The Art of Rigging

The Art of Rigging

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by George Biddlecombe

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2012 Reprint of 1925 Edition. Exact facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Although mastery of the art of rigging is no longer required on board ships today, serious model builders need to learn this art in miniature. The book is widely considered the best manual every produced on rigging the sail ship. This edition is…  See more details below


2012 Reprint of 1925 Edition. Exact facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Although mastery of the art of rigging is no longer required on board ships today, serious model builders need to learn this art in miniature. The book is widely considered the best manual every produced on rigging the sail ship. This edition is based on the 1925 revision of the original work first published in 1848. Biddlecombe, a Master in the Royal Navy and former merchant seaman, was the author of the first edition. Biddlecombe divides his work into five parts:
(1) Alphabetical Explanation of the Terms and Phrases used in Rigging.
(2) Directions for the Performing of Operations Incidental to Rigging, and for Preparing It on Shore.
(3) Progressive Method of Rigging Ships.
(4) Description of Reeving the Running Rigging and Bending the Sails.
(5) Tables of the Quantities and Dimensions of the Standing and Running Rigging of Ships, Brigs, Fore-and-Aft Schooners, and Cutters, etc.

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Martino Fine Books
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.43(d)

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The Art of Rigging


By George Biddlecombe

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13561-8



ABAFT OR AFT. — The hinder part of a ship, or all those parts which lie towards the stern. Frequently used to signify further aft, or nearer the stern.

ABAFT THE BEAM implies that the relative situation of the object spoken of is contained between a line drawn at right angles to the keel and the point to which the ship's stern is directed.

ABOARD OR INBOARD. — The inside of a ship; hence, The riggers are aboard — signifying they are in the ship; but when an enemy enters in the time of battle, he is said to board — a phrase which always implies hostility.

ABREAST. — Side by side, or opposite to. The situation of two or more ships with their sides parallel to each other, their heads equally advanced: they are then said to be abreast; also of any other object in a line with the beam of a ship.

A-HEAD signifies further onward, or more toward the head of the ship; as, Go further a-head, means to go further forward. A-head is also used in opposition to A-stern: the former implies at any distance before the ship; the latter expresses the situation of any object behind the ship.

ALOFT. — Up in the tops; at the mast-head, or anywhere in the rigging.

ALOOF. — At a distance.

AMIDSHIPS is used when speaking of the middle of the ship, either with regard to her length or breadth; as, The enemy boarded us amidships — that is, midway between the stem and stern; Put the helm amidships — that is, in the middle, or in a line with the keel.

ANCHOR-STOCK TACKLE. — A tackle used to cant the anchor-stock into its place.

AN-END. — The situation of any mast or boom when perpendicular to the plane of the deck, tops, &c. The top-masts are said to be an-end when swayed up to their usual station at the head of the lower-masts.

ATHWART. — Across; as, We discovered a fleet steering athwart us — that is, steering across our way.

AVAST. — The order to stop, or pause, in any exercise or operation; as, Avast heaving — that is to say, desist, or stop, from drawing in the cable or hawser, by means of the capstan, &c.

AWNING. — A covering of canvas spread over the decks of the ship, or over a boat, in hot weather, to protect the officers and crew from the heat of the sun. That part of the poop-deck which is continued forward beyond the bulk-head of the cabin, is also called the awning.

BACKSTAYS (Breast and Standing) are stays which support the top-masts, top- gallant, and royal-masts from aft; they reach from the heads of their respective masts to the channel on each side of the ship, and assist the shrouds when strained by a press of sail, as shown in Pl. 9, figs. 20, 21, 22, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38, 39.

Stay-sail Stays are those stays on which the stay-sails are extended. (Pl. 11, figs. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

The Jib Stay is similar to the stay-sail stays, and extends from the jib-boom end to the fore-top-mast-head. (Pl, II, fig. 2).

Preventer, or Spring Stays, are subordinate stays, to support their respective stays, and supply their places in case of accident.

