Ravenox Rope Making Machine Turns 125 Years Old | American-Made Machinery

The History of Rope Making Machines

The earliest evidence of true rope making is an exceedingly small fragment of three-ply cord from a Neanderthal site dated 50,000 years ago. Later impressions of cordage found on fired clay provide evidence of string and rope-making technology in Europe dating back 28,000 years. The first documentation of rope making tools was completed by the ancient Egyptians around 3100 BC. The ropes the Egyptians made allowed them to move heavy stones to create their pyramids and monuments. In China, around 2800 BC, rope and the making of rope spread using hemp fibers. Over the next several thousand years rope making spread throughout Asia, India and Europe.

During the Middle Ages until the 18th century, ropes were constructed using the ropewalk method. The length of the rope constructed was limited to the length of space available to the rope makers and this type of ropemaking was difficult and time consuming. In the 1400’s, Leonardo da Vinci drew sketches of a ropemaking machine, but it was never built. It wasn’t until the early 1800’s when rope making machines would finally come to fruition.

Lewis & Clark carried a three-strand rope making machine on their expedition in 1804 and made ropes from the hides of bison and elk in 1804. On May 5, 1807 the first rope machine patent was issued to Sellers & Bantle. Their rope making machine had three strand hooks on shafts driven from a central gear (sun and planet gearing) and the hand cranked gearing was housed in a wooden box mounted on a wooden stake.

Rope making machines have come a long way since the early 1800’s and Ravenox is proud to make rope on one of the original rope twisting machines. The Haskell-Dawes Machine Company manufactured rope making machines in Boston, MA and in Philadelphia, PA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ravenox has a number of these Haskell-Dawes rope making machines from this period, but our oldest horizontal rope layer was built in 1896. This rope making machine was originally constructed to make natural fiber ropes like Hemp, Sisal and Cotton as synthetic fibers had not yet been invented. Today, our Haskell-Dawes Rope Layers twist these natural fiber ropes in addition to synthetic ropes and twine like Polyester, Nylon, Polypropylene, Spectra and Plasma. Our rope machines will even twist metal wire.

Haskell-Dawes Rope Making Machine 1800's Ravenox

High-Quality Ropes from Original Rope Maker Machines

There are indeed newer rope making machines available to twist and braid ropes that run much faster than a Haskell-Dawes Rope Layer from the 1800’s. These new machines lack the ability to customize rope in a manner consistent with the quality of the discerning artisans Ravenox makes rope for though. Quickly changing the lay of the rope from soft, medium to hard or customizing each strand of rope for color or fiber is easily achieved with these older machines. The old saying, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” definitely applies. Cheaper plastic, poorer quality and less reliability are the hallmarks of what has become a throw-away society. At Ravenox, we use All-American-made machines, American Labor and American resources to make the highest quality ropes and twine.

Ravenox Haskell-Dawes Horizontal Rope Layer

A Rope Machine That Gets Results

Introducing the 1868 edition of his book A Treatise On Rope Making, Robert Chapman said that, “The art of Ropemaking, by some strange fatality, has not attracted hitherto sufficiently the notice or attention of the mathematician, philosopher, or engineer…” Since Chapman’s time, the engineer and the mathematician have done quite a lot for the ropemaker, and a more general lament today is that the available literature on the art and practice of cordage manufacturing is so scant.

The Haskell-Dawes Machine Company historically made some of the highest quality rope making machines ever. Like a Sherman tank, they are built to last. Only two machines are needed to make a three-strand twisted rope. A rope former machine forms the first strand of rope from individual yarns pulled from a creel and onto a bobbin. After three bobbins are formed, they are ready to be twisted together with either a horizontal or vertical layer machine. The automatic coiler takes up the rope and gets it ready for shipping. In the 1800’s, burlap bags were used to ship coiled hemp rope. Today, Ravenox cuts rope and twine down to short lengths for individual retail consumers to test before buying full spools of rope.

About Ravenox's Other Rope Machines

We are proud to say that we produce American-made ropes and cords only on American-made machines. In addition to this 125-year-old Haskell-Dawes Rope Layer, Ravenox also uses several other sturdy machines from the early 20th century! Our Warner-Swasey Whirlwind Twisters and Haskell-Dawes Vertical Formers and Layers date back to 1911 and were made during WWI and WWII. The age of these machines never takes away from viewing the incredible assembly of soft and strong cotton, hemp and synthetic cordage. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel so that you can see some of the great videos that involve the humming of our factory for autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR. Who knew that the sounds of a rope factory could be soothing?

Ravenox Rope Making Machine

Rope Industry Experts Who Make Ropes

Ravenox has assembled a team of 20-year rope industry experts whose lives revolve around rope. Every foot of rope Ravenox makes is touched by multiple rope makers and artisans who inspect our ropes at every twist and turn. As a family-run business we have even had three generations of family members making rope on these American-made machines for over 50 years continuously. Understanding the nuances between rope fibers, different types of rope construction and ensuring quality control is maintained throughout construction has allowed Ravenox to become one of the best sellers of rope in the 21st century.  

Ravenox Haskell-Dawes Vertical Rope Layer from 1911

Happy Birthday to Our Rope Maker Machine

While 2021 means that Ravenox's Horizontal Rope Layer machine is turning 125-years-old, we also celebrate our Haskell-Dawes Vertical Layer turning 110 years old this year. Built in 1911, this one-of-a-kind rope twisting machine uses up to 33 small 10 x 10 wooden former bobbins to make larger diameter ropes up to 1.5-inches in diameter. This unique machine twists rope two additional times to give large diameter ropes a unique triple twist that is hard to find anywhere else.

The Future of Ravenox

While we pride ourselves on always making high quality products on historic textile machinery, Ravenox also utilizes the latest technology to ensure customers both large and small are always happy. Through the integration of software to manage inventory, customer support and customer feedback Ravenox can quickly identify any and all issues to ensure the feedback loop is tight and consistent. This customer centricity has allowed Ravenox ropes to be a #1 Best Seller on Amazon and the reason Amazon named Ravenox one of the top six small businesses of all time. We’re proud to maintain that high standard day in and day out. Visit our website to shop Ravenox ropes, tools and hardware.

For questions or more information contact:

Customer Service Email: help@ravenox.com

Customer Service Phone Number: 1-844-627-5381

Cordage & Rope Cotton Rope Rope History

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  • I am looking for a machine to convert horse tail hair into rope.
    Do you sell such machine, or can you refer me to someone who may, please?

    Lance Symons, Geelong, Australia. 3220. 0417311508

    Lance Symons on

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