To start with, this is what I do and is not a definitive ‘this is what you must do’ guide. Find what works for you and your rope.
The below is about treating natural fibre ropes like jute and hemp. Synthetic rope won’t benefit from oiling, and singeing will cause it to melt.
The aim of treating rope is to speed up what would happen naturally over time with tying someone. The traditional approach didn’t involve treating rope, but using it on people where it would pick up the natural oils of the skin.
This guide is split into two parts – dying rope and dry treating. If you’re not dying your rope then head straight to dry treating.
Firstly, dye the rope according to the instructions on the dye packet. They know better than I do!
The rope then needs to be dried under tension to ensure it doesn’t shrink when it dries. The best way to achieve this is to wrap it around an airer or bannister and then hang some weights off of the rope to keep the tension.
Keep an eye on your rope as it dries, this can take a couple of days so make sure that there is sufficient air and that there aren’t any wet spots that then start going musty.
This consists of three stages:
- Polishing or breaking the rope
- Oiling / Waxing
Polishing / Breaking the Rope
This stage aims to break up the fibres in the rope, ultimately softening the rope and making it more flexible.
The way I do this is by tying a munter hitch onto a carabiner attached to a hard point (a table leg or bannister) and then pull the rope through two or three times in each direction.
If you don’t have a carabiner then another way is to put the rope around a table leg or similar. With this approach it is best to polish one section of rope at a time, about 2 to 3 feet sections. Pull the rope backwards and forwards over the table leg about 5-10 times before moving on to the next section of rope.
Breaking the rope will have caused a number of loose strands of rope to appear, often called ‘fuzzies’. The easiest way to remove them is to burn them off, however you want to make sure that you use a clean flame. One example would be a gas stove; however you don’t want to use a dirty flame like a candle as this will leave a lot of soot over your rope.
To singe the rope you want to move the rope carefully through the flame, you may need to make a number of passes through the flame until all or most of the fuzzies have been burnt off. There will always be a natural level of fluffiness to a rope, so don’t worry about getting it all off.
Once you’ve finished singeing, you will then want to remove the soot from the rope. You’ll want to use a dry cloth, and then gently rub the cloth down the rope. If you press too tightly with the cloth then you will force the soot into the rope which will leave the rope with a smokey smell.
Oiling / Waxing
The final stage of dry treating rope is to add oils and / or waxes to help the rope to recover from the singeing; as well as to help to protect the rope.
I personally use Jojoba Oil, and have also made rope wax from beeswax and jojoba oil.
If oiling, then you want to apply a thin layer of oil to the rope. This can either be by using a cloth, or by placing some oil on your hands. The most effective way is to add a number of thin layers of oil.
For waxing, follow a similar approach to apply. You may then wish to bake the rope. Note that I’ve not done baked rope before, so you’ll need to do your own research.
With both methods, you want to go with the less is more ethos to avoid ending up with ropes that are greasy. You can always err on the minimal side, and then in a few weeks add more oil.
You will want to store your rope in something sensible to help keep them neat and tidy, why not have a look at the rope bags that I make.
As you use your ropes, you’ll need to keep an eye and look after them. Oiling every so often, or at least when they start feeling dry, will help to extend their life; especially if you aren’t tying on naked bodies to absorb the skin’s oils.
If your rope develops fuzzies, then you may choose to singe the rope again. Doing this will potentially shorten the life of your rope, so it’s your choice about if you want to do this. If you do singe, you’ll then need to oil afterwards as well. For safety, please don’t singe if the rope is recently oiled just to avoid any risks!