Post Your Cordage Photos (Natural Cordage, Lashings, Improvised Cordage etc..)

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by NWPrimate, Aug 16, 2016.

  1. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I really like some of the ongoing threads that we have here on the forum and am hoping that this one can function like some of my favorites like the Fatwood Pics , Friction Fire Tuesday, or @Badey 's great Shavings Pictures and Tinder Bundle Thursday threads.

    The idea being that you can post photos of cordage you've made or improvised in the past, or post updates of current things that you're working on in that department.

    I'm a total beginner when it comes to cordage, so I think this could be great inspiration for me and others who might be interested. It would be great to see what guys are producing at different skill levels, as well as giving people ideas of what materials they can use to lessen their dependence on store bought twine, bank line, and paracord.

    Here are a couple that I posted in the Daily Doings of a Bushcrafter thread recently.

    My first attempt at twisting anything...big leaf maple bark.

    [​IMG]

    First time working with stinging nettle cordage, gradually increasing from twine to rope.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Twisted paper towel cordage.

    [​IMG]

    I hope some of you will jump in and post your previous work as well as keep us updated on anything else you might be twisting or wrapping up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2016
  2. Badey

    Badey Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    This is a great idea! I've only made some natural grass cordage for an improvised tomahawk a few years ago (unfortunately no pics). As soon as I get a hand drill ember (my current focus), I will definitely work on cordage skills, and plan to post here regularly.
     
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  3. Deji

    Deji Tracker

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    I'm new to cordage myself but here's something I did last month while working on my 1st primitive fishing hook. Uncertain about the tree I got it from and still got a lot practicing to do.
    cordage1.jpeg
     
  4. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Longtime cordage/fiber arts enthusiast here. I have access to quite a few excellent fiber and basketry materials (yucca, dogbane, agave, tule reeds, bamboo...) here locally, and have enjoyed learning to work with them over the last decade or so. to A few pics from recent projects...

    Bowstring making...three strand twisting in dogbane:
    [​IMG]

    Looped bag...these are fun. One continuous piece of cordage! Yucca with dogbane stripes.
    [​IMG]

    And a pic from today's project, finishing up binding on a bamboo pack basket rim with dogbane cordage:
    [​IMG]

    Great idea for a thread - keep the pics coming!
     
  5. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    That's funny...my frustration with hand drill is what led me to playing with cordage in the first place. I figured I'd take a break from pithy spindles and focus on being able to reliably make cordage for a bow drill.

    Very Nice!


    Great stuff @OrienM ! It looks like you're going to be one of our inspiration posters...I'm looking forward to seeing more from you.
     
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  6. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Thanks for the nice words! These pics are of some of my more elaborate, "studio art"-type fiber projects; when actually out camping, I tend to make very crude, utilitarian things out of untwisted yucca ties and strips of willow bark. Works just about as well, and stuff goes together much, much faster. I have a bad habit of only taking pics of the elaborate stuff...:34:

    I'm happy to help beginners learn the skills...if anyone has cordage/weaving questions feel free to ask! We have quite a few members here at BCUSA who are great at fiber and cordage work; I look forward to more of this thread, and some more pics.
     
  7. Smokey Radley

    Smokey Radley Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Amazing examples so far. Thanks for sharing!
     
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  8. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I will definitely take you up on that. I'm still at the very beginning of the learning process, so questions are always popping into my head, and I appreciate you making yourself available to help us new guys.
     
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  9. Smokey Radley

    Smokey Radley Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I can get things started, but have gotten totally stuck splicing more fibers onto my initial section. Do you have a good tutorial or video you can recommend? Course I'm always up for a SW meet when things get cooler lol! learning hands on works best for me.
     
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  10. Badey

    Badey Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Lol! I might end up in the same boat then.
     
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  11. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    The forest floor in my area is covered in trailing blackberry vines. This stuff is almost everywhere, and any bushwhacking requires modifying your step to make sure you're unhooking it from your foot before bringing it forward. Ten foot lengths of it are common and it's got a lot of tensile strength on its own.

    [​IMG]

    I've used it quite a bit as basic lashing for kindling bundles and other applications where you just need to wrap something up and it really shines in that roll.

