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Cordage materials at the Lab  RSS feed

 
Shan Renz
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I am hoping to conduct some experiments with natural cordage materials when I get time. I already plan to do cordage lengths with dried grass and animal sinew (if and when I can get some), and in doing research I have found that willow bark and cedar bark are useful for that purpose. Are there cedars with a fibrous bark growing near the lab area? Does anyone maybe have suggestions about possible materials to use that grow naturally around the lab or base camp?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Linum lewisii, wild flax, is widely distributed. I bet there is some growing near the lab. Look for light blue flowers in the next month or two and continuing through the summer. It is a perennial, so once you find a clump, it's likely to grow in the same place for years. You might even be able to find some of last year's stems that are already retted by the winter snows.





 
r ranson
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Do they have stinging nettles?  Best cordage ever.

 
Michael Cox
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You might also look into various tree roots. lengths can be quartered with a sharp knife, and then flexed by hand to make them supple for use. I think we used some form of pine roots. It was pretty easy to get lengths of about 1m just in the top inch of soil, using a digging stick. It makes incredibly strong stuff and get tighter as it dries.
 
Shan Renz
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Conifers are the most prevalent tree at the lab, so using roots makes a lot of sense.

I will look for the flax, and I just spent the last couple of hours looking up videos on processing nettle (with a foray into basket weaving). I'm all jazzed now, I need to see where this goes
 
Michael Newby
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Last summer while I was camped at the lab I experimented with making rough cordage out of the knapweed that is so prolific out there. I didn't process the plants other than stripping leaves and side branches then crushing the stems.  I made a simple hand twisted two ply cord that I tied around my tarp.  Pretty strong stuff, it held a knot pretty well but the fibers get brittle when they dry.  You could probably make much better cordage with better processing of the plants before making the line.
 
Shan Renz
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Michael Newby wrote:Last summer while I was camped at the lab I experimented with making rough cordage out of the knapweed that is so prolific out there. I didn't process the plants other than stripping leaves and side branches then crushing the stems.  I made a simple hand twisted two ply cord that I tied around my tarp.  Pretty strong stuff, it held a knot pretty well but the fibers get brittle when they dry.  You could probably make much better cordage with better processing of the plants before making the line.


I've been looking for possible uses for knapweed,but so far the only thing I've been able to manage was a flower garland. That stuff is pernicious. I'm wondering about thatching with the stalks.
 
Michael Newby
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I didn't manage to get any pictures while it was new but I found my knapweed knot still hanging on to my tarp after a full winter of covering firewood in nasty blowing snow and rain.
20170520_094459.jpg
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Knapweed cordage
 
r ranson
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Cordage is often made with the phylum layer of the plant - inner bark.  The fibres are (more or less) the same as celery strings, only stronger.  Only because it's cordage and not for clothing, it doesn't need to be processed into fine individual fibres.  You can leave the skin/bark on.

In a couple of months, Himalayan blackberries will be ready to make cordage from.
Scotch broom is ready now.
Flax, nettles, kudzu all make fantastic cordage.
Cedar bark and roots
Newzealand flax and yucca - make the cordage from the leaf
Not an exhaustive list

But I don't know what grows at the lab. 

If you need any help, let me know.  I'm very curious about fibre plants that don't grow where I am.  Especially finding uses for unwanted plants like blackberries those on the so-called invasive list.
 
Shan Renz
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raven ranson wrote:Cordage is often made with the phylum layer of the plant - inner bark.  The fibres are (more or less) the same as celery strings, only stronger.  Only because it's cordage and not for clothing, it doesn't need to be processed into fine individual fibres.  You can leave the skin/bark on.

In a couple of months, Himalayan blackberries will be ready to make cordage from.
Scotch broom is ready now.
Flax, nettles, kudzu all make fantastic cordage.
Cedar bark and roots
Newzealand flax and yucca - make the cordage from the leaf
Not an exhaustive list

But I don't know what grows at the lab. 

If you need any help, let me know.  I'm very curious about fibre plants that don't grow where I am.  Especially finding uses for unwanted plants like blackberries those on the so-called invasive list.


I made baskets with kudzu while I was still living in the south, throwing that outer skin away when peeling the stalks because I didn't know about cordage yet. Blackberries are wonderful! What is it that makes them ready for cordage at this time? Bark development on the canes?

I'll be at the Lab in about 28 hours. I'll have to discipline myself not to dive into gathering materials immediately -- I have a camp to set up!
 
r ranson
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I tried some blackberries yesterday, not ready yet in my area.

Here's a bit about gathering blackberry skins.  Basically, you get this year's growth, strip the skin, and make cordage from that.  They are using it for baskets, but cordage works too.  You can use it right away, or dry it and then soak it when you are ready to make cordage.


 
Shan Renz
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Great video! So much is explained.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I don't think we have cedar on the lab, though there is some cedar on adjacent forest land owned by the U.S. government.

I think folks in ant village are planting yucca - if I recall correctly! (I added this thread to the wheaton labs forum, too, so maybe others will chime in.)

We've been attempting to plant nettles in moist, rich areas (draws) though we haven't seen signs of success just yet.

 
r ranson
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harvesting nettles, ceader and blackberry for fibre.

Would also work for cordage.
 
Shan Renz
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So I've been here at the lab for 3 days and tried fir cambium fresh. It twisted up beautifully but shrank and went brittle as it dried, leaving it loose. I've been harvesting the cambium and drying it for later use after I've reached a good stopping point on the rocket stove.

Here's a picture of the cambium just after harvest:

20170523_192220.jpg
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Fir cambium
 
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