Picture of Make rope out of dead plants -- with no tools
I will teach you to make extremely strong rope out of common, dead plants with no need for tools. First, I'll walk you through the process of isolating some high-quality fiber from dead plants. (I demonstrate with dogbane, but milkweed is a fine substitute.) Then I'll show you the reverse wrap, which can turn any decent fiber into a sturdy cord.

In a wilderness survival situation, this skill will allow you to make fishing lines, spears and arrows, and snares, as well as construct certain types of shelters. Even certain firemaking techniques (e.g. bow drill) rely on having strong cordage.

Just like fire, a good rope is a tool in and of itself.

Step 1: Get some fiber (dogbane, here)

Picture of Get some fiber (dogbane, here)
young shoot from top.JPG
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All you need for this instructable is some plant fiber. Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum -- cannabinum means fiber-plant) is an excellent source, though milkweed and other plants will work just as well, or better. Related to milkweed, dogbane is likewise poisonous if ingested. Additionally, some people may react adversely to the latex sap. But handling dead stems should be fine for most folks. If you are prone to allergies or have easily irritated skin, I recommend finding a different source of fiber, such as milkweed or bark.

Other fiber sources

Dead plants

The best natural fiber sources are dead plants, though animal fur is supposedly an option. (I once saw a lady spinning thread directly off of an angora rabbit.)

Milkweed is very soft, and less allergenic. I haven't worked with it, personally, but I have seen the finished product, which looks very similar to synthetic string. The stalks should be harvested when they are dead and grey.

The inner bark from some trees is another excellent source, if you can collect enough. The trick is to find fallen branches, or dead trees with hanging bark. The best fiber trees are cedar, white basswood, tulip tree. Tulip tree (sometimes mistakenly called "poplar" or "tulip poplar") is quite common and frequently sheds branches. Tree-based fiber is strong, but coarse.

A note about cedar: You don't want the fibrous strands running along the outside of the bark -- the inside bark is where the good stuff is.

Urban sources

Plastic bags. They're everywhere! Shred them "lengthwise", that is, in the direction of the polymer. (Make note of which direction they rip most easily.)

Back to dogbane

Dogbane grows readily in waste areas and disturbed soil, and seems to prefer partial shade. For this project, I biked over to an abandoned road that was intended for a subdivision. Plants are creeping across the roadway, the asphalt is breaking up from freeze-thaw stress and earthstar mushrooms, and there are healthy stands of dogbane, vetch, and other waste-area plants.

You'll recognize the plants by their 4-foot tall dark brown stalks and their dangling seedpods. Initially, the seedpods are paired tubes that come together at their ends but bow away from each other at the middle. As the pods decay, the tubes peel open, slowly releasing the fluff-carried seeds to the wind. (Remember, dogbane is related to milkweed.) Incidentally, this fluff is an excellent fire-starting material -- but that's a different instructable.
SirLiRamsey8 months ago
I've used poplar bark and even tall grass from lakesides for cordage. The bark is strong, the grass is for small stuff only
Rayne202110 months ago
How do you finish it?
cat19861 year ago
Educational thanks for sharing
bikerviper1 year ago
How do you splice?
DanYHKim1 year ago
I have been known to tear paper napkins into strips, twist them, and then reverse-twist the strands into a short cord. It's something to do when I am kinda bored.
ggksc1 year ago
Very informative in(de)structable.
Thank you very much!
The Images/Vids provided, cleared up something that had me confused with the whole process for a long time.

I made a quick 2 strand cord using plastic (carrier) bags.
Plastic strips were approx 2inches thick (before twisting).
I spliced in one extra plastic strip to add a touch more length, and to test my splicing abilities.

<img src="http://i1140.photobucket.com/albums/n575/Spark110/Image24_zpsde290bad.jpg"/>
** Appologies, the 'Add Images' button doesn't seem to want to work for me.
    You can copy/paste the url into your browser if you like, but it's just a little picture of my 2strand plastic cord, with my lighter for visual scale.

Once the 2strand 'carrier-bag' cord was done done, it measured in at:
762mm (2'6") in length
and average of 4mm (1/8") thick .
I tied a quick slip-knot in it and tested its strength.
It held 6 Kilos (my 2 smallest dumbbells) and did not break for 5 minutes of suspension.
I will try more weight at a later date, wanted to show the idea to a friend before demolishing.

