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Making Rope from String

Making Rope from String

In preparation for OpenMAKE: Tools we've been playing with unusual ways of using common tools. Last week Nicole shared that you could make rope using a drill and I just had to try it. After doing some research, I realized that the process is pretty similar to the way I used to rope braid my hair way back when (with the exception that you don't hook your hair up to a drill). Basically you spin one (or several) strands of string one way, then spin it back on itself in the opposite direction.

For the first attempt I set up a rig in our office with a hook attached to the lockers on one end and a hook attached to a hand drill on the other end. I looped one strand of jute back 3 times and spun it clockwise until they were twisted tightly. This took a long time with the hand drill and ended up being quite a workout! I repeated the first steps, but this time spun it counter clockwise to finish the rope.

The original string and the final product.

After this initial success, we wanted to try lots of different types of string to see how the final rope turned out. We moved to the Learning Studio to continue prototyping and switched to using a power drill for quicker results.


One of my favorite discoveries was that using the power drill created really beautiful waves and nodes as the string spun.

In the end we made four different ropes from natural and synthetic strings. They all worked really well except for the bakers twine.

I'd like to continue to play with this process and see if we can figure out a way to try it with visitors. It's really fun to do and expands on the possibilities for a tool we use every day in the Tinkering Studio. There are some challenges we need to figure out; it takes a lot of space to make a length of rope and it can get tangled very easily. I'd also like to find ways to explore variations on making rope, as this method is fairly step-by-step.

Stay tuned for updates!