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

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.

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