Cordage might be one of the most important products to the human race. The clothes we wear are woven from fine thread. Curtain drawstrings, shoelaces, clotheslines, dental floss, garden twine, fishing line, and flag and banner suspension cords are just some of the common examples of cordage we use every day.
The modern survivalist has the advantage of being able to acquire manufactured ropes and cords in a wide variety of sizes and types of materials, and in a large quantity. MyPatriotSupply.com carries Coghlan's poly cord, which is an excellent choice for any bug-out bag or land cache. Your need for cordage should be considered thoroughly when preparing for an uncertain future.
You might be surprised to find that you can make your own cordage from items located in and around your retreat. Selecting the right material will make all the difference in how strong and sturdy your cordage is. Virtually any pliable material that can be bent sharply without breaking can be twisted or braided into functional cord. A few of the best known vegetable fibers found throughout the US are stinging nettle, milkweed, dogbane (India hemp), flax, fireweed, yucca, willow bark, cedar bark, juniper bark, agave, sage brush and cattail. It's worth it to try experimenting with the materials and plants in your area, to see what works best for you and can be found close to home.
In addition to plant fibers, animal sinew, rawhide, tanned leather intestines, and horsehair have also been used to construct functional cords. Sinew or tendons can be taken from either the back of the animals legs, or from along the backbone of deer, elk and other large animals. This is the tough stringy tissue that connects the muscle to the bones. The dense white fibers are contained within a leathery outer casing. The sinew is easy to separate from its casing when it is dried. By lightly pounding on it with a smooth round rock or ballpeen hammer against a hard surface, until it splits open, exposing the usable fibers inside.
Care should be taken in braking open the casing so as not to damage the fibers. Fresjh sinew has a natural glue in it that helps hold twisted fibers together, making it especially easy to twist into a useful cord. Like rawhide, sinew also stretches when wet and a completed sinew cord is best coated with wax or resin to seal it from excess moisture.
There are three ways to make cord: cutting a narrow strip out of leather or rawhide to create a lace; twisting individual strands or groups of strands of fibers together to form complete cord; or by braiding individual strands together to form a complete cord. At our home, we have found that the twisting method works best with sinew.
The two ply twisting we use to create cord from sinew is pretty simple. Although, it might be considered time-consuming compared to the other two methods, it constructs a tough and durable cord. Start with a single strand, folded in half, but where one end is longer than the other, so that I am working with two running ends of unequal length. I want the two ends offset, because I will be "splicing" in a new strand each time the shorter end of the two gets close to its end.
Now, we will be performing two actions simultaneously -- first, we will be twisting the two strands around each other in a clockwise fashion. At the same time, for each twist, we will twist just a single side of the strand counter-clockwise. In effect, we are twisting both the two ends of the fiber together, as well as twisting each end individually.
When it's time to add a new strand, take a new piece of sinew and bend it sharply at one end. Place the bent end into the juncture where the two running strands are being twisted together. In this way, the new strand will become twisted in to both of the ends, creating a stronger hold. The new strand will quickly get enveloped into the twist and become part of the cord.
Now, just keep twisting and adding until you have a length of cord needed, or you run out of sinew. Remember, once your cord is complete, to coat it with wax or resin, to keep moisture from seeping in and loosening the cordage.