Marlinespike Tradition / Ritual in Red Sunrise | World Anvil


How to make the ends meet.

Marlinespike is the art of knot tying, splicing, lashings and whippings in rope. Sometimes also known as ropework. It also includes knowledge of different the types of rope and line, the material they are made from, what they are used for and how to store, maintain and repair those lines.

It is a skill every Sailor should know, and it is one of the things that is examined when a sailor is promoted from Ordinary Sialor to Able Sailor

Contrary to what many land lubbers think, it is not a lost art at all. It is very much practised to this day. It may have lost a part of its usefulness with the demise of the age-of-sail, but even on a modern steel ship, knowing how to tie a knot and which knot to use when can make the difference between life and death.

Knot, bend or hitch

When is a knot a knot and a bend a bend, or is it a hitch? I don't know; it is because it is. Many people try to give definitions to the names, but they shouldn't bother, many have the word knot or bend or hitch in their name, but according to the definition they are the other thing.


A marlinspike is also a tool used for ropework, it's is a cylindrical pin, usually made from steel or iron, but sometimes it can be made of wood too. The pin is tapered to a blunt point. Sometimes it has a head and sometimes also a hole in the top.

A marlinspike is used to pry apart the different strands of a line. To make space for another strand to pass through. For instance, when making a splice. Marlinspikes exist in many different sizes, which one to use depends on the size of rope that is worked on.


A whipping is a binding made by string used to stop the ends of a rope from coming apart. A sailor proud of his work will always lay a whipping, instead of using some form of plastic adhesive tape, or even worse, using a lighter to melt the ends of a line. Tape becomes very easily undone. And the molten ends always have sharp edges, which can rip the skin of your hand.

Knot board

A Knot Board is a wooden placard displaying all kinds of knots and other marlinespike things. Knots boards are mae to show off skill, or as a gift, or used as an educational tool.

Knot board USS Albemarle (11 june 1945) by National Museum of the US Navy, via wikimedia commons.

Cover image: by Johannes Plenio


Please Login in order to comment!