Whipping a rope can be a little tricky. If your Scout is struggling with the traditional method, you can teach them another way, called “West Country whipping.”
For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week’s tip involves an easier way to whip a rope. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.
Preventing the ends of rope from fraying is a process referred to as “whipping.” Learning how to whip the ends of a rope is one of the early requirements on the Scouts BSA advancement trail.
Indeed, there are many approaches to whipping a rope, but the one that’s used for the hundreds of lashing ropes in the pioneering area at national jamborees, as well as the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, is known as the West Country Whipping. What’s so special about this whipping? The answer is simple. It’s easy to teach and easy to tie, and most importantly, it’s easy to make tight. Hence, Scouts learn it more quickly and like it much better.
Start by tying a half-knot, the way you would start a square knot, near the rope’s end.
Continue by carrying the two ends of the whipping cord around the back of the rope, away from you, and tie another half-knot identical to the first.
Keep repeating the half-knots, front and back, pulling each one tight.
Form each half-knot the same way, either right over left, or left over right, so they interlock neatly together, and snug against the previous half-knot.
Continue the process until the whipping is as wide as the rope’s diameter.
The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:
Whipping the ends of all the ropes in your pioneering kit is an indication of a well-managed kit, and a practice that will give your ropes good service in the field. Trying to tie knots in ropes with frayed ends is not only a bother but a waste of time. This can all be avoided by having a small spool of whipping cord as part of your pioneering equipment.
The type of whipping cord that you use is most important. Flax cord that is waxed and made of six strands is the best for pioneering work. Cotton string is not strong enough and will not wear well. Nylon cord is very strong, but tends to be slippery, especially when it’s waxed. A second drawback to nylon cord is that it stretches easily which makes it easy to slip off.
Waxed flax cord can be purchased at most leathercraft stores or shoe repair supply dealers.
The merit badge requirement for whipping can be fulfilled by using any whipping method shown in other Scouting publications. Because of the hard usage that ropes get during pioneering activities, it might be worth the time to learn how to do one or both of the following methods.
A group of countries west of Bristol, England, which has long been a seafaring area, is referred to as West Country. This area is also famous as a starting point for Pilgrims sailing to America. Why and how the West Country Whipping was developed seems to be lost in history. Whoever invented it has left us with a simple and very effective method for whipping the end of a rope.
The Half Hitch (West Country) whipping works equally well on any type of rope, twisted or braided, or rope made from natural fibers or plastic filament. (All plastic ropes should have the end melted back first.) The success of the whipping depends on the tightness of the knots formed by the cord and the interlocking action of the Overhand Knots.
To make a West Country Whipping on a 1/4″-diameter rope, start with a 14″ length of waxed flax cord. Wrap the cord around the end of the rope about 1/2″ to 3/4″ from the end, and tie an Overhand Knot (see photo 1). If the rope is badly frayed, it can be pulled together with a clove hitch or Constrictor Knot to begin the whipping.
Continue by taking the two ends of the whipping cord around the the back of the rope (away from you), and tie another Overhand Knot* (see photo 2). Keep repeating Overhand Knots, front and back until the whipping has been formed. A good rule of thumb to follow when making this kind of whipping is to make the whipping as long as the diameter of the rope.
Always tie each Overhand Knot right over left of left over right so that the knots lay neatly together and snug against the previous knot to form a smooth finished whipping. The West Country Whipping is finished with a Square Knot and the excess cord is trimmed.
* An Overhand Knot tied as the first half of a Square Knot, is more accurately termed a Half Knot. An Overhand Knot is formed when applying the configuration at the end of a line.
Just the thought of sails and ropes flapping in a strong wind when a sailing ship is under way makes you realize that the ends of the ropes aboard a ship have to be whipped to keep them from raveling under the strain. Sailmakers knew that a little extra effort spent whipping the ends of the ropes would make their work much easier in the long haul.
To make the Sailmaker’s Whipping, first unlay the three strands at the end of the rope about 1″ (see figure 81). With a length of whipping cord approximately 16″ long, form an open bight about 3″ long at the end of the cord. Slip the bight over one strand and then lay the two running ends of the cord between the remaining two strands of the rope. (See A and B in figure 81).
Relay the strands of the rope to form the original twist (see figure 82). Then wrap the long end of the whipping cord tightly around the rope. Wrap the cord clockwise, moving toward the end of the rope approximately six turns. Keep each wrap tight against the previous one and neatly together (see figure 82).
To complete the whipping, bring the original bight up over the same strand it was originally looped over (see figures 81 and 83). Then pull the short end of the whipping cord until the bight is pulled tight on top of the wrappings. Finally, bring both ends of the whipping cord, (A) and (B), up to the end of the rope and tie a Square Knot, pulling it down tight between the strands of the rope and snug on top of the wraps (see figure 83). Cut off any excess from the ends of the whipping cord. This Sailmaker’s Whipping will stay put under hard use.