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Presenting Ropes on your Scale Model

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This post is not intended as a definitive discussion on the subject and there are other options used in the real world.  It simply provides some background information and is an update of a post I placed on MSW 1.0.

Even in modern naval and merchant ship seamanship practice, the state/look of the ship depends on her current employment.  If at sea, ropes, tails and fag-ends are left in a secure (won't move around) but ready to use state.  In harbour, especially if under their lordship's eyes, most ropes are made up to look neat and tidy (exceptions might be the boat rope etc if at anchor or at a buoy).

In the days of sail, there were many lines and ropes used, and most running rigging had a tail that needed to be secured for ready use and/or be presented in a more tidy manner when in harbour / not underway.

When making up rope/lines ready for use, they are either coiled or flaked out.  The greatest care is taken to prevent two things: the rope/line will run out freely without snagging, and minimising the chance of injury to crew and equipment.

The left/right twist of a rope needs to be considered when making-up a coil.  Try making up a rope, especially natural fibre ropes, against their lay and you will soon get snarls/kinks.  Once made-up, the coil can be put down opposite to its lay, but the direction of the lay of the coil (rope itself) will not change, only the aspect/perspective of the lay as you look at it.

Short story depending on the aspect you wish to model – steady state at sea or in harbour, or preparing for getting under way, will determine how to depict the ropes.



Flaking a rope is to arrange it on the deck ready for easy use or made up as a decorative finish for the rope while in harbour etc.


The Flemish Flake (or Flemish Coil) provides an attractive, neat way of temporarily stowing the end of a rope.  A Flemish flake/coil, also called a cheesed coil, is a flat coil of rope with the end in the centre and the turns lying against, without riding over, each other.  Flemish coils were, and still are, used by the 'Grey Funnel Line' (Navy) and by yachties when they want everything to look especially neat and tidy.  See:

http://ikstremdom.is-a-chef.com/outdoor/rope/animatedknots/flemish/index.htm or


From: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/dsL-IPHIfHWmxdkiOjOBLg


For larger ropes where the tail end is very long, an alternate pattern can be made-up by first laying the rope down flat on the deck, in long concentric loops.  Take a bight (all loops) from the end opposite to the direction of the standing end, flip and draw it across itself to form the figure eight (as shown).  The finished result is represented below in a more 'artistic' display which does not show the standing end.


From: http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/getout/artdescriptions_2011.asp

This decorative rope finish is not to be confused with a working flake of a similar name 'the figure 8 flake'.  See: http://www.animatedknots.com/fig8flake/index.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com


Another working flake is the zigzag or snaking flake also called 'faking' depending on whom you talk to, and is often used where you need the rope to run out without catching, snubbing or otherwise.  This is normally only used when the rope is being, or about to be worked.



For working with running rigging, a more modern practice is to use the Ballantine Coil for the halyards when a sail is raised.  With masts that may rise over 100 feet above the water, the halyards are quite long requiring very careful coiling to keep the lines organised so they will run free if needed and not become tangled.  The Ballantine Coil builds a stable coil that is compact and stable.


See http://captnmike.com/2011/10/03/coiling-line-using-the-ballantine-coil-on-the-adventuress/ for details on how to make this coil up.


Line Coils


The tail end of a rope is always coiled with the direction of the twist.  If the rope is the tail end of a halyard or such, which is to be belayed, the loops are started about half an arm’s length (adjust to scale) along the standing end from the belaying pin.  Once the loops have been formed, a bight is taken in the standing-end, drawn through the top of the eye in the loops, and hung from the belaying pin, cleat or staghorn as shown in the following links.

http://ikstremdom.is-a-chef.com/outdoor/rope/animatedknots/coilattached/index.htm  or



Some modellers prefer to form these coils off the model and hang it from the belaying pin which, at scale, covers the securing knot/line on the belaying pin which masks whether it has been formed on or off the model.  As I prefer to be authentic, I prefer to form these on the model just as in real life using a few rigging tools.  This should not done until all rigging (associated with these belaying pins/fixtures) has been completed and the final tensions applied to the ropes.  Secure the rope-ends as you would in real life to that fitting (pin, cleats etc), dab it with a touch of diluted PVA glue, then form the loops over the end of one tool.  Use the other tool or a pair of tweezers to
pull the bight through and loop it over the pin going to the side of the tool on which the loops have been formed.


