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How to Splice Rope

07 Nov 2022

With expert rope splicers such as those here at Jimmy Green Marine at your disposal, it isn't difficult these days to buy ropes that are cut to length and supplied ready-spliced for all your sailing needs. However, whether you've got some old unfinished rope lying around or simply wish to see if you can master a basic eye splice, it can be a fun and interesting experience to explore how to splice a rope for yourself.

With the curious in mind, today we're going to look at exactly what splicing is and examine the humble but ever-essential eye splice, as well as provide direction to some useful resources here in the boundless Jimmy Green archives.

What is splicing?

In essence, the term splicing describes a range of methods that we use to either terminate a rope or connect it to something else without the use of a knot. The reason why we would make this effort is that knots are not only bulky but also inclined to impact the performance of a rope unfavourably. In fact, the tight bends in a knot can reduce the strength of a rope by as much as 60% while the presence of a splice is far more forgiving. Whenever the splice at hand is destined to hold critical loads, that extra fortitude will certainly be appreciated.

A splice is generally a favourable solution to adjoin your anchor line, whether it runs full-length or transitions to a chain. The 2 most common rope constructions used for anchoring applications are 3-strand (twisted) and 8-strand (plaited). 

Your dock lines will likely feature splices too. 3-strand and doublebraid construction docklines are equally popular for mooring in marinas. The latter requires a different type of splice and different tools to the laid 3-strand and 8-strand options which we will not cover here. The versatility of 3-strand ropes allows usage across both mooring and anchoring applications, and they are popular on yachts and power boats of all sizes and types.

Importantly, both these ropes feature individual strands that are made up of many tightly twisted fibres. These individual strands can be eased away from the main body of the rope enough to accommodate another individual strand passing underneath. The process of passing one strand under another in this way is called a ‘tuck’ and is the basic premise for splicing a laid rope such as 3-strand or 8-strand.

You can of course simply order these key anchoring and mooring components ready-spliced from our team if you wish to, but for those wanting to gain a new skill, read on as we explore the art of how to splice 3-strand rope a little further.

Useful Splicing Tools

Splicing Tools

There are a number of tools to have at your disposal when learning how to splice rope. If the line at hand is of a large and fairly open lay, you may be able to manage with a marlinespike, however, we recommend a Swedish fid for greater ease and a neater result.

  • Swedish fid: A half-hollowed spike that allows you to easily work the rope strands apart and insert them between each other. 
  • Whipping twine: This will allow an optional neat and secure support to the throat of the splice once complete
  • Sellotape tape: A useful tool for marking and holding the point to which the strands of the rope will be separated.
  • Knife or scissors: To cut the rope.
  • A lighter: In the case of synthetic line, melting the ends will temporarily prevent unravelling.

The Many Types of Rope Splices

The various different types of rope splice employed by professional riggers number far too many to cover here—and more often than not, their creation reflects years of impassioned training and retraining. However, some of the more common types that you'll likely encounter and may choose to tackle yourself include:

  • Rope to chain splice: A strong and neat way to join a rope to a chain, often used in anchoring.
  • Hard eye splice: Otherwise known as an eye splice with thimble, this variant of the eye splice tightly holds a metal plate that runs the full inner Length of the eyelet to prevent chafing.
  • Soft eye splice: Used to create a tidy loop on the end of a rope that is ready to bear a load.
  • Back splice: Used to neatly and robustly end a rope.

Types of 3 Strand Rope Splice

Creating a 3-Strand Eye Splice

Very simply, an eye splice creates an eyelet on the end of a line. The rope doubles back on itself and at the point where the join is intended, the individual strands are interwoven back down the rope's length to make a strong and secure join. As a rule of thumb, those using natural rope should use a minimum of three tucks for each strand, and those using synthetic a minimum of four. However, here at Jimmy Green, we prefer 5 tucks for each strand plus an extra tapered tuck.

Step 1. First, tape the line at a suitable distance from the end to provide you with excess to work with. Unlay the rope's strands to the tape. Promptly stabilise the individual strands with tape or a lighter before they begin to unravel.

Step 1- how to make a 3-Strand Splice

Step 2. Decide on the size of the desired loop and mark where the rope end (the tape from step 1) will meet itself.

Step 3. Fan the unlaid strands apart with the centre strand facing upward and one to the left and one to the right.

Step 2 and 3 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 4. Turning to the point on the rope where the splice will join it, lift a strand with your fid and tuck through the centre strand of your unlaid three, being careful to maintain its twist as you pull it through to a neat tightness.

Step 4 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 5. To make the next tuck, look to the left-hand working strand, and at the point of the rope to which it will be attached, lift, and insert it under the strand above the last one, heading in the same direction and once again pulling it through.

Step 5 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 6. For the third tuck, this time, you'll want to take the right-hand strand of the three you unlaid and feed it under the strand below the one you did the first time—so on the opposite side to the most recent one.

Step 6 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 7. After pulling them to equal tightness, check that the tucks are correct by ensuring that they all enter the rope in the same direction and exit in parallel to one another. This is now one complete round of tucks.

Step 8. With the hard part done, proceed with 4 further rounds of tucks. This means complete a full round with 1 tuck per strand before proceeding further up the rope with any 1 strand.

Step 7 and 8 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 9. Once all of the tucks are in place, roll the splice back and forth to smooth and even it out. Get a visual here for comparison.

Step 10 and 11 - How to make a 3 stand splice

Step 10. You can either cut the tails as they are at the end of the 5th round or you can create an aesthetic taper. The taper is created by choosing 2 strands for 1 additional tuck each, then choosing 1 of those 2 to go 1 further tuck again. The result should leave the 3 strands exiting the rope in a straight line down the rope.

Step 11. Once completed, trim the strands close to the exit point leaving a small amount to be sealed with a lighter or left as they are. Note, if you cut them too short, the last tuck may pull out when the rope is first put under load.

Finished 3 Strand Splice

Going Further with Spliced Rope

For those who take great pride in knowing how to splice a rope, we can assist with further guidance. For example, help can come in the form of the exceptional Marlow Splicing Guidebook or through our innovative 8-strand Anchorplait©, which features specially designed coloured Easy Splice Markers© to make the otherwise complex 8-strand splices easier to complete.

For those keen to spend more time out on the open water than sitting around with a fid, the seasoned rigging team here at Jimmy Green Marine can carry out a broad range of splices on your behalf. In fact, there's little that they can't accommodate as a custom order, so if in doubt, reach out to us today to discuss your needs, and let's get you out on the water!

Related products

Swedish Fids

Swedish Fid

Selma Splicing Fid, individual
Marlin Spike
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Marlin Spike

Marlow White Whipping Twine size 8
Marlow Cordless Hot Knife
 D-splicer ceramic knife
Author: Team Jimmy

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