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I've been reading about soft shackles, and have decided that I'd like to try making some out of Dyneema/Amsteel. Who has good prices on it? Are there any places in the Philly/NJ area that are likely to have line ends or the like? What would you use for a "general purpose" shackle for a 31' boat, 1/8" or something bigger?
 

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Jim,

I would start with 1/4". It's really a little larger than you will need but the larger size also makes it easy to splice and work with. The smaller the line gets the more difficult it is, and once you get below 1/8 it gets really tricky. To get started you are looking at say 20' of 1/4" which should run right around a dollar a foot retail at WestMarine. If you can find an end it will be about half that.

In terms of size, 1/8" is probably a direct replacement for every shackle on your boat, realistically you could likely go down to 7/64 and have plenty of strength. But unlike with stainless shackles they weigh so little there isn't much to be gained by going smaller.
 

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I was going to recommend 3/16" as a good starting point for the same reason that Greg is recommend 1/4". 3/16" is a lot easier to work with than 1/8" when you are first getting started and doesn't cost much more. His suggestion of 1/4" is probably even better.

There isn't a lot of material in a soft shackle, so even at West Marine prices for dyneema you are building them quite cheaply.

Make sure to check out the new designs in EStar's thread on Sailing Anarchy, this is a link directly to a new design:
Rope/knot/splice load testing - Page 11 - Gear Anarchy - Sailing Anarchy Forums

Now that I've done a pretty good amount of dyneema splicing I find 7/64" pretty easy to work with and use that for most soft shackles. I made my own double ended fids out of solid stainless rod (about 2.5mm in diameter) for working in 7/64". The easy to find commercial fids (like the Samson ones) don't work in small diameter line very well.
 

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3/16" isn't bad, but I think 1/4" is a little easier. A normal soft shackle takes about 30 inches or so, so even in the bigger stuff you are only talking about a couple of dollars.


For anything smaller than 1/8" I use wire loops made from folded over copper wire. Even at 7/64 it isn't that bad. The fun stuff is when you start splicing 50lbs fishing line. Then you get down to some really thin wire just to try and get it they for the bury.
 

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I've been using the 1/4" and have some 3/8". I'd worry about smaller diameter cutting through whatever it was strung through, although plenty strong. Try LFS Outdoor. They have really good prices on Amsteel as well as commercial fishing line types that are useful and MUCH less costly and usually more rugged than yachtie braids. I made up my main halyard with Tenex, spliced to Amsteel. The Tenex is one size larger and works for the last couple of feet around the halyard winch.
 

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I've been using the 1/4" and have some 3/8". I'd worry about smaller diameter cutting through whatever it was strung through, although plenty strong. Try LFS Outdoor. They have really good prices on Amsteel as well as commercial fishing line types that are useful and MUCH less costly and usually more rugged than yachtie braids. I made up my main halyard with Tenex, spliced to Amsteel. The Tenex is one size larger and works for the last couple of feet around the halyard winch.
I use the small stuff to replace things like brass hooks on my J-22, or gear holders. You are right, they can easily cut thru fiberglass, and you really don't want to pull on it by hand.
 

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3/16" isn't bad, but I think 1/4" is a little easier. A normal soft shackle takes about 30 inches or so, so even in the bigger stuff you are only talking about a couple of dollars.
Do you go for the diamond head knot on the 1/4" line?
The diamond head knot works well for the 3/16 line but seemed a little bulky for 1/4.
 

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To date I have used a diamond knot for all soft shackles. The larger diameter the line the larger the knot needs to be to hold it securely. Even the 1/2" shackles I have made don't seem that bulky when they are finished.

It looks like there may be a new knot that has a higher breaking strength than the diamond, but it is still being tested, and there are some construction concerns I have about it. Until there is a little more evidence about how the new knot works I will be sticking with the diamond.
 

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All of the ones that I have in service are diamond knots. I've made them with line between 7/64" and 1/4".

The 7/64" ones are still plenty strong for loads well over 1000lbs. I use them for holding jib sheets on my 505 (racing dinghy) and have used them for spinnaker sheets on the my Pearson. One holds the cunningham in place on my Pearson 28-2 as well.

1/8" is the size that I use most often. I can't think of anything that I've put a soft shackle on where I was worried about it cutting through fiberglass.
 

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I'm not too familiar with soft shackles but I am intrigued.
Would love to use them for attaching jib sheets.
Do they work reliably. I've seen some violent "thrashing" of jib clews while tacking ..... Will they stay closed during theses violent times or just part???
Thanks Bill
 

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It's pretty easy. I usually sell them in 1/4" but that really too large for most applications. 1/8" seems to work much better. 7/64" tends to be harder for some people to operate, but are plenty strong.

I've never had one come off either on a jib or a spin sheet.
 

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Sorry, I don't have a photo handy.

zz4's photo is pretty close. I use a separate soft shackle per sheet, that is easier if you need to re-route the lazy sheet while a sheet is in use. My jib sheets look very different than that, they are dyneema for the first few feet and double braid for the rest, so the eyesplice is in dyneema and not double braid. This makes the sheets lighter (less weight on the clew is good) and smaller. The splice is located so that it just gets to the winch when close hauled on my genoa, which is a very nice visual indicator when tacking.

I should be at my boat this evening and will try to remember to take some photos.
 

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I have endurabraid sheets, so on the ring I have two diamond knot loops that are ring hitched, and a sliding eye on the sheets themselves. This way I can take one off without disturbing the working sheet. It also means all the sheets on the boat can be used with any sail since the diamond knot loops are never removed from the sail.
 

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Greg's setup is what I do for the topping lift and downhaul on my spinnaker pole, and what I'll do next time I feel like splicing jib sheets.

This is what is going on at my sail's clew:


This is the splice from Amsteel Blue to double braid (Sta-Set), along with a whipping that is falling. This is with the sail drawn near a close haul. I really like having the color indication in the sheets of where close hauled is:


The sheets are 7/16" Sta-Set spliced to 1/4" dyneema. 3/8" double braid would have been fine, but my winches don't work as well with the smaller line. I have another set of sheets that are 3/8" spliced to 5/32", but don't use them often for that reason.
 

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If you don't need to remove your sheets, there is no need for a shackle at all. How I do it in single braid: a brummel splice with unburied "tails" (the line bitter ends, ergo the sheet ends) and then larks-head onto the clew



 

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A lark's head won't hold in dyneema.

On most boats I think it is better to have two sheets to allow for easier sail changes. Even if you only run with a single headsail today you might want to get a smaller or larger one in the future. It really opens up the conditions that you'll sail in.
 
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