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Old 09-07-2016, 18:46   #1
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'Field guide' to cordage

It used to be a lot simpler when there were relatively few types of line available. Now there so many, multi-coloured lines available. Has anyone seen a guide that helps you identify the type of line from its appearance? I am thinking about something like a question-based app, where you start with a question and then branch to another question and another until you have identified the line and are given its characteristics. For example the first question might be whether it white or white with a coloured tracer. If no, the next question could be whether it is predominantly red or not ...

Still looking for our next boat. Have decided we want to have something that will keep us happy for the next 10 years or so. By then I will be pushing 80 and if i am still sailing that will be a very good thing.
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Old 09-07-2016, 20:37   #2
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Re: 'Field guide' to cordage

That doesn't work, manufacturers can use any color line with whatever colored chasers they want. Since there is a monetary incentive to cheat there is no agreed upon color coding as far as I know.

To know what you've got you need to test samples. I've looked into this and found 2 papers/sites dealing with identifying cordage.

One was in relation to identifying adulterated nylon. In the tug industry this is a serious issue since tow lines are carefully picked to deal with the intended load. Unscupulous line suppliers can reap a significant dividend using other cheaper fibers such as polyester or polypropylene. Because of the differing elasticities the aldulterated line is weaker despite what you might think from their relative strengths. The test this paper had was to boil some water in a pan with black Ritt dye in it and soak a frayed end of the line (white obviously for this test) sample. Nylon fibers will absorb the color and most other artificial fibers won't. This only works for nylon.

The other info source used a burn test with observation of the burning fibers to determine what they were. There were some secondary tests that could also be used that were more involved. I'll try to refund my sources.

Sorry there doesn't seem to be a better way.

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A house is but a boat so poorly built and so firmly run aground no one would think to try and refloat it.
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Old 09-07-2016, 21:34   #3
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Re: 'Field guide' to cordage

To some degree, it helps if you get copies of the product catalogs from the major cordage makers, going back a decade+. Ditto on doing the same from the bigger chandleries & rigging shops. As the catalogs contain both tech info on the various cordage, as well as on the materials used to make them. Plus the color coding of lines X, Y, & Z, for various years of production.
The caveat being that with modern materials, cordage easily lives for several decades, typically only meeting it’s demise through long term UV exposure, or more often, due to abrasion (internal & external).

Another way to learn more about line types, as well as what to use when & where, is to take a class or two on splicing, or rigging. Brion Toss’s shop has them, as do plenty of other yachting learning centers. And you could even talk a rigger into putting on some informal ones for you, or you & a few friends. With proper reimbursement of course.

The third way, is plain old experience with the lines & materials. Be that experience yours, or from a few local racers who have a lot of exposure to the various lines. As after a while, it becomes easy to ID most lines on sight; both via their cover & cores. And if not that way, then by feel, & or burn characteristics. Usually their char or melt temperatures, & how the various lines smell when burned. Each type of material is unique in these ways, & usually pretty easy to ID.

Also, if you frequent one chandlery or rig shop regularly, you might ask them if they’ll assist you in identifying what some of your lines are. As they try to keep regular customers happy; to boost return business, & to boost their reputation of quality service, via word of mouth.

Ah, I almost forgot. But the last time I asked, Samson ropes was happy to ID rope samples for me, were I to send them in. As many years ago, I had some question about some Amsteel Blue that I’d bought, since it’s diameter was a good bit larger than the nominal spec for that size of line. So, try emailing & or calling some of them to see what they say, in addition to getting their catalogs. Back issues included.

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Old 09-07-2016, 23:15   #4
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Re: 'Field guide' to cordage

Fibres Guide | How to Identify synthetic fibres in Ropes | TTI Tools & Guides
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