Sailmaker's whipping

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Sailmaker's whipping
Category Whipping
Related West Country whipping
Typical use Whipping
ABoK #3446
Sailmaker's whipping Sailmakers.jpg
Sailmaker's whipping

The sailmaker's whipping is one of the most durable and stable of rope whippings known. According to The Ashley Book of Knots , "Palm-and-needle whipping, or sailmaker's whipping, is the most satisfactory of all." [1]

A whipping knot or whipping is a binding of marline twine or whipcord around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray. The whipping can be made neat and permanent by tying it off or sewing the ends of the twine through the rope. According to The Ashley Book of Knots, "The purpose of a whipping is to prevent the end of a rope from fraying...A whipping should be, in width, about equal to the diameter of the rope on which it is put...[Two sailmaker's whippings], a short distance apart, are put in the ends of every reef point, where the constant "whipping" against the sail makes the wear excessive; this is said to be the source of the name whipping." The other type of stopping knot is a seizing knot.

<i>The Ashley Book of Knots</i> book

The Ashley Book of Knots is an encyclopedia of knots written and illustrated by the American artist Clifford W. Ashley. First published in 1944, it was the culmination of over 11 years of work. The book contains exactly 3854 numbered entries and an estimated 7000 illustrations. The entries include knot instructions, uses, and some histories, categorized by type or function. It remains one of the most important and comprehensive books on knots.



Palm and Needle Whipping

Using a needle, the twine (generally a waxed cord) is pushed through a strand of the rope at least two times to secure the end, then wrapped multiple times around the rope, to a width generally of the rope. Then the needle is pushed diagonally through each strand, then run once up the furrow between strands. This can be doubled by going around more than once, then finished with a final diagonal after which the excess twine is cut. Ashley also includes a technique to be used if the rope strands are too thick for one thrust of a needle to go through diagonally. The needle work makes it less able to slide.

Sailmaker's whipping

What Ashley describes as a superficially similar technique, visually, to #3446 is included in The Ashley Book of Knots as #3448. It has the advantage that it doesn't need a needle, strictly speaking. Multiple sources give this separate technique the term sailmaker's whipping. [2] [3]

The twine is first threaded diagonally through the rope strands, leaving an excess loop in the middle of the twine. The twine is wrapped around the rope and then the loop is fit over one of the strand ends, the rope having been opened, such that the loop fits into the groove between strands. The remainder of the twine is pushed through the open part of the rope and fit into the last groove, or in the case of a 4 strand rope, two loops can be used. Finally a reef (square) or a string of reef (square) knots is tied between the two twine ends. Then this string of reef (square) knots is pulled or worked through the rope to bury the ends under the wraps.


West Country whipping Westcountry.jpg
West Country whipping

The West Country whipping is a quick practical method of using twine to secure the end of a rope to prevent it fraying. Half hitches are tied alternately behind and in front of the rope until the width of the band of twine approaches the diameter of the rope. It has several advantages: it can be tied without a needle; it is simple to understand and remember; if the whipping fails, the loose ends can usually be re-tied to temporarily prevent the rope's end from fraying.

West Country whipping

The West Country whipping is a quick practical whipping knot, a method of using twine to secure the end of a rope to prevent it fraying. It has several advantages: it can be tied without a needle; it is simple to understand and remember; if the whipping fails, the loose ends can usually be re-tied to temporarily prevent the rope's end from fraying.

West Country whipping was the name given by Biddlecombe in 1848 to this particular practice, but most subsequent seamanship books, including the British Admiralty Manual of Semanship, have modified the name to West County whipping...I have not seen this whipping used but it has this advantage: if any part breaks it will be a very long while before the whole whipping lets go. The break will be evident and the whipping can be replaced in time.

Fusing The end of many synthetic ropes can be melted using heat, e.g., a flame. While this is simple and quick, it tends to fail in ropes subject to heavy use. Also, the rope and knotting expert Geoffrey Budworth warns against this practice thus: [4]

Sealing rope ends this way is lazy and dangerous. A tugboat operator once sliced the palm of his hand open down to the sinews after the hardened (and obviously sharp) end of a rope that had been heat-sealed pulled through his grasp. There is no substitute for a properly made whipping.

So, ideally, a rope's end should only be whipped.

Related Research Articles

Knot method of fastening or securing linear material, such as rope, by tying or interweaving

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be useful or decorative. Practical knots may be classified as hitches, bends, splices, or knots. A hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend unites two rope ends; a splice is a multi-strand bend or loop. A knot in the strictest sense serves as a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Granny knot

The granny knot is a binding knot, used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is considered inferior to the reef knot, which it superficially resembles. Neither of these knots should be used as a bend knot for attaching two ropes together.

The granny knot is also called the false, lubber's, calf, and booby knot. Patterson's Nautical Encyclopedia calls it "old granny knot" and Sir Edwin Arnold calls it the "common or garden knot." The name granny is given in Vocabulary of Sea Phrases and Roding pictures the knot in 1795.

The granny consists of two identical half knots, one tied on top of the other. It has but one practical purpose that I know of and that is to serve as a surgeon's knot. Formerly it was employed for tying up parcels in five-and-ten-cent stores, but the practice was given up and paper bags substituted as they were found to be simpler.

