwise, counterclockwise, and clockwise procedure
that creates the inherent  strength of cordage. In fact, the
practical applications  of primitive  rope work can be seen in the
jungle cultures  of  Asia and  South  America where people lash
together  homes,  bridges, boats, and tools.  Once  you purchase an
expensive coil of rope it's necessary  to handle it so the line is
properly maintained and always ready  to use. At the same time a
patient attitude when working with a long cable will help prevent
a time consuming snarl problem. Like  any tool  requiring  skilled
use there are  correct  disciplines  to ropemanship competence.
The  way rope naturally coils is in a right-laid  or  clockwise
manner. In fact a line should always be coiled in a clockwise and
circular  spiral  of  loops, called bights,  which  in  turn  lay
slightly off set and on top of the last laid loop. The end result
should be a neatly coiled rope which will unravel or toss  toward
a  desired  goal without snarling. Both the tail  and  lead  ends
should be tied off with a clove hitch or other knot which securely
bonds the coil, yet simply unties in an emergency. Four important
mistakes should be avoided with a rope meant  for survival
purposes.  First and crucially, never reuse a rope which receives
a severe shock  or stress to its strength. For instance,
mountaineers  do not trust a climbing rope once it absorbs the
dead-weight  impact of  a falling climber. It's preferable to buy
another  rope  than risk your life.  Second,  don't  coil  a line
in  a  counterclockwise  direction because  this  immediately
causes the line to  kink,  a  problem difficult to correct once it
starts.  Third, it's an absolute mistake to coil a rope around the
elbow and shoulder as is commonly seen among the inexperienced.   
  Finally,  don't  pull new line from a spool which  lies  on end;
the  spool should be mounted horizontally  so  the  cordage rolls
out in a flat manner. In the last three  situations  these common
mistakes  remain responsible for the  majority  of  snarl problems.
   In  simple terms, when an emergency arises and someone's life
is on  the line there isn't time to play around with a clumsily
put together  coil. Seamen, military and police personnel,
mountaineers, and just about anyone with experience know how to
coil  and bind  rope  correctly.  Also, a valued rope must  be
stored  and preserved against the elements when not in use. It's
best to hang a coil off the ground in a cool dry place out of the
sun.   Knots - Now we come to an interesting subject in itself:
knots and  why to use a particular cinch or hitch for a  specific
purpose.  All  people should know how to tie as  second  nature
the bowline,  sheet bend, clove hitch, double becket hitch,  and
the carrick  bend.  These  first class  knots  prove  their
reliable strength  plus  easy handling in wet or freezing  weather
conditions. However, in their proper place justice must also he
given to the square knot, two-half hitch, timber hitch, and the
square, diagonal,  and  shear lashings. Before going  further  into
knot tying it's crucial to say that the weakest spot in any rope
will be where a knot' is tied. The reliable bowline is among the
strongest and most trustworthy cinches possible. Its primary use is
in forming a temporary  loop in  a  rope end and importantly the
knot won't  slip  yet  easily unties  when wet or frozen. This is
a general rule though  and  a cover single hitch should be added to
prevent accidental slippage when the bowline is used as a personal
safety line.  The  sheet  bend  proves valuable as a  general
purpose  knot, utilized for many situations when two ropes need to
be temporarily  connected. However, the knot isn't too secure when
used  with two different diameter lines in wet, freezing
conditions. A  good example  of the sheet bend in use is in
commercial fishing  where tackle and groundline are laid for miles
connected in a  continuous chain. Importantly the sheet bend is
quickly handled when wet or frozen, and it also withstands
tremendous pressure from industrial equipment and weight.  Similar
to the sheet bend the double becket hitch is  utilized primarily
when attaching one line to a bight or loop in  another rope.  This
superb knot results in great strength because of  its  extra  loop
turn. It never slips when wet or frozen  under  load, yet easily
unties.  The  simple  tied clove hitch provides a wonderful  cinch
when used to moor a boat, or tie a safety line to shore. It
characteristically  loosens a bit when not under pressure, but
binds  down tight when force is applied against the knot. Easily
handled when wet,  the clove hitch also is applied in tent pitching
and is  an integral step to all lashing jobs.  Then, the carrick
bend finishes this listing of knots to use in wet environments.
This incredibly strong cinch is the best possible  knot  for tying
together a tow line. Ships at  sea  use  the carrick  bend for
towing or tying together two mooring  ropes.  A person  can  almost
bet that a weak spot in the rope  will  break before this bend
gives.  As  described, the primary attributes to all these  first
rate knots  are  their inherent reliability and great  strength
under stress,  plus  the fact that these cinches do not jam  under
wet environmental conditions.  In contrast, there are a number of
knots, for example the reefknot,  which  will  positively jam
when wet,  thus  rendering  it necessary to cut a valuable and
expensive rope. This isn't to say these  knots haven't value
elsewhere, but they shouldn't  be  applied during an emergency
under wet conditions.  In concluding this description of knots it
remains valuable  to learn  a few hitches and lashes which become
useful  in  woodland work  or camping situations. The simple two
half hitch  offers  a simple  cinch  that  hunters and hikers
utilize  to  temporarily suspend game and equipment. A timber hitch
possesses the strength necessary to drag heavy timber, while it
also is quickly released when  working  conditions demand instant
actions.  Finally,  the square, diagonal, and shear lashings
provide the means to securely  fasten  together rafts, shelter,
heavy utility  tripods,  the terminal anchor work to a rope bridge,
and numerous other  applications.  As  we can see, rope is an
extremely versatile  survival  tool; however,   the subject only
begins to deepen at  this  point  and can't  be covered further in
this article. Book stores  and  your local  library  offer numerous
volumes  of  illustrated  resource material about cordage in
detail. At this point the real hands-on learning can begin after
purchasing some quality manila or  nylon rope. (This  article  was
optically scanned from  :  AMERICAN  SURVIVAL GUIDE / DECEMBER
1991)                    Subscription Information         
American Survival Guide Subscription Dept.                     
2145 W. La Palma Ave                     Anaheim, CA 92801-1785