Introduction: Money for Old Rope

Picture of Money for Old Rope
As a climber, every so often I have to retire a rope. Be it from old age or wear, it's best to replace them every 3-5 years, or sooner if they're damaged. Our university climbing club has to retire all its ropes every three years too so every three years there's about 300m of rope laying around.

Rather than throwing them away, or leaving the ropes sitting in a corner of our equipment cupboard, I thought I'd put them to good use.

Here are all the uses we've thought of so far, with steps on how to make them:
  • Dog Toys
  • Skipping Ropes
  • Emergency Tow Rope
  • Hammock
  • Rope Ladder
  • Rope Swing
  • Tyre Swing

Step 1: Rope Ladder

Picture of Rope Ladder

To make a rope ladder you'll need two 4m lengths of rope and some 2x4. I used 9mm dynamic rope (which made my ladder bouncier than I would have liked) and the thicker support slats from a pallet cut in half.

Cut each of your slats to length. My pallet was 80cm wide so my rungs ended up being 40cm wide. Drill holes slightly larger than your rope 3cm from either end and then run some sand paper over each rung to stop them splintering your hands/feet while climbing it.

Tie an overhand knot near one end of each piece of rope. Thread the first step on from the other end. If you like you can tie a knot above the step as well but I didn't bother.

Tie another knot 30-40cm further along each rope and thread the rung to it as before. Repeat this until you're out of rope or rungs.

Leave at least 50cm of rope at the top end of the ladder and tie a loop into the end of each piece of rope. You can now use these loops to fasten the ropes to themselves over a tree branch.

Step 2: Rope Swing

Picture of Rope Swing

For this you'll need ~60cm of 2x4 and a length of rope long enough to reach twice to a chosen tree branch plus 1m for knots.

Cut your 2x4 timber to size to make the swing seat.

Drill holes large enough to just pass your rope through. For 9mm rope I drilled an 12mm hole 3cm from each end.

Sling the rope over the branch.

Pass one end of the rope through one hole and the other end through the other. Secure underneath the seat with an overhand knot. Leave a 20cm tail so it doesn't roll undone and turf your rider off the swing!

Step 3: Dog Toy 1

Picture of Dog Toy 1

Here are two ideas on how to make dog toys, virtually any knotted length of rope can be a bit of fun, but here are a couple just as examples.

The first is a tasselled one for a game of tug.
1) Cut a 40cm length of rope, don't seal the ends
2) Tie an overhand knot 15cm from each end
3) Fray from each end to each knot. This may take a little while so is best done while watching TV.

Step 4: Tyre Swing

Picture of Tyre Swing

For this you'll need a length of rope and a tyre. I got my tyre free from a local garage, they were more than happy to give me one since they have to pay to dispose of them.

Tie a loop in one end of the rope and sling it over your chosen tree branch. Pass the other end through the loop and pull it tight.

Pass the free end through the tyre and lift the tyre while tying a knot. I used a bowline.

You can cut the remaining rope if you like, or leave it on since it makes a good handle to pull the swing with from a safe distance.

User dzurn suggests cutting a hole in the bottom of the tyre so it doesn't fill up with water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Step 5: Dog Toy 2

Picture of Dog Toy 2

The second dog toy is suitable for throwing. It consists of a monkey's fist tied in the end of a 120cm piece of rope. The thicker your rope, the bigger the fist, I used 9mm dynamic rope which gave me a monkey's fist with a diameter of about 8cm.

Tie the monkey's fist then tighten it up good 'n' proper.

With a good swing on the tail you can throw this for your dog to chase.

Step 6: Skipping Rope

This one's easy. Cut a length of rope to the correct length. The recommended length for a skipping rope is from chest height, down to the floor and then back up again. Tie an overhand knot in each end to help you keep a hold on!

Step 7: Emergency Load/Tow Rope

Picture of Emergency Load/Tow Rope

Keeping a length of rope in your car can be a good idea to help in sticky situations.

While a dynamic rope doesn't make an ideal tow rope (it's stretchy after all) it's better than nothing for helping get someone out of a ditch.

And it's good and strong for tying down loads on roof racks or trailers.

Step 8: Hammock

Picture of Hammock

Follow Tim Anderson's guide to making an instant hammock.

All credit to Tim for the following photo.

Step 9: User Submitted Ideas...

Picture of User Submitted Ideas...
Got an idea?

