Updates to Foundations of Rope Bondage

You want to make the best book you can, you have many rounds of editing by multiple people, and while you get better and better every time, perfection is not really attainable. So, we’re asking you the reader and the community to help us improve.

No doubt, as more and more of you dig into Foundations, you may have questions.  If you see a way that we can improve Foundations, we’d love to hear it!  Feel free to leave a comment below or, if you’d like to share your thoughts more privately, drop me a line.

If you find simple spelling errors, or other such things, we will collect them offline for inclusion in a future version, but we will share any material clarifications on this page.  That way people don’t need to wait for a future printing to get important updates!

The Confusion:

Regarding the version of Foundations of Rope Bondage released in November 2023, friends in the community pointed out that there is information on page 96 that is confusing:  The “Suspension” and “Water” columns are included with no context or explanation, and without that context, those columns imply things that are not correct.

Without context, the data in the “Suspension” column makes it appear that I am saying that the rope community in general believes that Nylon and Jute should not be used for suspension.  That is not true.  Those kinds of rope are commonly used in suspension.  The “Water” column implies that certain kinds of rope should not come into contact with water.  That is also not true.  However, without context that is what it appears to mean.

The Clarification:

Suspension – Nylon and jute are used by experienced riggers for suspensions.  Personally however, I do not recommend them to people first learning how to suspend.  More on this in our Choosing Suspension Rope article.

Water – Cleaning:  Ropes can and should be washed from time to time for hygiene purposes.  Scenes:  When using rope for scenes where water will be involved, most people avoid natural fiber rope as knots tend to jam and become difficult or impossible to untie.  However, cotton can still be a good option if you want natural fiber; it is inexpensive and you can just cut the rope at the knot if it gets jammed.

Next Steps:

  • I am working with the publisher to update the manuscript so that future printings of this book will not include those two columns.
  • In the meantime, below you will find an updated table that is clearer and more accurate than the table in the initial publication.  Here is a PDF version of the table if you want to print it out and insert it into your copy of Foundations of Rope Bondage.
  Type Popularity1 Cost2 Approx. Breaking Strength3(lbs) Roughness4 Water scenes5 Suspension6 Comments
Natural Fiber Hemp ★★★★ $$$ 600 ★★★ Very popular with riggers worldwide. Has a classic look. Moves more heavily than Jute, something some prefer. Can be dyed, but the colors will be rich vs bright.
Jute ★★★★ $$$ 200 ★★★ 7 Also very popular with riggers worldwide. Not as strong as hemp. Lighter and more supple than hemp, moves in a nice springy way some prefer.
Cotton ★★★ $ 350 ★★ 5 Common,inexpensive, light, soft, but still holds knots well. Avoid “solid core” versions. Takes dye well.
Linen/Flax ★★ $$ 400 ★★★ Very similar to hemp, but softer. It tends to have fewer loose fibers and to be more consistent in appearance.
Coconut ★★ $ 80 ★★★★ Not nearly as common. Extremely Rough. Easily give abrasions. More for torment than confinement. Most people just stop struggling altogether after a little time in coconut rope.
Synthetic Fiber Nylon ★★★ $ 1450 8 A very popular synthetic available in many colors. Less tooth than natural fibers and can be slippery. Double knot any lock-offs. Look for versions offered by bondage rope suppliers; they normally have much better tying characteristics than nylon or nylon/poly blends found in hardware stores.
MFP ★★★ $ 1100 8 Very similar to nylon. Comes in lots of colors. Can’t be dyed at home.
POSH ★★ $$$ 1200 ★★ Looks and handles similarly to hemp. Popular for suspension up lines as it is so much stronger than natural hemp or jute.
Hempex $$ 1100 ★★★ Another synthetic hemp substitute that is much stronger than hemp or jute. Not as popular as POSH, as it tends to get fuzzy over time.

1  Popularity – This is just general guidance and is a snapshot in time and geographical location.  Depending on where and when you read this, things may be different.

2  Cost – The higher cost shown for hemp and jute is if you buy it from a rope bondage supplier and it has already been processed, had excess fibers removed, been treated with a little oil, etc.  If you buy it raw and process it yourself, the cost is much lower.  The relative values shown are subject to change with time and market forces.

3  Breaking Strength – These numbers (rounded down) are guidelines only.  They assume lab conditions with new 6mm (1/4”) rope.  There is tremendous variation in these numbers across different manufacturers, so always check the specs from the source you are considering. — Note: For liability reasons, it is quite common for bondage rope producers to not publish breaking strength numbers for natural fiber ropes. — The numbers above came from these sources in 2023:  rwrope.comropeandcord.comengineeringtoolbox.com

4  Roughness – This is a proxy for how it will feel on the skin and for how well knots will hold.  Rope that is more rough (has more “tooth”) will tend to hold knots better.  But if it is too rough, knots will tend to jam. (Which is why manila rope is not on this list.)

5  Water – AKA “Is this rope a good choice for scenes where it might get wet?” When natural fiber rope gets wet under tension, the knots can quite easily jam – work themselves so tight that they become very difficult, perhaps impossible, to untie. For that reason, people normally choose synthetics when water will be involved. Cotton rope however can be relatively inexpensive, so if you want to use natural fiber for a scene involving water, cotton can be a good choice; it is relatively inexpensive. If it gets jammed, just cut it at the knot … using EMT scissors or other methods that reduce risk when used on a person.

6  Suspension – As printed in the book, this column was meant to mean “Does Lazarus personally recommend this type of rope to people who are first learning to suspend?”  That is, my personal views and what I recommend to people when they ask, which is not quite the same as common practice in the community. In the table above, it has been updated to mean “Is this kind of rope commonly used in suspensions?”, subject to the footnotes below.

7  Jute – Jute is routinely used for suspension by experienced riggers around the world, particularly for traditional applications.  Many use it only for harness when doing suspension, choosing other types of rope like posh for the uplines, but others also use if for up lines as well.  Regardless of what rope you choose; it is important to understand that rope will wear out over time and will need to be replaced.  Check your ropes every time prior to using them for suspension.  Ropes that are retired from suspension can still find service in floor bondage or crafting. — I personally do not use Jute for suspensions, it has lower strength characteristics and many examples of jute rope breaks are found in the Rope Incident Report group on FetLife.  But this is just a personal choice based on my personal risk profile.  Others view it differently.

8  Nylon and MFP – These types of rope are routinely used in suspension by experienced riggers around the world for both harnesses and up lines.  I use it myself. — That said, when learning to suspend, I personally recommend that people choose a rope with higher tooth (posh is my preferred), then, after they build skill in suspending, expand their practice to do so using more slippery rope.  That way they are building one set of skills and learning one set of new variables at a time.  Again, this is just a personal choice and recommendation.  Many riggers learn suspension with nylon or MFP and continue to use it throughout their life.  There is nothing wrong with that.

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