Many times you’ve heard me say, “Knowledge is worth more than gear,” when I talk about the great outdoors. Today I’d like to pass on a little knowledge on how to make your own cordage, which is very important if you’re in the woods and you don’t have any.
There are different methods of making cordage and different materials you can make it out of. I’ll cover one method of making it and one or two different plants that make decent cordage.
First, where do we get the raw materials? As you may or may not know there are no grocery stores where you can buy rope in the middle of the woods; however, there are several plants you can use.
A quick and dirty way to get cordage is to find a spruce or fir tree and dig into the ground underneath. There you’ll find long ropy roots that make pretty good cordage. You can take and split the roots thus giving yourself extra cordage for tying various things that need tying. Birch bark canoes made by Indians used this type of cordage for tying gunwales and other birch bark items.
Another source for good strong cordage is milk weed. Harvest the plant and let it dry for a bit. Break up the stalk and pull long pieces off it and set them aside.
One of the best sources here in Maine for strong cordage is Dogsbane. Harvested in much the same way as milkweed it makes a very strong cordage.
Another source is the inside bark from various trees such as a Maple tree or a Cedar.
Today I’m using leaves from nature’s shopping mall – the cattail. The cattail has many uses in a survival situation and if you see a stand of them you have found food as well as other natural supplies.
To harvest the leaves of the cattail break a bunch off near the stalk and let them dry for a day or two. This makes an ok cordage, not good for something like a bow drill, but you can use it to lash things together. I’m going to make a midsized cordage and to do that I’ll use the whole leaf.
The technique I use is to twist the leaf until it bunches up. At that point I take hold of the top strand with my thumb and forefinger and twist it away from me and then using the small fingers of my right hand I twist the whole thing towards me. Check out the video for a demonstration.
Below are pictures of the finished product. Experiment making different sizes by cutting the leaves in half or even in quarters. This will make a much small cordage suitable for things like tying an arrowhead to a shaft and other small, but vital jobs.
Never underestimate the importance of cordage in the bush!
There you have it! An easy way to make decent cordage when you’re in the field.
Post questions or comments below.