Brion says that the Liverpool splice is easy – using himself as the evidence (according to his master rigger) that “any idiot can do it.” While I have taken a few goes at it, it wasn’t until we decided that we needed the aft deck of a boat for an installation that I decided that properly done traditional rigging was needed. So I bite the bullet.
For those not in the know, the Liverpool splice is a technique to splice wire rope. This apparent impossibility is rather well explained in Brion Toss’ book “The Rigger’s Apprentice” and slowly I am coming to understand what is going on. I can highly recommend this book for its clarity, humour and usefulness. Okay, maybe not its humour. Although I do chuckle at it.
Someone said that one is ready with one’s proficiency when one has done as many splices as one has years. This seems reasonable for 20-somethings, but I am feeling the pinch. Soon I will be a third of the way through this apprenticeship. Jamie White says two dozen. Slowly slowly. Toss mentions that one needs about 40 hours of practice to be a good splicer: at my current rate, that would be about 37 splices in 6mm wire rope. I like this better than the years version, but it is still a lot of galvanised wire and squid wrestling.
Whatever the number needed. I feel like I can begin to share my experience with the splice, to make some notes so that next time I take up my spike and vice, I will be able to read these notes and not make all the same mistakes again. Like; if taking a short pause, don’t use some hand cream to make your hands feel better. Gripping the wire afterwards is impossible. Damaged skin seems to make the process easier.
The setup is quite easy. We have made a splicing vice from some thick steel bar and some M8 bolts. I think I need to cut back the front edge: I seem to have a lot of scratches from it and I sometimes feel like it is making it hard to get in close to the thimble. Speaking of thimbles, I am not sure that the ones I am using for the 6mm wire rope are the right ones. They seem to force a quite tight curve in the wire.
The thimble vice goes in a table vice, then the wire rope gets tied off with a length of rigging wire to stop it unravelling about 25 cm from the end. Around the thimble and into the vice, holding it all as tightly as possible, as well as as exposed as possible.The standing part then gets tensioned out to something a few meters away. I used a G-clamp on the wire to hold it: suggestions of a better solution are welcome. Then to unravel the wire rope a bit, I used some natural fire cordage, did an Ankerstich/Prusik/Cow Hitch/… on the rope with three inserts and used a piece of wood weighted with a heavy G-clamp to unwind the lay of the wire rope 2-3 turns. Unnatural cordage is too slippery to grip the wire rope and unravel it.
The process as Brion explains it is fantastic. The special entry for wire number 6 works well. I am unsure about the best way of inserting the core/heart into the splice nicely. All examples so far are sort of okay. But by no means perfect.
The tapering with 3 whole inserts, then removing two wire strands for a 4th insert, then another pair of wires removed for the last insert, seems to taper nicely. I also noticed that using the thin side of the spike I can guide the working end into the cuntline/contline better and get a smoother splice.
After hammering/ pounding the splice, the easiest way to cut the wires seems to be to bend them backwards and forwards along the groove of the wire, the cuntline. This breaks off the wires well below the rope surface, removing the “meathook” danger. However I had two cases where the last insert, after being trimmed that way, undid itself. So there was one insert too few, as well as long meathooks hanging out. Not sure what to do about this: it was the last splice for today and was a bit mean looking. I cut them off with sharp wire cutters.
Now the two lines, which are intended to be fake stays for the installation, will be served with tar soaked hemp line. That will be the subject of the next post.