Sailmaker's Whipping - Step by Step




About: To see more of my work you are welcome to follow me on Instagram @cam_de_burgh

Whippings are put on the end of a rope to prevent the rope from unlaying. Whippings are most necessary for natural fibre ropes that can't be melted.

Whippings are preferable to back-splices whenever there is a need for the rope's end to pass through an eye or a block. I think a whipping is always preferable because a back-splice will catch on anything at the most inconvenient moment.

Whippings are usually made from waxed twine or rope yarn. For my example I've used some braided cord. A boot lace will do.

The length of a whipping should be at least equal to the diameter of the rope, and for permanent whippings, a second one should be made nine diameters from the end.

My favourite whipping is the sailmaker's whipping. I think it looks great and I've never seen one work adrift. Here's how to make one...


Step 1: Getting Started

  • Get the end of the rope to be whipped in one hand.
  • Get the twine in your other hand.
  • Poke the end of the twine through the rope passing under one of the strands. About 200mm from the end of the rope.
  • Now pass the twine over the next rope strand and then through the rope again going under the last strand. It should come out between the same two strands you first poked it through.
  • Pull the twine through to give yourself about 200mm hanging out.
  • Leave about 50mm of bight hanging at the back.
  • You should now be ready to start whipping.
NB. If you find it easier you can unlay the rope to perform the above steps and then lay up the rope again when you are ready to start whipping.

Step 2: Whip It!

  • Leave the short end of twine and the bight hanging.
  • Take the long part of twine and tightly pass it round and round the rope, working against the lay, toward the end of the rope.
  • Continue until you have sufficient turns. The whipping should be at least as long as the rope is wide.

Step 3: Make It Stay Whipped

  • Now take the bight of twine and pass it up the outside of the whipping, following the lay of the strand that it surrounds (I hope that makes sense - comment if you want clarification), and then hook it over the end of the strand at the end of the rope.
  • Grab hold of the short end of the twine and pull hard. This will tighten the bight. As you pull work the bight neatly down between the strand at the rope's end.
  • When the bight is nice and tight bring the short end of twine up outside the whipping, again following the lay of the rope.
  • Reef know the two ends of twine at the centre of the rope.

Step 4: Finishing

  • Trim the twine leaving just enough length so you can be confident the reef knot won't work loose.
  • Trim the rope leaving just enough length to hide the reef knot in the twine.
  • The whipping may be dressed with varnish - though I never have found this necessary.
If ever you find yourself working on the deck of any vessel, knowing how to make a sailmaker's whipping may prove to be invaluable at those times when the boss is on board and you need to look busy.

I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable, and I really hope it might be of use to someone. 

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.



    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest

    10 Discussions

    Larry Green

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Love your top photo. (I used it with a link back to your instructable). As an alternate method to inserting the whipping cord into the rope, you can unlay the three strands. There's a link to a blow by blow pictorial illustration on this page. (Scroll down.)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    While I don't generally find manila (or any kind of 3-strand) rope on the types of boats I sail on, I'm going to practice and memorize this whipping. It looks great and I'm eager to try it with some multi-strand synthetic rope I have in the garage. Thanks a lot!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    My favourite knot would have to be the Ashley's Constrictor Knot. This amazing knot will whip a rope in seconds, and last for years. It's also great for synthetic ropes, you can melt them over the knot, and it will never let you down.

    The only draw-back with this knot is that, once pulled down tight, you'll have to cut it to get it undone. When whipping a rope, I pull it tight with a couple of pairs of pliers, with jerking action to pull it up REALLY tight. You can then cut the ends off very close, it won't come undone.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for sharing information about staysail making and maintaining.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    and for synthetic ropes also. Burn and melt or tape the end of ropes not the best way to prevent unlaying a valuable 1 inch rope. A well made whipping will last for years in tough condions


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I quite agree.
    When I was working on barges I would whip the ends of all the larger ropes and then lightly melt the tips. The result was very professional looking. And the whipping would generally outlast the rope.