Introduction: Reuse Old Printer Ribbons and Video Tape to Make Rope!

About: i am a photolab technician and an incurable packrat. i have made swords ,chainmail, crossbows.cameras,bike trailers,kayaks,guitars{slide and electric},knives,various film winders and vacum easels for the phot…

Reuse old printer ribbons and video tape to make rope!
no im not talking about dot matrix ink ribbons{although they will
work it would just be messy} im referring to the
one you get from those little photo printers like the canon selphy
or the kodak printerdock also the standalone printer kiosks at walmarts
across the continent have the same system.
im going to show you how to make a machine to do this

Step 1: Parts List

material list:
section of broom handle or dowel
coat hangers
a swivel{like from a dogs chain}
some stringlike material,
printer ribbon, video tape,yarn, sphagetti{well maybe not spaghetti}

Step 2: Why

why indeed.
the inspiration to make rope from printer ribbons came to me one day at work.
we had just printed a large pile of school id cards{i work in the photo industry} and had a bunch of ribbons left over that were used and therefore garbage.
one of the bosses kids came in pulled one out of the trash and proceeded to run around stringing it everywhere.
well after the little bugg...... err i mean little darling left i proceeded to tidy up.
the ribbon tape was twisted around everything and there were hundreds of feet of the stuff.
i gave up trying to roll it up and started tearing it{its normally very delicate} but wherever it was twisted it was much stronger.
it got me thinking and that gets me experimenting.
i looked up ropemaking on the net and found this site
and looking at this inspired me to make a quick and dirty rope making machine of my own.
since then i have tried many different materials
in this picture we have cotton strip cut from a t shirt{the seamless kind},
the id printer ribbon,and a larger ribbon from a kodak g3 kiosk printer{the kind you put your camera card into and get instant prints ]

Step 3: Welcome to the Machine

i guess i should show you folks how to make a ropemaker.
none of the measurements here are arbitrary use what you have
first you get a board between 3 and 4 inches wide.
i used plywood 3.75 inches wide.
cut 3 sections from it
1 ,13 inches long
1 ,10 inches long
and 1 , 3.75 inches square.
use a triangular section 3 inches high as a brace.(figure 1)

screw or nail the boards together as shown in (figure 2)

take the square bit and clamp it to the upright aligned to the top and sides (figure 3)

drill 3/16th holes through both pieces in a triangle spaced 2 inches a side
it is important that the blocks do not shift during this stage as perfect alignment is needed.
(figure 4) after drilling the 3 holes drill one hole {in the short block only} right in the middle of the triangle{attach the broom handle here as a crank handle}

take 3 sections of coat hanger wire 9 inches long and bend a crank shape out of them (figure 5)
first bend at 2 inches not quite 90 degrees second bend at 4 inch mark back to straight .
it is very important that all 3 wires are bent to the exact angles and distances as each other

insert the short ends of the crank wires into the 3 holes in the block .bend the ends over so the
wires cant fall out but are free to revolve.
insert the long ends into the corresponding holes in the uprights. (Fig 7)
at this point you can crank the broom handle around a few times and see that the wires dont clash with each other if they do then change the angles on the wire until they dont.

bend the long ends into hooks{bend around a section of broom handle}keeping the hooks the same size and length (fig 7)
finish the wood anyway you like.
now what you have is a set of three hooks that will all turn in the same direction at the same speed when you crank the broom handle around{like an old fashioned car starter}
the ratio is 1:1
if you use gears instead of cranks then you can make a higher speed machine but thats material for a future instructable.
now onto how to use it

Step 4: Rope Wrench

to make rope you are goning to need a rope wrench also called a separater.
its basically a triangular paddle that with the head being slightly larger than the triangle formed by the hooks on the machine.
mines made of pine the notches cut in the points are rounded well and sanded smooth so as to not abrade the strands as they twist up.
also i made another up right to hold a swivel hook you can use a dogchain swivel or a bolt hook passing through the board and the nut resting on a skateboard bearing{thats what i did}
the only thing to worry about here is that the hook can turn freeley under pressure.