    [​IMG]

    Yesterday, I got the idea of seeing if I could twist it up on itself and was pleasantly surprised to see that it worked.

    [​IMG]

    It's much more like working with coated electrical wire or weed wacker string than it is like working with twine. You have to be really careful not to over-twist it or you'll get cracking in the outer sheath layer. However, I did find that with just a slight twist, and then a pull when rotating it would cause it to lock into itself nicely.

    [​IMG]

    The areas where new pieces get joined in are pretty awkward though, as you can only get a small amount of twist into it and it's one smooth strand as opposed to a collection of fibers.

    [​IMG]

    It felt really strong, but the vines themselves have a lot of inherent strength. I doubled it over on itself and it hoisted this 25lb weight without issue. It even stood up to me bouncing it a bit.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, when I tried it with only one strand, it snapped right away.

    [​IMG]

    I need to go get an untwisted strand and try the same test as honestly I don't know if I made it stronger by twisting it on itself, or weakened it by stressing the fibers, but it was a fun experiment either way.
     
  12. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    @Smokey Radley, I hunted around a bit...this vid shows two good splicing options:

    Of the two methods shown, I almost always use the second version, called a J or U splice. It's just about invisible if done correctly, and I also like that the two halves of the cordage end up bound together somewhat by the splices, making the final product more difficult to untwist.

    A few other tips: try to keep tapered ends on the working strands; add in splices a small piece at a time to maintain the tapered ends while you work...three small splices are better than one big one. Try to keep the two working strands very equal in size, if one starts getting too small you can always borrow some fiber from the other strand, splice a little more material in, or both. Practice makes perfect, the more the better IMO.

    Much easier to learn this stuff hands on, for sure! Words fail me a bit :33:...I've taught kids to make yucca cordage in just a few minutes, in person, but could easily spend an hour trying to type up the same info. Photos help...visual thinker, I guess. A regional SW meetup would be fun stuff; I'd definitely be interested, work schedule, etc permitting.
     
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  13. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thanks @OrienM ...I will definitely check out the video. Your point about splicing leads me to something that I've run into when doing this. It seems like it does splice seamlessly, but the downside that I've found is that if I screw up or break the cordage, it makes it much trickier to undo the work and try again.

    Does splicing this way add strength to the connection, or is it just cleaner? If it is stronger, I'll start using it again, but I stopped doing it this way since I'm still prone to wanting to back up and fix weak spots or sloppy twists.
     
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  14. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    I doubt U-splicing is any stronger overall...it definitely makes for a smoother look and feel, and personally I find it somewhat easier to do. It does have that drawback/benefit of making it difficult to untwist the cord! If it makes your process less efficient and/or more annoying, it may not be the technique for you.

    As far as going back to fix things...personally, after trying some large, time-intensive fiber projects my attitude is that it's best to fix any problems that occur right away, before continuing at all. It's quick and easy at any time to back up a twist or two, move fibers around to make the cordage more even, add a splice, or whatever, but pretty darned time consuming to unwind once a flaw is buried in further work. I try to be as perfectionist as possible about each twist as it's happening, and not get too far ahead of myself. JMHO, of course...

    Awesome post about the blackberry vine cordage, as well; impressively strong stuff! Looks like wonderful basketry material to me. In my experience, some twisting generally improves shoots and vines for use as cordage; makes them able to flex, rather than kink and break.
     
  15. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thanks! Good advice on fixing problems immediately. The crux of cordage seems to be that it's only as strong as it's weakest point. The biggest reason I've needed to untwist cordage so far is when it breaks. I've been working on trying to make cordage reliably work for a bow drill, which is really rough on it. Rather than harvesting more nettles, I've been trying to salvage the strands and reform it out of laziness.

    That's good to hear about the vines getting stronger with twisting. I'll be experimenting more with them for sure.

    Can I tap into your knowledge with another question? How does the thickness of the piece you are twisting affect the strength of the cord? For example, if I can pull strips of nettle that are a 1/2 across down the length of the stalk, should I be twisting them as they are, or should I be trying to break them down into more individual fibers? I could see leaving them intact being stronger, but I've wondered if breaking it down further might let it grip the other fibers better. Any insight here?
     
