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The bellrope is a necessary ancillary to the ship's bell, long considered the 'heart' of a ship. Ship's bells are almost mystical
objects, especially for as superstitious a lot as are sailors. They are polished before all other items and are the last thing to be
removed when a ship is decommissioned or scrapped. US Navy vessels have their names engraved on their bells and when a
ship is struck from the list, the last Commanding Officer usually receives the bell for safekeeping.
The bell-rope is a symbol of the Pride in the ship taken by the crew... battleships and other major vessels will usually have the
fanciest bell-ropes, often the product of several hundred hours of labour by one or more expert knotters. The more detail and
embellishments, the more respect it engenders. This bellrope took me some 70 hours to produce and complete. It is not
particularly fancy, but it is probably the neatest I've ever made. I'd like to thank Marty Combs : he is my source for the #15 codline
used in the bellrope's cover and turksheads creation.
Three large bellropes have been made recently: for the USCGC TAMAROA (WMEC166) (2006), for the USS HARRY S TRUMAN
CVN 75 (2010) and most recently, for the ceremonial dedication of the largest cruise ship in it's line, the which will occur O/A/O
May 20th this year (2016). Each was made on order and specifically for the ship.
Bellrope of #15 cotton codline over a "laid" pudding (core). 20" - 22 " overall from top of eye to finial knot, and 2.75" diameter at the
widest point. (Dimensions are approximate... handmade, d'y' ken?)
Eye is a 3-strand ringbolt braid (or Spanish Graft) over pudding core with a brass thimble insert, to a 5x4 "Square" TKH covering the
thimble to body connexion. Upper two sections are done in a fender-woven "over 2" pattern cover with a 7x6 square TKH at the first
size transition, and a 9x8 square TKH at the second size transition. The 3x5 TKHs are purely decorative. At the second size transition,
the covering changes from the fender-weave to a simple grafting stitch of "1-up, 1-down" which, while a 'simple' graft, still takes about
10 hours to do. Third size transition is covered by an 11x10 square TKH and the end is done in a 13 X 11 turkshead which also "laps"
or binds on the bottom cover, a 3-strand sewn box-braid which is finished off by a stacked 9x6-star knot.
Appx 3 weeks lead time. (Six virgins and a cigar MAY get a day or two faster, but I'm an OLD man!)
eye lanyard and connexion
to body cover of 'over-2'
fender hitching to 7x6
hitching to 7x6 'square
turkshead covering size
transition to 3x5 3-pass
to a 12x11
lapping the 3-strand
boxweave end with
a 9x6 finial 'filled' star knot.
hitching to 9x8
covering the transition
in size and the shift to a
'simple' graft cover with 3x5 4-pass
decorative turkshead to
"fill in the field"
Side view of the
end knots showing the
3x8 decorative turkshead
"simple' graft cover
to last size transition
under 11x10 'square'
turkshead to a 3x8 (5-
pass) decorative turks.
|10 inch bellrope
as shown, $650
with ringbolt hitched eye over small thimble, #15
"over-two" fender laid body cover and various
turksheads: flat knob with box-braid endplate.
Turksheads from top: 5x4 in #15, 3x5 in#12, 3x5 in #15,
3x5 in #12, 6x7 in #12, (2) 3x5 in #15 (4-pass), 7x8 in
#15, 3x8 in #12 (4-pass), 9x8 (lapped over end) in #15.
Appx. 2 week lead time.
Same design (approximately) in a six-inch bellrope is
$395 and eight inch at $450.
Each bellrope is unique : size and number to
turksheads varies with overall length.
as shown $1,600.00
A bit less ornate but still decorative, this 12" bellrope is made in
the traditional manner by building up a "pudding" or a core of
small lines laid over one another and bound into a cylinder, then
covered with the traditional "fender-hitch" to make the body.
Boxed end lapped by largest turkshead.
The turksheads are applied next and are graduated from a 5x4
"square" turkshead at the thimble eye to two 11x10 "square"
turksheads at the other end.