BECKETS. — Short ropes used in several parts of a ship, to confine large ropes, &c., or to hang up the weather sheets and lee tacks of the main and fore-sail to the foremost main and fore shrouds. The noose made at the breast of a block, to make fast the standing part of a fall to, is also called a Becket. (Pl. 2, fig. 15).

BELAYING. — Fastening a rope, by giving it several cross-turns alternately round two timber-heads, each end of a cleat-pin, &c.; as, Belay the main brace — that is, make it fast. (Pl. 4, fig. 8).

BENDING. — Fastening one rope to another, or to different objects, and fastening a sail to its yard. The different sorts of bends are explained under the Bends, Part II.

BENDS. — The small ropes used to lash the clinch of a cable. (Pl. 6, fig. 3). See Part II.

BIGHT. — The double part of a rope when it is folded in contra-distinction to the end; as, Her anchor hooked the bight of our cable — that is, caught any part of it between the ends. Again: The bight of his cable has swept our anchor — that is, the double part of the cable of another ship, as she ranged about, has entangled itself about our anchor.

BINDING. — The iron wrought round the dead-eyes, or blocks.

BITTS. — A frame composed of two upright pieces of timber, called the pins, and a cross-piece, fastened horizontally near the head of them; they are used to belay cables or ropes to. Bowline and Brace Bitts are situated near the masts. The Fore-jeer and Top-sail Sheet Bitts are situated on the forecastle and round the fore-mast. The Main-jeer and Top-sail Sheet Bitts tenon into the foremost beam of the quarter-deck. The Cable or Riding Bitts are the largest bitts in a ship, and those to which the cable is bitted when the vessel rides at anchor. (Pl. 6, fig. 1).

Bitt the Cable is to put it round the bitts (Pl. 6, fig. 1), in order to fasten it, or slacken it gradually; which last is termed veering away.

BLOCKS. — Machines used in ships, and each block having one or more sheaves or wheels in it, through which a rope is put, to increase the purchase. (Pl. 2, figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22).

BLOCK-AND-BLOCK. — The situation of a tackle when the effect is destroyed, by the blocks meeting together.

BOARDING NETTING is thrown over the sides, to prevent the enemy from boarding. (Pl. 4, fig. 3).

BOAT-SKIDS OR BOOM-SKIDS. — Pieces of wood extending athwart the midship part of the ship, and on which the boats, spare masts, &c., are stowed. (Pl. 5, fig. 16).

BOBSTAY. — Stays used to confine the bowsprit down upon the stem, and counteract the force of the stays, which draw it upwards. (Pl. 4, fig. 9, and Pl. 9, fig. 2).

BOLSTERS. — Pieces of wood placed under the shrouds, to prevent their chafing against the trestle-trees; they are covered with well-tarred canvas, to make an easy bed for the shrouds, which is called clothing.

BOLT-ROPE. — A rope to which the edges of a sail are sewed, in order to strengthen and prevent them from splitting. That part of a bolt-rope which is on the sides of a square-sail, is called the leech-ropes; that at the top, the head-rope; and that at the bottom, the foot-rope. Stay-sails have no head-rope.

BOOMS. — Long poles rigged out from the extremities of the yards, bowsprit, &c., to extend the feet of particular sails. The Spanker-boom, on which the foot of the spanker is extended, is attached to the mizen-mast, and the outer end projects over the stern. The Jib-boom is rigged out from the outer end of the bowsprit, and extends to the foot of the jib. The Main-boom, used in vessels of one or two masts, is similar to the spanker-boom of a ship; and on this is spread the foot of the fore-and-aft main-sail. The Ringtail-boom projects from the spanker or main-boom, to spread the foot of the ringtail-sails. Studding-sail-booms, to spread the studding-sails, slide through boom-irons at the extremities of the yards; and the lower booms swing from the vessel's sides, on goose-necks.

