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Any hard and fast rules about Footrope diameters?

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  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Lacombe, LA.
Any hard and fast rules about Footrope diameters?
Posted by Big Jake on Thursday, December 27, 2007 6:26 PM

I'm at the stage where I'm adding the footropes to the yeards on the Flying fish and although this seems to always be the one things most modelers leave off the models becasue of the scale and or difficulty. I wen to research the subject and really could not find any hard information on them other than they seemed to appear in writting around 1600 or so. Was there any sure information on the diameter of rope "required" or needed?

I know you would not use the haswer cable but I was just wondering it they came up with a fomular for this? I prefer to use Coat and Clark Brand Carpet and Button thread as it almost impossibole to break by hand and the diameter is jusst about right for most model scales.

Jake

 

 

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Texas
Posted by Yankee Clipper on Thursday, December 27, 2007 7:45 PM

Jake,

After a review of references, the only info I could find was from Biddlecombe's The Art Of Rigging. In his charts, the largest ship covered is 1250 tons. The Flying Fish was rated at 1505 tons. Depending on the yard the diameter of the rope changes. He shows some footropes (horse) being as large as 4 inches. Don't know the scale of your FF but would recommend that your footropes be no smaller than your ratlines. You will know the correct size for your model by the old eyeball test of what looks right to you. One person out of 10,000 looking at your final product will know what the exact size should be, and then he will have an argument with the next "expert". Best of luck.

Yankee Clipper

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Lacombe, LA.
Posted by Big Jake on Thursday, December 27, 2007 10:08 PM

Yeah, I feel the same way and was just wanting to get some general information on them. You'd think that more would be written on the subject.

It sort of like saddle stirups, you can see them used in movies but you know they were not invented at that time in history. But in modern times, how do you teach 300 extras how to ride without them?

 

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, December 28, 2007 2:37 AM

I looked up the subject in James Lees's Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War, 1625-1860.  The Flying Fish obviously wasn't an English ship of war, but I figured I'd find a generalized statement about the diameter of footropes.  I was wrong.  He does offer a consistent size for ratlines (1 1/2" in circumference, meaning about 1/2" in diameter), but he lists the sizes of footropes as varying from yard to yard.

Mr. Lees gives (in his appendix, pp. 183-189) the sizes of all the rigging lines in proportion to those of the stays of the masts to which they're related.  He says the footropes on the main lower yard, for instance, should be 0.25 times the size of the main stay, and the footropes of the mizzen topsail yard should be 0.66 times the size of the mizzen topmast stay.  (The footrope stirrups are, in each case, listed as being a little smaller than the footropes themselves.) 

At first glance this seems to fly in the face of logic; the lengths and diameters of the yards vary, of course, but the weight of the guy standing on the footrope doesn't.  A little thought, though, reveals that the variation does make at least some sense.  The stress applied to a footrope varies according to how many men are standing on it; the longer the yard, the more men are going to be standing on the footrope, so the stronger the footrope needs to be.  But other factors seem to play into the picture as well.  Mr. Lees says the topmast stay is half the circumference (and, obviously, half the diameter) of the lower stay.  The lower yard footropes, he says, are 0.25 times the size of the lower stay, and the topsail yard footropes are 0.55 times the size of the topmast stay.  A little elementary arithmetic establishes that the topsail yard footropes therefore are slightly bigger than the ones on the lower yard.  Maybe the theory was that, since the topsails got set and furled more frequently than the courses, the footropes would get more of a workout.

In practical modeling terms, the differences Mr. Lees talks about are minimal.  I worked out (with the help of ye olde Radio Shack "yard-foot-inch" electronic calculator) the diameters for some representative footropes of an American frigate of 1826 (because the relevant spar dimensions were in a book that happened to be on the desk in front of me).  I got 1.37" for the main lower yard footropes, 1.51" for the main topsail yard footropes (the biggest in the ship), and 0.76" for the mizzen topgallant yard footropes.  On the scale of 1/8" = 1' (or 1/96), that (carried out to three decimal places) works out to 0.142" 0.157", and 0.079", respectively.  So the main lower yard footropes ought to be .063" bigger than the mizzen topgallant yard footropes.  How important that difference is, I'll leave to the individual modeler.

All this assumes, of course, that the riggers actually followed the rules Mr. Lees lays out - a highly dubious proposition.  And just how much it all has to do with the rigging of a nineteenth-century American clipper ship I don't know.  (One other factor to take into consideration:  as the nineteenth century wore on, footropes started to be made out of wire.  Generally speaking, wire rigging tended to be thinner than rope rigging - for obvious reasons.)

