Sailor Craft Knots

The Ancient Art of Knot Tying Rewound for Everyday Uses

Soft Shackles

Keith HudsonComment


Recently the International Guild of Knot Tyers had their bi-annual meeting here in Charleston, South Carolina.  The President of our Guild arrived from France and other members came from England and a number of States including Alaska.

One of my favorite occasions took place at Charleston Rigging; a company that makes wire cable and a variety of Nylon and Dacron slings used by both the marine and building industries.  The company has a 150 ton (300,000 lbs) testing machine which we used to test our eye spliced lines.

I made some soft shackles from 3/8 inch hollow braid nylon and ½ inch dyneema.  The 3/8 inch shackle broke at 4,080 pounds and the ½ inch shackle broke at 15,090 pounds.  Using the 5:1 ratio the 3/8 shackle would have a safe work load of 750 pounds and the ½ shackle would have a safe working load of 5,000 pounds. 

The more you look around your boat, the more uses you’ll find for soft shackles and rope strops. A soft shackle can handle just about every function performed by a metal shackle; in many cases better. Soft shackles articulate better, don’t rattle around when not under load, don’t chew up toe-rails or beat up masts and decks They don’t hurt when they whack you on the head, are easier to undo and don’t have pins that fall overboard at a critical moment !

This shackle broke at 4,080 pounds.  Safe working load 750 pounds.

This shackle broke at 4,080 pounds.  Safe working load 750 pounds.

This shackle broke at 15,082 pounds.  Safe working load 5,000 pounds.

This shackle broke at 15,082 pounds.  Safe working load 5,000 pounds.

Here are some everyday uses for soft shackles and strops:

  1. Use them instead of snap shackles to secure halyards to sails.
  2. Quickly and easily attach blocks to toe-rail slots or deck padeyes.
  3. If you eye-splice the ends of your jib sheets, you can attach them to the clew ring with a soft shackle to eliminate the problem of bowlines hanging up on the shrouds while tacking.
  4. If your boat lacks mid-ship cleats a soft shackle attached to the toe-rail amidships can be used as a “soft cleat” for spring lines.
  5. A soft shackle is ideal for attaching a snubber line to anchor chain—unlike a chain hook, it will never fall off.
  6. Soft shackles can be used in place of metal hanks to attach a sail to a stay—especially useful if you have a Dyneema storm jib stay.

Double Handle Country-City Dog Leashes

Keith HudsonComment

In the past four months my double handle Country-City dog leashes made from Dacron has been featured in Cool,  House Beautiful Shop America and  Dwell Magazine's November issue Editor’s Picks for Made in the USA.  I am very pleased to have these accolades and my customers seem to love the product.


The Dog Leash

TechniquesKeith HudsonComment

Can We Teach an Old Dog a New Trick?

     I am not a dog trainer nor a dog whisperer.  I am aware of the tried and true training techniques, and recently have learned new and better ways to handle a well-mannered dog.

 It takes patience to train a dog.  Most of us do not have the time nor the patience so it might be time to call in a professional trainer and make the investment in having a pet that will respond to your commands either via voice or a gentle tug on their leash.  Both of you will be happier.    

Happy Sophia with her new leash

Happy Sophia with her new leash


 Speaking of leashes…one should consider the right leash on the right dog with the right length and under the right conditions.  Take into consideration your comfort and the comfort of the dog as well.  A leash should be light weight, yet strong and durable.  What breed do you have?  Who is walking who? Is the dog walking you or are you walking the dog?

Where do you live… in the country or in the city? Traffic control is an important consideration. If a leash is too long the dog can bolt from you and pull your arm; this is not fun. Nor is it good to wrap six feet of leash around your hand to shorten its length only to have the dog bolt and crush your hand.        

This web site displays a variety of leashes to choose from.  There is double braided line from 1/4-5/8 inches in diameter; also 2 foot traffic leads and traffic slip leads (collar and leash all in one excellent for therapy dogs ).  There are flat Dacron braided leads from 2 to 6 foot lengths.  I now make a double handle leash.  A 6 food leash with an extra handle about 2 feet (24 to 30 inches) from the clip.  You have control and comfort. Longer is never better.  Use a 4 foot leash on a larger dog for more control.  When you make the right choice and have the right leash you and your dog will have many happy days walking together. 

My new country-city made from Dacron features a 6 foot leash with a second handle about 30 inches from the clip.  This allows for better control without winding the leash around your hand.  Dacron has high strength, low stretch, low abrasion.

Now that you have invested in a nice leash take care of it.  Wash your leash by hand soaking in warm soapy water (DO NOT ADD BLEACH) for about 15 minutes and rinse. Air dry outside. 

The Bowline Knot

TechniquesKeith HudsonComment

The bowline knot  is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred as King of the Knots because of its importance. It is one of the four basic maritime knots (the other three are figure-eight knot, reef knot, and clove hitch.  The bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

The Bell Rope

HistoryKeith HudsonComment

The Bell Rope is one of the few "ropes" on a ship (others being referred to by specific names eg. sheets, hawsers, lines, stays).  Traditionally made ship's bell ropes are a pleasure to look at in their knotted glory and as contemporary decorative artifacts. They can be enjoyed by landlubbers too!