Not bad at all for 10 minutes of twisting carrier-bags!
I'm going to spend a week in the woods now and try out the different fibres I can find.
Who'd have thought rope-making could be this addictive.

Thanks again for the wealth of information!
+1 Kudos
All the best,
Paul, GKSC
mark17792 years ago
you should try this with hemp ^.^
Jamman012 years ago
awesome! i'm gunna make me wun uf dese
Mr_Altitude2 years ago
I've made rope from dogbane before. It was surprisingly strong. I made a bracelet from it.
jediwhiz33 years ago
Cool! I have made this with yucca before (live in Colorado) and it is UNBELIEVABLY strong!
Yucca has been used for thousands of years. Hemp has also been used likewise in many different countries. I believe that yucca and hemp are some the strongest natural fibers you could use. Something great I saw and need to look at again for details is either the yucca or agave that has the needle on the end of their growth also has thread attached if carefully removed that is exceptionally strong and can be used for a great many things.
It's agave that has the needle and thread.
By the way, I just got back from the Denver/Golden area and notices the yucca growing everywhere. Actually I was dragged into one by my paraglider.
kimia132 years ago
i think there is no dogbane in my location! i should probably drive for day to get to the north of country to find dogbane!
Agentfern2 years ago
A while ago i started a project that involved making plastic bags into "yarn" and then knitting with it. I cut the plastic bags into loops and then put those together by looping them through each other. It didn't really work because the finished yarn was sort of like your plant fibres before you made them into cord. It kept breaking and I gave up. When I read your instructable I just went "Aha!". After twisting some of it, it is much stronger and looks pretty, too. Using loops simplifies splicing because you can easily add more loops when you need to. It hurts my hands, though. Do you think you could make a hand crank out of a pencil sharpener?
joen6 years ago
Great instructable! I noticed in step 1 under urban sources you suggested plastic bags. Since I had more than a couple I thought I would try it and I have pictures of the results. As you can see I started by making several 2 stranded cords. I then combined 3 two-stranded cords to make a 3 stranded cord. Second picture. then I combined 3 three-stranded cords to make a threefold rope. Your instructable made it easy to work out the details. Pictured with the rope is the only tool I used. Thanks again!
rope 001.jpgrope 004.JPGrope 005.jpg
Drakekay joen2 years ago
I would love to know how much tensile strength is in this plastic rope?!!?!?! :D Does it have any durability, or does it just tend to stretch and break apart?
joen Drakekay2 years ago
I made some rope and used it to tie down my trash can and to make a rope hook to keep open the trash can while it was being filled. I was amazed at how long it lasted in the open Arizona sun. I was expecting it to come apart from UV damage after a few months but it lasted over a year and a half. It is fairly strong and not that stretchy. Again, I haven't tested it to the point of failure but it is good for most light rope needs.

I have since enhanced the process using spindles and spreaders so that you can make rope as long as you want without having to twist long strands. You can even make it in your room. If there is interest I can make an instructable on how to do it.