The bottom line is that footropes are among the thinner lines in the ship's rigging - but not the thinnest by any means.  (Those on the lower yards were considerably heavier than the ratlines.)  For what it's worth, I like to make footropes out of brass or copper wire.  That lets me work a permanent "sag" into them. 

I think there may be a list of nineteenth-century American rigging sizes in Richard Henry Dana's Seaman's Friend.  At the moment it's after 3:00 a.m.; I'll take a look in that book tomorrow.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Lacombe, LA.
Posted by Big Jake on Friday, December 28, 2007 9:51 PM

John,

Can you write up a piece on how you make yours from wire?  I'm using C & C brand thread and will (using a fine needle) thread the stirups through the footroops, adjust then glue.  I find the FR that are on the Cutty Sark are a bit stiff. I used a small diameter wire for the stirups on that one. I found it somewhat difficult to work into the proper eyelets (my fault not the wires).

Thanks

Jake

 

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Saturday, December 29, 2007 2:01 AM

Sure.  It's pretty simple. 

I ought to start, I guess, by emphasizing that I've only used this trick on fairly small-scale models (e.g., my little frigate Hancock, on 1/128 scale).  I think it would look acceptable on 1/96 in the eyes of most folks, though.

The first step, as always, is to get a clear idea in your head about what the original looked like.  The footrope, strictly speaking, is the horizontal line that the guys working on the yard stand on.  It's suspended by short, vertical lines called "stirrups."  Prior to about 1790 (or maybe a little later; Mr. Lees says 1811), the outer end of the footrope was fastened around the yardarm (i.e., the extreme end of the yard) outboard of the yardarm cleats by means of an eyesplice.  The other, inner end of the footrope could be dealt with in any of several ways; the most common, during most periods, was for it to be eye-spliced around the yard a few feet on the other side of the mast.  The upper ends of the stirrups were eye-spliced around the yard, and their lower ends were eye-spliced around the footrope.  Sometimes the lower end of each stirrup had a thimble spliced into it; the footrope ran through the thimble.  I've seen drawings that show the footropes with small "mice" raised in them - tapered, conical pieces of ropework on either side of each stirrup, to keep the footrope from sliding through the eye on the stirrup.  The whole system was set up so the footrope hung about three feet below the yard.

With the introduction of the jackstay, in the very late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, the system changed.  Now both ends of the footrope, and the upper ends of the stirrups, were eyespliced around the jackstay.  From the modeler's standpoint that's a matter of some importance.  Prior to the introduction of the jackstay, the footrope hung directly beneath the yard.  If the yard had a jackstay, the footrope hung behind the yard.

Sometimes there was one other piece of gear.  If the sail mounted on the yard had reef points, and was significantly wider at its foot than at its head, reefing it properly would require that somebody work out at the very end of the yard.  (In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century warships, the only sails that met that definition were usually the topsails.)  In such a case there was another, shorter, footrope-like line called a "flemish horse" (I have no idea what Flanders had to do with it).  Its outer end was eyespliced to an eyebolt driven into the end of the yard, and its inner end was eyespliced to either the yard or, if the yard had one, the jackstay.

I think there's pretty universal agreement that eyesplicing thread, on scales smaller than 1/48 or thereabouts, is not a sane thing to do in one's limited time on the Orb.  (Even if one's eyesight and dexterity were up to the task, I'm not sure it could be done effectively to scale.)  So for modeling purposes all this gear can quite legitimately be simplified.

My favorite material for this particular job is brass wire, but copper probably will work just as well.  A model railroad supply company called Detail Associates sells brass wire in packages of nice, straight lengths in lots of small sizes.  I always pass a piece of it over a candle flame before doing anything else with it; the heat softens it and takes all the spring out.

I like to do as much of this kind of work as possible before installing the yard on the model.  (I generally clamp a piece of dowel, about the same diameter as the relevant mast, in a vise on the workbench, and secure the yard to that while I'm working on it, then transfer it to the model when it's ready to go.)  The other necessities are a small soldering iron, some solder (preferably lead-free), a package of straight pins, and some sort of "soldering pad" - a fireproof surface that things can be pinned to.  (Micro-Mark sells soldering pads made for the purpose; a scrap of wood will work if you're careful.) 

Figure out the spacing between the stirrups (which should be marked on the rigging plan).  Cut a piece of wire somewhat longer than each stirrup, and form a small eye in the end of it with needle-nosed pliers or tweezers.  (Here's where having annealed the wire in advance will make the job easier.)  You've just made the first stirrup.  Fasten it down to the pad with a few pins.  Make the other stirrups and pin them down the proper distances away from each other.  Cut a piece of wire to form the footrope itself; make it quite a bit longer than it needs to be.  (Wire is cheap; better longer than too short.)  Thread the footrope through the eyes on the stirrups, and put a tiny drop of solder on each joint.  Now you've got the basic footrope-and-stirrup assembly.

