Daily Archives: February 25, 2014

Knowing the Ropes

This is going to be my first entry for my new Shop Notes section. I put this together just the other day and put it into my own notebook. But, I thought it would make this blog site a bit more useful if I included the information here. Please use it as you see fit. Notes are not meant to be comprehensive. I just put together the information that I find useful.


Ropes come in right-hand twist (Z-laid) or left-hand twist (S-laid). But, the most used rope is right-hand laid, hawser laid rope.

Darcy Lever, in his book The Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor (1808), describes 3 basic types of ropes as follows:

Hawser Laid rope is made up of 3 strands, each made of equal quantities of yarns, and is laid right-handed, or with the Sun.

Shroud Laid rope is made up of 4 strands, each made of equal quantities of yarns, and is also right-handed, or with the Sun.

Cable Laid rope is made up of 3 Hawser Laid ropes (right-handed), which are laid up together left-handed, or against the Sun. 

Modern Rope Make Up (from the Lore of Ships):

• Ropes start with fibers, which are spun together either Z-laid or S-laid into yarn.

• Yarns are spun together to form a strand, with a lay opposite that of the yarn.

• Strands are spun together to form a hawser. The lay of a hawser is opposite of the lay of the strands. Hawser is the basic rope. According to The Lore of Ships, left or S-laid hawsers are rather uncommon.

• Hawsers can be spun together to form a cable or cable-laid rope. The lay of the cable is opposite that of the hawsers.

Ship Modeling Summary

Given this information, the ship modeler is advised to stick to model rope that has a right-hand lay for running rigging, which most model rope is. Don’t worry about shroud laid rope. It isn’t really necessary as it is difficult to tell the difference between 3-strand and 4-strand rope.

According to Lees, English ships of war usually use cable laid ropes for the stays and sometimes for the shrouds, so you would ideally use large diameter left-handed rope for these.


New Shop Notes

Having a ship modeling library of your own is great and all ship modelers must surely have one of their own, whether it’s a couple tried and true titles, a stack of magazines, or a shelves of obscure and out of print references. The thing is, so much information is spread among so many sources that it takes longer and longer to look things up.

Given the amount of information the “well read” ship modeler must access, it becomes necessary to condense some of that material down as Post-It notes have their limitations.

I’ve finally started to compile my own little set of notes now because I’m finding it difficult to remember the decisions I’ve made as to whether the lap joints on those hatch coamings should show the seams across the fore and aft edges or the port and starboard edges, etc.

Now, my notes aren’t particularly well organized and they are certainly not complete, but at least I’m trying. In the long run, it should prove helpful. Having this blog site also gives me some incentive to get my “stuff” together, so I can share some of this arcane knowledge with others online.

So, I’ve started a new page called “SHOP NOTES” which you’ll find in the expanded menu. There’s nothing in there at the momement, so I’m going to put this little bit of information on ropes I recently compiled. This particular bit of information I wrote up because there was some online discussion on one of the forums, and I found myself forgetting what was a hawser laid line versus a shroud laid line and when to use left-handed twist rope versus right-handed.

So, come back after a few days and maybe I’ll have something useful, or at least interesting, in there.