Well-made ropes in diametres below 0.5 mm are rather scarce or
unavailable at all commercially or only in a few sizes and
serious miniature shipmodeller has to resort to make his
There are various descriptions of ropewalks in the modelling
and on the Internet to be found. One can also inspect full-size
preserved examples, for instance the one at the Chatham
Essentially, a ropewalk consists of a headstock with a planetary
the gives the individual strands a twist against the 'lay' of
while at the other end there is a tailstock drive that twist the
together. A travelling bobbin (the denomination varies) ensures
the strands are separated and then fed together in a controlled
fashion. However, Bernard Frölich (1999) suggested that,
keeps the strands apart at the tailstock end and then twists
together, the rope will start forming from the middle of the
progressing towards the headstock and tailstock. It is this
that was used for the miniature ropewalk.
In my late fathers estate there was an optical bench with
'steadies'. The bed is triangular in cross-section and is, as
steadies, made from solid dark-brown bakelite. It dates probably
1940s and was supplied by the well known German demonstration
instrument company PHYWE
what my father would say about this
new use, but after decades of slumbering in a dark corner of his
it was calling for a new lease of life. It appeared to be a good
for a ropewalk and perhaps later also a serving machine, if I
should need one.
Apart from the gears that were mostly bought for the purpose,
ropewalk was constructed from pieces found in my scrap-box. The
evolved while I was assembling it, so some aspects are not as
thought-out as I would wish. For instance, for the headstock I
have purchased six pinions and installed them permanently in a
I was too mean and bought only four.
The body of head- and tailstock is a small slab of 6 mm brass.
holes for the shafts were drilled and reamed to size. On the
would have to take up the pull of the rope a 90° cone was
create effectively half a cone bearing. This a better defined
than just a cylindrical bearing. The driving shaft in the
left somewhat protruding to allow fixing at a later date a clamp
holding very thin wires for twisting them together. The hooks
from iron wire and hard-soldered into the shafts, as were the
the driving plate of the tailstock. The driving shaft of the
can be blocked by a thumbscrew that acts on a small brass pad,
very thin ropes that I am making do not exert that much torque,
may have been not necessary.
The steadies of an optical bench are not meant to travel, they
set by a thumb-screw that screws into a triangular groove of the
However, the tailstock of a ropewalk has to move to allow for
shortening of the strands and the rope while being twisted
added round gibs made from aluminium rod. Round because I was to
to reproduce the odd triangular shape of the grooves. The
eased by hand to allow for the shortening because the rather
of the steadies lead to canting and thence to breaking of the
Depending on the direction of cranking, left- and right-handed
with three or four strands can be made.
, B. (1999): L'Art du
p., Nice (Editions Ancre).