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  16. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Yeah, breakage sucks; there's always that one weak spot in every cord! :34:

    Bowstrings, both bowdrill and archery, are definitely hard to make from natural materials...bowdrill strings get subjected to tons of friction, and archery strings see huge shock loads and need to be thin to fit the arrow nocks. For both I have come to prefer to make 3-strand cordage; I feel it's stronger and more wear resistant for high-stress jobs. I also like the 'Egyptian' bowdrill setup (with multiple spindle wraps) a lot; it makes for more friction on the spindle, lower tension, and less string breakage. You may find it worth a try, if you haven't experimented with it already.

    Interesting question about the size of pieces...I'm curious what others will say, but I prefer to add material in frequent, small splices, and I also think that thoroughly processed and softened fiber is nicer to work with, and no less strong than less-processed versions. I tend to break stuff down into the smallest units I can reasonably work with; 1/2" wide strips sound a bit big, and would likely be broken down into 2 or 3 pieces.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
  17. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thanks again for the great info. I got the same advice about using the Egyptian method from @Stone & @melbolt65 over in the Friction Fire Tuesday thread. I was able to pull it off once using the conventional bow drill, but failed with the Egyptian method the first time I tried it. I will definitely be trying again though.

    Here's my first successful natural cordage bowdrill. You can see that one of the strands actually broke but the other one held together long enough to get it done.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Again, I definitely appreciate you jumping in and sharing your knowledge!
     
  18. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Happy to share! Way to go on the natural-cord bowdrill success...most impressive, especially using the high tension, single-wrap method. That string is just barely hanging on...:35: I tend to go thicker with the the cord, more like 3/16" even when using the Egyptian method.
     
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  19. melbolt65

    melbolt65 Scout Bushclass I

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    Congrats! that is definitely an awesome achievement, especially with such a thin cord. What type of fiber is that? It is inspiring me to get back out there and do it again in the near future and experiment with different types of fibers.

    Here is another type of cordage I'm itching to try:
     
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  20. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thanks @melbolt65 ...it was stinging nettle cordage. I was just playing around with it again and had something of a breakthrough moment. I was getting ready to post it and then saw the video above and it looks like Mitch was using a variation of what I just figured out. :18:

    I'll post it over in the FFT thread in a minute.

    Edit: Posteddetails here

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
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  21. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    With my mind on cordage, I'm seeing fibers all over the place. :)

    On my walk today, I stopped at a spot that Lupo likes to play and noticed these long grass leaves had a decent amount of strength to them.

    [​IMG]

    Sure enough, they twisted up pretty well.

    [​IMG]

    The strength was rather disappointing but it was fun practice anyway. I decided to experiment with twisting it over on itself again only to find out that this was pretty tricky, as it requires twisting everything the opposite direction, so the muscle memory advantage goes out the window.

    It also ate up the little bit of length that I had, but the short section of double twisted material that resulted was really strong.

    [​IMG]
     
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  22. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    :dblthumb: Nice! Keep on twistin'...yeah, there are a lot of untapped fiber sources out there. IMHO just about any plant sample that's difficult to break is worth trying to twist up. There are a couple grasses around here that are quite strong.

    Left-handed twisting is great practice, too...as you discovered if you want to double-twist, it needs to be done left-handed. I don't actually switch hands, personally, but have figured out how to reverse all the twists and wrap 'backwards'. Another good challenge once you've got the basics down is to do more than two strands, like the three-strand cord I showed above.

    For fun I thought I'd show my own bowdrill set. This 3-strand yucca string has been on here awhile, maybe 20-30 coals, or more; I've replaced the spindle once, and probably gone through 4 or 5 hearthboards, but the string is still original. I use this set as a demo model when I teach bowdrill to highschoolers, so a lot of teenagers have used and abused it. As you can see the string is getting pretty frayed on the one side, but still has some life left in it. It's a good, reliable set, although I'm sure the extra-dry climate here helps a great deal, too.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  23. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I didn't think to switch hands either, I just twisted back the other way. Your comment made me realize that being a lefty, I'm twisting up backward cordage. If I'm picturing it right, that means that I could hand my cord off to a righty and he should be able to do a double twist on it very naturally. It was surprising how hard it was to get my fingers to turn the strands the opposite way after burning the movement into my mind.

