Spars, Rigging, Sails
Though very few people choose to splice their standing rigging there are many advantages to doing so. First, there is no work hardening of the wire which is what really shortens the life of standing rigging that uses either swage or mechanical end terminals--a splice is flexible along the entire length. Second, a proper splice is extremely strong, often exceeding the breaking strength of the wire. Third, the splice does not suffer from rust and subsequent cracking like swage fittings and none of the wire is hidden so you can fully inspect it ( if you don't serve it). Fourth, it is far less expensive to splice your own rigging than pay to have it swaged or buy Sta-loks. Last, you can repair/replace your rig anywhere without having to find a swage machine or find new fittings for a different size wire (metric?) if that is all you can find. Granted, most folks won't do this and that's OK, but I find it rewarding. Time will tell if my splices are of the quality they need to be. The pictures to the right are of some practice splices with inexpensive 7X19 galvanized wire--the bottom splice in the lower picture was created today. With the cold temps I probably just keep splicing this next week working on improving my skills. The vise I use is a relatively inexpensive aluminum vise I bought from Elisha Webb & Son Co. So far, it seems to work fine and cost about 1/4 the amount of a high-end bronze vise.
I do believe though that the 7X19 may not be the best way to start learning how to splice because the wire is so flexible--maybe too flexible. Also, each strand of 19 wires needs to be tapered in a very careful and controlled manner and each of the 19 wires is very small and hard to peel out of the bundle in a manner that contributes to a proper taper. I'll be looking for 7X7 in the next few days. I also spent some time "customizing" the vise and my unlaying line and anchor point for stretching the wire out. All in all, a good day.
Having make up a half dozen splices in the last couple of days I am finding the splice fairly easy to make. Today I only needed to refer to the book one time. Tomorrow I think I will be able to do the whole splice by memory. I am developing a feel for the wire and how to use the marlin-spike to make the wire "go home" more easily.
The top picture show six tucks complete. All that is left is the Ashley Quick Taper--a final tuck with just three of the six strands. The middle picture shows the splice with all the the tucks complete and the excess wires held down by a constrictor knot in preparation for fairing. The bottom pictures show the completed splice. It is absoultely smooth. No meat hooks or wires of anykind protruding to prick your hands or fingers.
Brion Toss says you need to learn to not get distracted by all the wires sticking out and focus only on the six that are getting tucked. The first few times it was difficult to not get lost. In fact I had to destroy two splices part way through because I got lost and could not figure out where I made the a mistake. It was like looking at a jigsaw puzzle. I now found it much easier to trace the wires and know where I am at all times. This has proven to be a very rewarding undertaking. I ordered 25' of 7x7 stainless wire to practice on. If it goes well I'd like to move up to 1x19. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
And this brings me to something I have learned over the course of the rebuild of the Far Reach . . . some of the old style ideas I have tried to incorporate to keep the boat strong and simple are not so easy or inexpensive to achieve. In the old days splicing was common and I am sure there were lots of suppliers to help sailors, builder, and riggers get the items they needed to get the job done. But, there are so little of the "old ways" being done that when you can even find the special things you need they are very expensive. I have found it increasingly difficult to break-away from mainstream boat building techniques. For the last couple of years I have been watching with great interest the development and use of Dynex Dux synthetic line as standing rigging. I have talked to some folks that have used it. Most of what I have heard has been very good. It is expensive but it is very easy to work with. It is super strong (twice as strong as steel wire of similar size) with almost zero stretch though it does have what is called creep. The real question for me is UV longevity which Colligo Marine states should be at least 8-10 years in the tropics maybe more since it has not been used that long as standing rigging. I have heard some frustration with thermal expansion and contraction--in other words as the temps drop the rig can get slack if you use dead eyes to tension the rig. But, Brion Toss seems to think it has a great future. There have been interesting discussions on the "Spar Talk" forum about the pros and cons of synthetic rigging.
I still have time to decide what I am going to do but I am beginning to feel like I am swimming upstream with regards to standing rigging. In the meantime I enjoy the splicing. It's not that hard and it is very satisfying to create a nice splice. Now, if I can just find those thimbles.