What happens next depends on whether the yard has a jackstay or not.  If it doesn't, form the outer end of the footrope into a loop that slips neatly over the end of the yard, solder it, and trim off the excess.  (For this kind of wire work a pair of really small wire-cutting pliers is a nice thing to have - but an old-fashioned nail clipper will work fine.  Cutting softened brass wire with it will wear out the blades eventually, but the tool is cheap and easily replaced by any drugstore.)  Install the footrope and stirrups on the yard.  If the yard is wood, you can form the necessary loops in the other end of the footrope and the upper ends of the stirrups, and solder them.  If the yard is plastic, please don't get a soldering iron near it; form the eyes, snip off the excess, and put a drop of superglue on each.

If the yard has a jackstay, use the same system but secure the upper ends of the stirrups and the inner end of the footrope to the jackstay.  If the yard is supposed to have a jackstay but you aren't reproducing it (jackstays are mighty small; lots of good modelers omit them on scales smaller than about 1/64), a good way to fake it is to drill a hole in the top of the yard where the ends of the stirrups and footrope would be located.  Make a tight bend at the appropriate spot in the wire, snip off the excess, and superglue the wires into the holes.

Throughout the process, measure carefully.  The footropes need to hang three feet below the yards - and if one of them hangs lower than that, it will stick out like a sore thumb.  Also, allow for a little "sag" between the stirrups.

All that, as usual, takes about 1/10 as long to do as it does to describe.  Fitting the footropes to a yard shouldn't take more than ten or fifteen minutes.

Hope that helps.  Good luck.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Lacombe, LA.
Posted by Big Jake on Saturday, December 29, 2007 7:40 AM

Thanks John,

Do you have a link to Detail assoc.? I did a general search, but can only find them imbedded within other sites as one of many suppliers. Do you buy yours from a local hobby shop or mail order?

Jake

 

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Saturday, December 29, 2007 8:44 AM

The one decent hobby shop within convenient driving distance of me is an outstanding railroad-oriented shop in Wilson, NC (about half an hour from Greenville).  It generally has a good stock of Detail Associates parts, including wire.  The biggest and best-known mail order house for model railroaders is Walther's (http://www.walthers.com/).  Here's a link to the Walther's page with the Detail Associates wire on it:  http://www.walthers.com/exec/search?quick=brass+wire

Unfortunately several sizes are marked "out of stock."  (That's the way things work with those little model rr companies.)  I don't think brass wire is especially hard to find, though - and copper probably would work just about as well.  Places like Radio Shack and arts and crafts stores are worth checking.

Another good web source for wire is www.smallparts.com.  Type "brass wire" or "copper wire" in the "search" box and you'll get quite a variety - including some extremely small-diameter insulated copper "magnet wire."  (The insulation of such stuff consists of some sort of clear plastic.  You can get rid of it by burning it off with a candle or cigarette lighter.  Be careful, though:  copper, in such small sizes, melts almost as easily as the insulation does.)

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 8:24 AM
Happy New Year! Here is some additional information that might complement what has already been shared. George Biddlecombe, The Art of Rigging, starting on pages 117-155, charts out specific rope sizes by tonnage, by mast, by yard.

For example, a 936 ton Cutty Sark falling in the 1,000 ton range, would have 4.5 inch foot-ropes on the fore-yard of the fore-mast; fore-top-gallant foot-ropes are 2.5 inch; fore-royal yard foot-ropes are 1 inch. I assume these numbers represent the diameter of the ropes!

Main-yard, 4.5 in.
Main-top-sail-yard, 3.5 in.; Flemish Horses, 2.5 in.
Main-top-gallant-yard, 2.5 in.
Main-royal-yard, 1 in.

Cross-jack-yard, 3 in.
Mizen-top-sail-yard, 2 in. (Biddlcombe does not distinguish between upper and lower top-sail-yards)
Mizen-top-gallant-yard, 1.5 in.
Mizen-royal-yard, 1 in.

On the Bench:

Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 8:52 AM

Actually the George Campbell plans of the Cuty Sark include the sizes of her footropes:

Fore and main lower yards:  3 1/2"

Fore and main upper and lower topsail yards:  3 1/4"

Fore and main topgallant yards:  3"

Fore and main royal yards:  2 1/2"

Main skysail yard:  2"

Crojack yard:  3 1/4"

Mizzen upper and lower topsail yards:  3"

Mizzen topgallant yard:  2 3/4"

Mizzen royal yard:  2 1/4"

All the Cutty Sark's footropes are indicated as being made of hemp rope.  (Her shrouds and stays are wire.) 

