In northern Europe during the 1600s, rope was made by hand from natural materials like hemp or flax using a ropewalk. By the early 1800s, the demand for longer and thicker ropes, particularly for ship rigging and anchor lines, led to the adoption of a machine-based set up like this 300-meter (984-foot) ropewalk in Älvängen, Sweden.
A ropewalk is a long straight path or structure where workers twist strands of fiber together into a rope.
Ropemaker Sarah Sjøgreen from Norway’s Hardanger Maritime Centre visited the Museum of Rope Making in Älvängen’s old P.A. Carlmark rope manufacturing building to craft a heavy-duty rope suitable for a historic ship.
Along with her apprentice Niclas and the museum’s ropery expert Brent, they feed strands from a spool wall through hole-filled plates to maintain ideal spacing. The more yarn, the thicker the cordage.
When four separate pieces of tarred hemp cordage are twisted and properly hardened, each is loaded through a groove in an acorn-shaped piece of wood, a ‘top’ on the top cart. This guides the separate strands into a final closing twist, completing one massive, ship-worthy cable.
“The P. A. Carlmark ropery was due to be demolished when it closed in 1993 but a voluntary group saved it. The equipment has been restored and rope making is demonstrated on the 300-metre ropewalk. The sensory experience includes the sounds of the machinery, the feel of the fibres and the smell of fibres and tar. Equipment and material remaining from the old factory preserves the quality of a real workplace. The volunteers make fine-quality ropes for commissions and conservation projects. A permanent exhibition explains the history of ropes from Neolithic roots and horsehair to materials such as nylon, polyester and polypropylene. Models and dioramas show methods and rope-making sites.”
Then watch these related rope videos:
• Making rope from sisal fiber, an Edwardian Farm video clip
• How To Make Rope From Grass
• Making trenzas (braided rope) from paja in Ecuador
• Making Lime Bast Rope
• Meccano Rope-Making Machine