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By: Charlie Frost and Lester Stoll
Published: 2003-01-01


Rope is a very useful item and it can be made from many materials such as thin cord or string or even discarded materials such as plastic bags or bits of string. This document shows how to use a simple spindle made from wood and wire to twist these materials together to make a longer, sturdy rope.

Parts diagram

TN49 parts diagram




  1. TN49 figure 1

    Figure 1. Three hook side of Spindle Heel. Source: ECHO Staff

    Construct spindle head with 3 hooks (Figure 1) and tail stock with one hook (Figure 2).
  2. TN49 Figure 2

    Figure 2. Tail Stock with single hook. Source: ECHO Staff

    Tie end of cord, string, etc to tail stock hook.
  3. Anchor the stock base securely (bricks can be used to weigh it down).
  4. TN49 Figure 3

    Figure 3. Ouside of Spindle Hook. Source: ECHO Staff

    Place the spindle at a distance equal to the desired length of the rope plus ¼ to allow for shrinkage.
  5. Pull the cord across to one hook on the spindle head, loop it over that hook and return it to the tail stock and loop it over the base hook. Repeat for the other two spindle hooks. You can wrap each spindle hook with several strands for a thicker rope.
  6. Cut the cord and tie the cut end to the tail stock hook.
  7. Rotate spindle hooks clockwise (Figure 3) and allow the spindle head to slide towards the tailstock.
  8. When rotation has tightened the cords and the spindle head begins to slide towards the tailstock, insert the separator near the tailstock hook.
  9. Continue the spindle rotation; the cords should begin to roll together.
  10. Move the cord separator towards the spindle head as the cords roll together, forming the rope.
    TN49 Figure 4

    Figure 4. Outside of Tail Stock. Source: ECHO Staff

    When the cord separator reaches the spindles remove the cord separator and rotate the tailstock hook counter-clockwise to tighten the roll of the rope (Figure 4).
  12. Remove the rope from the hooks and tie off each end.

It is helpful to practice several times with short lengths of cord. For long lengths of rope, the process is easiest with one person operating the spindles and one moving the cord separator.

Cite this article as:

Forst, C. and L. Stoll 2003. Rope Maker. ECHO Technical Note no. 49.