Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Marlinspike manufacturing

It is not a secret that I like to turn stuff on a metal lathe. On my first voyage with the Lehmkuhl, I made a large marlinspike just to test out one special way of making cones. 
The marlinspike was well received by the deck department, and I ended up making a couple of smaller ones later on that year.

I have great difficulties saying NO to a Newfoundland dog and to young people wanting to learn from me. So when I signed on this time and almost all of our volunteers asked me if I would teach them how to make a marlinspike I replied that I'd be happy to.

Making a marlinspike is a fine little project. There are different processes that involves different tools, and you can leave the project for some time and pick it up again later without any issues.
The turning teaches people a basic understanding of the lathe and how to use it. The surface is improved by a file and by sandpaper before it is hardened.
Some sort of head or handle is dealt with next, and finally everything is polished using some fine emery paper. 
One of the volunteers asked if I could also help him make a sheath for the marlinspike, which I was happy to help him with. Soon after, a couple more of them wanted to do that too. Then one guy wanted to make a sheath for his knife to match the marlinspike sheath, and another one jumped on the same idea. So I have spent a great deal of time helping and instructing in leather work and metalwork this time.

An interesting thing was to see how they each had ideas as how they wanted the head/handle made. So each has his own very distinct marlinspike. 
So far we have made heads from leather, wood, laminated wood, copper & brass and steel.
Most of the marlinspikes have been around 10" long, so they work well as personal tools that can be brought with them into the rigging. A couple of them have been 13-14" and a bit beefier, intended to be used at the deck mainly for splicing wire.

A great thing about all the projects is that people have all been incredibly proud upon completion, and they have each succeeded in making a functioning tool that they can use for the rest of their career. And I am happy because I think that I may have planted a small seed of making in each and everyone of them.

Adrian's marlinspike

14" (as far as I remember)

Wood from various ships he has worked on

Laurids' and Simon's Marlinspikes

Laurids' sheath for the marlinspike

Simon has made a sheath for his pocket knife

Aske's sheaths

Brass & copper head

Nice work for someone new to leather working.


  1. Some skills less thought about than wind, current, meteo, knots, repairing sails, position, course, orthodromy, rhumb lines, to name a few; which are nevertheless much useful on board.
    On a ship any skill/knowledge might be useful when the circumstance arises. A ship is a village (isolated most of the time).
    It is always nice to see people eager to learn new things.

    1. Hi Sylvain
      It really is an isolated community. Luckily most of the people that apply for positions on these kinds of ships are also interested in learning various new things :-)
      I like that fact that they can each take their own homemade marlinspike with them onto the net ship where they'll find work. And hopefully they'll inspire someone else to try to make their own marlinspike or sheath or another thing.


  2. Very impressive. You never cease to amazed me my friend.
    You are indeed planting little seeds everywhere you go, at home, at sea, on the net. Those skills and knowledges are very important, what would our future generation do if suddenly google and Alexa went down??

    making is teaching, teaching to make is precious


    1. Hi Bob

      Thanks for the kind comment.
      Sorry for the late reply, but we just finished our voyage with the Norwegian naval Academy, so there were a few things that needed to be perfect for the arrival in Norway.

      Brgds Jonas

  3. Excellent! Fine looking spikes. How did you harden them on board without burning down the ship?