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Swig Blocks

With a few minutes of spare time at the end of a day in the woodshop, Joe and I decided to make a few swig blocks. I first saw mention of swig blocks in Hervey Garrett Smith's endlessly fascinating book The Arts of the Sailor. Smith defined the swig block as "a snatch block without a sheave." A snatch block has a hinged cheek so that the line can be rove around the sheave without having to thread the end of the line through the block. The inherent complexity of the hinge and latch make snatch blocks expensive. But in cases where the line is stationary, there is no need for the sheave, and a swig block serves the same common purpose of a snatch block - to temporarily hold a line at an angle rather than a tangent between two points. Smith cites the example of holding a main or jib halyard away from the mast, when on the dock or at anchor, to keep it from slatting. The swig block is hooked onto the halyard and the tail is hitched tight to a shroud. Most sailors have probably seen plastic versions of these in use in marinas.

We laid out eight small swig blocks on a 1 1/2 inch wide length of oak, each one 2 1/4 inches in length. Joe rough cut them to shape on a scroll saw while I started finished them with rasp, file and sandpaper. We drilled the lanyard holes on the press. I coated the first one in furniture polyurethane, nothing that would stand up to a marine environment, for us to keep in the shop, and the remainder will be done in Pettit EZ Prime and Epoxy.

Posted 9/04/18.

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