Monday, 26 March 2012

Making a traditional Rag Mop

I know this has been covered before on many different web sites and blogs but I thought I would detail my version here.  I have said before that I remember boatmen using ‘Croxley blanket’ for making the best rag mops but any supplies of this material used in the paper making industry have long dried up.  So here I have used what I consider, apart from the colour, a good substitute.
1 off 8’-0” (2400mm) X 1 ½ “ (35mm) diameter dowel (B&Q, Wickes etc about a tenner)
1 off rubber tap washer (B&Q, Wickes etc pennies)
1 off 4” x 3/8” ( 100mm x 10mm) coach bolt
1 off 2” (50mm) of 1 ½”(40mm) plastic waste pipe.
I roll of standard masking tape
1 piece of cotton open weave material (enough to make about 20 pieces 15” x 3” (375mm x 75mm)
1 tin of striped paint or
1 tin each of red, yellow, white, blue and green.

1 off ¼ “ (6mm)drill bit
Bowl of boiling water.

Method (handle)
Ensure when you select the piece of dowel that you choose a piece that has little knots and is made out of one piece (they are sometimes made out of pieces of timber glued together along its length which can be recognised by the zig-zag cut joint going across the dowels width.
To prepare the coach bolt you need access to a grinder so that you can grind the bolt down along its length to a tapering square section.  Years ago they used hand forged square ‘cut nails’ which were abundant at wooden boat builders yards but again now as rare as hen’s teeth.
Start by shaping one end of the dowel with whatever means at your disposal ( wood chisel, carving knife, sanding disk, grinder, sandpaper etc) just to take the square end off it and round it up somewhat. Now concentrate your efforts on the opposite end.  Start by removing the sharp edge off the other end with sand paper to put a slight taper on the very end to act as a leading edge.  Take the 2” length of plastic waste pipe and remove any rough edges etc from the inside of the diameter with a sharp knife then pop it into a container of boiled water.  After it has stood for a minute or two carefully remove it and locate it on the leading edge of the dowel.  Making sure it is on square, use a large mallet or hammer etc and knock it onto the end of the dowel the full 2” so that the end of the dowel is level with the end of the plastic pipe.  Now use a soft leaded pencil to mark the centre of the dowel on the end you have fitted the plastic pipe, using the ¼ “ drill bit, make sure you are straight and level and drill a hole down the middle of the end of the dowel to a depth of about 4”.  It is at this point that I usually paint the mop as it is easier to handle without its head.
Start by preparing the dowel with smooth sand paper then an all over coat with a good undercoat(I use an all purpose grey primer) You will find that standard masking tape is not far off the right width to make four spirals along the length. Use a pencil to put a mark on each of the four quarters around the one end of the dowel, split the circumference into four and mark with a pencil.  Fix the edge of the tape against one of the pencil marks so that it is running at about 15 degrees to the dowel , then rotate the dowel which will wrap the tape along its length.  Repeat with a second piece of tape starting on the opposite pencil mark to the first.  After you have two parallel pieces of tape then wrap a piece of tape around the dowel about 12” from the handle end. Paint between the two pieces of tape to give you your first two stripes.  When almost dry remove the tape then leave to dry.  When completely dry, paint between with the other two colours, when these are dry paint the handle end and the plastic collar at the other end green. (the colour order for your four stripes are White, blue, yellow, red.)
Method (Head)
Lay out your strips of cloth in the following fashion on top of a wooden surface (suggest you don’t use the kitchen table) lay them out like the numbers on a clock face with each one covering the gap between the last two until the area is completely covered and all your strips are used.
lay one vertically, lay next horizontally, next 45° down, next 45° up, then alternating sides spanning the gap between two existing strips until all strips used.

Take the rubber tap washer over the end of the tapered coach bolt and push it down to the underside of the head.  Place the point of the bolt on the centre of the piled up strips of cloth and hammer it through, lift the mop head off the bench/board and push the bolt right through the cloth.  Locate the end of the pointed bolt into the hole you drilled in the end of the dowel, then hammer home until the bolt goes right into the handle and grips the cloth between the bolt head/washer and the end of the dowel.  Place the mop onto your cabin top, stand back and admire.  Next you need to learn how to spin the mop to dry it!
Ok so there you have it, your own traditional rag mop for just over a tenner, so no excuses now for not keeping your boat clean, and in emergencies can always be wedged down the side of your boat so you
don’t bang ‘em about.


  1. Thanks Blossom, that's now on the to-do list. I think Jim might even have some big old cut nails hidden away somewhere.

  2. aha thats how its done and if dad hasnt got some of them nails somewhere I will be very suprized

  3. that is so good. i like this picture.thanks

    Paper Making Industry