Archive: Whipping a line from Mike and Yachtpals

Posted By on March 7, 2013

Archiving content (link below).

Whipping is the traditional method for seizing the end of ropes against fray, and it has become a rather generic term in that respect.  It looks salty, permanent, and difficult, but it’s actually only the first two.  Proper whipping isn’t much more difficult than lacing a shoe, and if done right with good materials it is permanent.  Furthermore it does not increase the diameter of the line appreciably, and it is one of those little touches one expects to see on a well-kept yacht.

Waxed hemp twine is the traditional material for whipping lines, but not the best by any means.  Basically, unless you are a complete traditionalist, you’ll want a synthetic material with low stretch which is mildew-, UV- and abrasion-resistant.  You can certainly order many appropriate products from your chandler or rope manufacturer, many of which are made to look like traditional hemp, but for our purposes, we need go no further than the local drug store or market, because there’s a very common material that makes for excellent rope whipping, plus it will leave your mouth minty-fresh!

Waxed dental floss or dental tape (tape is preferred by some), is readily available, easy to work with, and astonishingly long lasting.  It can be threaded through a needle if you would like to run the whipping through the rope a couple of times (recommended to prevent slipping, and here’s where you’ll be happy you used masking tape – as it isn’t likely to leave glue behind to foul your needle), and the flavors generally available lend themselves very well to nautical color-coding.  That’s cinnamon to port, and mint to starboard.

sailmaker's rope whip

The actual method for whipping varies.  Some wrap the twine (floss) around the rope and then tuck the ends between and through the rope strands, wrapping the whipping itself in what is often called the “sailmaker’s” whip.  Others tuck the ends back through the line and whipping to make what’s called the “sailor’s” whip.  Some tie a series of knots to create a “knotted” or “West Country” whip.  For our purposes, though, we’re going to stick with a basic whip.

Starting a few inches from the end of the rope, make a loop.  Now tightly wrap the floss around the rope, working toward the rope’s end, pinning the loop to the rope along the way.  When you reach the end (or have as many wraps as you need, tuck the line through the loop.  Now finish the whip by pulling both ends, and working the resulting bend under the whipping.  trim and melt the ends of the whipping line and the rope to finish.

The most time-tested way to stop fraying
Often outlasts the rope itself
Something to do in front of the TV on cold Winter nights
Easily inspected visually

Time consuming
Requires some skill (though not much)


Check Mike’s Line Whipping PDF for an slight modification … a better whip?


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
My Desultory Blog