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For reasons of expense and convenience, I am thinking of switching to soft-shackles as I update the running rigging (slowly) on my new (to me) boat. I cannot find an conversation about this -- if I have missed one, forgive me (and please direct me to it). Otherwise, can I ask the opinion of other sailors? Does anyone have some experience using them? Are you happy with them. Let me say I have a 38 ft boat (a Sabre) and use it primarily for cruising. I am thinking of the soft shackles for the halyards and probably to attach the jib sheets (thinking that a soft shackle and an eye-splice will be stronger than a simple bowline). Thanks! Jim
 

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Soft shackles and eye splices on the jib sheets are great. I also use them for the spinnaker sheets, to keep my anchor on the roller, to make a dogbone through my mainsail tack cringle, and probably in other situations that I'm forgetting about.

I still use a standard halyard shackle because it is a little faster to use. If you switch to a soft shackle there may sure that the head cringle on your mainsail is in good shape and doesn't have any wear that could cause chafing.

This is my favorite type of soft shackle to make and use:
Better Soft Shackle

That is also the style that Brion Toss has started to teach.
 

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I use them almost exclusively, and highly recommend them. The only downside I know of is that they can be difficult to open one handed, so I don't like them for asym tack lines that may require climbing out on the pole to release. Otherwise they are great.

I like the Glen-L improved soft shackle as well, and use it exclusively for normal soft shackles. But there are some other ones he has up that are just as good. The line shackle is my favorite for attaching sheets and halyards since you can leave the diamond knot on the sail permanently, and just remove the sheets as needed.

Making these is sizes above 1/8" is pretty easy with even basic splicing tools, and I highly recommend learning how to make them yourself. It's easy, and a pretty good cost savings.

Below 1/8" it can get difficult, not hard really just tricky, since burying the tail gets a little tight in the smaller stuff. I make a lot of shackles out of 1.70mm line (500lbs MBL) which requires a wire fid instead of traditional fids, but still only takes a few minutes more.
 

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a. There's nothing wrong with knots; halyards and sheets break where they chafe, if ever.

b. Yeah, I use that soft shackle variant.

c. Old fashioned tied stropes work for many things, in someways better, though not as strong.
 

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search..."soft shackles a good idea sailnet?"...
good thread.
I usually just go on google and it comes up better than sailnet search.
Have been making/using them, using Amsteel on my 30 fter, so far very happy. Will chafe on hard metal edges.
Have heard 3/16 Amsteel good to around 5,000 lbs. but I use 1/4' if think will get anywhere close to that.
Had a little medical procedure on fingers that were not working
to good and make soft shackles for friends as physical therapy.
If your not into making yourself happy to send one your way.
Hugo
 

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I just made 2 soft shackles out of 1/4" Amsteel line (breaking strength > 8000 #'s). Pretty easy and fun once you master it.
I was convinced to try making them by the price of a pre-made Ronstan (or whatever) soft shackle in a marine store (~$60).
My 12' purchase of 1/4 Amsteel cost < $20 and I can make 4 good sized soft shackles from that.
 

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for smaller size am steel, I use a wire leader (for fishing, any length over 12 " is great, the longer the better) just fold the leader in half and insert it between the strands, makes a nice reverse fid :D
 

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ill be doing my new 3/8ths sheets on my islander 36 this way...figured a change is always good

on smaller boats all I used was a bowline or if single just eye it into the clew and bend over

pics would be nice to see what you end up wuth guys
 

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Woot .. I am going to learn to make soft shackles! .. maybe it will be therapeutic, I need something to keep me thinking of sailing on these cold windless days.
 

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for smaller size am steel, I use a wire leader (for fishing, any length over 12 " is great, the longer the better) just fold the leader in half and insert it between the strands, makes a nice reverse fid :D
For the really small stuff I use 22gague wire doubled over. The problem is the wire snaps about as often as I get it to run thru properly.

I have ordered some hollow knitting needles that should work down to 1mm, past that there are some specialty needles made, but at $40 a piece I would rather use something cheaper.

The upside is that at this size the line is basically free. I think I paid $20 for 1000m of 100lbs line. There isn't a lot of need to splice it, but I use it instead of twine for lock stitching and whipping. And since it won't rot or suffer much UV damage it really seems to last forever.
 

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I bought a few when I had my running rigging made up. I use them for a variety of purposes; mostly for the jib sheets, tho. Hadda buncha 7/16 or 3/8 Stay-set core surplus and made a few more :D Nice way ta spend a few hours of downtime and avoid throwing good line away simply because of a worn cover.
Used as hanging loops from the toe rail to attach fender lines, odd blocks, a choker on the outhaul when reefed, etc. I just moved and needed more room on the bow cleat. Added a big(ger) soft shackle thru the bottom gap, so's I'd have room the 'horns' for the spring lines.