Step 5: Threading Up

now you have made the machine its time to thread it up and get cranking.
first thing to do is clamp it to a table top and tie one end of the yarn to the hook thats farthest away from you{in this case its a continuous ribbon cut from a tube knit t shirt for visibility}.
take rope wrench and using a spring clamp as legs stand it up near the rotating hook or have your assistant hold it if your using the swivel and skipping the extra upright.
run the yarn down to the spinning hook lay the thread in the notch on the rope wrench that corresponds with the hook you tied off too.
drop the yarn over the hook and passing it through the top notch in the wrench return to the crank end loop the yarn over the top hook then return to the spinner again through the top notch.
at this point you have a single thread running on the inside track and a double on the top one{look closely at the pictures or see a better angle on it at this website .
now take the yarn after it has gone over the hook and return to the crank end passing the yarn through the front notch{closest to you}
now hook on to the last hook and return though the same notch again .
after hooking on pass the yarn through the first notch{inside}and return to the starting hook tie it off there.
if you want a thicker stronger rope repeat the process untill you have what you want.

Step 6: Its Twistin Time

now we have a threaded machine its time to start cranking.
it does not matter which way you crank it at this point just so long as you always crank in the same direction [very important if you want to take this light rope and twist it into a heavier one}.
take hold of the broom handle and start cranking overhand away from you{see the video}.
as you see the strands will start twining around each other{keep an eye on the rope wrench to make sure it doesnt turn sideways and fall out {that will cause a huge tangle].
as you crank you will notice that the machines want to move together indeed you may lose as much as a quarter of the total length this way just keep an even strain on the strands and dont let them get slack{i tipped the machine over once in the backyard and i had to scrap 80 feet of rope:( }
keep cranking until the strands after the wrench starts to roll itself into rope
then while cranking slowly move the wrench towards the crank
the rope will lay up into a nice spiral and the hook will spin.
when you get to the cranks with the wrench carefully slide the ends off the hooks pinch tight to make sure it doesnt unravel on you.
if your any good with knots you can make an eye splice or a crown knot here to prevent unravelling
im a cheater i just tie a knot in the end or whip it with tape .
if you make you rope from printer tape or anything that melts heat it up with a lighter then pinch it with pliers to wad it together
also dipping in glue works too.
the rope i just made is very soft and stretchy and makes good decorative rope.
the yarn used here is just a half inch wide strip of cotton cut in a continuous loop from a seamless t shirt

Step 7: Now for the Printer Ribbon

i used the cotton in the first setup so it would be easier to see
if you get some of the printer ribbons you can use them or old video tapes {god knows we all got closets full of worn out tapes that cant play anymore{just dont take the babys christening video or the wedding tape lol}
look at the pics in this step its the sam,e as the last set except using printer ribbon.

this stuff makes a very hard tough rope that stretches a bit but if you want it to be real strong best thread up at least two times. also as you crank this stuff you will notice bubbles forming get a sewing needle and prick them but be careful not to tear the ribbon.

Step 8: Alternate Materials

as you can see this machine can make rope out of a lot of things.
i have used many things to make cordage
some of the pros and cons of different materials are

printer ribbons
pros: makes a tough colorful rope
good braking strength especially from larger format printers.
cons: can be messy as some ribbons may leave ink on your hands.
will fail without warning when overstressed.
hard to get sometimes.

t shirt cotton
Pros: makes a nice soft decorative rope
easy to obtain{approx 30 feet of yarn per shirt}
cons: not very strong
a lot of scissors work cutting the ribbon
if you use a shirt with seams the strands will fail before you can finish the rope

dollar store twine
Pros: cheap
easy to use to make rope as it is rope{jute twine is most common but sisal will work too}
if enough strands are used it will yield a very strong rope that will have no more tendancy to
unravel as a store bought rope.
cons: varying quality makes this stuff hazardous for heavy loads
as most dollar store twine is probably made from old used rope from scrapped ships it may
stink badly of tar.
misrepresentation of length i have seen many 300 foot 500 foot rolls of this stuff.

video tape
pros: easy to obtain
hundreds of feet of yarn in each one
makes a strong cord if enough strands are used{at least three passes though the machine}
tom hanks should have twisted the tapes he used in castaway that way he wouldnt have lost
cons; will fail without warning dont use for heavy loads

toilet paper
Pros; yes tp not used of course
no reals pros for this except you can use to demonstrate if no other material is available
cons pluleaase

Step 9: The End

anyway folks thanks for looking
but before we finish a few words of warning
do not attempt anything stupid with the ropes you make
like mountain climbing, car towing or swinging.
serious injuries ,heavy property damage or death may occur
if anyone has any questions please ask and i apologise for the huge pile of pictures in some of the steps

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