The manufacture of wire rope is similar to making rope from natural yarns or synthetic filaments. The individual wires are first twisted into strands; six strands (usually), twisted about a core rope, are then laid into the rope. The cores are cord or rope structures made of steel wires; sisal, manila, henequen, jute, or hemp fibres; or polypropylene monofilaments. The function of the core is to provide a firm cushion for positioning the wires in the strands, to maintain a firm rope structure, and to provide some internal lubrication when bending stresses are involved.
Most wire ropes are used in hoisting and hauling operations and in machinery for these purposes, such as cranes, power shovels, elevators, and mine hoists. A flexible rope structure to cope with fast movement and bending stresses is required for most such uses. In other uses, such as support guys and stays, this property is not so much a consideration. Selvage cables composed of parallel wires are ideally suited for the main cables of a suspension bridge. Marine ropes are used for rigging, mooring, and towing.