Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wooden Cleats for Small Boats

To the yachtsman who likes to make his own fittings, nothing gives more satisfaction than wooden cleats. When properly designed, they are easier on line than their metal counter parts. Having more surface area, resting in more friction, the line is less liable to slip. They have a rugged honest appear­ance that appeals to all sailors. Most of the cleats that I have seen are made af locust, well seasoned and close grained, and were soaked in hot linseed oil when finished.

The first is an all purpose cleat designed to handle 3/8 or 1/2 inch line. The blank was roughed out on the bandsaw to the dimensions given. The horns were rounded off with a wood rasp, and the neck or throat was hollowed with a rat-tail file. Sandpaper removed all the high spots and gave it the final shape. It was bored to take two 1/4 inch carriage bolts, the heads being slightly countersunk. The second cleat is a jam cleat for 3/8 inch rope, and was designed to handle jibsheets on a small center boarder where speed in handling was of prime importance. The sheet can be led around the wide after end and held in the hand, the cleat acting as a deck block or fairleader. To belay, the hauling part is pulled across under the long horn where it is jammed securely between the horn and the deck. To release, give it a jerk and it is free to run. It is secured to the deck by carriage bolts.

The last item is a shroud cleat to belay flag halyards. In days gone by it would probably have been made of whalebone, but lignum vitae, if obtainable, is the best substitute. It was designed for 3/16 inch wire rigging, which is parceled with friction tape and served with marline for a length of 4 inches, to which the cleat is seized. After the blank is roughed out it is finished with a file, shallow grooves are cut to receive the seizings, and the base is hollowed out with a rat-tail file to fit the served shroud. The cleat is mounted breast high on the after side of the shroud and secured by three seizings of tarred yacht marline, drawn up as tightly as possible and then given three coats of spar varnish.
Regardless of whether you varnish or paint them, wooden cleats should first be soaked a long time in hot linseed oil until the wood is saturated. This prevents any tendency to check, and seems to harden the wood con­siderably. You should allow at least three days for the oil to harden before