    That is some impressive durability. I tried reusing the cord I posted above to get another ember, but it wasn't up to the task and snapped on me before I got it glowing.

    I'm going to investigate the three strand twist and give that a shot soon.
     
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  24. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Actually, your cordage appears to be what I call right handed...you may doing your twists backwards to the way I do it (not that there's much reason, besides familiarity, to start twisting one way or the other!). In technical writing about weaving, the two directions are often called Z-twist and S-twist, right and left respectively. Possibly a better way to describe what's going on than 'handedness'.

    I've chewed up some other, lesser strings in short order, so I think the durability of this one may be luck to some extent :D. I did take extra care to make it even in thickness, and three-stranded cord is definitely tough stuff. It's actually starting to get a couple thin spots; I doubt it will hold up a whole lot longer, but time will tell.
     
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  25. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    That makes sense now that I think of it. Being a lefty pretty much means that either hand is "up for grabs" when learning a new skill. I'm pinching the main cord in my left hand, and doing the twisting with my right. I didn't put thought into this, it's just how it happened. I guess I am twisting right handed after all.
     
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  26. hidingpool

    hidingpool Tracker

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    Some yucca cordage I made a while back. cordage.JPG
     
  27. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Nice work...the pendant cord in particular looks great, small cords can be real tricky to keep even. Did you carve the arrowhead pendant too?
     
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  28. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Yeah, that's right-handed by my definition, or Z-twist; the right hand does the twisting, each strand gets twisted up clockwise and then wrapped counter-clockwise. I, and an awful lot of other people it seems, find it easier to twist "righty". (My wife is left-handed too, and much prefers to do S-twist...using the complete mirror image of my technique. It was really tricky to show her things while she was learning!)
     
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  29. hidingpool

    hidingpool Tracker

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    Yea, shaped the arrowhead out of a piece of the legbone of a deer using a Dremal.
     
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  30. woodsmanjohn

    woodsmanjohn Supporter Supporter Bushclass II

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    Made a short length using a two strand twist from Tulip tree Poplar..
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  31. Bob_Spr

    Bob_Spr Scout

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    Three pieces I made. All are reverse twists.

    Improvised - plastic bag from local restaurant
    [​IMG]

    Natural - Wisteria vine
    [​IMG]

    Improvised - napkin
    [​IMG]
     
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  32. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I made up about 25 feet of rope out of some cottonwood bark yesterday.

    [​IMG]

    It was tough to work with as despite having very long fibers, I couldn't get them to separate out very well, so it ended up pretty course.

    [​IMG]

    I have found old cottonwood bark that was very stringy and fibrous but this stuff was from a freshly fallen tree, so it didn't want to come apart. Still, it made for some very strong rope. I'm not able to break it with my hands, but it's still wet from me trying to soften up the fibers after drying the bark out. I'll be interested to see how strong it is once it dries out.

    [​IMG]
     
  33. Subdood

    Subdood Ex-bubblehead Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    My first attempt at natural cordage. I believe it was mulberry bark.
    image.jpeg
    ETA:
    I did learn that while it can be done when the bark is dry, I am guessing it would have been easier if it had been wet!
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
  34. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Nice job @Subdood ! Thanks for jumping in and giving it a shot. It's always kind of tough getting the motivation to try something for the first time, but it looks like you did a great job. I've been finding it strangely addictive, so bail now if you don't want it eating up your free time. :)
     
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  35. Subdood

    Subdood Ex-bubblehead Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Actually I find the 2 strand twist rather relaxing. It's kind of like shining shoes to me. I always found it therapeutic when I was in the Navy. I
    Would like to learn how to do the roll on the thigh method, but it's a start!
    Funny thing is I keep Eyeballing all my neighbors Yucca Plants! ;):54:
     
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  36. Tennessee

    Tennessee Guide Supporter Bushclass II

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    Some Yucca Cordage, my favorite. I use it on knife lanyards mostly.

