Heritage Crafts

Fender making

The making of rope fenders for both inland and saltwater craft.
Craft category
Current No. of professionals (Main income)
Current No. of professionals (Side income)
Current total No. of serious amateur makers
Current No. of leisure makers


As far as the inland waterways goes originally the fender would be built round a core of rope. There have been replacement cores used based on rolls of old tyre, rolls of carpet underlay and now moulded solid rubber cores. It can be debated if a move away from a complete rope core makes the fender traditional even if it has a similar outwards appearance.

Fenders for salt water craft could have a core of old rope but side fenders may use chips of cork, indeed historically some makers specified that they were ‘Ships Cork Fender Makers’. The number of fenders made for sea going vessels is very small and mainly is for bow fenders or occasionally a rope fender that goes all round the vessel (this style is more common in the Netherlands). The use of rubber tyres and  inflatable plastic fenders has all but killed the salt water trade in side fenders.


There are two types of fender making, the main differences being in the patterns of the fenders and the vessels they are fitted to:

  • fenders for narrow boats and the inland waterways
  • fenders for maritime boats and classic boats


  • Rigging
  • Decorative sailors ropework.

Issues affecting the viability

  • The hard physical work means that craftspeople cannot continue to produce in a commercial quantity as they get older.
  • Very modest demand for fenders for saltwater craft.
  • There is an overseas demand for fenders in the US and Europe and some fender makers are sending a significant amount of work overseas.
  • Rope fenders can be made bespoke and so can be more appropriate in some maritime situations

Support organisations

Training organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Eric Johns retired in 2017.

There are no full-time fender makers specialising in fenders for saltwater craft.

Other information



  • Jones, Colin R, (1996) The Fender Book
  • Selfe, Ben, (2008) Knots for the Cut (Quicksilver Publications)
  • Popple, Leonard, (1959) Advanced Ropeworking (Glasgow: Brown Son & Ferguson)
  • Pawson, Des, (2016) Des Pawson’s Knot Craft & Rope Mats (London: Adlard Coles)
National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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