Throughout history, all decorative sailor rope work was classified as Marlinspike seamanship. There are two major types of tools aboard ship for working rope or wire cable. Fids are used for soft line and primarily made of wood. The word marlinespike is derived from the name given to a sharply pointed, iron pin that is used to splice line. Marlinspike seamanship refers to the line (rope) and the methods of working it, such as knotting, splicing, seizing, rigging, and tackles.
Wood tar is a kind of turpentine extracted from pine and typically was used to waterproof the standing rigging and canvas. The process of applying tar was used aboard ship to weatherproof other objects as well (as on the cane pictured below) therefore preventing the natural fiber line from rotting.
Marlinespike seamanship and the knotted artwork associated with many of these utilitarian items are highly sought after just as is sailor-made scrimshaw.