Originally, ropes were made entirely by hand and with natural fibres, such as hemp, sisal, cotton, flax, grass, leather and even camel hair. Today, commercial grade ropes are braided with machines and synthetic fibres are often used to increase the rope's strength. The method and machine you use to braid rope depends on the type of fibre you choose and the purpose you plan to use the rope for. There are two main braiding techniques for ropes: round and flat braids. Round braids have a higher lateral stability and are used for laces, cables and heavy use ropes. Flat braids have a lower lateral stability and are easier to sew to to other textiles. Ropes used in the fishing and maritime industries, which amounts to over half of the ropes manufactured, require special treatment. Yet, the basic principles are the same and can be applied to all rope braiding techniques.
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Choose the type of fibre you want for your rope. If you are going to use the rope for an application where safety is involved, such as cordage or a tightrope, use synthetic fibres, such as nylon and polyester. Synthetic fibres are more resistant and durable than natural fibres, which are easily damaged by moisture and mildew. On the other hand, if the rope will be used for decorative purposes or as part of an outfit, natural fibres, such as wool or cotton, may feel and look better than synthetic fibres.
Choose the type of machine you want to use to braid the rope. There are several types of rope braiding machines, such as spiral braiding, rope braiding and square rope braiding machines. If you are going to braid a rope of up to 96mm in diameter, you may consider using a square rope braiding machine. However, if you need a rope of a smaller diameter, anything up to 45mm, you may prefer a conventional rope braiding machine.
Select a yarn with the desired diameter. You can control the size of the rope by adjusting the diameter of the fibres you use and the number of threads per rope.
Feed the bobbins of yarn into the pendants of the braiding machine. Thread the yarn from the pendants into the register plates of the machine. Register plates are rollers with holes in them, similar to the front of an old-fashioned rotary dial telephone. Lock the threads into the register plates. Adapt the hole and thread pattern you use to the type of braid you want.
Start the machine. The register plates spin in opposite directions, braiding the yarn into threads and the threads into rope. If you select the double-braid option on the machine, the first braid will be used as a core while the second braid is woven over to form a second layer. The rope is stretched along a reel and the ends are either taped or melted. Most machines will do this automatically as part of the braiding purpose. However, you can burn the ends of the rope with a lighter if your machine does not include this feature.
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