Sunday, July 18, 2010

Making Cordage

A few weeks ago I collected some bark to turn into cordage. I'd stripped the rough outer bark and left it to dry. The outer bark is brittle and will weaken the final product, so it needed to be stripped. The inner bark was dried because it shrinks the most the first time it dries, leading to a more tightly woven final product. 
Since it had been dried, the bark had to be soaked to make it supple enough to work with. About 15 minutes did the job.
Here are the two strips of bark, ready to be cut into strips.
I had driven the tip of my knife into a piece of wood so I could cut the bark into strips with greater control.
However I found that it was much easier to tear the bark into strips.
In no time at all I had a bundle of suitable fibers.
I took one of the longer strips and started at a point a third of the way along. This way, when it comes to adding in more material, I wouldn't have to add it to both ends. The process of turning the strips of bark into cordage is remarkably simple. Just twist the fibers.
 Eventually, the twisted fibers will create a kink. This is the beginning of the cordage. I just kept twisting the fibers, encouraging them to twist around each other.
It progressed pretty quickly, adding in more and more as each strand ran out.
Pretty soon I had about a meter of cordage. Not very neat but I was pleased with my first effort.
Once you have some cordage, you can repeat the process on the cord itself to make it thicker and stronger.
Here are the final fruits of my labor. At the top is the meter length, coiled. In the middle is a finer, more neat section and below it is a doubled up section of cordage. 

Soon after it had dried I found that the material was quite brittle. If I were to use it, I would either have to tie whatever needed tying while it was still wet, or soak it again before use. Some sections of the cord weren't very neat or uniform. For a while one section was wrapping around the other, rather than them both binding together. I've since been informed that to correct this, I need to twist the section that isn't binding more, to encourage it to 'kink'. 
Overall I was pretty pleased with my results. I'm definitely going to be giving it another go. Things to improve on:
  1. make more uniform strips of bark to begin with
  2. try to keep the twists even and the thickness the same throughout
  3. practice adding new sections without so many ends poking out.

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