thanks for your interest.
jediwhiz3 joen3 years ago
How strong is the finished plastic cord?
joen jediwhiz33 years ago
I haven't tried to see how strong it is but it seems to be quite strong. I made some spindles to make the rope making process simpler and the ropes that I have made with them seem quite strong. I use them as general purpose tie off ropes where I tie off my trash bin to keep it from blowing over in the wind and it seems to hold up OK but not great in the outside sun light. When I make rope with twine or survey line it is quite strong. Can you make good usable rope with plastic bags? Yes you can! Is it strong enough? That depends on what you are using it for. I haven't tested it to its limit yet but I haven't pulled apart any of my ropes yet. I am not strong enough to pull them apart by hand. I know that doesn't answer your question but it is the only one I have.
phyzome (author)  joen6 years ago
Beautiful! I have trouble making cord out of cord, because I'm so used to wrapping one direction, and you have to reverse direction at each level. Maybe I can switch hands to pull it off. Any suggestions?
When I spin cordage into cordage, I use the reverse reverse rap. As you can tell by the name, you're reverse raping backwards. It's a little painful and confusing at first, but after a while you adjust.
joen phyzome6 years ago
No not really. It was your instructable that I learned to do this from. I have seen some roll on the thigh methods of making cordage on Utube but you are undoubtably all over that already. I made the above rope to learn the process of making rope with hands and no tools. With no natural fibers to play with I chose plastic bags. Of necessety I learned to reverse wrap like you showed both ways from the start. Plastic bags aren"t perfect to make rope with but they are a cheap and convenient way to learn if you don't have ready access to natural plant fibers. You're light years ahead of me already. I can't tell you anything you don't already know. Thanks for getting me started on a fasinating hobby.
phyzome (author)  joen6 years ago
"You're light years ahead of me already. I can't tell you anything you don't already know." Nonsense! I don't know anything about this beyond what I posted and what other commenters have written. You've succeeded at making cordage out of cordage, which I haven't. On Instructables, there's no real difference between "teacher" and "student".
joen phyzome6 years ago
Thank you for the kind words. I was surprised you said that you hadn't made cordage out of cordage given your excellent Instructable. In case you are wondering, you just do the reverse wrap backwards. After making cordage the normal way (top strand twist away turn both strands back toward), you take three strands of already made cordage and then take the bottom strand and twisted toward you and then take the top and bottom strands and turned them away and on top of the third strand and then repeat. You are twisting each strand tighter before you turn both away. At least that is how it works with plastic bags. I still haven't had a chance to do it with natural fibers to see if there is a difference. Hope that made sence.
appux joen6 years ago
I'd be curious to hear about it if you use your plastic bag ropes for anything, and how well they hold up!
joen appux6 years ago
Actually I only did this last week and this is all I have done. I am using it mostly as a learning tool to learn how to do it. I may have some uses later for some light hanging displays but I don't intend to hang anything heavy with it. Also I understand that grocery bag plastic degrades in the sun so I don't intend using it outside. Eventually I want to make "real" rope with "real" plant fiber and when that time comes,I want to be ready.
AtomRat2 years ago
Hi there! Thanks for sharing these tips, I will find this very useful at times and have used it briefly over at http://www.instructables.com/id/Natures-Survival-Mini-Saw/

If this was done on a ridiculous scale, say, like a large ship rope, can the reverse twist technique be used to join several braids of rope into one very large diameter and long rope? Or would the whole lot just be braided, or even twisted ( I have seen old rope twisting devices that were hand cranked ) .. i hope that makes sense.
heathbar643 years ago
So when I first saw this ible, I got a grocery bag and started practicing. went well but had a hard time with the splices. Later, I had a basket full of plastic grass like is used in easter baskets. I got better at the splices and made a 6' length of pretty good twine. then while gathering firewood, I tried some of the stringy stuff from inside the bark. it was pretty weak string. I don't know if my fibre was old and rotton or what. anyway, now I have practiced some I'm back to revue the details. I find it very therapudic to make cordage. Kinda a mindless handwork.
heathbar643 years ago
Facinating! I alway wondered how that was done. your instructions for twisting is very clear to me, but I' think the hard part is in finding the fiber. I would like to see a video of making a splice.
dak4151733 years ago
you said your fibers were 3 feet and when twisted together were only 2 feet but what if i want somthng longer then that how would i connect two sections together
davee52uk4 years ago
I require something a bit thinner. I want to tie up plants, like tomatoes with something which is also biodegradable, so that at the end of the growing season I can just throw the plant into the compost bin.

At the moment I have to spend ages removing cable etc that I have used to tie the plant up.

Any suggestions ?

