I had some buoyant rope and some time on my hands sailing down the coast. I needed some new reefing ties, and the buoyant rope was about the right diameter and comfortable to handle so I decided to cut lengths of it to make ties. Instead of the traditional straight ties secured with a reef knot (what else?) I used eye splices which allow more tension to be easily placed on the tie, and are easier to tie in windy conditions when everything is moving.
The rope is constructed from two layers of non-woven isotropic polypropylene fabric cloth, folded and wrapped in a polypropylene plait. To make an eye splice, I adapted a technique from the "Marlow" brand Knights splice for plaited rope.
The first photograph shows the finished eye splice. The second shows a piece of core fabric unfolded. It may be easily torn along its length, but is very strong acrossways.
Step 1: Tools
I used the following tools -basically what I had to hand:
sailmakers or darning needle
sharp knife and cutting block
The wooden fid was made from a kebab stick. It should have a rounded end and be a smaller diameter than the rope. The pliers aren't really necessary, but I use them to pull the needle. Using a thimble or sailmakers palm to push the needle is more traditional.
Step 2: Extract the Core
Using the fid, make a gap between two strands in the outer plait and pull out a loop of core. This should be about 30cm from the end of the rope - enough for the finished eye plus another 15 cm or so to make the splice. Cut the outer plait short - enough for the eye itself plus 12cm or so for sewing.
Step 3: Secure the Fid to the Core
Using a length of electrical tape, attach the fid to the end of the core. Wrap it so that it is smooth and will not catch on the outer plait.
Step 4: Make the Eye
Unpick the plait at the end of the rope for about 10cm. The needle may be useful for this - insert the needle about 1cm from the unplaited edge and gently work a couple of strands free. Repeat all around the rope, then move another 1cm up the rope and repeat.
Work some outer plait up the rope towards the end by hand using a milking action. This should create a bunched-up, looser length of outer plait near the end. Insert the fid back down the hollow tube of the outer plait, passing the point where the core comes out through the gap, and emerging from a second gap another 6cm or so up the rope. If the plait is too tight to allow this, work some more outer plait up from further up the rope.
Step 5: Taper the Core to Make the Splice
Pull the core back through the outer plait to form the eye. Detach the fid from the end. Cut off one of the layers of core fabric to taper the core, then reattach the fid to the narrowed core and re-insert the fid into the gap, pushing it further up inside the outer plait to emerge another 6cm or so higher up. Cut away half the remaining core material and repeat, so that the final core segment emerges yet higher up the rope. Cut off excess core fabric. Work the end of outer plait around the eye so that the core material forming the eye is all covered with plait.
Step 6: Sew the Outer Plait
Using the needle, sew the loose strands of outer plait back around the eye.
The needle has a long slot; I find it quite easy to thread by pinching a strand between my fingernails then cutting it short with scissors. This gives a flat cross-section which can be pushed through the slot in the needle.
Sew the threads over-and-under the existing plait following the diamond pattern. The ends can be either cut short, or better, pulled up under the outer plait so that they are hidden.
Finally, milk the loose outer plait formed in the earlier steps back up the rope, tightening it up around the splice and pulling it over the short ends of protruding core. The gaps made by the fid should disappear. They can be encouraged to do so by gently working strands around with the needle to re-form an even diamond pattern of plait.
Step 7: Form the Loose End
The other end of the rope can be cut to length and finished with a piece of heatshrink tube. The tube is placed over the end of rope, then shrunk in place over a gentle flame or hot-air gun. The cut end of rope may be sealed (melted) in a flame. Be careful not to overheat the tube or rope and fuse the strands away from the end.
Step 8: Finished Reef Ties
The photograph shows the finished reef ties in place, passed through the reef points on the sail and secured with a turn through the eye and a couple of half hitches.