Introduction: Otter Sculpted Jam Cleat

About: We celebrate creativity on the southern Oregon coast at our store, the Electric Hospital, and outdoors where we enjoy the wonders. We might be sewing with a long arm robotic quilting machine in the morning and…

My sailboat needed a new cleat and I thought I, "Otter," be able to make a jam cleat. That got me to thinking the Jam Cleat could look like an Otter. I found a scrap of ash and here is my rainy day project.
Jam cleats are special because they hold a load on a line and quickly release with no moving parts. The best part is it let me craft a pun. "Otter let me hold that line."

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Saw (Band saw, sabre saw, scroll saw or pull saw will all work)


Sandpaper 40 grit, 60 grit, 100 grit 150 grit

Wood scrap 1" x 4" x 5" Ash is great but any sturdy wood will work

Wood Screws (2) 3"

Screwdriver or screw gun

Step 2: Plan a Shape

The concept of a Jam Cleat is the rope / line becomes wedged in a narrow slot on one side of the cleat and runs free on the other side. Select the rope you plan on using and make the wedge 1/2 the thickness at the narrowest point. The free side should be larger than the rope. The load is around the free side and the tail of the rope wedges in the V slot. The cleat can have any shape from fanciful to just utilitarian.

Step 3: Shape

Design your cleat so the grain runs parallel to the base for the best strength. I drill two holes early in the project from top to bottom. This insures I don't spend a lot of time on a scrap of wood that splits. Then I cut out the rough shape with a saw. If your saw only makes straight cuts you can make curves with lots of little cuts.

Using the two holes I screw the cleat to a table so you don't need a vise. With a series of rasps and files you can quickly get a general shape. Smooth with sandpaper until it pleases you. Finish with oil or varnish.

It does not have to be smooth to work. A rough notch wedges the line better than a slick wedge. Mount it to your sailboat and enjoy a day on the water.