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Marlinespike seamanship being taught to sailors in the early 20th century

Ropework or marlinespike seamanship is the set of processes and skills used to make, repair, and use rope. This includes tying knots, splicing, making lashings, and proper use and storage of rope. In the age of sail the skill of a sailor was often judged by how well he knew knots and marlinespike seamanship.

Whipping frayed ropes[edit]

Main article: Whipping knot

A whipping knot is a type of ball knot used to hold the frayed end of a rope together. Constrictor knots can serve as temporary whippings while cutting ropes, as can a few layers of adhesive tape.

The simplest sort of proper whipping is the common whipping. It is made by taking a two-foot-or-greater length of strong string, forming a loop with it, three or four diameters of the rope in length, and laying it on the rope near the frayed end. The rest of the length is then tightly wrapped without overlapping around the rope, moving up the loop. When the end of the loop is nearly covered, pull the remaining free length of the string through the loop and then pull on both ends, which will pull the end of the loop under the whipping. Cut off the end of the rope close to the edge of the whipping and then cut off the two free lengths of string.

Fusing frayed ropes[edit]

Fusion is a method of treating the end of synthetic fiber rope through use of heat. Make a clean cut near the end and hold the newly cut end a few inches above a flame until the fibers have melted and fused together. Allow the end to cool before touching it or setting it down.

Another method of fusing is used for ropes from non-melting fibers like cotton and aramid. In this case the method is simply to cut the end of the rope, coat or dip the exposed fibers in glue, resin or paint and allow to dry.

However, the rope and knotting expert Geoffrey Budworth warns against the practice of fusing thus:[1]-

Sealing rope ends this way is lazy and dangerous. A tugboat operator once sliced the palm of his hand open down to the sinews after the hardened (and obviously sharp) end of a rope that had been heat-sealed pulled through his grasp. There is no substitute for a properly made whipping.

Daisy chain[edit]

In many applications of rope work (e.g. boating, climbing), rope may be efficiently stored for quick and easy utility by tying it into what is referred to as a chain sinnet or daisy chain. A loop is pulled through the rope on the first link, then the process is repeated for the length of the rope. At the last link, a half hitch is tied to stop the rope from coming undone. To undo the daisy chain, simply undo the half hitch and pull - the knot will slip apart.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Budworth, Geoffrey (1985). The Knot Book. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 37. ISBN 0-8069-7944-5. 
  2. ^ Ashley Book of Knots. 1993. ISBN 0-385-42554-6.