While doing some research on knotting for a side project, I came across coachwhipping. Essentially, it is a type of whipping that used to be on ships wheels. It’s really more like braiding in the round then most other types of whipping.

First project

My First Successful Attempt at Coachwhipping

What drew me to it the most though was that almost nobody seems to know how to do it anymore! I’ll admit, the more obscured and difficult, the more I want to do it. I scoured many boating and knotting sites trying to find a tutorial on how to do it. I did find one in a sailboat forum, but the pictures wouldn’t show up and the description was not clear and used a lot of boating terms (I mean really, why do you have to say seize the rope to the wheel, why not just say attach or affix the rope to the wheel!?). I also found an illustration by the International Guild of Knot Tyers, which really just confused me all the more. Finally, I found a picture taken from a book, 100 Fast and Easy Boat Improvements, on a site called Stingy Sailor. I had read the blog post on the website that went through the process of coachwhipping but there was no real explanation on how to do it. I later found the picture from the book on a google image search. From there, I was able to work out how to do it. There is much more to the process then is shown on the illustration, but I have worked some of that out.

I’ve only tried doing it a couple of times, but I want to document the process before I get caught up in some other new craft.


Before you begin:

  • Read through all of these instructions as I may forget to mention something in the first place.
  • Pick out the piece you will be covering (I suggest starting small).
  • Pick out your rope or twine (don’t cut it yet!)
  • Make sure you know how to tie a constrictor knot or similar.

Preparing your rope:

This is where I got totally confused initially. The illustration I was following showed 6 strands, but I assumed it could be done with any number. After doing my first try in 6 strands, I realized why it was shown that way. In order for the braid to work out, you have to begin with a number of strands (or sets of strands) divisible by 6. 

Ok, now that you know how many strands or sets you want, you can cut your rope. I’m sure there is some formula for how long to make your rope in association with the length of the piece your covering, but I haven’t got that far yet, so you’re on your own there.

I found that cutting my strands twice and long and doubling them make for easier attachment to the piece. Don’t forget to divide your final number of strands by 2 if you do that.


  • Attach your rope to your piece with a constrictor knot or whatever you feel works best. This can be a bit difficult if you have a lot of strands, so good luck!
Crossing the front

Cross the two front strands

  • Before you begin braiding, cross the two front strands or set over each other. I’m not sure if it matters which one goes over which. I forgot to do this initially so many of the following pictures will not show the front two crossed.
The First Pass

The First Pass (I know it looks like I’m pointing to just the two strands, but all four of the strands are my working set)

  • Divide your strands or sets into two equal sections. Take the first set from the back on the left side and work it around in a clockwise manner to the front. You should start braiding by going under the first set on the right side and end by going under the last set on the right side. Because I have six sets of four, my first working strand will go under, over, under.
Back after first pass

This is what the back will look like after the first pass. The set in the middle will be the working set for the next pass

Second Pass

The second pass

  • For the next pass you are going to start with the first set on right side and work in a counter-clockwise manner, braiding through the left set of strands. Your last under should be the last working set from the prior pass.
After first two passes

This is what the front should now look like (I forgot to cross the first two sets before taking this picture)

  • Continue braiding in this method, alternating left and right sides. As you braid, shift your sets at an angle towards the back. This will make the braiding more even between front and back.
Halfway point

About half way through

  • When you reach the bottom you can tie another piece of rope or twine around the braiding to keep it in place (or seize the strands if you want to be really nautical).

Finished but not yet tied off

Finished and tied

Finished and tied

  • Enjoy and show off your new skill!
  • I’m planning on finishing the ends with Turks Head Knots such as you might see on a bell rope, but I don’t have time at the moment (real work has to be done now).

If you’re a strange little creature like me, and like all manner of unusual and not entirely useful crafts, check out Frayed Knot Arts. Excellent website on knots for boating, I’ve learned a great deal from this guys website.

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