Every skilled worker has multiple tools they need to perform their duty. An HVAC technician needs gauges to charge your air conditioning unit. Plumbers need solder in order to join fittings. Electricians need meters to check and measure voltage. Is a rigger or rope bondage artist any different? No, they are not. At a minimum, a successful rigger will carry Several bundles of rope in varying lengths, a few carabiners, one or two steel or aluminum rings, and a pair of shears in case of an emergency. The only optional items are rings and carabiners. They are mainly used for suspensions and not necessary for most ground work. Shears on the other hand are of the upmost importance. EMT Shears are real life savers in every sense of the term. When someone is in danger and you need to act fast, shears will cut through man made or natural fiber rope like a knife threw butter.
So many to choose from
As with any tool you have several manufacturers and types to choose from and no one tool is perfect for every situation. Having the right tool for the job is what you as an artist have to decide. Do you have a petite female model needing a harness or do you plan on suspending a tall built male? Each case is rather different and notably extreme. Your female subject could easily and comfortable be bound in 5-6mm Jute rope. While your male model would need rope with a higher tensile strength. In this case 8mm Hemp of 6mm MFP could be used. Rope must be chosen based on your needs. Few ropes could be considered universal even though Hempex comes really close. I recommend testing all the different ropes available to you. I was dead set on MFP rope until I first used real Hemp. Then I finally broke down and purchased some Jute and my mind was once again changed. Over time you will build your own preference.
thank you for not smoking
Natural rope is preferred with most shibari practitioners. It photographs extremely well and leaves wonderful patterns on the skin. They also have their own unique smells. Jute and Hemp rope are the most popular. Cotton is used as well since it is so inexpensive. Natural fiber ropes accept color dyes which gives you the ability to customize the look of your bondage. This lends well to photography. Not to be confused with its cannabis cousin, hemp rope has been around since before Roman times. It's extremely accessible from around the world and commonly used by riggers in North America. It has a popular smell that some artist and bottoms prefer. Compared to Jute, Hemp rope is a fantastic alternative and contains very similar characteristics. Both hold knots extremely well and has a low burn rate. Burn rate is referred to pulling rope to quickly across the skin causing rope burn. Jute defines the standard of rope in shibari. You will find it listed under different names. The two most common are Asanawa Jute native to Japan and Tossa Jute native to India. India is the largest manufacture of Jute rope. Asanawa is the most popular Jute do to the cultural history of shibari in japan. Jute is harder to come by in Europe and North America since it is imported.
You can always go the cheap route
Cotton is the inexpensive alternative in the natural fiber rope family. It can easily be picked up from any hardware supply store. It also hold knots extremely well, possibly a little to well. They can be extremely difficult to untie and almost impossible under certain load conditions.
Silk is the rope that is commonly sold in brick and motor sex shops. It is not very popular in rope bondage as they would lead you to believe. It is not very suitable for shibari outside of a simple wrist tie. You may stumble across Manilla rope which is the cheap crappy version of Hemp. It is stiff, scratchy, and does not hold knots well. Coconut is a nice alternative to Jute except its not very strong. All exotic rope is not suitable for suspensions.
Raw is not just for vegetarians
When purchasing new Jute or Hemp rope, two options exist. Raw and Conditioned. As the name suggest, Raw is made in bulk, cut to length, and sent to you. Conditioned rope goes through an additional series of steps. Starting with raw Jute or Hemp, it is first boiled to remove the manufactures machine oil residue and also to soften the fibers. It is then dried and gently stretched. Once dry, it carefully held to a clean gas flame to rid it of fuzzies. After that, oil and wax is applied. The amounts will very by manufacture and riggers that condition their own. Jojoba Oil and Bee's wax are the two most common products used in final process.
Synthetics are the street drugs
If you find that natural rope is hard to come by or you have allergies, man made rope can still tie someone up. Heading out to your local hardware store and you will find a wide selection of rope. Pay close attention to the different types of rope. It's easy to pick crappy rope at a hardware store. Filament Polypropylene is your worst enemy. It has some of the highest tensile strength. Downside, it does not hold knots well and is very stiff. Multi-Filament Polypropylene (MFP) is the preferred rope of this genre. It is very strong and durable. Mountain Climbing rope is made of the same material just woven differently. Unlike natural fiber rope, you can have your pick of any color under the rainbow.
The future of rope has come
Hempex is made to imitate natural Hemp rope. It consist of soft polypropylene fibers and when handled side by side with hemp, its really close. It handles moisture really well and is commonly used as the main support line in suspension. A single 6mm strand can support up to 1000 lbs. I would also recommend it for public bondage since you can easily wash and sanitize it.
Not All Rope Is Created Equal
You will find that any two sets of rope will have their differences, even if they are of the same type. Jute and Hemp ropes even more so. You may have a piece of rope that changes consistency over its length. Again that would be an extreme case. It's still not uncommon for natural rope from the same manufacture to have subtle difference from batch to batch. This is less common with man made rope. Manufacturing companies play a bigger part in quality when it comes to them.
Selecting the right rope for the right application
Before starting any form of rope bondage, you must first select the most suitable tool for your application. Are you tying a simple harness? Maybe all you need is cotton or hemp. Perhaps your planning some water bondage and need your rope to withstand moisture. MFP or Hempex may be just what you are looking for. These are just some of the many possible questions that you need to ask yourself. Selecting the wrong tool for the job may have disastrous effects. For example, If you were to select Jute for water bondage, it may shrink and be prone to mold or bacteria if not properly dried. Every application has a preferred rope and that preference can change from rigger to rigger. Some refuse to work with man made rope, while others do not trust the tensile strength of natural rope for suspensions. Certain applications need to exclude some types. I would never recommend Jute or Hemp rope for Water bondage unless they are willing to lose the rope after. Even when properly dried, its tensile strength has changed. Suspensions should never be done with any rope with a load rating less than 3 times of the subject. Wait? My jute and hemp do not have official load ratings. This is correct. Due to the fact that it is a natural fiber, general use reduces the fiber strength at varying speeds. Even during the conditioning process, the rope becomes weaker. Only man made rope will carry official ratings. You will find unofficial ratings for Jute and Hemp. This is mostly theory and some science. Be aware that natural rope will vary in strength and you can not guarantee its load rating.