Unless there's some specific reason to do otherwise, you should always assume that the stated "size" of a rope is the circumference of it. Just why that convention developed I'm not sure, but it's pretty universal (at least in English-speaking countries).  To get the diameter of the rope (which is usually a far more useful figure for the model builder), divide the stated size by pi, 3.1416.  In practical, modeling terms dividing the stated size by 3 probably will be good enough for most civilized purposes.  (And I rather doubt that any modeler has ever made an accurate distinction between 2 3/4" rope and 3" rope on 1/96 scale.  The difference would amount to .0008289" - less than 1/1000 of an inch.)

Three-inch rope (i.e., rope that's 3" in circumference, and 0.954927" in diameter) is actually pretty heavy stuff - quite capable of supporting the weight of several human beings.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 9:43 AM
I guess what that means is that Biddlecombe's standards are not very standard, at least concerning the Cutty Sark. Campbell's measurements are a mix of 800 and 600 ton ship numbers on Biddlecombe's charts. Or, they skimped on the original rigging because the Cutty Sark was over budget.

On the Bench:

Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Friday, January 4, 2008 4:50 PM

 jtilley wrote:
Just why that convention developed I'm not sure, but it's pretty universal (at least in English-speaking countries).

As a guess, ease of measuring the product.  Cable & hawser laid lines are not very smooth, finding a consistant "diameter" on one before it is wormed and served might be a tad difficult.  But, a flexible tape can be wrapped around the free end of a line or cable flaked out or made up on a spool or drum.  The circumference can then be read right off the tape.

Consider a 4-strand 24" line--that's going to be more 'square' than round, from the rope walk.  Possibly more so, if coiled onto a spool. 

One can only imagine, given some of the contemporary tales of less-than honest chandlers, of what happens when the Captain's or Purser's tape does not quite match that of the Chandler's. 

Even with modern wire line, you use a parallel-sided gauge, and best practice is to "roll" it around the line being measured. 

  • Member since
    March 2007
  • From: Portsmouth, RI
Posted by searat12 on Saturday, January 5, 2008 6:21 PM

 Shipwreck wrote:
Happy New Year! Here is some additional information that might complement what has already been shared. George Biddlecombe, The Art of Rigging, starting on pages 117-155, charts out specific rope sizes by tonnage, by mast, by yard.

For example, a 936 ton Cutty Sark falling in the 1,000 ton range, would have 4.5 inch foot-ropes on the fore-yard of the fore-mast; fore-top-gallant foot-ropes are 2.5 inch; fore-royal yard foot-ropes are 1 inch. I assume these numbers represent the diameter of the ropes!

Main-yard, 4.5 in.
Main-top-sail-yard, 3.5 in.; Flemish Horses, 2.5 in.
Main-top-gallant-yard, 2.5 in.
Main-royal-yard, 1 in.

Cross-jack-yard, 3 in.
Mizen-top-sail-yard, 2 in. (Biddlcombe does not distinguish between upper and lower top-sail-yards)
Mizen-top-gallant-yard, 1.5 in.
Mizen-royal-yard, 1 in.

I do assure you, that NO ship ever used 4" thick footropes on ANY yard!!  Fer gawdsakes that's a bloody hawser!  Remember one very important point; shipmasters and owners had to PAY for that rigging, and the lives of crewmen were very cheap indeed!  If you would find 1"-1 1/2" rope used as footropes, and they were well-served, that would be considered a very fine thing by most crew, and something of an extravagance for a ship-owner.  Remember another point; the size of the yard has nothing to do with the size of the footrope, as that is purely a factor of the number of men that might be on it at any one time.  Also, it is important to note that when you are out on a yard reefing or loosing sail, the sailors weight is NOT on the footrope!  Instead, the sailor LIES across the yard, with the footrope only there to help keep his balance and his hands free to haul sail......  Perhaps you are confusing footropes with halliards??

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • From: Biloxi, Mississippi
Posted by Russ39 on Saturday, January 5, 2008 9:22 PM

Searat:

The 4" dimension he refers to in Biddlecombe is circumference, not diameter. A 4" circumference would be roughly in the neighborhood of 1 1/4"-1 1/2" diameter.  

