Introduction: Re-String a Hammock With a Spreader Bar

Hammocks are great. My hammock is now a few years old, and the cotton string running between the body and chain has started to tear. This is probably 50% weather and 50% children who pretend it is a boat.

Replacing the cotton strings with a good quality nylon took me 3-4 hours. I got to learn several new knots and as a reward, I got to lay down ion the shade on my fixed hammock/boat.

We are going to be learning and use several knots:

  • cow hitch knot
  • clew knot
  • double fisherman's knot


  • ~ 200ft 3/16 solid nylon rope (amazon)
  • cheap knife
  • propane torch, bic lighter, or other heat source
  • tape measure or ruler
  • masking tape
  • something to hold the ring while we tie knots (I used a board with a nail in it)
  • broken hamock

This repair is based on instructions from from Dunn Lumber.

Step 1: Cutting the Nylon Rope

Nylon is a synthetic fabric that melts like fabric. If you cut a nylon rope, it will fray, but we can use heat to melt it and stop that from happening. There are a few ways to do this, but I am using a torch and a cheap knife which will never be the same after this.

This is dangerous. You will be working with fire and knives at the same time. There may also be a harmful smell from the melting nylon. Please be careful.

My hammock has eighteen grommet holes in the end. Each rope segment will be folded over once and tie onto two grommet holes, meaning we need half as many rope segments on each end, or nine rope segments in my case. This also means the ropes need to be twice as long as the distance from ring to hammock. I chose a four foot length and cut my ropes at nine feet to give me some extra room. To measure it out quickly, I taped a yard stick to the table and measured three lengths. Boom boom boom.

To cut the nylon rope, use a torch to heat the knife. It doesn't need to be too hot, maybe five seconds each side. The knife may darken but definitely does not need to be red. If it is too hot, it becomes dangerous. If it is too cold, it will take multiple cuts which is fine. The blade does not need to be sharp; it is the heat which cuts the rope. The dull end of the knife may cut just as well as the sharp end. Heat from the knife heats the end of the rope as it cuts which keeps the rope from splaying. If the end is still ragged after the cut, touch it with the edge of the blade to smoothen it.

Step 2: Tying the Cow Hitch

You have the rope. You have the ring. Now put them together.

This knot is called a Cow Hitch. Start by folding the rope in half and finding the center loop. Put that loop through the ring, then pull the rest of the rope through. It won't look right by itself. The knot will be very big but stuck with it. Make sure the loop goes through the same side of the ring each time. It may not look like all of these knots will fit on the ring, but if the ropes fit before, they will fit again. Once you have several, push the knots together and things should start looking right.

Step 3: Tying the Clew Knot

The clew knot is what will give the hammock strings the triangle shape. This step is easier to explain visually, but in general, you will select the left most or right most string and weave it through the others. After it is weaved through, it will go off to the side and will not be used for the rest of the knot.

Once you have a few rows done, begin to tighten the knot. I used the back of the hot knife to push each row tight and just sort of... wiggled thing until it looked decent. Continue until you only have two strings left. This knot may actually get harder or messier as you go along but that's ok. Wiggle wiggle. When you have only two left, tie any knot you like to keep it all from unwinding.

There are a few other descriptions of clew knots around. Poke around the internet if you are having a problem here.

Step 4: Tying to the Hammock

This will be a bit tricky. Each string to the hammock will be a different length. The goal is to tie all strings through the spreader bar to the hammock to be evenly right across the length. It may take a few tries to get them right.

Start by fanning out the strings, feeding them through the spreader and then through the hammock grommets. I tied a square knot here to hold them in place. Square knots are fun and come apart easily. This holds everything in place while you get the real work done. By now, you can actually put your hammock back up on the stand or tree to help see how taught each line is.

My hammock also had a surprise. Rather than going through grommets, the cotton strings on either end go through a pocket the entire length of the hammock, like a hoodie string. If you want to replace this, tape the end of the existing string to new string and pull it through. (A knot will probably be too big to fit.)

For the actual knots, I used a double fisherman's knot. Tie the strings together in pairs using this knot. It lets you adjust the length of one side or the other until it is pulled very tight. Using the hammock should make these knots even tighter! You may want to start at the ends and move towards the center.

The more astute of you may notice I messed up the order of strings in mine. I am trying not to let that bother me. It isn't hard to fix, but this is a hammock. It doesn't feel right to obsess over something so chill. Everything is OK.

Hopefully you now have many more years out of your hammock! Have a great summer.