Marlinspike seamanship

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.

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Marlinspike rope work sailor made tarried cane with Turk’s head knot knob. Due to wear and beautiful hard, original patina it is dated 1850 perhaps earlier, but 19th century. This cane, unlike some that were knotted for just shore side use, was tarred for use aboard ship. Note the fancy hitching; this stick terminates with a silver ferrule.
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Overall length 33-1/2″.  Old tarred items become very hard, with a patina as shown in these pictures.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts