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Making splicing work easy by investing in a fid

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What is the issue?
Ropes are a key part of any sailing vessel and have been for centuries. In reefing, mooring and controlling sails, lines are necessary to the function of the craft. Lines will often require a looped end (or eye), created with a termination. Knots and splices are commonly used for these terminations, with splices being ideal for lines that do not need to be altered. However, working ropes through each other to create a splice termination can be slow concentrated and laborious work. This is especially the case when working with large or very tightly wound ropes.

Why address this?
Not only do spliced ends make rope work very much simpler, the eye splice has several technical advantages. The most notable is the permanence of the loop and the lack of stress it puts on the rope. Splices on average only reduce the line strength by 10-15% with a good splice reducing it by as little as 5%. A technically perfectly tied splice retains 100% of the original strength of the line, but only a trained professional is considered capable of performing this task. A reef knot, by comparison, can reduce the break strength of a line by 70-75%.

The splice is the safest and most robust way to terminate a line, and the more you do makes the job quicker, and the more likely you will be to make them.

How to address this?
Invest in, or make, a special splicing tool called a fid, often also known as a Swedish Fid. A fid is a conical hollow spike used to hold open knots, holes in canvas, and to separate the "lays" (or strands) of synthetic or natural rope to assist the creation of a rope splice.

Comercially available Swedish Fid
Photo: Michael Harpur

Fids are a low cost worthwhile tool, but they can be easily homemade. Simply clamp a copper pipe in a vice at about a 10-30° angle to the vertical and then make an oblique cut down the pipe with a hacksaw. Clean the rough edge of the cut and round the point with a fine file. This should be followed by rubbing with fine abrasive paper and wire wool until it is perfectly smooth. Then place a comfortable handgrip in the other end by inserting a piece of wood, as below, or something as simple as a cork stopper.

A homemade Swedish Fid
Photo: Rasbak via CC ASA 3.0

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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