When you get all excited about getting into rope and rope bondage, it’s very likely that at some point you’re going to want to send away for some actually really nice rope, for example hemp, or my personal favourite, jute. And you’re probably going to want to get it untreated, because it costs less that way. And fair enough. I did exactly that.
However, when it first arrives, it’s very likely that you’re going to be a little shocked at just how stiff and unyielding it is – and to feel a bit dismayed about the prospect of tying someone up in that. You can just tell that it’s going to be difficult (This is not always the case; individual rope makers create products with varying qualities). You might also be a bit shocked at the machine smell – it can remind some people a lot of kerosene.
Here’s how to make your rope look, smell, and feel a whole lot better.
(A point: this applies primarily to natural fibre ropes such as hemp or jute, as these are the ropes that you will most likely have that problem with. Cotton is already soft, as is silk; I have no experience with bamboo or linen. If you have coconut rope, chances are you obtained it because you WANTED it to be rough; there is nothing soft about that stuff.
You can apply different treatments to get different degrees of softness and scent. The more you do, the softer it’s likely to get. So take that into account when you consider which treatments you want to use.
Second Note: if you’ve dyed your rope, then you want to be a bit careful about what you do to it afterward. For example; when I dyed my red rope, I treated it with jojoba oil and beeswax – and the addition of the beeswax ended up dulling the colour considerably (fortunately, I ended up re-dying the rope anyway for another reason, and this gave me the opportunity to omit the beeswax second time around; colour brightened up again nicely and stayed bright).
Third Note: Less is more. If you have any reservations about any of the treatments, skip it. You can always come back and apply it at a later time if you decide you’re still unsatisfied with the performance of your rope. Furthermore, if you end up tying with your rope long enough, it will eventually end up the same way as it will after treatment; it will just take a lot longer.
Treatment The First:
Boiling takes the stiffness right out of rope. Seriously. You don’t need to do it for long; two to three minutes will do. Set your water to boil, and when that begins to happen, use a pair of tongs to immerse your hank or hanks of rope. Make sure that the water covers the rope completely, and keep an eye on it. DON’T BOIL YOUR ROPE FOR LONGER THAN A FEW MINUTES (Go for five minutes or less to be safe.) When you remove the rope from the boiling saucepan, it will feel almost solid and rigid; but when it dries out, it will be lovely and pliable.
Boiling forces the fibres to expand and separate. It’s useful to do that a bit if your rope is particularly stiff, because that has the same effect as about a month of tying and wrapping it around things when it comes to breaking it in; but if you do it for too long, it will seriously injure and weaken your rope. I heard a story once about a couple who really over did it; boiled the rope for well over an hour, and by the end of it, they could literally pull the rope apart.
NOT what you want.
After boiling comes drying. It’s very important to dry your rope under tension; I like to wrap mine over several sets of rafters and pull it out as hard as I can before tying it off. You can literally feel the rope stretch in your hands. Drying takes different lengths of time depending on environment (temperature, humidity, etc); mine dries in my garage in just a few days.
Treatment The Second:
Take one end of your rope, and run it over a smooth beam, or through a carabiner, or really just over anything that’s smooth and that you can bend it over. Bring the end back and wrap it around itself two to three times. You’ll have a short length in one hand, and the long length that the short end is wrapped around in your other.
Pull each end back and forward in your hands a few times, sawing the rope against itself. Make it two or three hard pulls, then pull the short end through a bit more and saw the next length of your rope against itself.
The idea is that this polishes the rope against itself, again breaking it in further, and also taking the loose fibres and making them all stick out at once. That’s useful, because shortly after you’ve done all your rope, you can remove them with the next step.
Treatment the Third:
Ideally, you’ll use a gas flame for this. A gas powered stove top works well, and so does a blow torch set to a wide focus (used carefully). Blue gas flames tend to leave less soot, which means your rope doesn’t discolour as much.
That said, you can use candle flames ( I generally do) as long as you pull your rope through a slightly damp towel afterward to remove all all the soot. It just takes a heck of a lot longer.
Now that your rope is all fuzzy and has all those fibres sticking out, the idea is to run the rope above (or very briefly through) a flame and singe off the loose fibres. Done correctly, this doesn’t injure the rope; the loose fibres will flare up and curl into ash, leaving the actual rope itself intact. Be careful; don’t burn holes through your rope. Brief exposure is generally all you need.
Done with a candle, you generally need to turn your rope over and over just above the tip of the flame. As I said; it takes a lot longer.
Once you’re done, your rope will look a heck of a lot smoother and will also smell like a smoky smoky campfire. It will also have that slightly more polished look as well.
Treatment the Fourth:
This is where things tend to get very individual.
People often like to add a substance to their rope to give it added softness and scent. The most common substances are
– Jojoba oil
– or jojoba oil AND beeswax, in varying proportions. 50% each is reasonably common.
There’s a reasonably solid argument that beeswax is good for aligning the fibres of your rope and strengthening the core; seeing as how it’s wax, there’s also some merit to the idea that the wax partially waterproofs your rope as well, coating the fibres. I have not tested this; however I have noted that rope treated with wax has an added weight to it and it *feels* a tad more strong and solid. It’s generally pretty easy to wipe dust etc off it as well.
What I can say for certain is that beeswax and jojoba treated rope most definitely feels both softer and heavier, and generally has a nice smell (mix of smoke and honey). I believe that the beeswax does provide something of a protective coating, and likely enhances the durability of the rope.
I’ve heard very good things about the results of hand cream as well; really nice smell, really soft rope.
Treating Dyed Rope:
What I found effective in treating dyed rope was making boiling part of the dyeing process, and then after washing out the excess dye, going through the stages of drying under tension, polishing the rope against itself, singeing, and then oiling with jojoba oil.
This stuff softens your rope a bit, though not as much as beeswax and oil combined, and importantly, doesn’t dull the colour of your freshly dyed rope. It may even protect the colour a bit, by adding an additional coating; hard to say for sure without ongoing experimentation.
An additional useful idea when it comes to treating your rope:
If you want multiple rope sets, then using different treatments on each set can give you a broader range of sensation when it comes to tying people. I have two sets of rope from the same spool; I’ve treated the heck out of my red one, and it’s quite soft.
I’ve also got a less treated, natural toned set of rope that I’ve done less to (boiled for less time, less polishing, treated with oil instead of wax) and this has resulted in a much harsher feel.
I find this useful, because some people enjoy a rougher feel to their rope, and it also lends itself well to rougher themed scenes; whereas my softer rope is better for more sensual scenes.
Over time, the more you use your rope, the more it will break in and change and develop a different “character”. But all of the ideas listed above will give you a helping hand when it comes to adjusting it to begin with.