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redbopeep 12-02-2008 07:57 PM

I decided my "fun for Thanksgiving weekend" project would be learning how to properly do wire splices. Our new rigging will employ thimbles and eyes rather than mechanical terminals. The underlying reason for this is self sufficiency. We figured that one of us should be proficient at the task of wire splicing. I figured that my husband has way too much on his plate--so many things that only he can do because only he has the strength to do them--so I would be the person to learn how to properly splice.

Going on the advice of a professional rigger, I obtained 30 feet of 5/16" 7x19 wire rope and a couple thimbles. 5/16" is the optimal size to start with as its big enough to see everything and small enough to handle. Our rig will have 3/8" wire, but its 5/16" to start with learning>/smile.gif

So far, so good, but I must admit that my first splice was horrible--I didn't even make it through the first round of tucks before I gave up and started over. My second spice was somewhat better but nothing to be proud of. Too loose. My third splice has one major kink in it but is a bit tighter and looks better. According to my rigger friend, now I only have about 7 more to go before they start looking ok>/rolleyes.gif

After the 7x19, I can move on to 1x19>/ohmy.gif which is supposed to be very difficult. Lucky for us, we can use 7x19 in our rig if we desire rather than the stiffer and less stretchy 1x19...

Has anyone here on Cruiser Log done a lot of wire rope splicing? What are your own experiences?

captkev69 12-04-2008 12:03 AM

hi there

as a merchant seafarer I have to do a bit of wire splicing of wires of various sizes and for various different applications.I am wondering what sort of application you are intending to use the wire for ,I assume it is for standing rigging which makes it easier to splice as when you have done the first tuck ,you can go over one under one six times .this splice is called a 'cornbeefer ' on aussie ships and british ships,we use this splice for stays for light posts foreand main masts etc.

Another one which will get you out of trouble is a flemish eye ,which is where you unlay 3 strands from the wire and then make an eye and wind it back together after putting a over hand knot in it.To further secure this splice you can either seize it with wire or tarred marlin or wire rope clamps .When puttig a thimble in with a swage I always insist that the riggers do this on bigger wires and I do it myself when doing smaller wires doing it myself.

The most important thing is to prepare your wire before you splice and have all the tools on hand.All the people I know who do splicing always do 6 tucks and seal the splice wth grease and then serve it with tarred marlin ,then every 3 months we treat it with lanoline liquid or spray which soaks in gets absorbed by the heart.

hope this helps you somewhat in your quest to be be more self sufficient.


redbopeep 12-04-2008 01:23 AM

Wow, someone who has done many wire splices>/smile.gif How large is the wire you typically work with? larger than 3/8"? How long does it take you to do a "Cornbeefer" in 3/8" wire?

I've done what you call a "Flemish Eye" before. I'm told by a couple professional "traditional" riggers that it can't produce a splice as strong as the wire itself whereas a Liverpool splice, done properly, can. Therefore, what I am doing now is learning to do a Liverpool splice. And, yes, its standing rigging that will have all these spliced thimbles. The example I'm following is in Brion Toss's Riggers Apprentice and is illustrated by Jamie White on his site here.

I haven't been bothering to properly serve my wire in the thimble before the splice since I'm just doing "practice" splices. After a couple more, I'll also do the serving for the part inside the thimble. I note that our existing standing rigging has what looks like Liverpool splices in a few places and the wire round the thimbles was served with leather rather than the marlin which I intend.

Here in the US, most yachts have standing rigging done in stainless steel and with mechanical terminals. We've rebuilt a classic wood schooner and would like her rigging to be more "traditional" as well. Thus, I'm planning on parceling and serving the rig. Since that's in the works, of course, we're talking about galvanized rather than stainless rigging (which we've heard doesn't do so well under all that serving). Here I'm told to seal the marlin with a mixture of Stockholm tar, linseed oil, turpentine, and japan drier and to re-coat the rig with this mix every year. The wire used will have a wire heart rather than fiber, so we can only count on the parceling (under the serving) to help soak up things which displace water.

I've been on a search for anhydrous lanolin here for some deckplate threads, etc, and it seems very hard to find, btw.

