Tony Nield makes his own fids from copper pipe and the cork from a bottle of port
Ever since I was a small boy I have been fascinated by knots, splicing and hand-sewn canvas work. Sadly, opportunities for such skills are now limited, but I’d like to pass on how I made some Swedish hollow fids out of offcuts from copper pipe. Dimensions are not critical: I used both 13mm (1⁄2in) and 19mm (3⁄4in) diameter pieces to suit different rope diameters.
First, clamp the pipe in a vice at about 10-30° to the vertical so that the saw cut will be vertical, then make an oblique cut down the pipe with a hacksaw.
Next, clean up the cut with a fine file followed by fine abrasive paper and wire wool. Finally, gently squeeze the pointed end in the vice, or shape it with mallet blows to make a slender taper.
I finished off the 13mm fid by cutting a piece of broom handle, about 10cm long, to make a handle for it. I drilled out a hole about 2cm deep as a tight fit for the pipe then rounded off the ends to fit comfortably in the hand.
The larger fid can be used as a storage box for sailmaker’s needles. All you need is a couple of corks: a piece of small diameter to push down inside the working end of the fid to close it off, and a cork with a moulded end (mine was from a bottle of port) to make a stopper and also a comfortable pommel to push against when using the fid to force apart the lay of some rope.
As an alternative, you could just make the two sizes nest together for storage, without the broom handle of course. Or, if you contemplate using them up the mast or hanging overboard, you can drill a hole through the pipe to take a lanyard.
The photograph (above) of assorted fids and marlin spikes shows a solid, wooden fid made from a split piece of mahogany, whittled, sanded and varnished. One of the brass spikes was made from a piece of bar which operated the plunger of a flushing cistern that was going to the tip.
A Swedish fid can be used in either of two ways when splicing, as shown in the photos (left). Usually, you open the lay with it, push the strand into the hollow and then push the fid until the strand comes through. Or, you can you can push the fid through in the opposite direction, feed the strand into the hollow, hold it with your thumb and pull back the fid bringing the strand with it.
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