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Question about bolt ropes


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On the real ship, the leech & foot is encircled by one boltrope (the portion along the leech is called the leechrope, so is the "footrope"),

leaving the head to be lined by a headrope of smaller circumference than the leech+foot rope.

The headcringle is formed by splicing the two together, though the specific method of splcing, I cannot recall...

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The Sailmakers Apprentice, by Emilliano Marino, is an excelent 494 page WELL ILLUSTRATED source for real world traditional sail construction information. Its a complex subject with no "one size fits all" answer but what I see in the book dovetails with what Cardely says above: The boltrope originates at one of the corners of the sail and runs around the edge of the sail, sometimes but not always in one continuous piece of rope. Often though changing diameters on different facets of the sail and thus many ropes are spliced together. The eyes at the corners were either spliced or seized eyes.  There is a small galaxy of possible splices a person can put into a rope but they all involve unlaying the strands and tucking these individual strands in very particular patterns back into the rope or into the next rope. These tucks make one rope appear to seamlessly blend into another.  If you google "long splice" or "short splice" or "Eye Splice" you will get lots of helpful diagrams.

The sort of juncture at the corners of a square sail are achieved by either seizing an eye into the part of the rope that goes around the corner of the sail or short splicing one rope into the eye of the other. For instance if your headrope has an eye spliced in each end at the earrings, the leach boltropes can be spliced into these eyes at a 90 degree angle. 

This sort of very elaborate splicing would only be duplicated on a very large highly detailed model. Seized eyes are likely all you really need. As to what to do with the ends, its easy enough to unlay a bit of the thread you are using and smooth the strands up against the other end with some white glue to hold it in place and in that way avoid an obvious visible juncture.

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I start at the center of the head and work around the sail back to the center of the head.  I overlap the ends a little and basically seize the ends together through the sail with stitching.
Keep in mind; I work in larger scales on sails for working models.  The bolt rope is stitched on in a short-hand version of how they are actually sewn on (I skip a couple of lays of the rope with each stitch).  The bolt rope is also glued to the sail with fabric glue as I sew it on.  The nylon line I used for the boltrope is soft enough that it basically crushes together under the stitching and looks like a short splice.


This is the best image I could find where you can see the overlap at the head.  You should be able to pick out the stitching which is a tanish color that matches the flax I've used to sew the real thing.  This is a fore tops'l for a 1:20 scale Baltimore Clipper schooner.  The sail is made of Supplex, the seams are drawn with a .03 permanent marker on both sides, offset slightly from each other.  All tabling, hems, bands, etc are glued on with fabric glue.  All holes are made with the tip of a hot soldering iron.  Cringles are made by taking a turn around a round toothpick and seizing the eye to the sail at it's throat, and on either side.  This is done on full size sails as well, but because my sails are driving working models, I don't want the boltrope slipping through a zig-zag stitch from a sewing machine and closing up the eyes and cringles.  This sort of seizing is done every where something will attach or pull and every 4 or 5 scale feet along the bolt-rope as I sew it on.




I have simplified things a lot, especially on Constellation where I've used a simple eye in the bolt-rope at the clews instead of the iron rings and hardware she probably would have had.


BTW: While sewing on a bolt-rope, I've missed a cringle or screwed up in some other way that the easiet fix was to cut the line and pick up from there.  Here I overlapped the bolt rope just as I did at the head.  The first time I cut the three strands of the bolt rope at different lengths to taper it, but after that I didn't bother with tapering.


Having sewn real bolt ropes to real sails, I'm happy enough with the appearance I get this way, and it's much much easier than trying to use a sewing machine.

Edited by JerryTodd
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