How To Splice A Line

Many times, you will find that you need a "loop" in the end of a line for various purposes. The proper way to do this is by making an "eye" splice in the end of the line.

Splicing is the sailor's art of joining any two parts of line together permanently. The most important step in splicing is the start. If you start it wrong, the entire splice will look messy and unbalanced. If you get it right in the first step, the rest will follow quite easily.

To properly prepare a line for splicing, un-lay the end adequately (untwist the ends of the line from each other about 7 or 8 " up) and whip each strand with a temporary whipping of "small stuff" which is simply wrapping them with twine. This not a necessary step but when you are finished with the splice, the ends will need to be secured in some manner to prevent raveling so if you do this first, you will have no need to do anything else to the ends when you are finished with the eye. If you do not do this first, you will have to burn the ends with a rope cutting gun or take other measures to keep it from raveling.

Before beginning to splice, you will need several tools (unless your fingers are tough enough to intertwine the line back into itself without hurting your fingers.) If it is new nylon or cotton, I normally only use my fingers. If it is older line that has grown stiff or hemp, I normally use a tool to open the line for feeding the ends through.

The first tool you will need is a knife. The second is a marlin spike or fid. Normally, a marlin spike is used more to splice cable than line and a fid, which is made of wood, is used to splice line but…it is a matter of preference, I suppose. If I use anything at all, I use a fid. I have a set with 3 different sizes.

A marlin spike is made of steel and is about 1 inch in diameter at the butt, tapering to a point.

A fid is a wooden tool similar to a marlinspike but larger …1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter at the butt and tapered, usually over a foot in length but they make shorter ones, which I use. It is generally made of hardwood, such a hickory and it should be smooth or you will snare the strands that make up the line.

Either tool is used for opening the lay of line at the point where a strand is to be introduced

Four tucks will hold any splice, providing they are full strands; i.e., not tapered off. Tapering off is made after the fourth tuck and is done by reducing each of the strands by one-third; tucking, reducing by another third; and, finally, tucking and burning off close unless you have had the foresight to wrap the ends with small stuff before beginning. You can also, instead of using the tapering method or the wrapping method, use a rope cutting gun to simply burn the ends of the line that were too short to splice to seal the strands.


The eye splice is the strongest type of line loop and may be formed around a thimble, such as when attaching to an anchor. A thimble is not necessary if you just want a loop or eye in the end of the line for other purposes. This will be covered in another section at a later date.

After you have "unlayed" a section of the line, use the fid or marlinspike to lift one strand of the standing part. (The "standing part" is the line itself that hasn't been unlayed.) Tuck one of the unlaid strands under it following the lay or pattern of the layed section or the standing part. Now draw the section you have just tucked taut to make it neat.

This strand will be called Number The other two strands are to lie on each side of this middle strand, again, following the "lay" of the standing part so it will all come together nicely. Actually, you are simply going to re-lay the line in reverse order. In other words, back in upon itself.

Keep the eye towards you and the strands and standing part of the line away from you.
Now, take the left strand, tuck it from right to left under the next strand of the line and haul firmly taut. (See figure 2.)

The last strand is to be tucked to the right. Give it an extra turn and tuck from right to left.

Make certain the three strands are properly taut (all equally so) and each under it's proper strand of line. Also, make sure the eye you have formed to this point is the required size and the eye itself is not distorted in any way.

Now, repeat the tucks in the same order until the end strands are too short to work. You can "fair" the splice to some extent by rolling it under your shoe or pounding it gently with a wooden or rubber mallet. This will aid the appearance of the splice and cause it to lay more evenly. When you finish, your eye splice should look like figure 3
with all of the parts woven evenly together.

If you did not wind the ends with small stuff before beginning, remember to use a rope cutting gun to burn the flat ends that were too short to tuck. Not much, just enough to seal the strands that make up each "section" of the line.

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