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Waxing the threads

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Dear all,

I was browsing my archives and I found the pictures of my first working jig.

I still remember the pride I felt  when I managed -easily- to wax the threads for my then first build.

It was used after the Bounty build with my two scratch builds and still rests in a self waiting for the next build. ( I hope).


It is a rudimentary construction based on similar jig (more refined I must admit) I found in Ship-modeling forum. Since it works, I followed the rule number one: if it works efficiently, just don't touch it!


The principle is very simple:

  • Bring to melting temperature the wax  in the small jar. This can be accomplished if you place it into boiling water (bain marie they call it)
  • Pour some boiling water in the big jar and the then emerge the small one and seal the lid.
  • Pull the string and wipe it with a rag. it is so easy.


The construction itself I think is explained in the pictures.








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Regarding waxing the lines, when I run the synthetic line supplied in the kit (nylon??) through the block of beeswax (as shown in bogey's post), the wax gets all flaky/dusty, and it doesn't seem like much sticks or relaxes the line enough...  Should I try melting the wax first, or is wax not the best thing for synthetic lines??


I really don't want to have to go and purchase all new lines, especially since I've already made over a hundred feet of rope with it and seized a ton of blocks!!

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Does somebody know if it would be better to dilute melted bees wax with some diluent?

What I do, is rub the line over the side of a candle stick, and then over a flame. This melts the wax and leaves a smooth and humidity impervious surface. I ALWAYS run my rigging lines over a lighter flame to eliminate fuzz, waxed or not.

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Arrrgh, just wrote a bunch of stuff and lost it with an accidental 'page back' hit ... time to start previewing at the end of each sentence, lol.


Ok, let's try this again.  What I have discovered in my limited experience with waxing lines for rigging is as follows;


Thicker lines - best if the wax is melted into it as the run through method won't infuse the 'core' of the line with wax, thus the 'stiffening effect' won't be as pronounced.  By melting the wax into the core of the line (and squeeging the excess as much as possible) it becomes 'stiffer' so that you can achieve the 'taut line' effect without having to put a lot of tension on the line.


Thin lines - work well with the run through method.  You can also use the melted wax method but here is where getting rid of the excess becomes more important as thin lines show the excess more (flakiness, lumps, etc.).  One technique I borrowed from Batik is to have an iron set to low and a bunch of newsprint sheets.  Run the line between newsprint sheets under the iron, the weight of the iron should be enough to squeeze excess meltwax from the line and it soaks into the newsprint to prevent it from 'reapplying' itself to the line.


Synthetic lines - I've used both methods on nylon lines and found that the same principles apply, the thicker the line the better to use the meltwax method.  Another thing I did with the thin lines to 'seal' the wax was run the waxed line through a cloth pad but I applied more force and ran it fast to generate friction heat.


The type of wax is important too.  I avoid Parrafin wax (basic candle wax) because it has a low melt point, is very 'grainy' when cooled and is usually mixed in huge industrial vats with all kinds of chemicals added.  Often with cheap Parrafin you're find a high glycerin content or the traces of perfumes from a previous batch.  


Beeswax is my preferred fave because of it's 'natural' origins (not Organic, if anyone tries to sell you 'Organic' honey or beeswax at a marked up price laugh at them ... bees don't create 'organic' stuff by definition).  Beeswax also has a higher melting temperature and is finely grained, which makes it more supple when cool.  Plus it smells good (aromatherapy) and it has a nice colour which tints white lines ever so slightly.


Microcrystalline wax (a.k.a. Jeweller's wax) is also a preferred one for me.  It comes in white or dark blue - Don't use the dark blue stuff as it is formulated for sculpting jewellery 'castings'.  Microcrystalline wax has a high melting point, is (as the name implies) very fine grained and it's supple when cool, like beeswax.  This kind of wax is often used in very fine Batik work.


So to summarize, I used both methods and found them to be good - once I figured out the specifics.


Hope this is of some help. :D

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I have had good luck "waxing" lines with Wipe-on Poly (just a very thin version of polyurethane varnish).  Drop the lines into the poly, then squeeze out the excess in a paper towel or just your fingers.  This penetrates all kinds of thread. As the poly dries -- just a few minutes -- you can stick down all the fuzz with your fingers, and when the poly is fully dries, it stiffens the lines somewhat, but it remains flexible enough to tie and run through any blocks or eyes you have.

Granted this is not too practical for large amounts of line, but if you have a special need for really fuzz-less line, it works quite well.  I've never felt good about running line over a flame.

Another twist I have found is to use shoe polish, the wax kind like Kiwi, not shoe cream.  It is easy to apply as it is quite soft right from the can, but it dries quite stiff.  It comes in the right colors to maybe save the dying step.  I like to use tan on the running rigging, and dark brown on BLACK line for the standing rigging...it gives a better color than the stark blue-black of mush black thread.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I tried this. Great idea, Stelios. But I did not solve the removal the excess of the wax as good as I wanted.


On the lower side of the jar cover I put a piece of balsa wood, 5 mm thick, to remove excess of the wax. I slipped the thread through balsa wood with an needle. I did not make a hole with a drill.




Some wax was also removed outside of the jar cover:




Here are thread guides:




Finished line:



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  • 1 year later...

When looking at ways to rig, the lines are coated with wax (Normally beeswax) to enable the builder to shape the rigging, for example around a dead eye so the line stays in place prior to stropping.


I bought a block of beeswax and have run the rigging lines several times (up to 50 times through the block) through the wax but seem unable to get the same level of shaping. I have tried warming the wax before I run the thread through it.


Has anyone else had this problem?

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