How to Make Rope Using Windmill Palm Tree Fiber!

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About: I am an artist, builder and teacher living in Japan.

Let's make a rope!

I live in the countryside of Japan and often shadow my wife's grandfather on the farm. This is one of the coolest things I've seen him do and I think it's an awesome skill to learn and try out, especially for kids!

This Instructable will show you how to remove the course fibrous material from a Windmill Palm Tree and turn it into durable rope.

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Step 1: Grandpa!

This is my lovely wife's awesome grandfather!

He is over 90 years old and still farming all day every day! He is an incredible man and I love following him around watching him work.

A while back when I was visiting the farm, I saw him carrying a big ball of tree fiber and assumed he was gathering it to burn. The farm is huge and grandpa regularly burns weeds and brush. I asked him if he needed help with the fire and ended up learning how to make rope.

Step 2: Windmill Palm Tree!

This is a Windmill Palm.

It's a fast growing fan palm and it can grow as high as 40 feet. The trunk is covered in a loose mat of course brown fiber and the symmetrical crown is between 6 to 10 feet wide.

These are considered 'volunteer trees' on the farm or trees not planted by human hands. These things sprout out of nowhere and grow quickly. The fiber wraps around the trunk like a bandage and the trees grow a new layer each month.

Step 3: Cutting Off the Fiber!

The only tool you'll need is a sharp hand sickle.

The easiest way to remove the fiber is to:

1. Cut off the leaves in the area of fiber you'll be removing.

2. Slice down the trunk of the tree with the hand sickle through one layer of fiber.

3. Slice around the tree above the first cut.

4. Slice around the tree below the first cut.

5. Peel off the mat of fiber.

This is a young tree and in my experience, young trees are more difficult to pull fiber from. The tree in this picture is so young, it only has one layer of fiber. The more layers the easier it is to remove with the process getting more tedious the closer you get to the trunk.

A new layer of fiber grows each month, so harvesting fiber can be done monthly without hurting the tree.

Step 4: A Closer Look!

The is a weed tree, so we chopped it down.

Check out the hand sickle! My wife's grandpa handmade that thing just for this job.

Grandpa was telling me that back in the day, farmers would weave this fiber together with fiber from a different tree to make a raincoat. Whaaaat?!

Step 5: Making the Rope!

This part takes some practice! I am amazed at how fast grandpa can twist fiber into rope!

First you'll twist fiber into lengths of sections and it doesn't matter how long the sections are.

The rope is two sections tightly twisted together so grab one section in each hand and begin tightly and evenly twisting all the fibers in the same direction.

It doesn’t matter if you go clockwise or counter-clockwise, as long as it’s always the same direction.

As you continue twisting, the two strands will begin to wrap around one another, forming a rope.

Add new lengths by overlapping them and twisting them in.

With practice, you'll get into a rhythm. It's basically just rubbing your hands back and forth while moving one section of rope under the other with your thumb over and over again.

Step 6: The Rope!

This rope is naturally weatherproof and has low stretch as well as a high tensile strength.

Please only use it for landscaping or interior design. Don't go rappelling y'all!

-Outdoor projects like fence rails, frames around gardens, decks, piers, pathways or around plants and trees.

-Indoors projects like weaving, lighting, artwork or displays.

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    4 Discussions

    None
    bryans workshopStringGoddess

    Reply 7 months ago

    I haven't tried, but I think so. What kind of palm do you have? I'd love to know if it works.

    None
    StringGoddessbryans workshop

    Reply 7 months ago

    I don't, but many of my neighbors do. I don't know what kind they are - all I know is they're reeeealy tall and drop stuff during every windstorm. I'll update when I've collected some and am able to give it a try.