Post in a comment below and I'll try make it and add a step with credit to you. Or take pictures if you can :D

Ideas I need to document:
  • woven fender for boats (thanks Kiteman)
  • rope bridges (thanks Tape-structable)
  • tug of war
  • giant 3d string art (thanks solo.card)
  • gear storage (thanks solo.card, I actually do this already, I'll take a photo of all my gear on it tomorrow)
  • woven hammock (thanks ironsmiter)
  • poi (thanks megziewoodles)
  • donate to Scouts for fun and games (thanks andy.clarke)
  • monkey fist door stops (thanks Mbeardsley)
  • plant hangers, bird feeders and other Macramé projects (thanks Websprinter)


Eddie_T (author)2014-06-23

My son just used a re-purposed climbing rope and his Jeep to clear my drive of fallen trees portions. I have been trying to find a bargain piece but so far have only drawn flack for attempting to reuse such a sacred line. My thought is that in a free country I should be free to re-purpose a climbing rope. I don't intend to climb but frankly that's my own business what I use it for. Gyms retire them in great condition for safety and insurance reasons, on the farm or around the property we use them til they are worn beyond use. Please post suggested sources for ropes.

Marcos (author)2012-02-18

I had some scraps of climbing rope which worked great as handles on my Tire Trugs. I'd love to get ahold of a long length of this stuff! I have about 50' of yacht braid (rope used on sailboats) in my station wagon for tying stuff onto the rack. I've used it many times, and I'm sure climbing rope would work at least as well, maybe better, since it's a little firmer than yacht braid.

bayley60 (author)2011-02-25

make a zip line

camp6ell (author)2010-08-21

so, you're going to retire rope... to use it as rope? why not call the instructable "uses for rope?" you say that the rope is being retired because presumably it's no longer safe to use as rope, but then you advocate building rope swings and ladders with it - does it not matter if the rope breaks and your kids fall 20 feet?

marktreefrog (author)camp6ell2010-09-18

no 20" "whippers on a rope swing (unless you are doing it very very wrong)

Jayefuu (author)marktreefrog2010-09-19


Jayefuu (author)camp6ell2010-08-21

The rope is not unsafe for climbing, it's retired as a precaution. It's advisable to retire them just incase there's damage you can't see. Just because it's not rated to save someone's life after an 8m fall doesn't mean it can't handle a static weight of 100kg hanging from it.

megziewoodles (author)2010-08-20

You could make some poi or meteors to twirl with. Tie a monkey fist, leave about 50cm, add a loop on the other end. Make another one and you have a great pair of poi.

yep did it I'm pretty good at poi but nearly knocked my self out.LOL I would have rather hit myself with my fire poi (or not at all)

marktreefrog (author)2010-09-18

I love old rope. I used to manage a climbing gym in Dallas TX, one of the tallest in the world. I ended up with A LOT of old rope. I made
porch swings- with pcv pipe frames and woven old rope
Jacobs Ladder- 30 to 40" ofold rope and 8' sections of pvc or wood. make ladder hang it at ange from ground to about 7" high or higher if you have padding.
garden chairs- with old chairs with the seat removed and then woven old rope.
hanging exercise equipment- 2 lengths of old rope, 4 prussics with 1 1/2 pvc pipe or old garden hose for hands and feet.
sailors rugs- lots of old rope woven into patterns.
monkey fist Poi- 8"of old rope with about 14' of "sheath slippage. can really, really hurt if they hit you.
old rope dog collar and leash- old rope, key rings, old backpack clips, old dog
bracelet- sheath from old rope, lighter or rope cutter.
pall point pin cover. old rope, new pin, lighter
decorated security door- door (vertical bars) lots of odd old rope woven from belt- old rope sheath and back pack clips.
bottom to top. short pieces of different colors woven and fuzzed together.
Twine- inside climbing rope there are 8 individual cords that can be used for many things. AND MANY MANY MORE

LynxSys (author)2010-08-24

The distinction between a "tow rope" and a "recovery rope" is that the former has some stretch to prevent hard jerks on either vehicle involved. A recovery rope (for pulling a car out of a ditch) does not have stretch, because you want more precise control of the car being pulled.

ryguydub (author)2010-08-22

door mat or rug

mikeasaurus (author)2010-08-16

Money for old rope

Money? Do you mean 'ideas'?

kaiguy57 (author)mikeasaurus2010-08-22

Here: collect lengths of 3-foot rope, tie them into interesting knots and sell them at craft fares for a dollar each. Done.

fritsie123 (author)2010-08-17

The ropes are retired because they can't be trusted to be safe anymore, right? And then you make a rope ladder out of them? Perhaps it's best to use the rope for non-loadbearing purposes. Sure, the ropes are probably fine, but should you risk it? Perhaps not. But kudo's for not tossing the rope in the bin, and repurposing them. Re-use is better than recycling.

