Meet Mark Hurst, the man who makes DIY hammocks from old tug lines on a Great Lakes freighter. Spending upwards of three months on the water can drive a person to get pretty creative. Self-taught, Mark has made around 30 DIY hammocks, of which he has sold seven, raffled off a few, and donated a couple.
How does someone start such a project? After Mark heard about two other boaters making hammocks, he was hooked. “I thought: if these other people could make them, I should see what I can do, right? Besides, they burn the tug lines when they break. Now I’m repurposing the rope. It’s like recycling,” he says. However, the project didn’t begin until Mark came across car seats (made of wooden beads) in the United States. “They’d always break and I would have to repair them. After a while, I cut it all up and saved the beads,” he says. This launched Mark’s 10-year DIY hammock journey.
Something you should know about Mark is that he’s thrifty. He only buys materials, if it’s necessary. For example, rather than purchasing rings (used to hang the hammock), he retrieved them from discarded safety belts.
How do you make a DIY hammock?
“Once I get the tug line, I untwist the strands of nylon into 20-25 separate rows to use for beading,” he says. After, Mark tosses the rope in the washing machine for a sparkling white and soft finish. Believe it or not, a whole mile of rope is required to make one hammock. It comes in handy working on a 750-foot-long freighter.
He weaves the rope on a two-by-four piece of lumber for the loom, a device used for knitting, and measures the material with a door handle and a piece of tape on the floor. Afterward, it’s time to prepare the rope for the springer board (used as a stand for the hammock), which was once made from old broom handles. Only now that he’s run out of brooms does he buy American yellow poplar lumber for its weather resiliency.
Lessons from making a hammock
The process isn’t always smooth sailing. While Mark learned to use reef knots, it took a little trial and error at first. “The Algoma bear didn’t turn out right when I tried it. I found that the pattern of my X’s and O’s (which represents knots and beads) were in two different directions,” says Mark. The solution? He had to turn his paper 90 degrees—it wasn’t in the correct orientation. With the help of his wife, his second mate, Allen, and a lot of persistence, Mark was able to create the pattern he imagined.
The next step is beading. “I cut out the beads from the car seat, drilling every bead, and painting each one in the engine room, where the heat is,” he says. He paints all 4,244 beads (for a small hammock) and 6,000 beads (for a larger one), using Caribbean blue, black, red, or white paint. Although, since the hammocks required so many, he started to run out of beads. Luckily he was able to find the same ones at Canadian Tire. He even drove to all Canadian Tire retail locations from Niagara Falls to Hamilton, buying up every last one.
Mark dedicates anywhere from 130-230 hours over the course of a few months, on a hammock. Unfortunately, this passion project is coming to an end, as Mark is working on his last hammock since the company is changing the type of rope they use. But, he’s not finished yet. Mark will use the remaining material to repair lawn chairs.