Thread Material Sets Rope Behavior

by Eugene Larson

We are extremely grateful to Gene Larson, former chairman of the Nautical Research Guild's Board of Directors  for researching and producing this information about thread types used to produce model cordage from a model ropewalk. The key variable to get used to in your own system is tension.

He uses a weight hanging from the stationary end of  the ropewalk and adjusts it to maintain a tension so the threads "lay up close" neutralizing a tendency to twist.

As has been stated there are many places to look for suitable materials for rigging ship models. Linen is not the only material that will produce high quality rigging. In fact some linen is worse than many of the alternatives .
While picking up dry cleaning I noticed the seamstress area and on the shelf of the work bench there were large cones of thread. I asked where they were purchased, and I was told that they order them from a supplier. This supplier could be pursued further, but perhaps a request to the seamstress to order some cones for "ship model rigging" would be acceptable. At least it is worth a try. The various types available could be looked at on the workbench, as well as the variety of colors. It should be easy to find a thin, smooth appropriate color. The larger cone is the way to purchase thread since so much of it is used up on a rope walk. The small spools do not last long.
The following table has been compiled by me based on experience with preparing a demonstration of the rope walk. The highly scientific approach,; feel in fingers, a calibrated eyeball, and a single opinion, has yielded some suggestions for where to start. The point of the exercise was to determine if there is anything available that will produce the desired results.
The best approach is not to necessarily look for the specific brands listed below, but to look in many places, spend a dollar each for spools of thread, and experiment yourself to obtain the rigging you need.
Avoid the white threads. There are cream colors that are very suitable for running rigging. The blacks are all good colors, except for the shiney black. I did find some very dark brown thread that is excellent for representing tarred rigging. It has to be held next to black to be sure it isn't black. Look for Gutermann CA 02776 in polyester or cotton, color 596.
One criteria, however, is that the finer the starting thread the better the end product. Anything over .012 inches is probably too heavy to produce good rope on a rope walk.


LINEN .012 Old, from Model Shipways Very Good
COTTON (100%) .009 Gutermann CA 02776 Very Good
COTTON .011 Coats T16 Very Good Glace finish, hand quilting
COTTON/POLYESTER .012 Coats, Dual Duty Very Good cotton covered for buttons and carpet
COTTON/POLYESTER .011 Coats T8 Very Good dual duty cotton covered poly, Glace finish for quilting
COTTON/POLYESTER .009 Mettler hand quilt waxed 997 Very Good 33% cotton, 67% polyester very good
NYLON .012 Conso #69, color 751 Very Good heavy duty
SILK .010 Pearsall's - J.P. 210 Very Good Chinese Twist Silk
LINEN (marked 6/60) .016 From a large spool of unknown source Fair a little too heavy to lay up
LINEN .012 Fawcett Fair a little rough (large spool)
COTTON (100%) .016 Cabella 30, (France) Fair slight fuzz
COTTON .010 Coats Super Sheen Fair Heavy Duty mercerized with Silicone, slight fuzz
POLYESTER (100%) .009 Gutermann CA 02776 Fair slight fuzz
POLYESTER/COTTON .009 Mettler 137 #40 Fair slight fuzz - waxed for quilting
POLYESTER (100%) .009 Mettler 1161 Metrosene plus Fair slight fuzz
POLYESTER (100%) .010 Magnolia Mill Fair slight fuzz
LINEN (marked 3/4) .020 From a large spool of unknown source Poor a little too heavy to lay up
POLYESTER (100%) .009 Maxi-Lock 32599 natural Poor fuzz Maxi-Lock brand



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