Incidentally as a church bellringer I use hemp ropes which are much better than any man-made material.
phyzome (author)  davee52uk4 years ago
My dad always used some kind of very coarse twine (maybe jute?) for this. It composted pretty well.
rileius4 years ago
Once you get through all of your cordage you can fold the rope over itself and do the reverse wrap step again, except you twist towards you and put forward
beehard444 years ago
i think this is how they make abaca rope
sxu14 years ago
Can you make a video for this step because I don't really understand it?
luneydude sxu14 years ago
im a texas cowboy and this is somethin i do all the time this instructable is okay for a survival situtation but if your just makin rope to use round your house or somethin out on a farm or whatever your usin it for (i use it to hunt deere, i laso them and then tackle them and stab them) any dead plant will work but you want good rope and maybe your feelin like bein old fashion one day and makin rope like texas rangers did before wayback when they were still shootin six shooters and single loaders and around the time of sam houston then use any dead plant and wax it up real good with candle wax....wind up your fibers then wax it up real good with candle wax and then when the wax dies take a match and cinch the ends of the rope and then if you want to put nots on the end put more wax and bend the rope into the not and hold it like that till te wax dries up
g-tech4 years ago
this cordage can be used for many things, a good suggestion would be a primitive sling!
I don't live around a forest or park so i can't get plants like that BUT i did have a plastic bag in my bedroom / " evil genius " lab and it looks pretty interesting. I like this instructable. Maybe someone could make long enough cords from plastic bags to strap the raft that you make out of garbage ( not sure what that instructable is called...) than it would be fully made out of garbage !!
phyzome (author)  FunkNattidelic7 years ago
Hey, that sounds pretty sweet! A word of caution: Plastic is designed to break down under ultraviolet light. You'd want to check the strength of the straps very carefully each time before taking the raft out for a spin.
joen phyzome4 years ago
Hi I wrote you about June 2009 about using plastic bags to learn to make rope. First of all I think you are absolutely right about checking the strength of plastic bag rope left out in the sun. However I have since made a lot of rope with plastic bags and found something odd. I used some out side and left it out in the Arizona desert sun for over a year expecting it to deteriorate within six months. So far I have seen very little deterioration. I am just as surprised as anybody.
Still, get plenty of experiance with plastic bag rope before you trust it with anything important (like life or limb)
Really? i had no idea that plastic was designed to do that... Thanks for the word of caution, i certainly wouldn't want my boat to fall apart in the middle of a lake.
I found the link it is pretty cool.
kestrada14 years ago
i dont either
Lironah4 years ago
I made about 6 feet of really thick rope today using apple bark. Thanks for the instructable! Now we'll see if it's long enough to tie our teepee together...
newbie3145 years ago
Just an FYI. In the show "Dual Survivor" they showed how to make cordage so he could catch an eel. That was like cool, I know that already. 1st time on TV though. Your instructable was better, and I think his technique wasn't too fast either. But the amount of line he made, must have taken him at least an hour (I'd say 3 feet).
wonton5 years ago
 i did a wilderness program a few months ago and we used the inner bark off of tulip trees.  it was amazing stuff.  everyone in my group harvasted about a gallon bag full every day.  we used it for cord making and also tinder bundles for starting fires.  i love the stuff.  i really like this instructable.  also you can try making cord the same way by twisting duct tape.  it makes a insanely strong rope
savain6 years ago
how do you do the reverse wrap if you would have three or more pices of fiber than two? asome intestructable by the way:D:D:D
gallop28 savain6 years ago
with three or more strands you do exactly the same thing - you twist outward and take back - first becomes last.
phyzome (author)  savain6 years ago
I don't know that it would work. You could try it and report back! Personally, I would make several cords out of two pieces each, then wrap the resulting cords together.
savain phyzome6 years ago
i have find a way:D:D it drivd my nuts that i did not could find i solusion so after i little more try and error i find a way. it is mutch harder, you must now with fiber you sould wrap. so you dont wrap one fiber 5 times and the orther 2 times. very difficult if the fibers look a like. but it is possible:D:D:D
savain phyzome6 years ago
i have tryd it and it dident go well. it dont gett that rope pattern it just become a ball sort of.
dunnos6 years ago
i don't quite get where the fiber part is, is it the middle, the -between middel and bark- or the bark itself? Also, how does one recognise fiber plants?

