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Serving thread


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Hi everyone. I am a new member. I will be serving line for the first time with my next build. It would be most helpful to hear any wisdom or advice from experienced riggers regarding the serving process. Especially which serving thread products/brands are best for the task. Does the rigging rope material (eg. natural vs. synthetic) affect which type of serving thread to use? What size diameter thread do you choose for a given diameter of rigging rope? Is fly tying thread suitable? I have a lot. Any other issues I should be aware of?

Many thanks in advance.


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It is all a question of building scale. However, the finest yarn you can put your hands is probably the best for serving in the popular building scales - in reality, it might still be oversized.


I am using fly-tying thread myself. However, I would shy away from monofilament, even though it is the thinnest material you can get, because it has more 'wirey' properties and might come loose, when handling the served rope. When serving, the yarn has to be really tight around the rope. It also important to stretch the rope before, as rope, of course, becomes thinner, when stretched and, hence, the serving will come loose. It might be a good idea to treat served rope with lacquer or paint as soon as possible to keep everything together.


A rope-walk and a serving machine would be useful, if not even necessary. With a rope-walk you can split commercial yarn (including the fly-tying one) and recombine it to a suitable one, if needed. A serving machine allows you to serve the rope tight, while it is stretched out between two hooks.

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Most of the rope you would serve will be the largest diameter in your build as it is usually shrouds that get served. In many cases thread works OK. The shrouds in my current build are 0.035" and a fine thread will do the job. I use Gutterman silk.


The same thing Welfack mentioned hold true for seizing as well.  It's very easy to use something too big for your scale. That's when the fly tying line really shines. Although I will say it takes a little practice.

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In the fiber industry, I think yarn has a specific meaning - the first stage in twisting up natural fibers.

At least in the case of linen, the progression is:

plant fiber -> yarn -> line/thread -> rope

-> = twist up to

linen fibers are pretty much larger than cotton thread, but in larger scales, make impressive looking scale rope.

Cotton fibers are so fine that I think that it pretty much starts as thread as far as availability.

There was a time when most of us would have been up close and personal in the process of turning wool fibers/hair into yarn.


Silk thread comes in fine diameters.

Cotton thread comes fairly fine.


Although my focus is largely on hull fabrication I give thought to scale effect on paint choice and rigging.

I think the eye sees rigging as being larger than it is, so I am considering ignoring the compulsion to match scale

rope diameter to its full size counter point.  I am thinking that a hair finer in diameter would look better.

In the case of busy work like serving line size, I am thinking that more than a hair finer than scale would actually look

more authentic. It has to be neigh on to impossible to get the gaps as tight as full size.


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I believe sailors call 'yarn' everything thin that has not been twisted into a tight rope. I recall a lively semantic discussion in a German forum about such issues. Sailors tend to be less strict in the use of their terminology, although individuals might be quite insisting on the use of certain terms, than industrial technologists.


Serving may occur on all sizes of rope and, hence, the material used on the prototype may range from 'yarn' to thin rope.


Incidentally, I have simulated served rope in very small dimensions by copper-wire that is covered in silk, as was used in electrical and electronic equipment in the old days. For years it was difficult to obtain, but more recently some companies seem to cater for the radio restoring trade and the likes. While the rope as such looks convincing, it is not so easy to make good eye-splices.


Silk covered wire can be obtained here (https://www.wires.co.uk/acatalog/craft_col_silk_covered.html) for instance.

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I am sure that you are correct, and no offense was intended.

I was being pedantic and technical because, rather than being at a conversational level,

I was thinking that some may try to source materials on line, based on this discussion and

some commercial sites tend to be rigid in their descriptions of what they are selling.  A lot of times,

you have to be a member of their club to know what are the actual sizes of their items.

 Linen tended to be a nightmare in that regard.  Now, you are lucky to find anything to be 

frustrated with. I think one site I found was only interested in selling shipping container volumes, from India, I think.

The site was so obtuse, I couldn't be sure.

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You are right, when it comes to buying things, one needs to be sure of the terminology in order to get the right stuff. However, I often find that even salespersons are not well trained anymore in the stuff they are selling ... and the English on Chinese/Indian web-sites sometimes can be, well, challenging ...

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Thank you Wefalk and Jaager for your lively and insightful discussion on fibers, threads, yarns and silks. 

Danny, thank you for the link to your Vulture build post showing various aspects of your serving work. I can get a good sense of the diameter relationship of serving thread to rope diameter from this. The black quilting thread sounds like the right stuff. There is a feeling of realism to your serving work. How do you like the Domanov machine?. I was looking at it but a bit expensive. 


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18 minutes ago, Michaelf said:

How do you like the Domanov machine?

It works fine when you set it up correctly (Setup Instructions are included). The only addition I would have made to it is a bar to hold the thread spool. One of these days I'll get around to making one myself and attach it. The powered version is great, gives you both hands free if you need them.


:cheers:  Danny

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