How to Make a Rope Out of Natural Materials

You can’t underestimate the quality of good rope. And while a cord of survival rope should always be with you when traveling through the great outdoors, accidents happen and sometimes you may need to fashion your own out of nothing but what Mother Nature has provided. Here’s how to keep from unraveling under pressure.

 

1. GATHER SOME GRASS FASHION

For the purposes of making rope, plants consist of two materials—starch and fiber. Fiber is your friend, the tough material you can twist into workable material. Starch is the enemy. Its presence in any finished rope is sure to weaken it (and possibly cause it to snap at an inopportune moment). With that in mind, search for dead plants (dead = less starch) that have a lot of fiber in their stalks such as milkweed or dogsbane. While those plants will give you the strongest fiber, any type of long grass can do in a pinch, assuming you aren’t crafting a safety harness for scaling Mt. Everest or something similarly critical.

2. POUND IT OUT

Now that you have plants chock-full of fiber, you need to separate that fiber from the rest of the plant. Place the plants/stems on a flat surface and use a smooth rock (or any other heavy object) to gently crush the material lengthwise, which splits everything open without risking cutting the fibers. Now use a knife, your hands, a sharp rock, etc. to gently separate the string fibers from the outer shell of whatever you just broke apart.

3. MAKE IT FLEXIBLE

While you may be fortunate enough to happen upon fiber that’s pliable enough to work with straight away, you likely will need to soften the material first. Take the stringy, tough strands of fiber you’ve now collected and rub them either between your hands or against your thigh for friction to work its magic. The fiber strands should be thin and fluffy before you start fashioning them into a rope.

4. DO THE TWIST

Take two bundles of fiber and tie them together on the top with a simple knot. Alternatively, you can take a single bundle and twist it until it kinks up and forms a loop. Make sure the sides are unequal in length, as this will make for a stronger rope if you have to splice additional material into one side and then the next (splices should be staggered between the two bundles for optimal rope strength). Now hold the top of the bundle (by the knot or loop) with your nondominant hand. There should now be two lengths of fiber bundles, one longer than the other. Lay the strands across your lap or onto a flat surface. Grab the strand farthest from you and twist or roll it away from you between the thumb and fingers of your dominant hand until the fiber tightens. Once it does, hold it tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Use the remaining fingers of your dominant hand to pull the bundle closest to you under and in front of the tightened one, essentially causing them to swap positions. Let go of the original bundle, grab the one that’s now farthest from you and tighten it in the same way you did the first one. Bring the original bundle forward just as before, swapping their positions once again. Repeat this process again and again.

This post was derived from “The Official Handybook for Men” by James Ellis. For more handy tips, you can purchase the book from our online store.