Picture of Geared Rope Making Machine
This is how you can make a geared rope making machine. You will need basic woodworking sklls. Tools required: scroll saw, hand drill, circular saw and wrench set at the minimum. A  bandsaw, table saw, drill press, circular sander all make this a lot easier. The ultimate would be a CNC router (ShopBot).

This is a fiddly project and you should be prepared to adjust and tweak as you go. I did not go into a ton of detail as this would become a 100 slide instructable. I will however add little tips that helped me.

I made it at the TechShop in San Jose CA.
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Step 1: Templates

Picture of Templates
THe heart of the rope maker is the gearset. You can do a non geared version, but it will take a lot longer to make a rope. A geared machine will give you 1:4 ratio for a faster process, basically one turn of the handle will make your hooks rotate 4 times, instead of a 1:1 ratio.

I went with a planetary gearset design. I bought the template from here:

Print out the templates and spray mount them on your 3/4 stock.

Step 2: Planet Gear

Picture of Planet Gear
Spray mount your Planet Gear template on to your 3/4 stock. 
Cut it out with a scroll saw. Take your time and cut as accurately as possible. Poorly cut teeth will lead to meshing issues.
Drill out the center hole with a 1/4 drill bit and drill press. You can use a hand drill but make sure  you are drilling at a 90 degree angle to the gear. You do not want to drill off axis or on an angle.

TIP: Use a fine scroll saw blade 20T or higher. It will make for much smoother cuts.

Cool stuff! The plans for the machine are available at I wrote the plans and have made about 35 machines. Its a pretty sweet project.

RaimondD6 months ago

Hi. Really nice projects. Thank you.

Quick Question: How did you mount the rear cover onto the base of the winder to keep the gears in place while allowing smooth rotation?

Thank you.

senacharim1 year ago
*you're done!
hamatchi (author)  senacharim1 year ago
Nice catch. Thnx.
guido6661 year ago
When I was a Boy Scout as a kid, we had a small rope making machine (a crude version of this). It was an awesome yearly event to make some of our own rope. Thanks for reminding me of that experience... I'm going to design and build something like this for my 2 year old daughter, plus it gives me another excuse to use my CNC!
hamatchi (author)  guido6661 year ago
Your daughter will love it. Plus you can be the jumprope king at her next birthday party.
rimar20001 year ago
This is very interesting, thanks for sharing.
hamatchi (author)  rimar20001 year ago
Your very welcome. I'm flattered by all the views and such. I didn't think folks would be this interested in a design that is:

1. Over a 100 years old.
2. Makes rope. Some guy on youTube commented that no children jump rope anymore unless it's on a Wii. I found that incredibly sad. But the 70+ kids who made ropes at our school fair yesterday seems to refute that comment.
l like/love low tech, and think it is dangerous forget some of vital skills that earthlings had developed through millenniums. You can not make a computer nor a radio in a desert island, but a rope could save your life.
hamatchi (author)  rimar20001 year ago
I agree. I never thought that woodworking machines would be be considered low tech. I still think that Norm Abram's workshop was the coolest thing ever.

Most of the folks working in the woodshop at the TechShop appeared to be 40+. The younger members seemed to mainly huddle around PC workstations running CAD programs for 3D printing and CNC. Of course this is a gross exaggeration, but I also worry about the loss of manual skills in the future.

My son was telling me how cool it would be to own a 3D printer/replicator. I told him that he has access to the greatest replicator in the world.

His brain and his hands.
tovey hamatchi1 year ago
I once knew a guy who told his daughter that she couldn't get her drivers license until she could do the following:
1. Change a flat tire.
2. Check and change the oil.
3. Tune the engine.
He then told me that she was very skilled in those areas.

If your son is lacking in the manual woodworking skill set, use his desire for a 3D printer to encourage him in developing those skills. That way, he will eventually have the skill set to obtain a job in both directions.

Thinking back when I was a teen, there was one thing that was missing in those years. A father willing to guide me from the perspective of his years of wisdom and experience.

It's not enough to just live in the house with them, if you want your kids to succeed, you need to look at them from the perspective of their interest and talents and support them in learning everthing they can. Traditional education is good to have, but nothing says I love you and motivates a child to succeed more than when parents show them with undeniable action that they support the child's dreams.

There are stories of people overcomming bad life situations and turning out successful by themselves. But there are a multitude more stories of success that occur when a person has the support from their family and friends.

So why not have him use his brain to design a 3D Printer, and his hands to build every part of the 3D Printer possible.

It may be that you implied this with your statement. That however, does not mean he inferred it. To often parents expect kids to know what they mean, rather than saying what they mean. It is very, extremely rare when that actually happens.

