written by Sarah Sjøgreen


Worming a spliced wire.

I could be called a perfectionist and have to control it a bit so I don’t spend too much time on details that aren’t important. But on the ’fartøyvernsenter’ I have been allowed to let the perfectionist loose and we have done rigs that are partly done as we believe right and partly as we have seen done on older rigging found around Norway. But is it being a perfectionist when it is the quality of the product that is the reason for all the work? We believe it is worth doing a thorough job from the start so that the rig will last a lot longer.

We go through a fair few steps when dressing a wire and they are all important for the end result.

  1. The wire has to be greased. We normally use tallow.
  2. Worming the splice. I normally use spunyarn and make an effort to fill out all gaps and grooves so the splice is nice and round and elegantly thin out to the dimension of the rope. The worming is not only done for the look of the splice but it will also help to make serving easier and without overlap and gaps, due to not having lumps and bumps. And if water should make its way through the barrier of canvas and serving, it will not spread far because there aren’t any grooves to run along. If the wire isn’t fully served, then I’ll make sure that the worming pokes out of the serving at the end /start to then cut off when served. That way there aren’t any gaps where the water can sneak in.

Regarding rope, there is a slight difference from wire; it doesn’t have to be greased like wire and when thinning the splice I like to leave the yarns separated from the splice attached, and then use them as worming. Rope is as a rule wormed under the serving because the gaps between the strands are deep.

Worming a wire. It may be needed to fill in with more spunyarn than showed here.

Drawing by: Sarah Sjøgreen.

When worming spliced rope I like to use the yarn/strands.

Drawing by: Sarah Sjøgreen.



  1. Parceling is the next step and is always done before serving and over the full length of the serving. I prefer to use lighter cotton canvas, others like to use burlap sack, but it has to be of natural fiber. In any case, the material is cut into strips 5 to 7cm wide and 1 to 3m long. What I would say should be avoided is tape like gaffa and electrical tape. I was on a ship where we had to change all footropes, backropes, stirrups etc: In a matter of five years water had come in by the splice and run down the wire and when I opened up the tape, orange water flowed out and the wire was in a poor state. Some use sportstape and it may do well, I have no experience with that over time, but it feels like a the strips may be too narrow for my taste.

The parcelling is laid with the lay from the deck upwards, and will converge at top of an eye, where they’ll overlap. I make sure to lay it as tight and smooth as possible. ’between the legs’ where an eye meets the splice, it is hard to avoid gaps in the serving, so it’s important the parceling is doing its job and securely covering any openings. Here we make a ‘nappy’, that is a piece of canvas cut into shape and laid ‘between the legs’ and around the ‘body’ (the splice). If the eye is going upwards like on the stay, the nappy will have to go on top of the parceling from the splice and under the parceling from the eye (working from bottom and up with the parceling) and the opposite if the eye is going downwards. I use thin twine to secure the parceling when changing to new strips and so that it won’t curl up while serving at the splice. It is usual to soak the parceling in linseed oil before use or to tar it once on the wire before serving.

smerting og blei

The parceling is done from deck and up. Here its showned where the eye of the splice will point upwards like on the stay. The overlap will then lay like tiles on a roof. The ‘nappy’ can also be seen on the drawing. Drawing by: Sarah Sjøgreen.


  1. Serving is done with tarred spunyarn. I prefer hemp but artificial fiber is used a lot. I can’t say what is best but as I see it they both need the same amount of maintenance because one will rot if exposed too much to water and the other one will dissolve if exposed too much to sun, but I usually don’t like the thought of covering anything with plastic. A major thing to think of is the environmental issue of use of plastic when a natural product is available and will do the job just as well. When serving a serving-mallet is used and is done against the lay of the wire or rope. It is very important to get the serving as tight and close as possible. Any gap can allow water to get through. When serving an eye before splicing it, I leave each end untied with a long bit of spunyarn and parceling. When the splice is done the parceling can be laid with the proper overlap and served all the way up to the splice.
  2. Where it is necessary to double serve, parceling is done again with the same care and with the lay of the wire and the serving is done against the lay as before. We double serve the places where it’s hard to make repairs or a lot of wear will happen like up around the mast and down around the deadeyes.
  3. One further detail that we have seen done on the old rigs is that it has been normal to parcel once more up around the mast, continuing a bit further down the slice or seizing. It seems to be a very good thing to do and it is easy to change the parceling when the mast is down and it isn’t holding moisture the same way leather does (I have seen this used on more modern rigs). To tie it on we use marlin tied with marlin hitches a few inches apart all along the parceling.

Something that I feel like mentioning is maintenance of the serving. Natural fibre has to be protected against water and rot, and tar does an excellent job of that. But artificial fiber has to be protected against UV, and even that the tar may help a bit, although it is far from the best on the market. As an example the blacking used in the fishing industry on their equipment (there are different brands to pick between here) does a very good job in protecting the artificial serving, and it dries a lot fast than different tar mixtures.



When I say we do as we believe right it’s because we rarely get a chance to open up these old parts of rigging to see what is hidden to the eye. So we have gone by some principles on how to protect the wire, what has been seen to have been done before, and have combined it with some methods that seemed right. But now we have been given rare chance to take an old pair of shrouds apart bit by bit and see how it was done. I believe the rig to be old since the eye up around the mast is seized together with rope of hemp and all the spunyarn used is of hemp too and is handspun. I would estimate that the spunyarn can’t be from later than 1935.



It wasn’t with big hopes for the state of the rig that I started. It didn’t look too good. But as I made my way through the layers of good craftsmanship I got more and more excited.

The rig had been left outdoors on the ground for years and bore clear signs of that, with vegetation growing on it and bits falling off because of rot. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t get far before it was clear that this was a job well done and in better state than I had expected. The outer layer of serving and canvas was in places falling to bits and very rotten, but just underneath the first layer of protection I found the condition much better. Up around the eye where an outer layer of canvas had been used, the serving underneath was in a fairly good state, but from there on and in through the parceling-serving-parceling, there were no signs of rot at all. It was clear that the parceling had been soaked in linseed oil and plenty of tar had been used. Under the three layers of parceling and two layers of serving the wire appeared. At this point I had kind of forgotten that it was an old rotten rig I had between my hands and was disappointed find some rust on the wire. But then I saw the small sprouts of plants that had started to come out in the heat of the work lamp a bit further down the shroud (it was hard frost outside that beam of light and they would otherwise regret showing them self soon enough!), and I realized in how good condition the wire actually was. There wasn’t much rust at all where there had been two layers of serving.





To the left: The wire under parcel-serivng-parcel-serivng-parcel.

To the right: the wire under parcel-serving.

It is a rig that shouldn’t be put back in use but when we consider its age, the conditions it has been kept under and the lack of maintenance, then it’s doing rather well.

The rig that was new just some five years before the picture was taken. It’s clear to see that the protection wasn’t good enough and rust is developing rapidly.


It was a bit of a contrast to the rig on board a schooner I had been on a few months before. There the backstays for the jibboom had clear signs of rust development through the serving and it was only some 5 years old. It proved to me that even though the modern wire is better than the old, it’s still in need of good protection where hard bends and chafe are and of course at the splices. If an old rig in those horrible conditions holds up that well and a well kept modern rig begins to rust just after a few years, then I’m now convinced that it is worth the boatowner’s expense to get a rig that has taken a longer time to make but will hold up for so much longer.