A versatile and serviceable piece of camping gear, a good hemmp rope pays for itself several times over during its lifetime. Anyone who has seen equipment prematurely deteriorate because of neglect by its owner knows that the length of its life depends to a very large extent on the care a rope receives.
If you purchase rope in a large, wrapped coil, avoid removing the wrapping entirely in order to uncoil the rope or to cut off a short length. Open the wrapping only far enough to discover which end of the coil is up. It’s important to have the coil of rope right-side up. Uncoil a rope from the wrong end and you may wind up with a brand new rope full of kinks and twists that will spread the rope’s strands and set up conditions conducive to early wear.
To prevent kinking a new rope, look down into the eye or center opening of the coil and locate the inside end of the rope. Turn the entire coil over if necessary so the inside end is down. Now take hold of this end and draw the rope slowly and carefully up through the eye of the coil. Use both hands and gently work out any tendency of the rope to twist.
As the rope leaves the coil’s center opening, it should uncoil in a counter-clockwise direction — that is, to the left*. If it does not, the coil probably is wrong-side up and should be turned over before more rope is removed.
In spite of every precaution, a new rope may require straightening before you can put it to use. It’s best to straighten a kinked rope by hand. Work it carefully through your hands, gently twisting here and there to eliminate any kinks or twists. If this fails to straighten the rope, hang it from a high place, secure a small weight to the lower end and let the rope hang several days to unkink gradually. This procedure often will remove the kinks from an old, twisted rope. To straighten a very long rope, drag it slowly across a smooth grassy meadow or pull it through water behind a slow-moving boat.
Avoiding kinks and twists in a rope prolongs its usefulness and prevents its untimely demise. Kinks cause permanent damage to a rope by destroying its lay. Where a rope kinks, the danger of breakage increases severalfold — especially if the rope is subjected to a suddem. aharp strain.
If you put any rope, kinked or not, under the stress of sudden strain you may break it. A rope that will sustain a dead weight of several hundred pounds may snap in two if the same weight is dropped from a height. Lower all weights secured by a rope slowly to protect the rope from unnecessary strain.
Remember that its manufacturer figures a rope’s breaking strength, a designation you should ascertain before purchasing a rope, on the basis of new rope. The older the rope, the more likely it is to snap under a sudden strain. Periodically examine an old rope for wear, for cuts, for breaks in the fibers or strands, and for kinks. Gently twist the rope so the strands spread and the inside areas can be examined. Careful inspection of an older rope is doubly important where any possible danger of injury to the user exists, as in mountain climbing. The use to which a rope has been put also should be taken into consideration when assessing its suitability for a new role. Double check any rope that previously has suffered hard jerks or seen unusually severe usage before again subjecting it to anything close to “breaking strength” strain.
Unnecessary damage may occur to rope forced into sharp bends around the edges of a heavy, angular object being hoisted. Cloth rags folded into thick pads and placed between the rope and any sharp corners will protect the rope fibers from being cut as the object is lifted. Anything that cuts or otherwise damages individual fibers around a rope will weaken it. Inspect metal pullys and file smooth any sharp edges that might cut the rope. Never drag a rope over rough, rocky or sandy ground; pieces of gravel, sharp stones or broken glass that become imbedded in the fibers or between the strands of the rope will gradually cut through nearby fibers.
Other damaging materials a rope may come in contact with include oil, grease, paint, paint thinners or linseed oil, battery acid and any other strong chemical. Battery acid can enter the fibers of a rope left in the bottom of a motor boat. Ropes used in garages or home workshops frequently come in contact with oil, grease, paint or other fiber-damaging materials.
Soaking a rope in mildly soapy water will free it of much grime and dirt. A soak in warm, soapy water will soften a new, stiff hemp rope and make it pliable and easier to handle.
Unlike leather, hemp rope shrinks when wet. A rope that’s taut when dry will undergo severe stress if it becomes wet, making it wise to slack off guy lines, tent ropes and ropes sustaining heavy loads if they become wet. Remember that even a heavy dew often will penetrate the rope overnight and draw it too tight.
Before storing rope that’s been wet, hang it up in a cool, dark place to dry. Never allow a wet rope to dry in direct sunlight. Extreme heat causes any rope to lose its strength, and is murder on a wet rope. Neither should a wet rope be allowed to freeze; particles of ice that form between the fibers may cut through them. Avoid covering a wet rope with anything that prevents it from losing all the moisture it has absorbed.
The best way to store a rope between uses is in a coil, but not just any old coil. A properly coiled rope not only looks neater and is less likely to be damaged, but retains its manufactured lay and remains in balance.
Unless severe twists and kinks make it impossible (in which case the rope probably should be replaced) always coil a standard right-laid rope clockwise. A good way to do this is to throw a coil (or bight) of the rope, near a secured end, on a smooth surface and top the first coil with additional coils. Continue to lay the rest of the line down and around in a clockwise direction, to the right, atop the original coil. As you run the rope through your hands, work out any kinks or twists it may have picked up. When finished, turn the entire coil over and thread the loose end through the eye of the ccoil. The rope now is ready for a smooth, kinkless, counter-clockwise uncoiling when taken out of storage.
Taking care to both coil and uncoil it properly, to avoid subjecting it to unusual stress or to weights beyond its holding capacity, to keep it free of kinks and twists and free of oil, acids, dirt and sharp foreign particles not only adds years to the life of a rope but ensures continued efficient and safe service to its owner.
*This, of course, assumes the rope is a standard right-laid or right-handed rope and not a left-laid rope. The lay of a rope refers to the direction in which its component strands have been twisted. The twist may be clockwise — right-handed — in which case the rope is a right-laid rope, or the twist may be counter-clockwise in a left-laid rope. A rope also may be described as having a hard, plain, medium, common or soft lay, depending on the degree of tightness with which the strands were twisted during the rope’s manufacture.