Lexington KY
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Last updated  2006-12-20
Ron collects and uses fids, bodlins, prickers, serving gear, mallets and boating knives, and has kindly sent us some pictures of
his collection:  we hope that they will continue to come, as they are most interesting.  Click on any pic for a larger verzion.
Top: a walnut or oak fid
Center: a most unusual steel fid ... never
seen one with that center bulge before.

Bottom: a small sheathed pricker/bodkin
(small fid) with it's sheath.  Handle looks to
be either ivory or bone.  Note the screw
threads that kept bodkin in its sheath.
Left: A rigger's knife and sheath
with a small marlinspike which
fit in the outside pocket.

Right:  a marlinspike w/ sheath.
The spike has a turkshead
Left: a "serving mallet" which was
used to put tarred marline around a
larger rope
Center: a tiny (and most unusual) fid
Right:  a nicely turned wooden fid,
again either of walnut or possibly
Lignum Vitae (Live Oak).
L to R:  A whalebone fid... common in the 18th c,
but now quite hard to find;
A 'turned" wooden fid;
Knife, spike and sheath:  This looks to be an
"American Olean" boater's knife (probably pre
A sheathed bodkin/spike with wooden handle;
Another boater's knife with sheath.
Top:  a brass mallet, used for any
number of jobs around ships:  it will
not make sparks, if has a softer face
than a steel mallet and is much
stronger than a wooden mallet.  Used
extensively to "beat-in" a splice in wire

Bottom: Lignum Vitae fid.  Lignum is
highly prized for rope tools as it is
VERY dense and will not "catch"the
fibres of a rope when working it.  It is
also a very heavy wood and a bugger to
turn and machine smoothly.
A "married" pair of fid and
mallet: a ropeworker might
drape these around his neck
when doing a lot of
successive splices so that
the tools were readily
at-hand when needed.
 "Worm and Parcel With The Lay, Turn and Serve the Other Way".

One of the biggest enemies of any rope on board a vessel is rot, and rot comes from a line being wet and then not allowed to dry out
before stowing, or just from continued use in a watery atmosphere.  You need only look to the nearest water vessel to find these

To prevent their cordage from failing, especially in the "Standing Rigging",  many of the lines on a ship were served.   The rope was
tarred and then small pieces of tarred marline were laid into the grooves where the parts of the rope twisted about each other, called
"worming";  then the assembly was wrapped, or "parcelled" with strips of linen, also tarred.   This filling-in of the rope's contours with
the worming and parcelling gave a nice, round profile to accept the "serving", which is where the "Serving Mallet" comes in.  Small
tarred line (marline) was wrapped around the rope to be served, then  the mallet was placed on the rope and a few turns taken
around the "shoe" of the mallet: more for a tighter service, less for a looser service.  The line then wrapped around the handle several
times and the whole was rotated "against the lay" of the rope, or opposite to it's normal twist, producing a tight coat to the worming
and parcelling and stiffening the rope considerably in the process.  The result was then tarred again and this produced the strong and
weatherproof ropes used for holding the masts in place (the shroud lines) and the hawsers used to connect ship and anchor (the
"rodes"), as well as any number of other lines which needed to be waterproof and weather resistant.  Even today, a well-served set of
shrouds, even of wire rope shrouds and standing rigging on a yacht is proof of the owner's or Master's care and concern for the
More tools when
Ron send pics!

BACK to TOOLS page
One of Ron's favourites... a Case folding
double-blade knife with case and
Another nice knife... a Hoffritz
"hunter" in a Linder-style case
with a marlinspike.  This may
be a Linder case, but it fits the
Hoffritz like a glove.  
Interesting Klein Tools spike... these were
made for electricians but were widely adoped
by seamen as the spike was strong and
nicely balanced.  Also a Dunham "piercing"
spike,  designed as a hollow fid for pulling a
splice thru a rope... a nice idea but it proved
difficult to get the doubled-over  strand thru
the tucks... largely replaced by the "Swedish"
style hollow fid.
Ron is working on some descriptions, among
which will be the size of this eating / fighting knife
beautifully hafted in ivory or bone and
hand-engraved and coloured by someone very
talented.  VERY pretty knife!
I jus' feckin' LOVE this job!