Rope Maintenance Techniques

A technique used to prevent a rope on, say, a dive boat from fraying and unraveling (and one that – especially in an age when ropes are increasingly constructed from man-made fibres – is sometimes superseded by simply melting and welding the loose ends together over an open-flame) whipping gives a neat and tidy appearance to a rope’s end and helps prolong its useful life.

There are several methods of whipping, all of them made by wrapping and tightly securing a length of twine around the rope’s loose end.

Common Whip

Common Whip

Common Whipping
Lay the end of a length of suitably strong twine along the end of the rope and then, beginning at the part furthest from the rope’s end, take six or more turns against the lay of the rope around both the rope itself and the twine end, (‘lay’ refers to the direction taken by the rope strands. A majority twist, or ‘lay’, to the right.) and haul each as taut as possible.

Next, form a loop in the twine and lay the second loose end along the rope and over the turns already made. To finish the whipping, continue taking turns around the rope, working towards its end and passing the bight over the rope’s end with each turn. When the bight becomes too small to pass over the end of the rope, pull the second loose end through the turns already made, haul it taut and trim off the ends.

West Country Whipping
Useful for marking the bight of a rope, pass the twine around the rope so that the ends are of equal length. Next pass the two ends of the twine around the rope in opposite directions and half-knot them on the other side. Now bring the ends up and half knot them again. Continue in this fashion, making a half-knot at every half turn, so that the half-knots alternate between opposite sides of the rope. When a sufficient number of turns have been completed, finish off the whipping with a reef knot.

American Whipping
Similar to the common whipping except that the first end of the twine is left out clear before starting the second series of turns; it is completed by tying a reef knot and then trimming the ends.

American Whipping

American Whipping

Sailmaker’s Whipping
The most secure of all whippings, and one that will not work loose under any circumstances. Unlay the end of the rope for about 6 centimetres and, separating the strands, hold it pointing upwards in the left hand with the middle strand furthest away. Next make a bight in the twine, about 20 centimetres long, and pass this over just the middle strand with the two ends towards you. With the bight of the twine hanging several centimetres down the back of the rope and with the ends pointing down in front, lay up the rope with the right hand.

Sailmakers Whipping

Sailmakers Whipping

Leaving the short end of twine, take the long end and make several turns working towards the end of the rope against the lay. Once sufficient turns are made, take the bight of twine and pass it up outside the whipping, following the lay of the strand around which it was originally put, and pass it over that strand that comes out at the end of the rope. Haul on the short end to tighten the bight and then bring this end up outside the whipping, again following the lay of the rope. Complete the task by tying a reef knot in the two ends and tucking it into the middle of the rope and out of sight.

Whipping synthetic fibre ropes
Rather than burning the ends, a sailmaker’s whipping should be used. As an added precaution against the strands unlaying, an American or common whipping should be placed at a distance from the end of the rope equal to approximately six times its circumference.


Categories: Techniques

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1 reply

  1. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


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