Sadly, the greatest skill set parents and our educational system never teach, but should from the beginning, is how to set a goal, create a plan of action for the goal, strategize, and carry out the plan to achieve the goal.

Success is never achieved by faith or accident. Faith will give one the motivation to act, but action without careful planning is bound to fail. Action plus careful planning has a better chance at success.

Bummer: Firefox spell checker stopped working. :-(
tovey hamatchi1 year ago
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who make stupid, unfounded assumptions like that. Even more unfortunate, is when policy makers use those unfounded assumptions to pass policies that end up hurting people because the premise for the policy is not true.
hamatchi (author)  tovey1 year ago

The internet, land of talk first, think second.
tovey hamatchi1 year ago
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who make stupid, unfounded assumptions like that. Even more unfortunate, is when policy makers use those unfounded assumptions to pass policies that end up hurting people because the premise for the policy is not true.
dougwills1 year ago
Please excuse what will probably be an ignorant question, but after the three pieces are twisted together to form the rope, what prevents the rope from simply untwisting and turning back into the three pieces again? Friction?
hamatchi (author)  dougwills1 year ago
Sorry I didn't actually answer your question lol.

The rope is held together with the friction generated by the twisting action of the strands.
hamatchi (author)  hamatchi1 year ago
And knots on each the end of the rope.
RedBinary1 year ago
I really really like that the gears are cut by hand. Far too many laser-cut intructables for the number of people having access to them in my opinion.
hamatchi (author)  RedBinary1 year ago
Honestly producing gears with a cnc router or laser cutter (do those things work on wood?) would probably be an ideal use for them. Due to their ability to make perfect repeatable teeth.

That said cutting the teeth by hand although tedious is also fun. And you will really learn the ins and outs of using a scroll saw. I really had no experience with one before I started cutting the gears. I feel pretty comfortable with it now. That is invaluable to me.
shallnot1 year ago
"hand drill, circular saw and wrench set at the minimum"

I'd suggest that cutting the gears with only the minimum tool mentioned would be silly.
hamatchi (author)  shallnot1 year ago
Fair point. I moved the scroll saw to minimum tools list.
As an aside in the gear templates I bought their was a gear style that could be made with a jigsaw and drill and spade bits. Pretty clever.
kbaturay1 year ago
good work
metric.nz1 year ago
Fore the people asking for video:
Not by the author, but this video shows an almost identical machine in operation.

I couldn't see what made the 3 bundles twist together, the video shows it quite clearly. Cute.
hamatchi (author)  metric.nz1 year ago
Great video! Like I mentioned earlier, it's a 100+ year old design.

The bundles are twisted together by the winder hooks. The little boy is spinning the hooks by cranking on the big gear. This design does not use the planetary gear system. But it still seems to work great.
Apologies, didn't spot that difference.
I live the idea of having the kids make their own ropes.
Alderin1 year ago
This is great! However, there is no reason to buy gear templates for wooden gears:

I've used this tool for a few little projects at home, but I love messing around with it online, putting in different values and clicking animate to see the results.
hamatchi (author)  Alderin1 year ago
Thanks for that link. It's really useful. I wish I had known about it before i started cutting gears.
M2Field1 year ago
Now to make it continuous for unlimited length ropes.

Very nice 'ible. Thank you.
nhupe1 year ago
this is great! my grandfather had an old rope making machine and it was a blast to use!
rpotts21 year ago
I havent had a chance to yetbut im glad my idea for the not off. thats exactly.what I had envisioned. my hats off to you. nicely done!
hamatchi (author)  rpotts21 year ago
The planetary gearset works pretty well. The Ring gear needs to be stabilized better. I'm thinking of using a outer Ring gear guide or even better a secondary Rear Disk mounted behind the Rear Hook Guide that attaches to the Ring gear and spins around a centered bolt/axle, thus keeping the Ring Gear spinning true. The smaller children were getting stuck at times spinning the Ring Gear as the Planet Gears started to loosen, thus allowing the Ring Gear to move around more and jam at times.
But this was after 70+ ropes were made.
jproffer1 year ago
would be nice to see a video of it in action!
hamatchi (author)  jproffer1 year ago
My video skills are terrible, pretty much along the lines of the Blair Witch Project.
But I will see what I can do.
wilgubeast1 year ago
Custom jump ropes! Save that project for the inevitable Toys Contest.

This is really really cool. Thanks for sharing. Your volunteer looks to be having a blast.
hamatchi (author)  wilgubeast1 year ago
Thanks for the nice comment. We returned from our school's Winter Faire yesterday and the custom jump ropes were a hit with the children. They were happily spinning away from10am to 5pm. The rope maker was pretty much going the whole time.