Ropes have always been an integral part of human evolution. There are shreds of evidence from 4000 to 3500 BC to prove that early farmers, hunters, soldiers, merchants and craft workers in Egypt had used ropes in their daily life.
It is believed that the first natural fibre rope was created from strips of the lime bar and it was eventually replaced with ropes made from flax, water reeds, vines, animal hair and leather.
This article will discuss in detail about Sisal rope, a rope twined from natural fibres from the Agave Sisalana, a species of flowering plant which was once native to southern Mexico.
History of Sisal Ropes
Contrary to popular belief, Sisal Ropes have been in use since ancient times. Archaeologists say that Mayans and Aztecs had used Sisal fibres for making paper, fabric, and twined ropes. It was in fact, the leading material for agricultural twine because of its strength, durability, ability to stretch, and resistance to deterioration in saltwater & extreme sunlight.
As said, Sisal Ropes are made from the Agave sisalana a plant which was once native to Mexico. It was the Brazilians who spread Sisal cultivation out of Mexico because of its economical value, and the sisal farmland area has been on the rise since the 1950s.
Today Sisal plants are mainly cultivated in the East African countries Tanzania & Kenya, and these plants are considered to be of superior quality to the ones cultivated in Brazil.
Now that we have discussed the history of Sisal plants & where they are cultivated, let’s have a look at how they are cultivated!
Cultivation of Sisal Plants
One thing about the Sisal plant that makes it the favourite among farmers is that they can thrive in any well-drained soil anywhere from sea level to the frost line. Though Sisal plants can thrive in harsh conditions, they are generally transplanted to fields from nurseries during the rainy season for a better harvest.
When cultivated in nutrient-rich soil & taken care of properly, Sisal plants can grow rapidly and produce 200-250 commercially usable leaves consisting of 1000 fibres on an average during its 7-10 year life span.
Manufacturing of Sisal Ropes
Step 1: Decortication (Extraction of fibre from leaves)
It all begins with the extraction of Sisal fibres from the leaves of the plants. The leaves are first crushed and beaten by a rotating wheelset with blunt knives until the fibres are seen. Once the fibres are properly exposed, they are thoroughly cleaned with water.
Step 2: Drying the fibres & Segregation
The washed fibres are dried either in sunlight or using hot air. Drying is a crucial process as the fibre’s quality depends on the moisture content in it. The lesser the moisture content the better the fibre is. Farmers tend to use artificial drying methods to increase the quality of their products which can fetch them more money in the market.
The fibres are then combed and sorted into various grades before they are transported or sent to plants for twining.
Uses of Sisal & Sisal Ropes
Sisal ropes aren’t as expensive as the Manila ropes and are used for various purposes & in various industries.
- As an environmentally friendly strengthening agent
Due to its strength & flexibility, Sisal is used as an environmentally friendly alternative to asbestos and fibreglass in composite materials even in the automobile industry.
- In the paper industry
The lower grade Sisal fibres are used by the paper industry because of its high cellulose and hemicellulose content.
- Cordage Industry
The medium grade sisal fibres are used in the making of ropes, baler and binders’ twine for marine, agricultural, and industrial use. Also, the high-grade fibres are used by carpet manufacturing companies for yarn.
Apart from these, Sisal fibres are also used in the manufacture of low-cost and speciality paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, filters, geotextiles, mattresses, carpets, handicrafts, woven floor covering, floor tiles, rugs, wall coverings, handbags, wainscoting and fabric panels, shopping bags etc.
Choosing between Sisal & Manila ropes?
Sisal ropes are identical to manila ropes in their durability and flexibility, but they lag in terms of breaking strength. For instance, while the breaking strength of a superior grade Manila rope is, 15,000 lbs, Sisal ropes will break at 12,000 lbs.
The other major difference between the two is that Sisal Ropes retain water and cannot be used in situations where they might get wet, whereas, manila ropes are water resistant but tend to fall on the pricey side.
The key to choosing between Sisal & manila ropes is to have a clear understanding of your requirement & approved budget before you invest your money on a rope. Sisal ropes are a considerably cheaper option which you can buy from here.
If you have any queries you would like to get clarified, feel free to contact us.