BOOM-IRONS. — Two flat iron rings, formed into one piece, and employed to connect the studding-sail-booms to the yards. Quarter Boom-irons fasten on the yard with a clamp. (Pl. 7, figs. 4 and 5).

BOOM TACKLE OR BOOM JIGGER. — The tackle used to get the studding-sail-booms in or out.

BOWGRACE. — A frame of old rope or junk laid round the bows, stern, and side of a vessel, to prevent her being injured by flakes of ice.

BOWSING. — Hauling or pulling upon a rope or fall of a tackle, to remove a body, or increase the tension.

BOWLINES. — The ropes fastened to the bowline-bridles on the leech or sides of the square-sails. They are used, when the wind is unfavourable, to extend the windward edges of the sails tight forward and steady; without which, they would be all shivering, and rendered useless.

BOWLINE-TACKLE. — The tackle used to bowse out the main bowline, when the ship is upon a wind.

BOWSPRIT. — A large boom, or mast, projecting from the stem, to carry sail forward, in order to govern the fore part of the ship, and counteract the force of the after-sails. It is otherwise of great use, in being the principal support of the foremast, which is secured to it. (Pl. 9, fig. 61).

BOWSPRIT-NETTING is fastened, at the outer end of the bowsprit, to the horses, or man-ropes, to stow away the fore-top-mast stay-sail.

BRACE. — A rope, to turn the yards and sails horizontally about the masts, when necessary. Preventer Brace. — A rope used in ships-of-war, to supply the place of a brace, should that be shot away, or damaged; they are led the contrary way, to be less liable to detriment at the same time. In the merchant-service they are used in blowing weather, and led as most convenient. (Pl. 10, figs. 8, 10, 12, 17, 20, 23, 25, 28, 31, 34, 37, 41).

BRAILS. — Ropes passed through the blocks on the gaff, and fastened to the after-leech of the fore-and-aft sails, to truss or brail them up. (Pl. 7, fig. 8, and Pl. 11, figs. 50, 51, 52).

BREAST-ROPE. — To secure the leadsman when in the chains, heaving the lead.

BREASTWORK. — The rails and stanchions on the formost end of the quarter- deck and poop.

BREECHING. — A rope used to secure the cannon, and to prevent them from recoiling too much in the time of battle.

BRIDLES. — Short ropes, or legs, which fasten to the cringles on the leeches of the sails, and to which the bowlines are fixed.

BULL'S-EYE. — Similar to a thimble, only made of wood instead of iron. (Pl. 2, fig. 18).

BUMPKINS OR BOOMKINS. — A short boom, or beam of timber, projecting from each bow of a ship, to extend the clue, or lower edge of the foresail, to windward; for which purpose there is a large block fixed on its outer end, through which the tack is passed, which, being tight down, brings the corner of the sail close to the block; the tack is then said to be aboard. The Bumpkin is fitted above the main rail in the head, and secured by an iron-brace, which confines it downward to the ship's bow, in order to counteract the strain it bears from the fore-sail above, dragging it upward. (Pl. 9, fig. 72).

BUMPKIN SHROUDS, to support the bumpkins, have their after ends hooked to eye- bolts, one into the bows, the other in the cut-water; at the fore part is seized in a thimble, which sets up with a laniard to a triangle in an iron strop fixed round the outer end of the bumpkin.

BUNTLINES are ropes rove through certain blocks above the yards, whence, passing downwards on the forepart of the sail, they are fastened to the lower edge in several places of the bolt-rope, where cringles are worked. (Pl. 12, figs. 22, 28, 31, 34, 37, 40, 43).

BUOY. — A kind of cask, or block of wood, fastened by a rope to the anchor, to point out its situation, that the ship may not come too near it, as to entangle her cable about the stock or flukes of the anchor. Buoys are of various kinds, and have the following names — Cable Buoy, Can Buoy, Floating Buoy, Life Buoy, Nun Buoy, and Wooden Buoy. (Pl. 6, figs. 10 and 11).

