Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Rope Ladder

There are several types of rope ladders that can be made. I remember using one as a kid, that someone set up to climb a tree overhanging a lake, with another rope tied further out on a branch to be swung from out and over the water.

I've seen some use flat wood planks or round pole sections, others may just be knots spaced along a length of rope.

Not everyone can manage climbing a knotted length of rope, but having rungs makes a rope ladder easier to 'navigate' for most. This type of ladder also makes it easier to get back into a boat from the water and has also been called a 'knotted bathing ladder'.

I chose to make this simple one that can be found in various knot books, including 'The Morrow Guide to Knots'. A good online link, with an animated diagram for this type of rope ladder, can be found at This type of ladder is easy to make and also easily taken apart if you need the rope for something else.

I used a 50 foot length of 3/8" sized 'high strength' rope for this ladder that ended up at about 9 feet long overall. There are 7 rungs set about 14 inches apart and just wide enough for hand/footholds.

It's up to you to choose the amount and type of rope, the width of the coiled rungs, and the distance between them and that will determine the final length of a finished ladder. For safety's sake, know the strength of your rope, don't guess, and use at your own risk.

These instructions will make more sense if you follow the animated diagram. You start off at the center of your length of rope. I made a figure 8 knot with the rope, but other instructions may start it off differently.

You come down with one length for the first rung and make two bends. Take the other length of rope and run it through the first bend, then under the next, and start tightly coiling that rope around both bends. When you have the rung length that you want, run the cord through the loop end of the other bend.

At this point, things are still loose enough to adjust and even out the rope from the center point to the rung, if needed, tighten up and work any slack out of the coiled section, pull the rope on both ends to finish tightening and go on to making the next rung, alternating the bend/coil rope sections as you go.

The top section/loop of the ladder can be secured to a fixed object for climbing or attached to another separate length of rope, which can be thrown up over a branch on a tree or other fixed object, and then secured for climbing.

A final photo showing the rope ladder hanging from the second floor railing. It looks a bit uneven because the rope came from a tightly coiled package and still wants to revert back to that shape. Pulling with a little weight on the bottom made it look straight and even, but stepping back for the photo with just a walking cane hanging from it and it still looks uneven. I don't want to adjust it while it's still 'springy'.

And no, I ain't gonna test it from the railing. That would fall into the 'famous last words' category of 'Hey ya'll, watch this!', and would not end well for me or the railing, lol.

On a side note, I wonder if they still have climbing ropes in school gymnasiums?


brianb127 said...

Very nice SD. Your blog is the greatest. You give people so many ideas to run with. You are very helpful if they have questions. Keep up the awesome work. Love your work.

brianb127 said...

Hey man meant to tell you thanks for the comment on the thermos I did. It took a while but tuned out nice.

Stormdrane said...

You did a good job on it. =) Folks that haven't sat down and tried a project like you did, can't really appreciate the time and effort that can go into it and miss out on the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting it right.

Of course there's some frustration involved too, at least occasionally for me, and having a bit of patience helps with that.

Lifeguard326 said...

I realy enjoy you blog, Lots of great ideas. I want to start collecting some books on braiding and would be interested in your recomeindation. I was thinking of 200 Braids as a starting point.

Thanks, Lifeguard326

Stormdrane said...

There are a lot of interesting braiding patterns in that book, with combinations of various colors, sizes, and types of cord.

But, it's not a start to finish type book of projects to make. Like many knot books, it just shows how to make the braids and how they look made with different materials. It leaves you on your own to apply it to a project like making a lanyard.

Unknown said...

Hi, I've enjoyed your designs and even made myself a keyfob ( as a result.

With your recent foray into tower and rope ladders, I'm wondering if you can advise what knots and strategy should be used when making an all-rope cargo/climbing net?

Stormdrane said...

I haven't tried a larger sized net yet, like the shock cord one that I bought for the bed of my truck 10 years ago. None of my knot books have start to finish net project instructions in them. There are books on nets/netting out there and if they don't have specific instructions for 'cargo/climbing' nets, I'd believe the same ideas from fishing type netting would translate by using larger cordage and spacing of the net.

I have searched thru google and found playground cargo nets that may give you some ideas for larger projects. Some obstacle courses also have those larger nets used for climbing/descending.

If the net is made for children to climb on, I've read that the spacing needs to be either 4 inches or smaller or 12 inches and larger, for safety reasons.

Unknown said...

I was looking for a way to duplicate the Universal Strength Apparatus for my fat and broke butt. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in building my own Universal Strength and Power Apparatus too. And this blog helped me get an idea on what the rope ladder looks like. The only question I have is what do you do with the two loose rope ends at the bottom of the rung? Are these rope ends tucked away? or are these loose rope ends spliced together?

There's a cool youtube video of somone actually demonstrating how to tie a rope ladder --->

Stormdrane said...

I tied the two ends together with an overhand knot, with one strand longer than the other, so that the knot is next to the last rung leaving a loop at the bottom.

Kevin Ohr said...

Hi, I'm a photographer from Florida looking for the perfect breathable camera strap. I used this knot on 550 with 6 rotations on the coiled rungs. I tapered it off on the ends with a 3-rotation section but I'm having trouble finishing off the ends with the clean look your designs have. Thanks so much for your "paraporn" and fantastic tuts! - Kevin

Paul H said...

I'm 30 years old now and have been doing paracord/boondoggle projects since the cub scouts a long time ago, though nothing compared to the caliber or quality of many of your projects. Well-respected in my book.
p.s. this year I checked when enrolling my son in school and my old elementary school has taken the climbing rope down, but left the top anchor connected