Do-it-Yourself Chafe Protection

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:54AM - Comments: (3)

Photo by Ralph Naranjo
Photo by Ralph Naranjo

A leather punch or awl, a sailorís palm, whipping twine, and a sharp knife are the only tools youíll need to make leather chafe gear.

With tropical storm season under way, my mind turned to the topic of chafe protection for lines. For a broader look at hurricane preparation, the†July 26, 2012 blog post linked to several previous Practical Sailor tests and articles related to chafe in mooring and dock lines. In this post, Iíll revisit one solution that comes up again and again anytime we talk about chafe protection: the leather chafe guard.

The following short description of do-it-yourself chafe protection, written by PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo, appeared in the July 2011 issue of Practical Sailor.

Being a team of diehard do-it-yourselfers, we decided to try our own hand at devising a workable solution to defeating line chafe. After fiddling with canvas, old fire hose, and even messing around with some Kevlar, we settled on leatheróan old riggerís standby. It proved to be rugged and remained intact after we put it through our chafe protection routine on the belt sander. The fabrication process was kids craft 101, and there was something quite seafaring about the result.

Our approach was straight out of the old-salt column. Using a sharp knife and metal straight edge, we lopped off the size patch we needed. Holes were punched opposite each other at ĺ-inch intervals, and for temporary use, we zigzagged small cord the length of the leather. For a more permanent installation, we handstitched the leather in place, tucking locking stitches into the rope at each end. Holes were made with a pliers-like hole punch, and we fashioned our chafe strips to be long enough to cover the hard points, adding an additional 25 percent to the length to handle stretch and any minor slippage.

Whether laced on for short-term use or stitched more permanently in place, the leather rode smoothly in chocks and prevented the hard edge of an alloy rail from damaging rope fibers. Care needs to be taken to keep the more fragile stitched seam from facing the action and becoming the surface that handles the abrasion. But the same holds true for commercial products that rely on velcro closures.

All in all, we concluded that if you have the time and enjoy the tradition of handworking a seamanship solution, definitely go find some leather. If you would rather spend the time sailing, purchase an over-the-counter solution (see PS, July 2011 online). But above all, be ready to add anti-chafe gear to your lines when good weather turns bad; a good outcome is all about staying put.

Comments (2)

Very helpful articlew. Please indicate what spec on the leather - e.g. weight, type etc. so I can order the right stuff.


Posted by: Bob E | June 18, 2014 8:39 AM    Report this comment

My personal favorite, for nearly 30 years, has been 2-inch tubular webbing. Installed loosely, the line floats inside and the webbing is stationary relative to the sharp bits. I've never had it wear through, generally lasting at least 10 years. Lines do not heat because it is breathable and very water permeable. No seam to fuss, fits smaller chocks, and does not stiffen line appreciably. 30 seconds to install and only $0.68/foot at REI.

If you would like an even more durable version, coat it with a few pennies worth of Yale Maxi Jacket. Without the treatment it wears about like leather of equal thickness; with the coating it outwears everything but Dyneema (verified both on abrasion machine and on-boat usage).

The only thing it is does not do well is saw back-and-forth on a dock. Chain or really heavy hose are better choices. Better yet, re-rig to avoid what amounts to an untenable situation.

Not traditional in appearance.

Posted by: Unknown | June 17, 2014 9:05 PM    Report this comment

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