Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How to Make a Rope.

 See that good looking cowboy down below? That is my Uncle Skip making a rope. Uncle Skip lived in Oklahoma since before I was born. He'd come up to Indiana occasionally when I was growing up and 15 or so years ago, it may have been before, he found an antique rope maker and Skip started making rope.

He didn't just make rope for fun. No, he built up a traveling rope demonstration. He'd been all over with his ropes; Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Indiana and Michigan....and surely more that I don't know of.  

Uncle Skip passed away almost five years ago but one of the shows he'd been doing for years was the Chuck wagon Gathering and Children's Cowboy Festival at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City every Memorial Day weekend. Skip started a family tradition of rope making that his grandson is still keeping alive. His grandson, Charlie, is The Rope maker now. This past weekend Mountain Man, DR, the kids and I met Charlie and a whole passel of our cousins at the Chuck Wagon Gathering to help make rope.

In the back is my cousin's husband David. The rope maker with the sunglasses on is their son Charlie supervising his son, Little David, making rope. I admit, I got a bit sentimental that first day because I can't associate many times when I made rope growing up without Uncle Skip. We had a great time but it felt like something was missing without him.

Wanna know how you make a rope? Well, aren't you lucky...I just happen to have pictures to share! lol

First, you have to get excited! This is Charlie's sister, Katie. Doesn't she look excited to make rope for the next two days, 6 hours straight? Yep, she's just a bit crazy like that.

First you need a rope maker...and don't ask where you can buy one like this. The man who made them for Uncle Skip has retired and doesn't them anymore. Everybody this weekend seemed to want to know where they could get a rope maker! Anyone out there have a machinist shop? Well, I have a project for you...rope makers are in demand.

Okay, so you take two spools of baling twine and you tie the ends together and hook that knot together at place it around the lower left hook. Mountain Man was crazy enough to drive 6 plus hours to come make rope all weekend. Yeah, he's a bit crazy like that too.

Next you walk down to another hook and loop it around. Uncle Skip fixed the hook up to a box with weights that slide on a sawhorse. You can make a rope  with someone holding the hook, and make it as long as you want, but in this way there is one less person needed and a lot less work.

You walk back and forth hooking the baling twine until all three hooks on the rope maker are full. Then you tie off the baling twine and find a young able bodied cranker. Kids are great for this part!!

Here's Little Charlie, always a cheerful volunteer. As he cranks clockwise the rope maker the hooks spin and four twines, on each hook, twist together.

Then after each section of four twines twist together the tension builds up and twists together all the sections. Mountain Man holds a rope wrench to keep the three sections apart, so they don't get tangled, and stay twisting with an even amount of tension. What you don't see is the weights being pulled forwardon the sawhorses, keeping the twists tight, as the rope twists together.

When the rope is twisted completely it is tied off with masking tape and cut off the rope maker end and unhooked from the other end.

Then (fire! the fun part!) because the baling twine is plastic a propane torch is used to melt the raw ends together. The hot end is dipped in a bucket of water and....then...gggrrr...I don't have a picture of this....but a Hondo knot is put in the end with the tape. Then you can make a lasso from your rope.
Now multiply that by four.

Four rope makers cranking, eight people walking around and back and forth, in 90 degree heat, with propane torches, for six hours or so.

Add a line of sweaty little kids waiting for up to an hour (in the sun!) to make their own rope. Kids are crazy like that aren't they? Sounds miserable doesn't it?

Well...I admit...we were all pretty tuckered out by the end of the day but we are already looking forward and planning to go back next year!! Yep, we're a bit crazy like that too.

The Chuck wagon Gathering was awesome! There was so much more than making rope. There was about a dozen chuck wagons cooking over an open fire for two days, pony rides, horseshoe pitching, a Texas longhorn to sit on, Annie Oakley doing trick shooting, and of course the museum!! I didn't get nearly as many pictures as I would have liked but I am so glad we went and sure hope this year goes quickly so we can do it again. you need a rope?

Or better yet, do you need someone to come give a rope making demonstration. Let me know!! I'm pretty sure I can hook you up.


  1. We or, rather, the girls did this at The Feast of the Hunter's Moon last fall! It was a lot of fun and teamwork! Glad you had such a great time!

  2. Any chance you'd be willing to come to Kansas in June? We're looking for a rope maker to do a demonstration at an event.


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