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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All credit to Tim for the following photo.

Step 9: 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)



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    61 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 9

    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.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    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.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    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.

    1 reply

    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)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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


    8 years ago on Step 7

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 9

    door mat or rug


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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!