Replace Rope Halyards For Safe Ladder Work
The Volunteers Corner
In many cases, ladders will last as long as the apparatus that carries them. But what about the rope halyards used to extend and retract extension ladders?
Aluminum ladders can be washed from time to time with soap and water, and wood ladders can be sanded and varnished as often as necessary to maintain them in good condition. But rope ages, loses its strength and has to be replaced—just like the best fire fighters.
Although new ladders usually come from the factory with manila rope, you have a choice of replacing the halyards with either manila or synthetic rope. Sisal should never be used for halyards. Size for size, it lacks the strength of the other materials and it has coarse, sharp fibers that are splintery and are apt to stick in your hands.
Manila rope is easy to handle and provides a good surface for grasping, which is important in extending a 40 to 50-foot ladder. However, it is subject to mildew. Nylon or Dacron rope is more slippery than manila when you are hauling on it, but the synthetics eliminate the mildew problem.
Inspecting rope: From time to time, halyards should be inspected for signs of wear, indicated by fuzziness on the surface, and any broken strands. A broken strand calls for immediate replacement of the rope and fuzziness calls for replacement within a reasonably short time. A time-honored way of determining the reliability of old manila rope is to untwist the strands and look at the bared fibers. If the inside fibers are still the color of new rope and the strands spring back together when you release them, the rope is in good condition. Failure of the strands to close reasonably well to their original twist indicates that the rope is on the downhill side of its life and needs to be replaced.
Replacing a halyard requires the ability to do two things—make an eye splice and whip the free end of the rope. The eye splice should be made around a galvanized thimble if there is room for one. If you change the halyard size, then you also must change the thimble to be compatible with the new rope diameter. The thimble prevents wear at the rope eye.
Making an eye splice: The first thing to do in making an eye splice is to spread the strands so that they are long enough to finish the splice. Burn the ends of synthetic strands to keep them from unraveling. Bend the rope around the thimble and tuck one of the loose strands under a twisted strand in the standing part of the rope. The tuck should be made opposite to the direction of the rope twist and as close to the thimble as possible and pulled tight. Tuck each of the other two loose strands under the two other strands in the standing part of the rope at the same circumference area. In making these last two tucks, avoid unlaying any of the rope on the thimble. A little experimenting will show you how to start a tight splice.
Now make two more rounds of tucks and then cut off the strands. Make each cut out from the rope about the same fraction of an inch as the rope diameter.
To whip the end of the halyard, use sail twine or fine marlin. Cut off about 2 feet and make about a 3-inch loop. Lay the loop on the end of the rope with the top of the loop away from the rope end and begin turning the loose twine in the opposite direction to the lay, or twist, of the rope. Your first twist should encircle the loop near the end of the rope. Be sure to leave enough of the loop’s loose end free to be grasped later. Make eight tight turns toward the head of the loop and then pass the end of the twine through the loop. Now pull on the loop’s free end until the loop buries some of the free end of the twine under the turns. Cut off the ends of the twine and you have a whipping that will pass through a pulley.