Lessons learned from our first attempt at splicing double braid line.

Our First Double-Braid Splice

Last week, we got a new main halyard. And the clerk in the store where we got the line convinced us that we could splice the line around the shackle instead of tying a less-than-elegant bowline.

It really didn’t take a lot of convincing — Dave has always liked splicing three-strand line. Why not learn a new skill?

And so the clerk told us what we’d need: a fid and a 4′ piece of practice line. He suggested a particular YouTube video.

A couple of evenings later, Dave got the fid and the practice line out. We ended up working on the splice together and came out with a respectable first effort.

Lessons learned as we attempt splicing for the first time.

A few days later, we decided to try a second practice splice in the other end of our practice line, this time with the captive shackle. We learned that as we now had less than 4 feet of line to work with (that first splice took up some of the line), there wasn’t enough to work with. We got partway through the splice and had to abort.

We figured we might as well go ahead and do the one for real. We finally got it done and it’s not quite perfect looking although the strength is not impaired.

What we have learned:

  • You need a Splicing Pusher. Everyone tells you about needing a fid, specifically the right size fid. No one tells you about needing a “pusher” but it’s critcal. We didn’t have a real pusher (we didn’t know there was such a thing; we thought they were using “something” as a pusher when they talked about the pusher in the instructions) and were trying to use our icepick, which was too short. We got it done but it was ugly. I want a real pusher before I try splicing again.
  • Practice line. Four feet is too short if you want to do a practice splice in both ends. I’m guessing it’d have to be at least 6 feet long to put a splice in both ends (possibly longer).
  • Strength. It takes a lot of strength to push the fid through the line, particularly when putting the core through the cover. The video makes it look easy. Maybe it is if you do things perfectly. I wasn’t strong enough to get the fid through; it took Dave and lot of grunting and groaning.
  • It looks a mess. As you’re doing the splice, it looks ugly. Really ugly. We were very disouraged and convinced that it wasn’t right. Hang in there. It doesn’t look “right” until the  very last step.
  • Do not try to tape the line to the fid. If you have the right pusher, you won’t be tempted. But don’t try it. The tape will come off on the inside of what you’re trying to pass the fid through and make an even bigger mess as you now have to get the tape out before trying again. Admittedly, the instructions don’t tell you to do this, but since our pusher wasn’t long enough, we were trying to pull the fid out the last bit and when we’d pull the fid, the line would fall out. So we got the bright idea of taping it in . . .
  • Tape tightly. The instructions don’t say anything about this, but having a nice tight pointy end to tuck into the fid helps a lot.
  • The shackle adds conplexity. Splicing a shackle into a loop is much more difficult than splicing a loop. The weight pulls at the lines you’re working with and you have to remember to get both the cover and core going through the captive loop in the shackle. Yes, I oops’d and had to un-do the impossibly difficult fid pass I’d just done. I will never make that mistake again.
  • Time. Our first splices took over two hours; the one with a shackle almost three. Yes, the whole instructional video (below) is about 12 minutes and Andy’s talking and not working through part of that. He’s good and does everything right the first time. We’re learning.
  • New line. Actually, we were told not to try to splice old line and we were working with new line. After doing it, I know why: you need it to be nice and slippery and pliable.
  • Instructions. The instructions that came with our Samson fid were almost impossible to follow. Luckily, the clerk had told us about a great YouTube video by Andy Wall, a West Marine rigger, for New England Ropes. At first we resisted “spending” the data to watch a video, but it helped so much. Without it, we never would have gotten it done. Here it is:

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  • Beth Tyler
    Posted at 29 August 2015 Reply

    Excellent information, thanks

  • Dave Skolnick
    Posted at 29 August 2015 Reply

    If you are willing to throw a small amount of money at the problem there is a great and pretty easy solution. Brion Toss (http://briontoss.com/) has a set of splicing wands that are leaps and bounds easier to use the fids. I still use a fid from time to time on 3-strand but on double-braid, single-braid and other complex lines I only use splicing wands. Brion has a number of great videos that are worth every penny (http://www.briontoss.com/catalog/videos.html and scroll down to eye-splices). I did my first eye-splice at sea on a transatlantic and today, nine years later, that splice is still doing its job. I keep Brion’s videos on my iPhone to brush up when I haven’t spliced in a while.

    My first splice took about 45 minutes and when I am doing a bunch they run about 10 minutes.

  • Brian Heiney
    Posted at 29 August 2015 Reply

    Funny, as when I read the title I knew exactly what you were going to say. I went through the same exact torture. I was also going to suggest the same video that your supplier suggested. It’s the best on YouTube by far! Keep splicing. It gets much, much easier. And honestly, you’ll find that the tape and fid works just fine. A pusher is nice but you don’t need anything too fancy. Especially with larger diameter line. However, unless you do it every month you’ll need the video as reference so keep it in your favorites. Splicing is a rewarding venture! Well done.

    • Brian Heiney
      Posted at 29 August 2015 Reply

      By the way, just had another look at the picture you posted with the article. Looks just fine! Seems you were able to get the core a long way down through the cover which adds strength. One suggestion, especially since it’s such a critical joint, add a whipping to the end where your core taper is popping through your cover. Use the needles and a nice sturdy thread and pass the whip finish through the middle a few times. (4 to be a perfect whip finish) When splices fail they slip out and this will prevent that from happening. At the very least, you have a warning of seeing your loop around the shackle slowly closing in. Either way, a main halyard failure wouldn’t be too much fun even in the best of conditions. The whipping will prevent this most of the time. Happy splicing!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 30 August 2015 Reply

      It has to get easier . . . seriously, it couldn’t get harder. I do want to try some more.

  • Dawn Read
    Posted at 02 July 2017 Reply

    Good one, Lucky. Do we own a “pusher?”

  • Rose Trew
    Posted at 02 July 2017 Reply

    Chris Trew

  • Mike Turner
    Posted at 02 July 2017 Reply

    Awesome video!

  • Joyce Johnson
    Posted at 03 July 2017 Reply

    We bought a couple of fids, I watched the video and tried hard. To me it was like watching a movie where two people kiss, and then next picture, they’re smiling with a baby. They left out the giving birth part. Saying you need a pusher or something is an understatement, cause I couldn’t get everything up through the tight hole.

  • Rosalind Franks
    Posted at 03 July 2017 Reply

    I’ve probably watched that video a hundred times. It has helped me to do about 20 splices. I hope at some point I have it memorized – excellent job!

  • Thomas Mathews
    Posted at 03 July 2017 Reply

    Yes, it’s true. Andy Wall made it look easy. I bought a set of fids of different sizes, and it came with a pusher. Good investment.

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