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Supported by Trinity House

Whipping into shape

Look after your rope and it’ll look after you. Learn how to care for the ends of rope with whippings and splices.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Access to the internet
  • Lengths of rope to repair
  • Cord or thread suitable for whippings
  • Masking tape
  • Knife to cut rope
  • Marlinspike (if needed)

Before you begin

  • This activity requires enough rope for everyone to try out whipping. A three-strand rope is best for the sailmaker's whipping, while common or West Country whipping can be done with most kinds of rope easily.
  • It might be best to learn about one type of whipping as a short session, alongside another activity or as an activity base for smaller groups. This should help everyone absorb the information about each type of whipping and master it before moving on to the next one.

Let's get whipping!

  1. Explain that whipping is a technique used to secure the end of a rope to stop it from unravelling or fraying.
  1. Give everyone a suitable length of rope for the whipping they’ll be doing. A shorter length is best for practising on.
  2. Give out pieces of tape long enough to wind once around the rope. They should stick the tape around the rope at the point where the whipping will end. Point this out to anyone who isn’t sure.
  1. Use the information below to help guide everyone to make a whipping on the end of their length of rope. Once everyone has tried the whippings, the person leading the activity should introduce everyone to the back splice, eye splice and heat sealing, also described below.
  1. Explain that the back splice and heat sealing techniques are usually temporary fixes, and that a whipping is a long term fix.
    • The eye splice is a convenient alternative to tying a knot where you need a more permanent loop in a rope, as it’s neat and more secure.
    • The main benefit of the back splice is that it can be made on a rope without the need for any other tools or materials. The downside is often that the knot thickens one end of the rope, meaning it cannot be threaded through blocks or pulleys.
    • The main benefit of heat sealing the end of rope is speed, but if not done very carefully this can create nasty sharp edges as the melted rope hardens.
  1. Use the information in the ‘Which whipping?’ and ‘Sealing and splicing’ boxes below and instruct everyone to have a go at tying a back splice and an eye splice.

Reflection

Some of the first evidence of rope being made with tools and machines comes from Egyptian pictographs from more than 4,000 years ago. Since then, the process has changed very little. Originally made from winding natural fibres from reeds and grasses by hand, rope is now predominantly made from synthetic fibres bound by machines. Whipping and splicing are traditional ways to repair and care for your rope and they’re especially useful, as replacing rope new for old is wasteful and can be expensive. As more and more equipment has become made from materials like plastic, it’s become harder to repair, leading to the production of more single-use items. Are there other things that you could maintain or repair in this way that might otherwise be thrown away?

Safety

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.