The brass thimble eye is, as are all my bellropes, enclosed by
"Spanish Coxcombing" or Ringbolt hitching and the bellrope
comes with your choice of a small or large shackle for attaching
to the ringer-eye on the clapper of the bell. This one is suitable
for a 14" thru 18" bell.
$550.00 as shown. 2 week leadtime.
Note that on this example the turksheads
have been varnished to increase the visual
It is intended for display purposes. If for daily
use the entire bellrope should be
|(For those feeling particularly
ambitious and who might wish
to try their hand at making their
own bellrope, I have a tutorial
HERE which walks you thru the
various steps required.
Bring lots of skin, time and patience!
|I supply my bellropes un-varnished for several reasons: you may have a particular type or colour of
varnish you wish to use, you may wish to use a clear or tinted polyurethane instead of varnish, you
may wish to coat the work in a clear thin epoxy.... the possibilities are endless. There are several
dozen shades of varnish and urethanes available, from "spar" varnish which dries a very dark colour
to "Epiphanes", a lighter "caramel" colour, to.... you name it.
The real reason is that I'm allergic to oil-based substances, so if you want the rope varnished, I
suggest you pick up some samples from the paint store / ship's chandlery and try 'em out on some
cotton line to see what you like best, then go for it.
They should be protected with something if they are to be used aboard. If for display only, you may
safely leave them un-coated, or you may enlist an air-brush for coloring the turksheads.
|Bellrope for the ship's bell from USS NICHOLAS (DD/DDE 449)
|You'll pardon me for a moment while I act insufferably proud, but the bellrope below has been chosen by The Destroyer History
Foundation to grace the ship's bell of the USS NICHOLAS (DD/DDE 449) at it's retirement ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008. The NICHOLAS
was named for Major Samuel Nicholas, the Marine Corps’ first commissioned officer and thus, by tradition, the first Commandant,
and her ship's bell was used for all Marine ceremonies at the Marine's HQ, Marine Barracks Washington, from appx. 1970 until 1997,
when it developed a hairline crack. It is being beautifully refinished by the McShane Bell Foundry and will be hung in a permanent
indoor location to honour the ship, the traditional first Commandant and all the men who "went in harms way" aboard her in three
wars. The Nicholas, when decommissioned in 1970, was the most decorated surface ship in the U. S. Navy. I qvell.
Traditional all-cotton, 12" long, brass thimble with eight varnished turks heads on white body. Curvature is due to camera lens.
|PLEASE NOTE: All bellrope work requires a 50% deposit before work will begin and full payment upon completion.
You can thank some jackass in California for this.
|All content these pages ©2004-2010 Frayed Knot
Arts. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use
prohibited without prior written permission.
An 8" overall long by 2.5" wide bellrope done for Capt. R Moser of
Virginia in early 2011. A number three thimble rather shortens the
apparent overall of the bellrope. End is closed off by a 9x8
turkshead and various other sizes are done up the body of
$420.00 2-week lead
This may look similar to the 8" above, but its only 3-5/8" long and it
had to be made up around the thimble AFTER the brass thimble was
forced onto the large bronze shackle. Standard "Big Butt" design
using three 3x5 square turk's heads and then a 9x8 square which
laps over the end and covers the butt. Body covered in "simple"
grafting. Finished off with a 5-point starknot. Altogether a lot of work
and not much fun to do... the shackle's weight kept pulling the work
out of my hands and engendered my learning of some Finnish
sailor-speak. (Did you know you can start or stop a storm by cursing
in Finnish? DAMHIKT!)
This is a "one-off": similar custom work available on application.
Bring thee tha' purse, Lad!
The set of three bellropes above were made for the carrier USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN75) and commissioned by the Deck
Department. A few pics below of the ends of all three and the mounting aboard The TRUMAN of the main 20" rope.
Esthetically, I think a 14" and 4" wide would have fit the bell better, but I'm a snob. The customer gets what's requested.