How to Make Rope Tensioners for Period Tents

by Will Charpentier
Tent rope in the foreground shows a tensioner at work.

Tent rope in the foreground shows a tensioner at work.

If your period tent has loops through which you feed the tent rope, tie the rope to the loops and use rope tensioners to keep your tent ropes tight. You pull the tensioner farther up the rope to effectively shorten the length of the line from the tent to the stake. You can make your own tensioners with some basic tools as long as you know the diameter of your tent’s rope.

1. Count the number of ropes you normally use to set up your tent. If you’ve never set up the tent before, count the number of loops. Once you make the right number of tensioners, you might need more ropes and, perhaps, more stakes. You can make substantial tensioners from lumber wood that’s at least three times as wide and six times as long as the thickness of the tent rope.

2. Measure a distance equal to three times the diameter of your tent ropes from one end of the lumber with a try square. Mark a line across the width of the wood at 90 degrees to the direction in which you measure. Cut the wood on that line with a circular saw. Measure the piece of wood’s width at one end with your try square, and divide the measurement by two; this is the center point of the width.

3. Mark the center point of the width and repeat the process on the other end of the wood. Use the straightedge of your try square to draw a line between the two marks. Divide the length of the wood by three. Measure this distance, using your try square, from each end of the wood and draw a squared line across the wood. Select a drill bit the size of your tent rope and insert it into your drill.

4. Drill holes the size of your tent rope where the centerline crosses the lines that divide the wood into thirds. Thread the tent rope through one hole. Tie a secure, bulky knot, such as a figure-eight, in the end of the rope. Don’t tie the rope to the tensioner. Make one tensioner for each loop on the tent, plus one or two extra, since things do seem to get lost when you go camping.

Items you will need

  • Lumber


  • You can make a tensioner from lumber as small as 1 inch by 1 inch -- the actual size is 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch, if you're using finished, nominal lumber -- if your tent ropes are 1/4-inch nylon or other synthetic line.
  • Although the holes in the tensioner are the same size as the rope that passes through it, the tension on the rope causes the tensioner to twist longitudinally and put the rope in a bind. To add tension to the line, pull the tensioner toward the tent. To decrease tension on the line -- to strike the tent more easily, for example -- move the tensioner toward the stake.
  • One-inch-thick lumber works to make tensioners for all but the largest tents, as long as it's three times wider and six times longer than the diameter of the tent rope.


  • If you're working with power tools, follow all recommended precautions.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

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