Rope tricks and DIY piso projects


El Guapo and I have done many house projects over the years, ranging from repairs to painting to kitchen renovation. When we’re in Spain, we’re always renters, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much to do. But even here, when a drawer falls completely to pieces, we feel called upon to put it back together.

I’ve mentioned that our current place is sort of a half-bedroom apartment. Its diminutive size is matched by an extreme scarcity of places to put things. There’s a little roll-top desk that is holding our stash of things like sunglasses, pens and pencils, scrap paper, and a few sewing supplies. There’s a closet where we have most of our clothes, a high shelf for our suitcases, and a single dresser.



That gaping hole at the bottom is the scene of the–we can’t call it a crime or a disaster, as it wasn’t dramatic–but we might call it “the coming-apart.” What had been a drawer resolved itself into five separate rectangles, mostly pressed board, and assorted bits of hardware, almost as many as the manufacturer had intended.

Given that the drawer represented a substantial share of the storage space of the piso, we determined to try to counter its coming apart with some putting back together.

We had a bottle of glue in our supplies from last year, and a rope that we had just bought (El Guapo is never fully outfitted without a rope). The steps of our re-combining were various, including cutting away strips of plastic lining from the edges of the pressed board–I understand that they wanted things to look nicer, but gluing plastic surfaces together results in the thing that is meant to be a drawer instead becoming a clatter of clutter.

Once we could glue wood (or at least woodish fibers) to wood (ish fibers), we knew we’d make progress. We laid pieces out, we spread glue in slots and on pegs, we even labeled pieces so things would go back together in the order intended. Once we got all the pieces slotted together, El Guapo did some rope tricks.

These aren’t rodeo crowd pleasers, but they’re the sorts of things you need if your furniture is falling apart. Since you might have a chance to use one someday, I’ll explain how they work. The first is a knot we used to tie a long rope into a loop of the size we needed (leaving the excess in a long tail) but in such a way that the knot wouldn’t be pulled so tight as to be impossible to untie later. El Guapo refers to it as a bight (#newscrabbleword), but the knot experts I consulted use that term more broadly. I’ll just show you what it looked like:



Looking carefully at this knot, I realized that it’s a square knot with a slip knot in one of the ends.* El Guapo agreed, pointing out that we tie our shoes using a square knot with a slip knot in both of the ends.† So you already know how to do this–you maybe just needed to know another place where doing this confers an advantage. (El Guapo also explained to me that using a bight is common when you want to do something in the middle of a rope, and you don’t want to pull a long end all the way through.)

The second rope trick is the maneuver that helped us get our drawer back together. When I asked El Guapo what you call the arrangement that’s essentially using a rope as a vice, he said, “using a rope as a vice.” It probably has another name, but we don’t know it.

To begin, you want a rope that forms a loop, long enough to wrap in parallel lines around the thing you need to squeeze. To make a line into a loop in a way that lets you later turn it back into a line, we did the knot featured above. Next, we wrap the loop around the drawer. The cardboard thing here is to protect the edge of the drawer from getting damaged by the rope under tension.



The two rope loops that are the ends of our rope vice need to be able to overlap just a bit:



In the wild, we would use a stick for this next part, but we’re definitely in the urban, so we used the U part of our bike’s U lock:



Insert the stick/rod through one of the loops that has been pulled through the other of the loops:



Now the end of the rod has to engage with the other loop, so we wrap it a couple of times.



And now the rod becomes a crank, which we turn so that the rope loops begin to tighten around whatever we’re squeezing.



When the ropes are tight, you can tuck the end of your crank into the rope so it won’t unwind. (We didn’t do that in our photo shoot because we didn’t have cardboard protecting all the edges, and we didn’t want to stress our newly repaired drawer, even for the sake of a vice-making tutorial.)

Those are the rope tricks we used to maintain necessary pressure on the drawer so it would be sturdy after the glue dried. Once we secured our rope-vice, it was all over but the waiting (and some weighting, for good measure).


milk litros on top to add some weight to the proceedings


I sincerely hope that your drawers won’t fall to pieces soon, but if they do, you now have a strategy for putting them back together again. (I recognize that we’re not in the running for “best tutorial ever,” but if your drawer has fallen to pieces and these pictures aren’t enough to see you through, get in touch! I’ll talk you through it. noteslori [at] gmail, etc.) If you think you’d like to know how to tie more knots, I recommend Here, for example, is a demo of how to tie a handcuff knot. The website’s motto is “Better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it.” How could we argue with that?

Happy tying!


A Carrick Bend Mat


*This means that to tie it you just do a regular square knot but have one of your ends doubled over, or else tie as usual but leave everything loose, threading one of the ends back through the knot before pulling it tight.

†As I mentioned, a square knot with two bights is what most people use to tie their shoes. If you’re tired of your shoes coming untied before you’re ready, here’s a little video about a more secure way to tie your shoes, from Professor Shoelace. (His site is extensive, and includes a link to “shoelaces as seen in the news” and “shoelaces as seen in the Bible”–this man has a passion for shoelaces.) If you just want to see the actual steps of the knot he’s doing, you can watch the last minute or so. It’s essentially what some call the surgeon’s knot.

[Images: El Guapo and Yours Truly,]

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