Constrictor knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

Grief knot

A grief knot is a knot which combines the features of a granny knot and a thief knot, producing a result which is not generally useful for working purposes. The word grief does not carry its usual meaning but is a portmanteau of granny and thief.

The common whipping is the simplest type of whipping knot, a series of knots intended to stop a rope from unravelling. As it can slip off the rope easily, the common whipping should not be used for rope ends that will be handled. This whipping knot is also called 'wolf' whipping in some parts of the world. The 'Hangman's knot' is a variation of this whipping knot.

Pioneering (scouting)

Pioneering is the art of using ropes and wooden spars joined by lashings and knots to create a structure. Pioneering can be used for constructing small items such as camp gadgets up to larger structures such as bridges and towers. These may be recreational, decorative, or functional.

Ropework set of processes used to make, repair, and use rope

Ropework or marlinespike seamanship are traditional umbrella terms for a skillset spanning the use, maintenance, and repair of rope. Included are tying knots, splicing, making lashings, whippings, and proper use and storage of rope.

Stopper knot knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing unreeving

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing unreeving: stopping the rope at that point from slipping out of a narrow passage. Stopper has three distinct meanings in the context of knotting and cordage. A decorative stopper knot may be referred to as a lanyard knot.

The single-strand stopper knot is...[one variety] of knob knots. Generally it is tied as a terminal knot in the end of a rope, where it forms a knob or bunch, the general purpose of which is to prevent unreeving. It is found in the ends of running rigging. It secures the end of a sewing thread; it provides a handhold or a foothold in bell ropes and footropes. It adds weight to the end of a heaving line, and it is often employed decoratively, but it should not be used to prevent unlaying and fraying except in small cord, twine, and the like, as a whipping is in every way preferable for large and valuable material.

Matthew Walker knot

A Matthew Walker knot is a decorative knot that is used to keep the end of a rope from fraying. It is tied by unraveling the strands of a twisted rope, knotting the strands together, then laying up the strands together again. It may also be tied using several separate cords, in which case it keeps the cords together in a bundle. The traditional use of the knot is to form a knob or "stopper" to prevent the end of the rope from passing through a hole, for instance in rigging the lanyards which tension the shrouds on older sailing ships with standing rigging of fiber cordage.

Rope splicing

Rope splicing in ropework is the forming of a semi-permanent joint between two ropes or two parts of the same rope by partly untwisting and then interweaving their strands. Splices can be used to form a stopper at the end of a line, to form a loop or an eye in a rope, or for joining two ropes together. Splices are preferred to knotted rope, since while a knot typically reduces the strength by 20–40%, a splice is capable of attaining a rope's full strength. However, splicing usually results in a thickening of the line and, if subsequently removed, leaves a distortion of the rope. Most types of splices are used on 3-strand rope, but some can be done on 12-strand or greater single-braided rope, as well as most double braids.
While a spliced 3-strand rope's strands are interwoven to create the splice, a braided rope's splice is constructed by simply pulling the rope into its jacket.

Surgeons knot a surgical knot and is a simple modification to the reef knot. It adds an extra twist when tying the first throw, forming a double overhand knot

The surgeon's knot is a surgical knot and is a simple modification to the reef knot. It adds an extra twist when tying the first throw, forming a double overhand knot. The additional turn provides more friction and can reduce loosening while the second half of the knot is tied. This knot is commonly used by surgeons in situations where it is important to maintain tension on a suture, giving it its name.

Ashleys stopper knot

Ashley's stopper knot, also known as the oysterman's stopper, is a knot developed by Clifford W. Ashley around 1910. It makes a well-balanced trefoil-faced stopper at the end of the rope, giving greater resistance to pulling through an opening than other common stoppers. Essentially, the knot is a common overhand noose, but with the end of the rope passing through the noose eye, which closes upon it. It may be multiplied to form a larger knot with more than three bights appearing around the knot. It is the result of implementing a double wall knot in one strand.

Eye splice

The eye splice is a method of creating a permanent loop in the end of a rope by means of rope splicing.

Fiador knot

The fiador knot is a decorative, symmetrical knot used in equine applications to create items such as rope halters, hobbles, and components of the fiador on some hackamore designs. As traditionally described, it is a four strand diamond knot in which six of the eight ends loop back into the knot, thus allowing it to be tied with a single line. While a specific knot is discussed in this article, the fiador knot has also been treated as an entire class of multi-strand knots similarly made with a single line.

Bight (knot) curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.

Coiling A method for storing rope or cable in compact yet easily attainable form

A coiling or coil is a curve, helix, or spiral used for storing rope or cable in compact and reliable yet easily attainable form. They are often discussed with knots.

Rope are often coiled and hung up in lofts for storage. They are also hung over stakes in farm wagons and on hooks in moving vans, fire apparatus and linesmen's repair trucks. For such active storage coils must be well made.


  1. Ashley, Clifford W. (1944). The Ashley Book of Knots, p.547. Doubleday. ISBN   0-385-04025-3.
  2. Budworth, Geoffrey (1999). Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework: Knots and Ropes for All Pursuits from Sailing and Fishing. London: Anness Publishing Limited. p. 44. ISBN   9781859679111.
  3. "Sailmaker's Whipping | How to make a Sailmaker's Whipping | Knots". Animated Knots. Grog LLC. 2007. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  4. Budworth, Geoffrey (1985). The Knot Book. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 37. ISBN   0-8069-7944-5.