Making Natural Cordage
Knowing how to make natural cordage from the resources in the wild is an incredible valuable skill to have and one that few people have. The process of making strong natural cordage is actually quite simple and once you understand the concept you will be bale to use many different types of resources found in the wild. The most common resources used are the inner bark of Willow, Maple, Basswood and Ceder tree’s. But you can also process materials such as Milkweed, Flax, Hemp, Straw, and Nettles to create long strands of fibers. And of course you can use thin vines and roots as well.
The process we are going to be using today to create natural cordage is known as twining. Twining involves tightly twisting two strands in one direction separately, then twist the two strands together in the opposite direction.
There are several methods you can use to accomplish this but one of the easiest ways is by using the Leg Rolling Technique. For this example we are going to be processing and using tree bark.
Leg Rolling Natural Cordage
Once you learn the leg rolling technique, creating natural cordage becomes a relatively simple process.
Before you can begin leg rolling the bark into cordage you must process the bark. You do this by removing the outer bark which is brittle and has no tensile strength. The inner bark is stronger in comparison especially after the processing is over. The more one is able to separate the inner and the outer bark, the better the cordage will be.
To remove the outer bark, use its brittle nature against it. Bend the bark in your hands. The inner bark will bend and flex and the outer bark will snap off into chunks that are easily removed.
Once you have sections of just the flexible inner bark you can begin twining. Take one single strand to start with and fold it in half so one end is about twice as long as the other. It is important that the two ends of the stand are staggered.
Now we can begin leg rolling the natural cordage. First, wet your leg or pants in order to reduce the friction. Holding the folded point of your strand in your left hand, lay the two newly created stands on the wet spot of your right leg. Starting at the finger tips of your right hand begin rolling both strands down your leg. This will cause each strand to begin twisting individually. Roll from your finger tips down to the palm of your hand. At this point each individual stand should be twisted tightly and still be under the palm of your hand. If they are not twisted tightly, you may need to pick them up and roll them from finger tip to palm once or even twice more. The two strands should also end up beside each other. Now begin rolling them in the opposite direction going from your palm back up to your finger tips. The strands will not untwist but instead begin wrapping around each other in the opposite direction then they are individually twisted.
Now pinch the cordage to prevent the two strands from unraveling and begin working on the next section repeating the previous steps.
Now remember at the beginning when I had you have one strand be longer then the other? This is where that comes into play. As you work your way down your fiber strands you will come to the end of your short strand. It is now time to splice in a new strand of fibers. Take a new strand and fold it about 10″ from the end so that it now has a long end and a short end. Now over lap this new strand so that it’s long strand overlap’s your old short strand of your cordage. And the short strand you just created overlaps the long strand of your cordage. This way the new strand you are splicing in will be twisted into both strands of your natural cordage. I know this might sound confusing, but it’s actually a really simple process.
Now continue rolling up the cordage as you were before. Roll each of the two strands from finger tip to palm and then from palm to finger tip to twist them together. You have now spliced in a new strand into your cordage. You can now continue this process until you run out of resources or reach your desired length. When you want to end your cordage simply tie an overhand knot in the end to keep it from unraveling.
As your cordage progresses you may find small and
long peaces of fibers sticking out. You can simply cut these off. If you find longer ones sticking out you can simply tuck these into your cordage.
For an excellent demonstration watch Andy Tran from Inner Bark Outdoors.