For the record, I will be the first to admit that professionally executed reverse-tuck eye splices on modern braided line adds an air of expertise and seamanship to any boat. When I see a boat equipped with braided eye splices and thimbles, I am more impressed than any amount of bright-work or varnish, The finished art, (and I use that term deliberately), is the thing everyone notices. What nobody sees is how the actual splice is concocted, (and I use that term deliberately as well)! They also don't see you soaking your hands in hot water of ten minutes, to reduce the pain and swelling from pulling and pushing the strands through each other!
The first reverse-tuck splice I ever tried took all day, and used up about ten feet of expensive, good quality double braided line, and even then, I didn't want to show it anybody. Since then, I have managed to do a few which are more professionally looking, but I’ve always needed an instruction sheet to remind me which bit of rope is trimmed here, and which bit goes where. To say it’s a complicated procedure is an understatement, similar to “some assembly needed,” on the box of a chandelier I recently put together, which nearly finished up in the garbage!
‘Samson Ropes’ instruction sheet for a double braid class 1 eye splice,” encompasses ten very detailed drawings. I never even knew there were classifications of eye splices. There are also videos on the web, which show slight variations in methods, all looking frustratingly easy, but far a too quick to follow.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many attractive alternatives when you need to bend a thimble on the end of a line. You can always tie a knot Fig A; do away with the thimble and make a loop with a bowline Fig B; or just plain whip the lines Fig C. These methods are all subject to chafe and do not distribute loads on the line very evenly, not to mention their appearance.
The truth is, I absolutely hate doing reverse-tuck splices and so do all my sailing friends. Life is too short. So, I decided to see if I could devise an easier method, not to mention one which can be understood, to effectively splice a rope round a thimble. The word effectively needed to encompass, strength, appearance, and effort, in that order.
After a lot of experimenting, trying to thread different trimmed lines through the inside of the line using special fids I decided to fall back on the age-old method, whipping and parceling.
The line used here is 3/8” inch diameter double braided, and new. I only mention that because it can be almost impossible to do a reverse-tuck on old worn and dirty braided line. With my method it doesn't make any difference whether the line is new or old.
I first taped the line round the thimble using regular 3/4”inch electrical tape, leaving enough tail to be able to wind three separate whipping points. As a rule-of-thumb, I make the tail ten times the diameter of the rope. I then whipped the lines together using waxed twine, right up to the thimble. The whipping was done using the regular technique every sailor should know, nothing unfamiliar here. Fig 1 and Fig 2
I wanted to finish with a tapered splice, to make it at least look a bit like a reverse-tuck. I therefore carefully picked one quarter of the strands out of the outer cover. This is easy to do with any sharp pointed instrument and the strands can be pulled backwards out of the cover and trimmed off level with the whipping. Fig 2
I then wound on a second tight whipping, round the slightly reduced line thickness. Afterwards again cutting off another quarter of the strands in the outer case, pared back to the second whipping. Fig 3
This left about half of the strands in the outer casing, along with the whole of the inner core, to be whipped a third time near the end of the splice. Fig 4
This method does not taper the inner core of the rope at all, adding greatly to the strength of the splice. Fig 5
Even Samson’s instructions, (and many of the other methods as well), advocate that the spice should also be whipped and sewn at the throat. Personally, I think this rather detracts from a reverse-tuck splice, but it does add strength and minimizes the splice expansion at the throat, which is the first sign of stress. Fig 6
To add further strength to my lashing at the throat and the second whipping, I reinforced it by lock stitching sideways through both lines, in and out, then back again. This does not need to look attractive, and indeed the whole thing doesn't need to look particularly appealing at all, because the final operation is to sheathe the splice with shrink tubing. Fig 7.
Shrink tubing finishes off the splice, and also protects the whippings from weather and UV sunlight. It is best to use a marine grade tubing with an adhesive inside, which melts when shrinking, and makes the cover waterproof. They are available in different colors and matching the color with the rope adds a nice touch. Heat shrink tubing is best reduced using a heat gun, but it can also be done with a hair dryer. The obvious thing to be careful of is not to damage the outer core of the line. The completed assembly now looks very similar to a reverse-tuck splice and nobody can tell how it's made, because they can’t see the underlying work.
The object is to achieve maximum strength in the splice, but whenever a rope is joined or run through a thimble or shackle, it will be inherently weaker than the rest of the line. I wanted to test how much this was, but I had no specific equipment to measure a load on a splice, so I decided to test one to destruction.
I spliced a thimble on some old 1/2”inch line, and purposely left the heat shrink off this splice, to be able to inspect it during the test.
I wound a few turns of a 3/4”inch diameter mooring rope round my fore mast and passed it through the thimble, then tied it off. The bitter end of the line was wound four times round the warping drum on my Maxwell windlass, twelve feet forward. I took the precaution to put on safety classes, and watched the line draw tight as the winch took the strain. There was a bit of creaking from the securing rope as everything bedded down, but otherwise no movement on the splice.
With further pressure from the winch the whipping began to stretch, and I noticed the throat opening a little, By this time the rope was absolutely bar tight, as I would not expect except in extreme conditions, yet the splice held. By this time the windlass was beginning to strain, and with a further touch on the button the splice exploded with a crack! leaving the thimble rocking gently on the securing rope and the line shredded. The whipping had let go, and the line pulled through the thimble. Unfortunately, I had no instrument to measure the actual load on the line when the splice failed, but it was very very tight.
Later I made another splice using the same line, but this time I parceled the splice with marine grade heat shrink tubing, which I sweated to the splice until the adhesive visibly extruded from both ends. I then let the glue dry for one hour, whereupon the splice became hard and unbendable, unlike without the heat shrink applied.
I repeated the test, but of course, this time I could not see how the splice was reacting, except that the throat stretched like before. As I applied maximum load on the line the windlass relays began to “flutter” and then the winch refused to turn any further, yet the splice held. Clearly the addition of the tubing, and the glue shrunk tightly to the joint had given enough added strength to stop the winch.
A word of warning, No splice should be relied upon to attach personal safety equipment, like hoisting someone up a mast, or attaching a lifeline. This precaution also applies to the conventional reverse-tuck splice. An applicable knot is always preferable in all these cases Otherwise, I have no compunction in using my splicing method on any part of my boats running rigging, and I have used it on all braided lines, none of which have given way so far..