Jayefuu (author)fritsie1232010-08-17

You're half right. We retire them because they're not trustworthy for taking falls on. Static loads at safeish heights should be fine. A matter of choice I suppose.

fritsie123 (author)Jayefuu2010-08-22

Ah, I never thought about that. When falling, the rope probably gets several times the stress compared to a static load. Thanks for clearing that up!

kaiguy57 (author)fritsie1232010-08-22

I wanted to add that a rope ladder also uses two ropes, meaning half the tension of a typical climbing setup. =)

lesweeks (author)2010-08-22

Back in the days when navies had sailing ships, the old hemp ropes had to be 'retired' when they could no longer be spliced or trusted. The old ropes were cut into short lengths and sent to the prisons where the inmates teased them apart into fibres. This is what we know as Oakum and when coated with Stockholm tar is used to caulk the gaps between planks on ships and boats. So the Oakum was sold to chandlers and boat builders. Hence 'Money for old rope'. Nothing to do with the instruct but maybe interesting!

jtpoutdoor (author)2010-08-19

I'm really surprised your FS ropes are only rated at 900lbs and they're considered ok for life use. Our Statics in the SAR team are rated at 30kN- ie 3 tonnes. A dynamic lead rope I would expect to be rated somewhere around 20kN or 2 tonnes. For rescue work you should be working on a percentage of that rating. NZ rescue works on 10%- so that 3 tonnes would be considered ok for a 300kg load. I know the US uses different figures- (?8% or 5%) but even at 5% a 900lb rope would only get rated for a 180lb load- and I would guess a hefty fire guy in full turn out gear and BA would come in at more than that! I'm currently putting together an edge kit for personal use and am looking for rope with a rating of a minimum of 900kgs (to cope with me plus gear plus pack)- that's twice what you guys are trusting with your lives. I would have no problems using an old climbing rope to tow a car but you would need a short length otherwise the stretch would mean the towing car would be round the corner and out of sight before the car being towed actually got any strain on it! Of course once you have used the rope to tow the car you should make darn sure it doesn't get used for a life load EVER again!

MoTinkerGNome (author)jtpoutdoor2010-08-20

Yup apparently I dont know what the heck Im talking about. I talked to the chief that handles training last night and he said that I was incorrect in my information. And that a climbing rope should have sufficant workign load for towing a vehicle. and that I was off on my working loads by a magnitude of 10 so when I quoted 900 lbs I would have been closer with 9000 lbs. But im not afraid to say that I was wrong. Stay safe and have fun out there y'all

jtpoutdoor (author)MoTinkerGNome2010-08-22

Glad you're all using a safe loading rope!

Jayefuu (author)jtpoutdoor2010-08-19

Indeed, I make sure any sections of retired rope I have lying around are short enough that I won't mistake them for my real ropes and that any that aren't short are kept in a box and are labeled.

bart.p (author)2010-08-19

everyone is saying that a dynamic rope isn't any good for towing but i have to argue, im not going to get in to all the strength stuff but in off road applications a stretchy rope is actually what you are suppose to use, i forgot the name of it but what you usually do when someone is stuck in mud, ditch, hole, etc; you put the two cars as close to each other as possible and floor it, there is a special rope used for this that works very like like a spring, yanking the stuck vehicle out, i think it might be called a kinetic rope or something like that

Jayefuu (author)bart.p2010-08-19

"i think it might be called a kinetic rope or something like that"


bart.p (author)Jayefuu2010-08-20

as i said i dont know what its called off the top of my head, i know in polish its called a kinetic rope (word for word translation)

dzurn (author)2010-08-20

Cut a hole in the bottom of the tyre/tire, to make sure the swing is NOT a breeding ground for mosquitos.

andy.clarke (author)2010-08-19

You can donate old rope to your local Scouting group. Our Beavers group (5-7 year olds) use 3 foot chunks of old climbing rope for a game we call "Tails". Each Beaver tucks a "tail" into the waisband of his pants at the back, then they run around trying to step on and 'capture' the other's tails. Lots of fun. Our Cub and Scout groups use two to three foot lengths to practice knots. It helps when they have different colours as it is easier to see which end is which when tying. AndyC.