Nice Instructable, very informative =]
phyzome (author)  dunnos6 years ago
The part between the middle and the bark. (The bark is flaky, the "middle" is the crunchy hollow core, the stuff in between is fibrous.)
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savain6 years ago
very good instructable. one of the best i have seen! I realy understand how to make natural cordage now. thanks alot:D keep up the good work!:D
gleeb6 years ago
This is great and oddly therapeutic. I've been freaking out my friends with rope made from shed dog hairs:)
lukeyj156 years ago
In australia we have a lot of succulent grasses that are pretty tall and very tough
shortone6 years ago
Would willows work for this?? nice instructable :D
Yes it will, the inner bark is full of fiber, I found this out wile making a willow whistle once, I spun the fibers wet, right of the twig, but I'm sure there are other, better ways. I've also used fiber from the inner bark from an albizia (Albizia Julibrissin to be exact) tree. That's the botanical name for the genus, it is more commonly called (in my area at least) mimosa, although the mimosa is from as far as I can recall, is from a different genus.
cool...we have lots of willows around here. :D I guess I'll just have to give it a try
A list of fibers that I have used to make twine The root of Bidens pilosa (sheperds needles, sometimes called Bidens alba). It makes a rough coarse twine, very strong though. About the color of sisal rope. The outer fiber of Sabal palmetto (cabbage palm). Makes a nice dark brown (about twice as brown as manila rope), not to coarse. when you collect it, (as far as I can tell) you do not harm the tee. The fiber the the inner bark of a Passifloras (passion vine, not sure what type) vine. This plant is just BURSTING with fiber. The vines that I spun the twine from were dead and had been left in the sun, the half that was exposed to the sun had turned black. This twine is not very coarse at all, is strong, and it is the color of sisal rope. The inner fiber from the leaves of Yucca filimentosa (bear grass). The leaves should be cut green from the plant, then pounded with a rock or mallet to "bruise" the leaf. Then you scrape you knife over the skin of the leaf to scrape it off. Then wash the leaf in water to remove the skin particles, this is the method used to collect sisal fibers. This makes some really good twine. It's not very coarse at all, it's strong, and its slight stiffness makes it ideal for snare string. When it is freshly collected and spun, the fibers are a slight green color, after it fully dries, the fiber changes to a light, sisal rope like color. The inner bark from Albizia julibrissin (albiza, or mimosa). I found a branch that I had used about two years ago for bow (they make excellent green bows if you get bored on a hot summer day). Strangely, the inner bark was still green , I thought it would be dry, The twine can vary in color, from green to the color of sisal. The twine is very strong, and it's slight stiffness makes it slightly better than Yucca filimentosa for snare string. The fibers that shed from the leaves of Serenoa repens (saw palmetto) can be spun into a smooth, strong, twine. It takes a bit of practice to spin because if you spin it the wrong way the fibers will break. It comes out to be a wheat color, slightly darker and richer than sisal rope. Thanks!
phyzome (author)  mikaelthemycologist6 years ago
Wow, that's good stuff to know! Thanks for the notes.
Oh, and I've also used milkweed seed fluff. It makes a very soft twine. But because of the fibers shortness, it is very difficult to spin.
paganwonder6 years ago
This is in the top 5 of useful skills to have for life in the 'jungle'- concrete and otherwise! Thank you very much- now I can impress my nephews even more on our next campout/assault on nature!
xZCodmaNZx6 years ago
Nice intractable but how do do this B/C I turn the two strands counter clock wise and then turn that clock wise. Plz help.
Yay! I have always wanted to learn this! weeee! pie! You are awesome! weee! i like to use the root of Bidens alba a conmen weed also called shepherd's needles, Spanish needles, or long hitch-hiker. Weeeeeee! I love you all so much!
steed11727 years ago
lol i just learned how to do this at my survival class :P.oh and you can use some tree fibers too, right under te bark :)
kitjen7 years ago
would it be possible to tenderize the bundles of fibers with two rocks instead of your fingers? i don't know if rubbing the fiber between the rocks would damage i or not...
phyzome (author)  kitjen7 years ago
Maybe! I'm not sure how you would do it, so I can't really answer as to possible damage to the fibers Let me know if you come up with something!.
is it possible to just use a normal plant
phyzome (author)  cantth1nk0fnam37 years ago
"Normal" plants? I don't know what you mean by that. You can use anything plentiful and stringy that doesn't cause contact dermatitis.
Artekus7 years ago
This is deeeply cool. I really like the plastic bag direction, it really fits in with the eco-zeitgeist (recycling, back to basics, judicicious application of know-how etc, you catch my drift) Not to mention more accessible for those of us in the urban jungle, who have no coconuts :D (and I wouldn't know where to look for dogbane in London either. Just a few shmall shmall tings I couldn't get my distracted head around: a) When you say 'strand' in Step 5, are you talking about the whole tenderised bundle, or single threads? b) A user further down asked how to splice in new bundles (or strands, see above :D)>>>Perhaps it would work to push two bundles of fibres together end to end and work the crossover point with your fingertips, to ensure consistency and a nice circular cross-section. And of course,only splice one bundle at a time. Is that close? :) I'm having a go regardless; I'm inspired! Thanks for posting!
phyzome (author)  Artekus7 years ago
a) The whole tenderized bundle. b) That works. Pretty much anything to get the new strand seamlessly integrated with the old one.
Artekus phyzome7 years ago
Great! I just made a 6" 'rope' from half a plastic bag - What a feeling! Gonna make something more useful now...
lazlow697 years ago
Kudos on this, you really did a nice job making it easy to understand and your writing style is friendly and open. Keep up the great work, thanks for sharing such a useful bit of information!
foobear7 years ago
It'd be interesting to see a video of how you splice in new strands with the reverse wrap.
phyzome (author)  foobear7 years ago
Interesting idea. I'd have to figure out how to time-lapse chunks of the video for brevity.
Neato! Down on the farm, we used to make 3 strand braided rope from baler twine, just for fun. Once I made a rope with 8 strand bundles, that was about an inch thick. When "mucking out" calf pens, I sometimes need to twist a handful of hay, using the "loop and kink" method, into an impromptu crude brush, for cleaning a water bowl that some calf has gone for a dump in.
theRIAA7 years ago
really cool!
Cyto7 years ago
Hmnn, I read this while looking for how to make cord or something, then I just had to join the site to comment :). I was thinking of the longest, thinnest, toughest, nastiest plant around here (Wyoming) and the thing that immediately came to mind was the Yucca! >:) nothing else the darn spiky stuff is good for. Think it would work well?
phyzome (author)  Cyto7 years ago
I've heard of using yucca, but I've never tried it myself. (All the yucca around my area is ornamental, and I don't want to go around ripping chunks off my neighbors' plants.)

