The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














by Tom Hamernik

Here's the first one - my rope work is still a bit lumpy. I'm saving those "fancy" brass thimbles I bought from you for something special!

Bronze pin
Bronze washers
$0.10 x 2 = $0.20
Polyethylene sheave
Wood Cheeks (from a red maple log)
Linseed Oil
Home-made "Tarred Marline" Seizing
Copper thimbles
$0.08 x 2 = $0.16

Note: Costs are approximate.

Editor's Note: If Tom had used our ready made thimbles it would have tripled his cost. As it is, he used short sections of copper tubing and shaped them with a ballpeen hammer.

Thought you and you readers might be interested in my efforts at producing home-made seizing twine for these rope-stropped blocks:

Home-Made Seizing Twine

When considering what material to use for my seizings, I first considered the traditional material, tarred hemp marline. Hemp, a natural fiber, was not especially well matched to my polyethylene-sheaved and polyester-stropped blocks. And, after pricing tarred hemp marline, I considered whether there are any less costly, yet suitable alternatives. Several of the marine supply houses also carry tarred polyester marline. But, it too is expensive.

In his wonderful rope projects book, "The Marlinspike Sailor," Hervey Garrett Smith describes marline as a two-stranded twisted twine, although he does not indicate the thickness. It is not clear from my sources why it is only two stranded. Perhaps one of you readers knows.

I have not yet learned the composition of the "tar", but, it appears to serve three functions. First, it waterproofs natural fibers, and, therefore, serves as a preservative. Second, its tackiness keeps the fibers together, facilitating the application of seizing. Third, it adds stiffness to the seizing, a characteristic that is generally suitable for seizing applications as far as I can tell.

I decided to try No. 15 nylon mason's twine. Since nylon is not prone to rot, the preservative benefit of tarring is unimportant. But, since nylon twine is particularly soft and flexible and the ends of its strands quickly and easily become unraveled, tarring or some similar treatment seemed appropriate.

In "The Marlinspike Sailor," Emiliano Marino discusses using beeswax on natural and synthetic threads for sewing purposes. Beeswax is tacky and gives the thread characteristics similar to those desired for
seizings. I am guessing that as a natural wax, beeswax is more likely to be susceptible to degradation outdoors than is the tar traditionally used. But, I am also guessing it will serve my needs sufficiently well since its benefits are most useful at the time the seizing is made.

Accordingly, I decided to try beeswaxed nylon mason's twine instead of tarred hemp marline for my seizings.

I purchased a spool of No. 15 nylon mason's twine for about $3 at Home Depot. I found beeswax at a local craft shop for about $10 for one pound. While seemingly expensive, it is cheaper than what the marine supply houses sell. A pound goes a long way. But, since beeswax is also useful when doing other rope work, especially splicing, having extra on hand is desirable.

The beeswax, while slightly tacky, is hard at room temperature. In order to saturate the twine, I first made a cream (with a consistency like mayonnaise) by dissolving about 1/2 ounce of crumbled beeswax with a splash of turpentine in a small glass baby food jar.

Next, I submerged and swirled a loosely coiled length of twine in the beeswax cream until the twine was saturated. Then, I removed the twine and set it aside to allow the turpentine to evaporate leaving the twine stiff and tacky with no loose fibers.

Was it worth the trouble? I am very satisfied with the results so far. Hopefully it will hold up. The first couple seizings seem sound - the nylon appears to be unaffected by the use of the turpentine. And, although stretchy, in the lengths required for seizings, nylon cinched up fine.

Perhaps some of you readers can explain:

  1. Why traditional marline is two-stranded
  2. What is the composition of the "tar" used for traditional tarred marline
  3. What are the standard sizes for traditional marlines and seizings.
  4. If there are any other benefits to using "tar"


Tom Hamernik