Russ

  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Saturday, January 5, 2008 9:30 PM
 searat12 wrote:

 Shipwreck wrote:
Happy New Year! Here is some additional information that might complement what has already been shared. George Biddlecombe, The Art of Rigging, starting on pages 117-155, charts out specific rope sizes by tonnage, by mast, by yard.

For example, a 936 ton Cutty Sark falling in the 1,000 ton range, would have 4.5 inch foot-ropes on the fore-yard of the fore-mast; fore-top-gallant foot-ropes are 2.5 inch; fore-royal yard foot-ropes are 1 inch. I assume these numbers represent the diameter of the ropes!

Main-yard, 4.5 in.
Main-top-sail-yard, 3.5 in.; Flemish Horses, 2.5 in.
Main-top-gallant-yard, 2.5 in.
Main-royal-yard, 1 in.

Cross-jack-yard, 3 in.
Mizen-top-sail-yard, 2 in. (Biddlcombe does not distinguish between upper and lower top-sail-yards)
Mizen-top-gallant-yard, 1.5 in.
Mizen-royal-yard, 1 in.

I do assure you, that NO ship ever used 4" thick footropes on ANY yard!!  Fer gawdsakes that's a bloody hawser!  Remember one very important point; shipmasters and owners had to PAY for that rigging, and the lives of crewmen were very cheap indeed!  If you would find 1"-1 1/2" rope used as footropes, and they were well-served, that would be considered a very fine thing by most crew, and something of an extravagance for a ship-owner.  Remember another point; the size of the yard has nothing to do with the size of the footrope, as that is purely a factor of the number of men that might be on it at any one time.  Also, it is important to note that when you are out on a yard reefing or loosing sail, the sailors weight is NOT on the footrope!  Instead, the sailor LIES across the yard, with the footrope only there to help keep his balance and his hands free to haul sail......  Perhaps you are confusing footropes with halliards??



In an earlier post, Mr. Tilley corrected my assumption that the rope measurements are circumference, not diameter!

On the Bench:

Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch

 

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, January 6, 2008 4:26 AM

When a sailor is working on a yard his weight is indeed distributed over several objects.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries he would spend a fair amount of his time leaning over the yard, with the yard bearing virtually all of his weight.  (Prior to the fairly-late seventeenth century he didn't have a footrope to stand on at all.)

The footrope, however, has to be strong enough to support the weight of the sailors on the yard.  They have to make their way out from the mast; during their progress scarcely any of their weight is being born by the yard.  When a man is furling, reefing, or setting a sail portions of his weight constantly shift around, as his body works into the various necessary contortions.  And from the early nineteenth century onward, due to the introduction of the jackstay, he didn't actually lean over the yard for some of those operations.  The reefed or furled sail was now piled up on top of the yard (or, more usually, on the upper forward quadrant of it.) 

Another source of stress on the footrope was the motion of the ship.  As the ship pitched and rolled, the effective "weight" of a man on the footrope - or the portion of his weight that was on the footrope - would change quite drastically. 

Hemp rope is remarkably strong stuff.  I have to confess, though, that standing on a 1" rope (i.e., a rope 1/3.1416" in diameter) a hundred feet or so above the water is not something I'd want to do for recreation.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    March 2007
  • From: Portsmouth, RI
Posted by searat12 on Monday, January 7, 2008 9:58 AM
Agreed, circumference works, diameter doesn't!  Having myself reefed square sails in gales before (and you are right, it is not fun, particularly if the yard is varnished, and it is raining, and the ship pitching and rolling with a significantly exagerated motion because you are way up in the air!), I can tell you that it is very much 'one hand for the ship, one hand for yourself!'  You lie atop the yard, with your feet braced on the footrope for balance, one hand and forearm clasping the spar, with the other hand free to fist in sail (and the further you can reach, the quicker the job gets done).  Moving out on the yard itself is a bit dicey too, depending on how much the ship is heeling, and the worst part is having someone in front of you moving too slowly, while another is behind pushing you forward (bunching up!).  The jackstay doesn't really factor into the equation, but the physical size of the yard does (and when you get up to a clipper ship, or major man o' war, these spars are huge, and a really slick seaman will simply run out on the yard itself without resorting to the footrope at all, at least until he has found his place on the yard (you can still see modern demonstrations of this feat during 'pass and review' and other ceremonies on Tall Ships today, with the entire crew standing in rows atop all of the yards (a way of showing off nowadays!).
  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 2:29 PM

 jtilley wrote:
I have to confess, though, that standing on a 1" rope (i.e., a rope 1/3.1416" in diameter) a hundred feet or so above the water is not something I'd want to do for recreation.

No lie.

Boggles my mind to just consider that as is; barefoot with saltwater-hardened calluses?  Egads.

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