The Importance of Stitching and Whipping all your Ropes
The Jimmy Green Rigging Team are frequently asked these questions:
What is a Whipping?
Why is a Rope End Whipping so essential?
Why do my ropes need to be whipped?
What is the purpose of Whipping?
There is a compelling case for whipping ropes, but if you conducted an informal survey of the yachts in your local marina, you could be forgiven for thinking there is no need to bother.
You will likely find plenty of half-hearted alternatives such as heat sealing, DIY heat shrink, tape wrapping, a stopper knot or any of these combined.
So why use a whipping knot at the end of a rope when everywhere you look, there are ropes with uncared-for ends?
The easier alternatives appear to be doing the job at a casual glance, but the problems evolve and increase when the ropes are active. Furthermore, the detrimental effects of this make-do approach will escalate every time you go sailing, so these frapping methods should be viewed as temporary stopgaps, not permanent solutions.
So why not make do with these expedient measures rather than go to the trouble or expense of stitching and whipping your ropes?
Let us examine the stopgap alternatives to whipping.
Sealing the end of a rope with a heat gun or a lighter may look neat, but it will not be long before it cracks and fractures leaving you back at square one. Therefore, heat sealing should only be considered the first step in the rope-finishing process.
Wrapping the end of a rope with self-adhesive PVC (polyvinyl-chloride) tape may be effective as a short-term measure but can be unsightly if applied clumsily, and PVC will go brittle and lose adhesion over time resulting in the tape unwrapping.
DIY heat shrink tubing may last a little longer, but it was primarily designed for bundling electrical cables. Polyolefin is superior to PVC but will still not be as weather and abrasion resistant as the rope. Insufficient wall thickness is a common cause of failure, and the initial diameter and shrink ratio are critical to a successful tight fit.
A stopper knot at the end of a rope will not easily pass through small apertures and gaps, e.g. sheaves, blocks, and fairleads, and the bulk will prove a nuisance generally when in use.
A Stitching and Whipping process is the most effective long-term method of securing the ends of your rope, whether the rope will be used for mooring, anchoring, rigging or any other onboard application.
The Stitching and Whipping Method is also known as Palm and Needle Whipping. The end of any rope may not only be handled a great deal during use onboard, but it will also experience a surprising degree of potentially damaging impact through dragging, clawing, scraping, pulling, bumping, and flapping.
Every rope whipping should ideally include some stitching to bind all the strands together and prevent any movement along the rope.
The Advantages of Stitching and Whipping your Ropes
Excellent Weather and Wear Resistance
Durability is achieved using the optimum material to produce a secure, long-lasting whipping. The Jimmy Green Rigging Team use only Marlow or LIROS Waxed Whipping Twine, manufactured from UV and abrasion-resistant high-tenacity polyester with a wax additive which lubricates passage through the strands and helps to create a strong, united finish. In addition, the wax additive facilitates a tight bind and tidy alignment by melding the twine wraps together as you apply them with tension.
Guaranteed Integrity of the Rope Construction
Stitching and whipping the end of a rope binds all the separate strands together in their designed format, thus ensuring the integrity of the rope construction.
The stitching is a crucial element of the whipping for a braided rope, e.g. Braid on Braid or Doublebraid, because it secures the outer cover to the inner core, synchronising the tension in each part throughout the length of the line.
If you see the core protruding beyond the outer jacket, it is a sure sign that the two are not in equal tension. In that case, it is critical to the performance of the rope that you realign the two braids before stitching.
Protection from Fraying and Unravelling
Whipping is the most enduring method of preventing the end of a line from untidy fraying and disastrous unravelling.
Extended Working Life of the Rope
If the inner and outer braids are not bound together at the ends, they will undergo different pressures under load. This will disrupt the consistency of the fibres, which you will be able to feel if you run your hand down the rope. The tension issues will eventually manifest themselves as bunching, wrinkling, and loops of the inner braid appearing through the outer braid.
A Stitch and Whip will therefore extend the working life of any rope by preventing the issues caused by tension imbalance between the outer braid and the core.
Pride in your Ropework
A smart whipped finish on all your ropes will lead to improved efficiency and longevity, a sense of justifiable satisfaction in your handiwork, and the overall sense that your yacht or boat is ready to put to sea, to coin a phrase, ‘Shipshape and Bristol Fashion’.
So, what reasons (or excuses) are there not to stitch and whip your ropes?
One reason is that the end of the rope may be terminated with a splice instead, although a whipping would normally be recommended to secure some splices.
The other reasons come down to time and cost.
Stitching and Whipping is a labour-intensive art form requiring deftness and practice. Each one takes precious time and a patient approach to achieve a neat, tidy, and effective result. This may explain why the makeshift alternatives already mentioned above are so prevalent.
The process can also be physically demanding, requiring a firm grip, dexterity, and tough fingers. Although practice, as they say, makes perfect, tackling multiple whippings in one shift may result in aching hands and sore fingers from maintaining tension on the fine whipping twine.
There are Four Main Rope Whipping Methods:
- Stitching and Whipping, also known as Palm and Needle Whipping
- Common Whipping - started and finished with a common whipping knot
- Westcountry Whipping
- Sailmaker’s Whipping
What is the Best Type of Whipping for a Rope?
The type or method of whipping to choose depends on the rope construction and the application. Still, if you can master the technique, you will not go far wrong using the Jimmy Green Rigging Team stitching and whipping method, as it is typically the most durable and effective version for most of the ropes you will encounter.
What is the optimum length of a successful whipping?
The old rule of thumb goes like this: a whipping should be at least as long as the diameter of the rope. The Jimmy Green Rigging Team’s current maxim on the length of whipping for modern ropes errs on the upside, typically more like one and a quarter times the diameter. The extra length makes the whipping more stable by spreading the tight grip over a greater area, and it also looks more in keeping, making for a smart, seamanlike finish. What is the best whipping rope or twine?
The Jimmy Green Rigging Team favour LIROS or Marlow waxed whipping twine for the majority of their ropework. LIROS Whipping Twine is available in 1mm and 1.5mm, covering all the popular rope sizes in all the necessary colours for rigging and mooring/anchoring applications. The LIROS manufacturing process ensures excellent wax impregnation, which goes a long way to creating the desired professional result. Marlow No 4 (0.8mm diameter) is a viable alternative for whipping small-diameter ropes with a wide choice of colours.
This is the first part in a series of articles on Whipping and Splicing.