How To Splice Three-Strand Rope

By Mark Corke

Boaters have been splicing ropes for hundreds of years. We show you how to master the art in a few easy steps.

Splicing three-strand rope is a useful skill. It joins two ropes together of equal diameter, and it doesn't weaken the rope to the same extent as a knot. When done well, the finished result looks neat and shipshape, although the extra bulk may prevent the rope from running through sheaves and around blocks. Practice on nylon rope that's soft and easy on the hands. Smaller ropes are harder to splice, so for your first attempt, use rope with a diameter of three quarters of an inch. Using two ropes of different colors, as we've shown here, makes it easier to spot mistakes and to keep track of your progress as the splice develops. Once you've mastered the technique, move on to smaller ropes. Aim to keep the splice neat and tidy at all times, and take your time. Speed will come with practice.

Splice three-strand rope step 1

1. Unlay (unwind so the individual strands are no longer woven together) a length of rope about 12 times the diameter of the rope, then temporarily tie a piece of whipping twine, or thin cotton thread, at this point to prevent further unraveling. Position the two ends of the rope together, alternating the strands.

Splice three-strand rope Step 2

2. Grasp one of the strands of rope and tuck one end over an opposing strand, then under the next.

Splice three-strand rope Step 3

3. Rotate the rope, and continue to tuck over the first strand, and under the next, as shown.

Splice three-strand rope Step 4

4. Continue with one rope until you have four complete tucks. Make sure you pull the ends up tight, as a slack splice isn't as strong, will kink, and could fail. When you've finished with half of the splice, repeat the procedure with the three strands of the other rope.

Splice three-strand rope Step 5

5. Don't be in a rush to trim off protruding ends. Use firm hand pressure, or roll the rope under foot to get the tucks to sit comfortably. Work the strands up tighter again if a hole appears between the two rope sections.

Splice three-strand rope Step 6

6. Use a sharp knife to cut the temporary whipping from the center of the splice. Be careful not to inadvertently cut any of the rope strands.

Splice three-strand rope Step 7

7. Trim the ends of the strands back (flush to the rope), then singe the cuts with a flame from a match to seal them. The splice is now complete. 

Mark Corke, BoatUS Magazine's associate editor, handles our DIY stories. He's built five boats and has sailed worldwide.

— Published: February/March 2016


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