After I've completed the task of poking my fingers full of holes, I'll have to decide if it's really "worth it" for me to do the work myself. There are at least 46 thimbles that will have to be done in 3/8" wire for the rig. Thats quite a bit of splicing for someone like me>/huh.gif .

Nausikaa 12-04-2008 07:42 AM

Like Kev, I have done a lot of splicing in my navy (both merchant and miltary) days. I always favoured the navy splice. This was a little unusual because the first two tucks were the locking tucks and made with two strands each. They passed, crossed únder the same two strands of the "standing part" and, being crossed, formed the lock. After that, it was a simple matter of over and under.

Bigger wire dimensions are, imho, easier to splice although you really have to fight with the strands. The worst job I ever did was to splice a sweep (cutting) wire on a minesweeper. It was like trying to splice a rope whoich had been soaked and then kept in a freezer so that it resembled an iron rod more than a bit of hemp.

Keep at hi though. Splicing is a good thing to know.

Aye // Stephen

MMNETSEA 12-04-2008 12:27 PM


Originally Posted by redbopeep (Post 28325)
I've been on a search for anhydrous lanolin here for some deckplate threads, etc, and it seems very hard to find, btw.

Hello Brenda ,

Here is a supplier of what you may be looking - I have used it and really recommend :-

Click HERE


redbopeep 12-04-2008 04:59 PM


Originally Posted by MMNETSEA (Post 28340)
Hello Brenda ,

Here is a supplier of what you may be looking - I have used it and really recommend :-

Click HERE


That's exactly what I'm looking for. I'll email them, just in case they have a USA distributor.


captkev69 12-05-2008 09:41 PM

hi brenda

yes the cornbeefer is also known as a 'liverpool splice'and the only difference between mine and the one shown in the excellent site you added is that I do a locking tuck for the first tuck ,I use this lock tuck on all my splices .Ok ,since you are rigging your boat the traditional way ,another suggestion is to splice the upper part of the wire and do a seizing on the lower part with 3 seizings .This is what we did on various tall ships I have sailed on over the years as it also served the dual purpose of keeping an eye on the tension (it is easy to replace ) and if the worst was to happen it was easier to hack through 3 seizingsto jettison the rig .It takes me about an hour to do a liverpool splice from the start of preparing the wire to when it is ready to use and be put up in place.The main reason I suggested the flemish eye was that I assume that you will be somewhat restricted in your workspace aboard a smaller vessel .The flemish eye will get you out of the poo in heavy weather if you should lose a wire until you can replace it either in port or when the weather abates if on long ocean passage.The wires I normally do it in are anything from 10 mm to 28mm so they are a little bigger than what you work with.Another way of serving your wires is to wrap it in cavas strips and put marlin seizings on and then use deodourised fish oil every 6 months which is what we do on my ship at the moment this also lets us check the wire as we recoat it with a wad of rags whilst coming down it in a bosuns chair .it is easier to check the wire from the deck for dry spots which could mean there is a problem due to loading or stretching.We do our seizings 1 mtr apart so wecan also have a new wire ready to go at the right length in little time.Another thing you might want to look into is seizing the bottom end of your wire onto a monkeys face or deadeye and then you can use manilla instead of a rigging screw to tension and tune your rig.this also looks and is traditional and worked for hundreds of years on all size sailing vessels and we still use this today for gripes on the ships lifeboats and we replace these every 2 years whether they need it or not,it is cheaper and easier then trying to get the right size rigging screw . I hope this helps you out somemore. kev

ps try using a pair of leather rigging gloves with the finger tips cut out for both splicing and serving this will save your hands (it works for us pros ).

redbopeep 12-05-2008 10:51 PM

Oh, thanks for your reply! Its so rare to find someone with knowledge and interest in traditional rigs!

Now I'm going to have to look into that "locking tuck" you mention as it sounds like a good thing. ALso, I need to find some of those rigging gloves quickly. My hands are surviving but my forearms are getting poked way beyond my liking. If I did this very long I'd look like someone who's been trying to slit her wrists numerous times>/tongue.gif

Your discussion of using seizings on the lowers for ease of cutting away the rig and ease of replacing the thimble is very timely for me. I've been in search of solid bronze thimbles which would pretty much last forever but they come dear ($$$); I'd have to have them cast a local foundry in order to cut back on that cost a bit (then, of course, all the finishing of the castings...and they're still costly), else, I'd be working with galvanized thimbles which won't last the life of the rig. On the site I linked to above, there is a picture of a "harness splice" which looks like perhaps one could cut away the seizing between the thimble and the splice to replace the galvanized thimble from time to time. This might also suffice rather than just seizings on the bottom end.

I happen to actually like the look of nice, neatly done seizings. I've seen served shrouds done with 3 seizings and with a little brass/copper cap over the end of the wire (assume to protect from water ingress) and that whole set up looked quite spiffy. For some reason, my husband doesn't like the look of just seizings--I keep trying to tell him its "cute, old-fashioned industrial looking" but he's not buying that>/rolleyes.gif Since I'm the one doing the splicing, he's got no reason to think of labor saving via seizings either...Now, you've given me good ammo for another reason to do seizings--safety of being able to cut away the rig easily. Of course, all the engineering numbers on the matter say that if you design a rig with such seizings, the termination should be rated as only good for 80% of the wire strength so that puts a little damper on the idea of safey, eh?

When we get the masts stepped and the rig first up, most the lower terminations will actually just be "cable clamped" in place. This is due to, first, the fact that the rig and the boat itself have changed a bit during the rebuild so we're unable to just measure off the old rig and second, the high cost of work dock space/time at the boatyards with the cranes to step the masts make it important to get in and out of their space quickly. Once the rig is up, when we get back to our own marina, we'll be able to do the lower terminations one-by-one splicing and re-tensioning the rig. I had a fellow who's done it this way give me the scoop on serving all the way down to "almost" the area of the expected splice and then finishing the lower service once the splice is completed.

Yea, I know a couple folks (who have schooners of similar size and vintage to ours) who have used deadeyes and lanyards to tension the rig. We have the original 1931 rig plan for our boat and it always did have rigging screws, though.l We happen to have some really good condition bronze Merriman (some of them new old stock) rigging screws to work with and would like to use them for the new rig. Else, I'd have taken us down the deadeye path already>/smile.gif. You note using manilla where most folks I know with yachts do a traditional rig with synthetic marlin and syntheic lanyards. The historic tall ships seem to use the natural materials, tough.

Which tall ships have you been working aboard? Are you currently with a tall ship? If so, that's wonderful>/smile.gif

captkev69 12-06-2008 02:00 PM


Originally Posted by redbopeep (Post 28384)
Oh, thanks for your reply! Its so rare to find someone with knowledge and interest in traditional rigs! .......

Which tall ships have you been working aboard? Are you currently with a tall ship? If so, that's wonderful>/smile.gif

hi brenda

first things first lets protect those wrists and forearms ,the gloves we use have an elasticised wrist bands so even good gardening gloves with an elasticised wrist bands will do.At work we wear overalls all the time so we have our sleeves down but any good heavy duty long sleeved work shirt will do if tucked in to the gloves .cutting the tips out when working with marlin will save your finger joints and stop the calluses building up ,I learnt the hard way when I was a young deck boy being taught by an old square rig bosun on my first trip awayto sea at 16.

The splice I still do today is the one he taught me 30 years ago.I will do my best to describe it to you step by step including preparing the wire and some tips to keep you out of trouble.The splice I will describe to you can be used for both soft eyes and hard eyes (with a thimble) in any size or type of wire except 1 x 19 which is best done with a mechanical swage.

1) measure 2 or 3 times and cut once allowing about 18 to 20 inches in your measurement to allow you to do the splice easily and pull the strands through.

2) prepare your workspace ( I assume you will be doing this in a shed or some sort of workshop .The best type of homemade setup is if you can get some decent steel pipe 6 inches thick and cut to 3 foot long welded to a square piece of flat plate steel with four holes drilled in it to bolt it to the floor .Then get some pipe that will fit inside and rotate freely you then weld some flat plate on top of it ,your vise will be bolted on to this top plate .Then drill 2 holes right through both pipes so you can rotate the top plate and use the holes to lock it with a half inch or 3/8 bolt that will go right through .Directly above this at a height that you reach above your shoulders around eye level if you can bolt a jawed pipe vise which can hold various sizes of wire.Get your tools ready ,wire spikes ( car exhaust valves cut down and ground to a rounded point ,a good length I find is about 8 to 10 inches long and what was the valve end turn it down on lathe to a size that is comfortable to hold in your palm).A pair of bolt cutters to cut the strands when finished.A rubber mallet about 2 pounds.A pair of vise grips to help pull the strands through.A pair of clear safety glasses .Aroll of marlin and a sharp knife.