DavidM45 (author)2010-08-19

Give 'em a break, LOL just so you know climbing ropes are not rated for tensile strength but yacht ropes are. A decent 10 mm line should compare to your static rope would have a tensile strength (less than breaking strength) of 10,000 lbs. that should cover pretty much anything, ENOUGH said

Jayefuu (author)DavidM452010-08-19

What use would a climbing rope be if it wasn't rated for tensile strength? They're rated to 22kN, and that's just the safety rating not what they could actually hold.

DavidM45 (author)Jayefuu2010-08-19

Good article, My point was climbing ropes are plenty strong even for "emergency" towing especially with it's 5% stretch ... that is unless you leave the car in gear with the e-brakes on! to quote New England "Dynamic" Ropes: Working Loads: No blanket safe working load (SWL) recommendations can be made for any line because SWL's must be calculated based on application, conditions of use, and potential danger to personnel among other considerations. It is recommended that the end user establish working loads and safety factors based on best practices established by the end user's industry; by professional judgment and personal experience; and after thorough assessment of all risks. The SWL is a guideline for the use of a rope in good condition for non-critical applications and should be reduced where life, limb, or valuable property is involved, or in cases of exceptional service such as shock loading, sustained loading, severe vibration, etc. The Cordage Institute specifies that the SWL of a rope shall be determined by dividing the Minimum Tensile Strength of the rope by a safety factor. The safety factor ranges from 5 to 12 for non-critical uses and is typically set at 15 for life lines.

steveastrouk (author)DavidM452010-08-19

A climbing rope is elastic, where a yacht rigging rope generally isn't but UTS of a climbing rope is similar to standard kernmantel rope of the same materials.

Mbeardsley (author)2010-08-19

You could make big monkey fists with heavy weight and use them for door stops.

Websprinter (author)2010-08-19

This would be great for plant hangers, bird feeders and other Macramé projects. :) I wonder if you could Macramé tomato cages. ;)

MissCrafty (author)2010-08-19

You could make a rope rug.

Jayefuu (author)MissCrafty2010-08-19

Thanks :) I'll be working on an ible to make a door mat after I get back from holiday

Defy57 (author)2010-08-19

Upon the advice of a chp officer my brother tried to use his climbing rope as a tow rope, since it was all they could find in his trunk. It repeatedly broke. There was no way to get even pull across more than one strand at a time. When they checked the officers trunk, lo and behold, he had a tow strap. Didn't bother to check it in the first place because the straps are almost always missing.

emkayach (author)2010-08-19

An old salt's advice, pick up a copy of "Ashley Book of Knots" and have at it. You could repurpose all of the rope in the world with the ideas in this book.

Ugifer (author)2010-08-18

Stretchy is not a bad thing in a tow rope - the forces involved in getting half a ton of car rolling from stationary are significant and a bit of stretch will help avoid ripping bits off.

Rhamkota (author)2010-08-17

Don't you mean tire swing?

Jayefuu (author)Rhamkota2010-08-17

That's a difference in English and American spelling I'm afraid. You'll have to put up with my Britishness, sorry!

gmoon (author)2010-08-17

Where's the ever-popular retired rope rug?

Jayefuu (author)gmoon2010-08-17

That'll be in a separate instructable :)

gmoon (author)Jayefuu2010-08-17

Nice. Looking forward to it...

Lithium Rain (author)2010-08-16

So...where's the money?

Kryptonite (author)2010-08-17
I had a list of rope Instructables I wanted to make, I'll just go check them now...
  • A rope bag
  • Using a prussock(?) knot
  • A whip
  • Explaining how a pulley works
And that's all I've got, hope that helps!
reedz (author)2010-08-16

Hmm. What about a fashionable belt? Or A knot-monkey (like a sock monkey)?

jatoha (author)2010-08-16

It could make interesting fencing... tie around posts or maybe drills holes in posts and knot to hold in place.

Jayefuu (author)jatoha2010-08-16

Ahhhh! Kind of like the seaside style that used to be fashionable. :D

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