I did a little googling, and it seems that yucca can be used to make strong cordage (fifth paragraph). Needs to be retted first, though.

Let me know how it works!
Cyto phyzome7 years ago
Ahh ok, I guess I'll have to go harvest some this summer. I guess I'm not really surprised that it is used ornamentally in some places, but around here it is one of the many plants that you DO NOT want to fall on (only cactus is higher) just sort of funny to think of it that way.
phyzome (author)  Cyto7 years ago
Another commenter mentioned having success with yucca without retting it. I've added it to my new final page for this instructable, "contributed notes".
i just did this with dry decorative grass that is still standing outside my house from last summer. we didnt cut it down so i have plenty to practice with. ill post pictures soon as i upload them
I used the 3 strand braid instead of the reverse braid because im not very good at that and these turned out better. ill do reverse braid tomorrow probably. these short cords are VERY strong and i was surprised. i weigh 190 lbs and i put a smaller cord like the one in the picture over a steel bar and put my entire weight down on it. i had to bounce up and down to break it. the larger rope is at least 3 times stronger. i havent broken it yet.
Picture 0091.jpgPicture 0088.jpg
ok i figured out the reverse wrap. and i am impressed with myself xD
phyzome (author)  MadMechanicMike7 years ago
Isn't it a great feeling? "Dude, I'm making ROPE with my BARE HANDS."
ill post video of my breaking/trying to break the rope tomorrow also.
Wade Tarzia7 years ago
This is in the Top Five Instructables I have yet read. Nice job! After reading about the use of Spruce roots in lashing pieces of Viking ships together, I once experimented with with them, and was fascinated. That led to reading about Then coconut husk rope (sennit) used to lash outrigger canoes together -- so I am requesting you move on to coconut fiber, please, demonstrate it for us ;-) (they use a different technique, twisting fibers by rolling on the thigh -- not sure what is going on there)
phyzome (author)  Wade Tarzia7 years ago
I don't have ready access to coconut fiber. :-/ The rolling-on-the-thigh method works best with bare skin, but be prepared to painfully lose your leg hair. :-P
Rolling on the thigh works very well if you happen to be wearing jeans. I make yucca cordage (no retting, I scrape the green away with a "wooden machete") and use a piece of denim over my pants, because it wears the fabric kind of fast.
phyzome (author)  Purocuyu7 years ago
Wow, that's great to know! I'm going to create a "contributed notes" page at the end of the instructable for stuff like this.
Pat_Maroney7 years ago
Thank you soooo much for explaining how to splice your fibers together. just about every survival guide Ive come across doesnt explain how to do that. great, concise instructable.
MOBucky7 years ago
If I understand this correctly, the twist-away turns one fiber onto itself, then take back twists the two cords together. Is that right?
phyzome (author)  MOBucky7 years ago
That's correct.
I just use dollar store twine, and it works really good.
Psickattus7 years ago
After I read this instructable, I had to give it a go myself. Using around 1" wide strips cut from of an old cotton T shirt I used the wrapping method you described to create a fairly stronge 20 ft cotton rope. I'm going to look for some fibrous plants tomorrow--great instructable!
hi great instructable! how many twists (of the strands) per wrap (thw two strands together) do you think? i'm imagening a rope twisting machine...
phyzome (author)  dominic.tarr7 years ago
I don't know what the ratio is. But if you're interested in designing a rope-making machine, this instructable would be a good place to start.
dataphool7 years ago
Nicely done! Very instructional.

