16-Bobbin Rope Braiding Machine Inspired By Surplus Store Find

When the Red Bull Creation build days were past, [David] pulled us aside and asked if we wanted to see the mechanical hack he’s been working on. He built this rope braiding machine, which uses 16 bobbins, with help from his brother [Jed].

Ideas for projects always come from funny places. [David] came up with this one after finding a rope braiding machine at Ax-man Surplus. This outlet, located in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota) has been the origin for innumerable hacks. Just one that comes to mind is this electric scooter project from the ’90s.

[David] wanted to understand how the mechanism, which divides the bobbins up into groups of orbiting spools, actually works. It’s both mesmerizing and quite tough to visualize how it works without really getting in there and looking at the gearing. Thankfully you can do just that if he follows through with his plan to turn this into a kit.

In case you don’t recognize him, [David] was on the 1.21 Jigawatt’s team during this year’s Creation. We’ve also seen a couple of hacks from him in the past like this half-tone drum printer, and this bicycle frame welding jig.

34 thoughts on “16-Bobbin Rope Braiding Machine Inspired By Surplus Store Find

  1. Used to have a larger-scale one of these in my scout troop that we would take to events and have for little kids to come make rope — fixed-length at the start of construction (you ran twine back and forth and hooked it into the machine, then tied it off, IIRC), not spool-feeding like these, but you’d string it up (we usually started with a 10′ distance between the machine and the end block, held by someone to achieve manual tension) and then give the kid a little split fork thing to tighten the weave as it was constructed (pulling up at the join point — important, as it was joining the rope at a much narrower angle than this machine achieves, due to the length of the twine. It was a lot of fun, and actually made pretty great rope for campsite utility stuff (though looking back it was probably way more expensive than buying similar rope outright). Very fun, and useful even!

        1. Well, shielding is braided.

          Network cables are twisted so any voltage spikes will cancel out (each wire will have a different polarity).

          If you braided network cables (or any cable) you’d get crosstalk.

          1. Wires are twisted to reduce electromagnetic interference. I guess voltage spikes kind of fall under that heading. But voltage spikes are not really why network cables are twisted.

    1. I’ve had a couple of cars with cloth covered wiring harnesses. They needed to be completely rewired. Needless to say I’m not a huge fan of cloth covered cabling today.

  2. We had a large-scale version of this in our Navy/Marine avionics shop. It was meant for putting cloth or metal braids on wiring harnesses. But mostly we put people’s uniforms through it as a prank.

  3. Does anyone have a schematic for this machine? i need to build a similar braiding machine for a project I’m working on. also the use of a hoop and bungie or elastic would solve most of the issues i saw in the video. I’m planning to make a version of this to harvest spider silk. please let me know if you have any useful schematics.

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