    [​IMG]
     
  37. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Those look really cool on there @Tennessee .
     
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  38. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Awesome to see all this great work, guys! keep the pics coming...:dblthumb:
    This made me laugh...I'm always looking for the yuccas with the longest, nicest leaves, and by far the best one I know of is on a highway median, in a busy section of town. I know I'll never get to cut it, but I eye it every time I go by....:9:

    Also...my bowdrill string finally gave it up yesterday. A student was using it in class, and having repeated issues with the spindle popping out of the hearth (oversized notch in a tilted/unstable hearth, it turned out). On about his third attempt he snapped the string. Since the bow is set up "Egyptian", he was able to just knot the 'extra' length back together and continue. He set up a new divot and notch on the hearth, and got a coal on his next attempt.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
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  39. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I tried experimenting with some dried grass stalks yesterday and it twisted up pretty nicely for me.

    [​IMG]
     
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  40. Badey

    Badey Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Just a short length of napkin cordage.

    [​IMG]
     
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  41. beacon

    beacon Simul justus et peccator Supporter Bushclass I

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    Inner Cedar Bark
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    Dogbane
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    I made the handle (osage) and the cord.
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    Milkweed
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  42. chekmate

    chekmate Tracker

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    I tried experimenting with Sweet Clover. The stalks have nice long strands. I made up some thin cordage while it was still green. Real easy to use. The diameter averaged out to 0.058 inches or 1.48 millimeters. Green I was able to pick up a 5 lbs weight. I tried a 10 lbs weight and the cordage broke 6 inches off the ground. I'm gonna let it dry and make it a little thicker. I'll post the results. Sweet Clover 1.jpg Sweet Clover 1.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

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  43. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Nice work guys!


    I noticed that the nettles are quickly dying off around here.

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    I was curious if they were still viable for cordage in this state, so I started stripping one down.

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    The fibers were still very supple, but I could tell that the moisture content was way down. This might actually be a good thing as when I've twisted up nettle fibers in the past without drying them, they shrink quite a bit.

    [​IMG]

    I twisted up a little section and was getting ready to toss it when I remembered @Tennessee making little lanyards for his knives out of his cordage. I ran this little section through my EDC folder just for fun. We'll see how well it holds up over time.

    [​IMG]
     
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  44. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Nice work NWPrimate! I actually prefer to harvest dogbane (and similar fibers like nettle, milkweed, etc.) in that state, as dead standing stalks...easier to process out the fiber. I also like that it gives the plants plenty of time to drop their seeds.

    Locally here, the dogbane and nettles are just about finished growing; I'm waiting for the first frost to kill off the plants, so I can harvest some.
     
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  45. chekmate

    chekmate Tracker

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    Well, the Sweet Clover only separates like thistle and milkweed when it's green. I let a couple of cut stalks sit for a week. Could not get the nice fibers. I'll remove the fibers while the stalks are fresh and let them dry. Then I'll try them again.

    Keep Your Tinder Dry
    Chekmate
     
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  46. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Good to know...I've not tried clover for cordage, but I will have to now! IMO yucca is much easier to work with green, as well.
     
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  47. chris67

    chris67 Supporter Supporter

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    That Looped bag is phenomenal!
     
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  48. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Thanks Chris! These bags are fun to make (and excellent twining practice - they require making 200+ feet of very consistent cordage!). The only tool necessary for weaving is a needle with a large eye. The looped structure can stretch quite a lot - it's amazing how much stuff can be carried in a relatively small bag.

    I ended up giving this striped bag to my mom; she added a sewn liner and made a cool purse/lunch bag out of it. I looped up a second, similar bag of yucca, which I carry sometimes as a day pack.
     
  49. chris67

    chris67 Supporter Supporter

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    Roycroft pack with tule shoulder straps and rawhide lashings

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    Dogane and milkweed basket

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    Willow bark cordage, Dogbane cordage

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    dogbane kuksa lanyard

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    Spruce root lashing

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    [​IMG]
     
  50. OrienM

    OrienM Scout

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    Great stuff! I just love the giant tule-rope shoulder straps on that Roycroft pack... :dblthumb:
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2016
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