Note: Dogwood, or Apocynum is found everywhere in the northern hemisphere except in Western Europe. Readers in England and Australia will have to look for another source of fiber.
i need some flax tho i make somthing similar, i take hemp, rub beez wax on it (not beez oil) wind the waxed hemp 2gether and wax again i string my bows with that
liny8 years ago
I know a way to make string with something like the reverse wrap. You take the fiber and put it sepparatly on a surface and you rub the fiber in the same direction to join it.
nhpr8 years ago
After watching a Ray Mears show, I was looking for some detailed instructions on how to make cordage. Unfortunately for me, I only found this website weeks after learning bits and pieces through multiple poorly-written, confusing websites. I wish I had found this one first.
i like the instructable. also since i just came home from camp, we were making small ropes out of paper towels(the brown ones that u find in bathrooms) and we would get them wet with our hands and then twist the whole thing and bite in the middle then twist both sections together and i will make a instructabe for it
You have a really good camera
phyzome (author)  Virtualgoose8 years ago
Heh, just for still photos. Video mode on the Canon Powershot S1 IS could use some help in the autofocus department. :-)
beastbunny8 years ago
A very interesting Instructable. We used to do this with young tree bark as kids. In rope and yarn making this step is called plying. Just FYI.
phyzome (author)  beastbunny8 years ago
Thanks for that tidbit, that's good to know.
Meragness8 years ago
this is so cool! and that pencil sharpener explanation made it very clear for me!
highwaykind8 years ago
Twist the strands clockwise, and wrap them around each other counter-clockwise. You can also braid your hair this way (which is how I knew how to do it...gets nice curls), but I didn't know you could use plant fibre to make wire!
wow!! awsome dude!! i used that wrapping technique for cotton rope i made from my worn thshirt
artcore8 years ago
I made some for artistic puposes in 94/5 while in New caledonia to prepare an exposition and had to manage without resources .
The expo was a succes and i am still active in art.
linkto Artcore
tyeo0988 years ago
Indubitably!!!! I am going to the southern tier tomorrow morning (5 am) and i am in Northern Va Right now, so when I get there... YAY!! Ive seen those stupid plants all around the property, and untill now I always thought that they were useless! Boy was I wrong!!! I will try this as soon as I get up there! (and take some home to my girlfriend, she'll love it!)
porkdemon8 years ago
superb instructable, i think you can do this with an african plant called "mother in laws tounge" sorry i dont know the scientific name for it, theres a tribe that make their bow strings using this method, using the "mother in laws tounge". anyway great instructable, i cant wait to try this.
zikman8 years ago
excellent instructable. I'm in central VA right now, I'll have to try this before I go back down to Richmond in the fall.
toogood8 years ago
nettle string is made in the same way and flax is also a good sorce of fibes
D:\Documents and Settings\James\My Documents\My Pictures\flax.jpgD:\Documents and Settings\James\My Documents\My Pictures\nettles.jpg
mrmath8 years ago
You said that it takes four feet of material to make one foot of cord. For an experienced cord maker, what's the time involved in turning the 4 feet to 1 foot? I'm talking start to finish. Harvest to complete cord?
phyzome (author)  mrmath8 years ago
I've added times to the instructable. 6 minutes to turn a 3-foot stalk into ribbon, 9 minutes to turn that into a fibrous bundle, and 9 minutes to turn that into a very *thick* 14-inch cord. I started the reverse wrap with all 3 feet as a single bundle just for timing purposes.

