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How to Splice Three-Strand Rope

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.


To prevent individual strands from coming unraveled, wrap a small section of masking or electrical tape around each of the ends.

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.

  1. STEP 1

    Unwind Individual Rope Strands

    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.

  2. STEP 2

    Tuck Rope End Over End

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

  3. STEP 3

    Continue Tucking Rope Strand

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

  4. STEP 4

    Pull Rope Ends Tight

    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.

  5. STEP 5

    Continue Tightening Rope Ends

    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.

  6. STEP 6

    Cut Away Temporary Whipping

    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.

  7. STEP 7

    Trim Back Rope Strand Ends

    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.

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Mark Corke

Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A marine surveyor and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Mark Corke is one of our DIY gurus, creating easy-to-follow how-to articles and videos. Mark has built five boats himself (both power and sail), has been an experienced editor at several top boating magazines (including former associate editor of BoatUS Magazine), worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel — in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.