BUOY-ROPE. — The rope which fastens the buoy to the anchor. It should be a little more than equal in length to the depth of the water where the anchor lies, as it is intended to float near, or immediately above the bed of it, that the pilot or officer may at all times know the situation thereof. It should be always of sufficient strength to weigh the anchor, if necessary. (Pl. 6, fig. 10).

BURTON TACKLES. — Tackles used to set up the top-mast shrouds, support the top-sail-yards, &c. (Pl. 9, figs. 15, 16, 59).

BUTTON AND LOOP. — A short piece of rope, having on one end a wall-knot, crowned; and at the other end an eye. It is used as a becket, to confine ropes in.

BUTTONS. — Small pieces of thick leather under the heads of nails that are driven through ropes.

CABLE. — A large rope, usually 120 fathoms in length, to which the anchor is fastened, and used to retain a ship at anchor. Cables are of various sorts and sizes, and were generally manufactured of hemp; but of late years chain cables have become in common use. Every hemp cable, of whatever thickness it may be, is generally formed of three ropes, twisted together, which are then called strands; each of these is composed of three smaller strands, all containing a certain number of ropeyarns, the number being, more or less, in proportion to the size of the cable required. (Pl. 6, figs. 1 and 3).

CABLET. — Any cable-laid rope under 9 inches in circumference.

CANT. — A term used to express the position of a piece of timber, or other article, that does not stand square; and canting is the act of turning anything over, to see the other side.

CAPS. — Short thick blocks of wood, with two holes in them — one square, the other round — used to confine the masts together.

To Cap a Rope — To cover the end with canvas. (Pl. 4, figs. 1 and 5).

CAPSIZE. — To upset, or turn over; as, Capsize that coil of rope, signifies to turn it over; or, Capsize the boat, is to place it bottom uppermost.

CAPSTAN OR CAPSTERN. — A machine for heaving up anchors, or to effect other great strains.

To CARRY AWAY. — To break; as, That ship has carried away her bowsprit — that is, has broken it off.

CAST-OFF. — To loose a rope, by unseizing it, or by cutting the lashing.

CATHARPINS. — Short ropes, to keep the lower shrouds in tight, after they are braced in by swifters; and to afford room to brace the yards sharp up.

CATFALL. — The rope that forms the tackle for heaving up the anchor from the water's edge to the bow. (Pl. 6, fig. 4).

CATHEADS. — Two strong beams of timber, projecting almost horizontally over the ship's bows, being like two radii, which extend from a centre taken in the direction of the bowsprit. The catheads rest upon the forecastle, and are securely bolted to the beams; the outer end has two, three, or four sheaves of brass, or strong wood, through which the catfall passes, and communicates with the cat-block. The catheads also serve to suspend the anchor clear of the bows, when it is necessary to let it go. (Pl. 6, fig. 4).

CHAIN CABLES are of different sizes, corresponding to the size of the vessel. Every link of the chain has a bar placed across, to prevent them from being drawn together; and at every length of 12 or 13 fathoms, a shackle: thus it may be used for a mooring-chain, or for any other purpose. A swivel is also placed midway between each length. (Pl. 6, figs. 1 and 6).

CHAIN PLATES. — Thick iron plates bolted to the ship's sides, and to which the chains and dead-eyes, that support the masts by the shrouds, are connected. (Pl. 4, fig. 1).

CHAIN SHEETS. — Now in common use, instead of ropes, and fastened to the clues of sails, to extend the foot of the sails along the yards.


Excerpted from The Art of Rigging by George Biddlecombe. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Art of Rigging 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Denwright More than 1 year ago
This book shows quite clearly how the rigging was done. It does it in drawings rather than text which unless you are a learned shipwright will probably not understand half of what you read. Excellent drawings, very clear and I recommend this book to anyone building model sailing ships, or full size for that matter.