Ordinarily, I would separate the bundle into several 3-foot sections to be spliced in later. This results in a much thinner, longer cord. If you divide the stalk into 2 3-foot sections, the cord will be half the width and twice the length, but will take something like *four* times the amount of time. (Twice as many twists per inch, twice as long.)
lennyb8 years ago
this is well done. bark from several kinds of trees can be used to make this. try willow,poplar,cottonwood, also many species of grass will work like hemp oh wait best steer away from that stuff dont wanna get you guys in trouble.
phyzome (author)  lennyb8 years ago
Hemp fiber is legal to possess, and I *imagine* the stripped stalks are as well... check your local laws. Maybe if you're out in the woods and happen upon the remnants of a pot farm... :-P
tercero8 years ago
Thanks. This is something I'm trying to teach my son, and show him the importance of learning basic survival crafts. Good instructable.
phyzome (author)  tercero8 years ago
Excellent! Fire-starting, shelter building, (clean) water gathering... these would all make good instructables. (Maybe some of these have already been done? Should check.)
canida8 years ago
Wow- this is so cool!
Rope making is a great survival skill, and you've documented it very well.

I just tried the reverse wrap on my hair, and it actually worked!
Ya, good point, now we just need to figure out how to get instructables out in the middle of nowhere when we need to survive! Awesome instructable, Imay try it with some plants I find around here, I have no clue what dogbane is. I live in Ontario (Canada eh!), anyone know whats good to use around here?
phyzome (author)  armindilo8 years ago
I've amended the instructable to include a section on alternative fiber sources. Keep an eye out for fallen branches, and check the inner bark for sturdy fibers.
I'll get working on the instructables robot signal.... and store it next to my bat signal!
canida canida8 years ago
Here you go- pictures of the reverse wrap in hair. It stays nicely all by itself.
phyzome (author)  canida8 years ago
Haha, that's great, canida! Animal hair is another viable fiber source... adding that to the instructable.
I couldn't wait to make one of these for myself. I'm a sucker for survival DIY stuff. I sort of rushed this one but I got a lot more bark so I'll make more tomorrow. I stuck a safety pin and metal hoop on one side to keep it together, but on my next one I'm going to try and carve wooden beads and make it entirely "organic." Awesome instructable, I was able to do it on my first try after I found a tree with fibrous bark.
Excellent instructable. I was first introduced to cordage making through the book "When Technology Fails". I'd just like to add that cattails are readily identifiable and grow pretty much anywhere marshy. Just remove the fibers from the stalks and they should work the same way....
John Smith8 years ago
Thank you! I saw a tv show that included this, and thought that it was cool, so I tried it. Unfortuneately, I missed what plant they said that they used, so I didn't get further than a few inch long wrist band. Where do you live (state)? I live in florida, and never heard of dogbane. Is milkweed what butterflies eat? I thought it was milk-something...
phyzome (author)  John Smith8 years ago
I live in central Virginia. I'll look up some other sources of fiber and add them to the instructable.
Yes, milkweed is the plant monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. It grows everywhere here in Texas.
Yeah, ok, I'll try that. with the milkweed. (if I can find it)
andy8 years ago
Excellent instructable, very well documented, thanks! Andy
This is a great instructable! This would be great for when you're camping or out in the woods somewhere. Thanks!