Some associated useful links include:




http://www.animatedknots.com/indexropecare.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com or



http://www.animatedknots.com/indexsplicing.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com or


Edited by BANYAN
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Somewhat related, would a warship with cannon maintain their cannon rigging in the neat coils on the deck when not either in port (subject to some form of inspection) or readying for combat?  It seems a bit of an odd way to keep the lines when the area around the guns is constantly in use for other purposes, whether handling the sails or, on the gun and berth decks, living and eating space for the crews.  If not in the neat coils, how were they stored when not in use?  It looks handsome, but not practical if the guns are run out for combat or if actually working the ship.  Just one of those random thoughts...thanks!

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Allow me to throw in a spanner, Pat.


The coils on the belaying pins are made up in the manner of modern school ships (and possibly Grey Funnel line as well - I don't know), but the usual practice in commercial sail was to simply coil the rope over the pin then, when it was needed in a hurry, the coil could be simply thrown off the pin onto the deck and the rope was ready for working in no time at all.  I've read several descriptions in books on commercial sailing voyages where all the rigging was washing about the decks because a rogue wave had washed it all off the pins.  It was usually the apprentices job to get everything coiled up again.  In times of expected heavy weather the pins were sometimes raised up into the shrouds on temporary rails to prevent this happening.



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Hi all, glad to see it is of use to some of our members.


No arguement from me John,  this is the 'grey-funnel' way of doing it.  I was aware of merchant-navy practise but could not readily find a photo to support it; as I said not definitive :).  If you have a photo, I can edit my original post to include it (along with your text if you are happy)?





Edit:  It may also be useful to collect all the different ways modellers do their splices, and form their coils (jigs etc) in a similar post to compliment this post?

Edited by BANYAN
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With the addition of more photos from different eras and of different types of rigging stowage, your original post could easily be built into a very useful article for the database.


Perhaps contemporary illustrations of various rope stowage from as many eras as possible would be very helpful for a lot of members.  As an example, I know exactly how derrick guys and mooring ropes were stowed on mid 20th century cargo ships, but how were mooring lines stowed on a naval vessel of the same period - I have no idea!


Good, clear photos of the decks of sailing merchant ships are hard to find, however here are a couple of quick examples of what I was talking about that I could lay my hands on immediately.  I'll have a browse through my various books etc. and see if I can come up with something better.


This is the deck of a merchant ship in port in the 1850's, so a very early photo.  You can see ropes coiled on the pins around the mast.



Two photos of cargo ships at sea in the 1870's.  In the first one, the coils on the pins at the rail are very clear.



Not so clear, but still visible, are the coils on the pins around the mast in the background of the second photo.




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Excellent  info Banyan, very helpful.


One issue I have when coiling rope (lines) to attach to belaying pins, is that the coil tends to stick straight out, not hang loosely as in the photos of "real" lines.  I've tried running the thread through a 50/50 dilution of white glue, getting it wet.  Sometimes it forms a little better.

Is it the type of thread being used that causes it to not lay realistically, or the technique??  Also, and maybe obviously, the larger the scale, the better the rope looks.



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Hi Tom and John.


Great photos John and some useful ideas - leave it with me :)


Tom, when I make up such coils I tend to do most of them off the model.  I figure 8 the pin and finish with a dab of glue.  I then use a former which is a simple scrap piece of square or rectangular wood and I place a pin on the upper and another on the side face.  The position of the pins with respect to the edge determines the size of the loop and where the bend will occur - this needs to be closer to the top of one of the loops.  I then create loops around the pins and the bend over the edge created a bit of a "bend" in trhe coil such that when I fit it, the tendency for it to stick out is eliminated.


This is not a problem when you actually use the tail of the line and use the method described in my first post as the loop thgrough the coil goes over the pin and the rest can hang vertically.


I hope that explains it clearly enough?





Edited by BANYAN
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