3)put the thimble on the and and bend the end around making sure you have about 9 inches above the thimble.then cut 3 pieces 1 foot long of marlin and seize the thimble onto the long part of the wire with one and then bend the wire tightly around the thimble and seize it in the middle of the thimble and then seize the short end in the thimble ( make sure the wire is as tight as possible in the thimble with no movement if possible).You can now put it in the vise,make sure that the top of thimble is just showing so you put the wires together .Now you can put the long wire in the pipe vise or somehow secure it tightly so that it can't move at all.Now rotate the vise 2 times the opposite way to the lay so it is easier to push the strands through.

4) now unlay the short end of the wire into strands and do not cut out the heart yet.Number the strands 1 to 6 clockwise,1 is the closest 1 to the long wire .

5)put num 1 strand through the wire under 2 strands tto the right of the heart

6)put num 2 strand under 1 strand to the right so it comes out beside num 1 on its right .

7)put num 6 under 3 strands to the left of the heart so it comes out to the left of strand put the heart through the same hole as strand 6 and cut it off as close as you can to the long part .

8)put num 5 under 2 strands to the left so it comes out to the left of num 6

9)put num 3 under 1 strand so it comes out to the left of num 5

10)put num 4 through the hole num 3 came out of.Hopefully all the strands should be coming out of separate holes.Now use your vise grips to pull the strands as tight as you can .

11)now you can bend num 4 around the strand you put it under and put it under either 1 strand for a liverpool splice or under 2 strands for a working wire splice.that is the first tuck and you are now into the second tuck.(I always go under 2 strands and keep on going over 1 under 2 working anti clockwise,at the end of the second tuck they should also be coming out separate holes.Now you take the splice out of the vise and with the mallet hit the splice away from the thimble and the strands should following the lay of the wire and be nice and tightand there should be no movement from the thimble.Now you can pick any strand and go over 1 under 2 and also work anti clockwise.these should alos came out of separate holes and be level .

12)now pick a strand and tuck it under 2 and then take the wire 1 strand over in other words you tuck every 2nd strand after tucking a strand .so after tucking 3 strands over 1 under 2 ,you tuck the same ones again over 1 under 2 .The splice should now have a nice taper to it .now take it out of the vise and beat the sh&one&t out of it working the splice away from the you can cut the strands off and bury them .The splice should be nice and tight and have a taper to you can put lanogrease on it and serve it . hope this helps you out and if you have any problems send me an email at ;captkev69 at

Nausikaa 12-08-2008 08:50 AM

Just a very quick word of advice.

A Liverpoool splice can unravell itself if the wire is designed to spin. You can use it on standing rigging but do not use it on anything which can turn, such as a lift wire.

Aye // Stephen

redbopeep 12-09-2008 05:34 AM

CaptKev...The rotating vise sounds much better than what I am doing right now for unlaying the wire rope>/smile.gif Thanks so much for your help.

I just received a call from the wonderful rigger whose great website, The Squarerigger has the Liverpool splice teaching, is going to be in my town in late December and he's planning on stopping by to help me with my splicing technique>/smile.gif Merry Christmas to me, Merry Christmas to nice!

Nausikaa--I didn't think about using the Liverpool splice for anything other than my standing rigging. Thanks for the tip, though, just in case I might try to use it for something else.>/smile.gif

tel 12-18-2008 02:26 AM


Persist with the wire-splicing. You are already a desirable woman, in that you sail. If you sail and splice wire, you will go into the ultra-desirable category. You will have such allure. Regards - Tel.

redbopeep 12-18-2008 03:24 AM

Tel, I'm really beginning to feel sorry for you guy-sailors. But I'll pass on your opinion to my husband when I want to tell him that I think he's a lucky guy>/smile.gif Like when he's complaining that he's the one climbing around under the engine in the bilge, yea, that's a good time to bring it up.

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