The rope machine is the centerpiece of the set of equipment necessary to make rope or cordage. This page discusses "the rest of the story" that beginning ropemakers will need to consider when fitting out a rope making capability.
Naturally, the rope machine is the major item. It should be stored out of the weather when not in use.
How are you going to mount the rope machine to something sturdy? Clamps or bolts are preferable for quick attachment to or removal from the mounting base versus permanently nailing or screwing the machine to a surface.
Machines such as the Bucklin, McIntosh, Sherwood Wizard, and Woodman can clamp directly to an inch-thick fence or wagon board. A special stand or adapter can be built to provide the fence board "on edge".
Machines such as the New Era, Wonder, and Economy need to be screwed to a carrier board that can then be clamped to a table, column, or special sawhorse type stand. These machines are made of cast iron and must be protected from collisions where something strikes them while attached to the mounting stand. More of these machines have been broken in handling accidents than while making rope. The carrier board and machine need to fit within the carrier tote discussed below.
Machines such as the Meyer have the mounting base built within and can be bolted or clamped directly to a mounting surface or stand. The adjacent figure shows the Meyer in profile, with two carriage bolts penetrating the base. One hole, say half-inch diameter, is drilled in front of the machine head, while the second one is drilled toward the back of the baseplate. Both holes are on the centerline of the baseplate. Corresponding holes are drilled into the mounting surface. Carriage bolts of 5/16 or 3/8" will fit into these holes. Hand-tightened wingnuts are sufficient to secure the bolts and machine to the mounting surface.
Traveler Device: The traveler is the hook at the other end of the rope laid up from the rope machine. Various items can be used, from a hand-held rope tool to a rope and pulley traveler to a hook and swivel attached to a sled. These have parts that get lost if not stored with the rope machine. The rope and pulley assembly needs a stand or post, or wall to mount the pulley. Then, you need a ballast to tie onto the rope, such as 3- to 5-pound sandbags. Adjust ballast based on the length of the rope being made. There will be more loose parts! Actually, a tripod with legs 4.5-foot long makes a good stand. It becomes another "stand" to be maintained with the rope gear but allows you to work anywhere versus being dependent on provided facilities. The sled idea comes from using any sled or cart that has consistent friction with the ground or floor, requiring a constant amount of force to pull it along. Mount a swivel and hook to the vehicle for attaching the layup. The attachment point should be about the same height as the center of the rope machine.
Additional Rope Tools: Have additional rope tools on hand for making rope. There is nothing worse than having a tool break while being used. It does happen. Plan to have spare tools at hand. Maintain a variety of tool sizes consistent with your rope making intentions. The tools can range from rather small (less than 2.5” diameter) for scale cordage to several inches across for making inch-plus thick ropes. As you move from three-strand rope making to four or six-strand rope making, additional tools for those configurations will be necessary.
Tape Measure: You need one to measure the layup length and to measure the length of the completed rope.
For cutting the rope yarn, twine, or rope, consider a hand-held anvil cutter. The tool looks similar to a limb trimmer in that one side of the cutting jaw is an anvil, while the other is a steel cutting blade. This tool is very effective and much safer than a pocket knife. The blade and anvil set will outlast many other cutters, including utility razor knives.
The utility razor knife does come in handy later on to trim strands when splicing or knot tying. Get one with a retractable blade. The anvil cutter tool can cut half-inch diameter rope for about the same effort as cutting baler twine. For both of these cutters, buy replacement blades versus re-sharpening the old blades—less cuts in your skin this way. The scissors come in handy—trimming whipping material or yarn in strands when splicing.
Whipping material is necessary to seal the ends of the rope before removing it from the rope machine. Vinyl electrical tape is an inexpensive, readily available material that works with all rope materials. This is a must-have for synthetic rope materials. It comes in at least six colors besides black. Vinyl electrical tape is made by various companies in various grades. The better grades work better than the cheaper, or discount, equivalents. You get what you pay for. The best application practice is to stretch the tape lengthwise at least 10 percent as you wrap the stretched portion about the rope.
Shown in the picture is a waxed lacing cord, which is effective for vegetable or animal fiber ropes (hemp, sisal, cotton, manila, linen, silk, wool, etc.). It slides off polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon, and other slick synthetic materials. Get the waxed or rubberized coating. Available colors are usually black or white. Get the lacing cord at commercial electronic supply outlets. Avoid the non-coated lacing cord versions. The "old" standby lacing cord was waxed linen, which now is quite expensive. The polyester works much better.