G L O V E S!
You DO want to buy a GOOD pair of gloves to protect your dainty little epidermis! I favor the 3/4 finger type sailing gloves as they permit one to
use the fingernails to neaten up the turns. They should have a good NON-STICKY leather palm and finger surface but still be light weight.
One thing to note: when getting gloves be SURE that there is a good covering on the LITTLE FINGER: Most of the force of coxcombing is
applied by the side of the little finger and the glove either must protect that or you need to tape it as per the following paragraph!
You will be doing some heavy pulling and will tend to wear out the border between the fabric and the leather on the outside of your little fingers,
so I take some "Celotex" or "Transpore" by 3M, which is a plastic medical tape, and tape wherever I see a wear point developing. Its not
expensive, it doesn't really interfere with your flexibility and a $3.00 roll of tape from which you'll get thirty uses is a WHOLE lot cheaper than
several pair of new gloves!
It also helps to run a piece of tape down the outside of the little finger and onto the side of the palm BEFORE you put the gloves on: This helps
keep the line from creating a pressure point and eventually bruising the flesh.
Of course, if you're one of Robert Service's loggers "what stirs his coffee with his thumb", you'll probably sneer at such "milque-toastian"
precautions, but : Lissen up, kids. I been doing this stuff longer than some of youse has been breathing, and I USE GLOVES.
As always, your suggestions and critiques of the tutorials are encouraged!
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"COXCOMBING" refers to any sort of fancy work applied to a tubular surface to "dress" it up, provide a handgrip, act as a
chafing guard or just to pass the time while at sea whit nothing else to do. At one time in the Navy, every rail would be
coxcombed with varying patterns and putting it on, keeping it painted and repaired and replacing it at intervals was a large
part of the apprentice deck-seaman's life. It taught precision, patience, and gave a knowledge of laid rope that would have
been unobtainable otherwise for the average
Sadly, with the geometric diminuition of ship's crews in the modern Navy, there is little if any time for the sailor to indulge in
this pastime and so it is slowly passing from knowledge, except as a curiosity.
On the following pages, I will show how to do the basic coxcombings and (if I can remember) some of the more esoteric
types of the art.
Supplies: Many people will head for their local "Servi-Star" or Ace Hardware, Home Despot or Lowe's and look for line to do this..... Don't
Bother. The best you'll find is Mason's Cord and it is neither consistent enough, tightly-laid or the same colour throughout a single ball at times.
Contact MARTY COMBS for cotton and some hemp lines in a myriad of sizes. He also has MANY wonderful books and tools on his site
as well... damage to your wallet is NOT my problem, d'ye ken?
For radially-woven lines in MANY colours, some excellent hemp (tarred and un-tarred) and a stunning selection of tools and knowledge, Bob
Dollar at R & W Rope is an excellent resource for the knotter.
TOOLS AND REQUIREMENTS:
Some are basic and you've already thought of them or bought them in the past, but there's a few....
See below for line suggestions. The quality of your work is directly proportional to the quality of your materials.
A sharp ( !! ) single-edged knife
A spool of sail or whipping twine for stropping the line to the work.
A sharp AND a dull pointed awl.
GLOVES (see below).
A few old pillowcases... seriously!
Saran Wrap (or any clear wrap), to cover the completed work until you can get it varnished / painted / whatever. This will
protect the work from the many handprints and smudges that come when the General Public (or the owner of the vessel) comes along after
having shoveled coal, eaten greasy fried chicken or applied hair pomade to his four remaining strands and wants to "see how it feels". Strop
the saran wrap to the work at six-inch intervals and use the sharp knife to cut hands off at wrists if necessary. (Bloody civilians!)
The pillowcases (or old socks or camping "no-see-um" bags) hold the line as you
are using it. Elsewhere I allude to "hanking up" the raw line to make it easier to
pass around the work (probably already in place...) and what I normally do is to
take the requisite length of LAID cotton or nylon line, secure one end to a door
or ladder and then, holding the line semi-tightly in one GLOVED hand, "walk" it
out the length and let the extra tightness in the lay unwind as I do so. If the laid
line is (as is usual) somewhat over-laid and has a tendency to kink up, this will
relieve the tightness in the lay and make the next step much easier to accomplish.
Once the line will lay smoothly and not curl over on itself, take one end, stick a
bout five inches under your watchband and start doing a hand-coil of the line,
walking along it as you do so. This will produce a nice coil of line which you then
will put a rubberband around and stick into the (sock)(pillowcase)(no-see-um bag)
with the end under your watchband sticking OUT of the container. Secure the
open end of the container with something that will close it off but not constrict the motion of the line as is pays out and you
have an essentially non-tangling hunk of line you can pass and re-pass around the work. It will occasionally tangle up
inside the container, but if it does, just repeat the process in this paragraph and you should be able to do a long rail with
only one or two repeats of the operation.
BUT!!! I got a great suggestion from IT2 Tim May USN,
to wit: do a CANNON-CHAIN of the line and THEN stick
in your deployment container. (#2868 Chain Sennit)
This is actually a good improvement!
Whatever you do, be sure you can (if doing a bulkhead-
mounted rail) get the container between the rail and the
bulkhead! If you can't, either consider doing a doubled container (half in one bag connected to a second bag so you can
pass sufficient line to allow you to do the entire stretch in one shot), or doing a two part job (NOT preferred!!) and splicing
the coxcomb with the splice on the lower and inner facing part of the rail to hide it. This is (again) NOT a preferred way of
doing things as you have to splice well in advance of the need and it's a bugger getting it to look right.
The ONLY ways I know of continuing an interrupted coxcomb are to long-splice the line or to cover the transition point with
a turkshead. EXTRA line can be re-purposed: Insufficient line cause severe psychosis and alcohol dependency!
Before we go further, I should tell you that I know in advance that many of you will want to coxcomb some part of your boat,
your car, your girlfriend (Girlfriends done at a discount.... usually...) or yourselves but simply won't want to spend the time, effort
and skin to learn this.
I do this for a living, and I travel the East Coast of the U.S. I can be tempted to other locales and climes but I will probably
refer you to someone who works (on the West Coast)(in Canada) (Somewhere cold and nasty).
IT IS NOT CHEAP. Please email me for a quotation if you so desire or just to talk about the possibility of getting this
done for your (whatever) and have "Kleenex" handy.
bag in use