Quite useful :D
 

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anyone got real time pics of their work? would love to see them
I have sta set sheet, not the x, how easy was it for the jib sheet?
 

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sta-set is easy to eye splice. easier than sta-set x.

My sheets are Sta-Set spliced to Amsteel which then has the eyesplice (brummel splice) in it. Those are held to the sail with soft shackles.

My spinnaker pole topping lift and downhaul are done as Stumble recommended, a fixed diamond knot is mounted to the pole and the Amsteel portion of the line has the operating section of the soft shackle in them. It works very well.
 

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Christian I don't think you can get the sliding eye to work on sta-set. Part of what makes these work so well is that the dyneema is so slippery the fibers want to slide past each other (this is also why a brummel or lock stitch is necessary).

If I was using sta-set I would eye splice them, then use dyneema soft shackles to attach them to the sail.

I hate HATE splicing sta-set x that parallel core is the most annoying, grrrrrr.... Never mind. I don't to X splices anymore. Since I stopped working in a boat yard I don't have to, and now I pass it off.

Sta-set is pretty easy, it's just a core dependent line, so you need to follow those guidelines. The bury can be a bit of a pain, but otherwise it's not so bad. About like splicing nylon dock lines, if a bit stiffer.

Dyneema splicing is so easy it's like cheating. One of the reasons I am so in favor of people using it is that anyone with a ball point pen can splice it in just a few minutes. Instead of spending $25 a splice just take the five minutes to do it yourself.
 

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Sta-set is pretty easy, it's just a core dependent line
Sta-set is not a core dependant line. It requires a core to cover splice where the cover and core share the load.

Here is some info that may be helpful.

Diameter Tensile
Imperial Metric
3/32" 2 mm 1,000 lbs
1/8" 3 mm 2,800
5/32" 4 mm 4,300
3/16" 5 mm 6,050
1/4" 6 mm 9,700

I would not assume that a soft shackle is any stronger than one diameter of the material its made with.
 

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For the really small stuff I use 22gague wire doubled over. The problem is the wire snaps about as often as I get it to run thru properly.
If you know an aircraft or race mechanic, get a few lengths of stainless lock wire (safety wire). It comes in different diameters - IIRC 22gauge is 025 (or more correctly 0.25" edit: that would be 0.025"). Obviously the larger the diameter the stiffer. I have used 028 because that is what was in my tool box but I suspect 032 would be easier. Harbor Freight even sells a spool of 041 for $8 - I just picked one up but haven't used it yet so I can't comment on the quality.
 

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hmmm dont have any dyneema anywhere on the boat...bummer...I wanted to try something new out...well I guess I can just use bowlines...
 

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Zz4,

Sta-set like many double braid lines gets much of its strength from the cover, which makes it a cover or core dependent depending on how you look at it. This is somewhen different than sta-set X where the core carries the load and the cover is just for abrasion and UV protection. X should still be spliced with double braid methods to preserve this protection.

This is very different than the dyneema lines like amsteel which are uncovered, or endurabraid which is covered but gets no strength from the cover. Endura is still recommended to be core-to-core spliced to preserve the cover, but a lot of riggers just taper it and use a tapered bury with the dyneema inside. Actually most riggers buy endura with the expectation of doing a tapered line, where only the working section is covered and the standing portion is uncovered with a cover only tail. This is a pretty economical way to get the strength of dyneema without the downsides of dyneema in clutches and on winches.


Testing has shown that soft shackles are about as strong as the line they are made from when made in dyneema. The knot causes about a 50% loss in line strength but since the line is doubled everywhere it all works out in the end.

There was some research into a knot that would retain a higher percentage of the MBL but I haven't heard of anyone finding something.
 

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If you know an aircraft or race mechanic, get a few lengths of stainless lock wire (safety wire). It comes in different diameters - IIRC 22gauge is 025 (or more correctly 0.25" edit: that would be 0.025"). Obviously the larger the diameter the stiffer. I have used 028 because that is what was in my tool box but I suspect 032 would be easier. Harbor Freight even sells a spool of 041 for $8 - I just picked one up but haven't used it yet so I can't comment on the quality.
The really small stuff is what I keep breaking. I have a spool of 28 that snaps every time I try to pull hard on it. I think it is stainless, but honestly I am not sure, and I just looked at the spool and it doesn't mention alloy, so in retrospect it's probably cheap tin... The 20 gague works nicely on 1.75mm, but smaller than that gets a bit tricky.

I think I may need a run to HarborFreight... Some 42 would go nicely with that new set of screwdrivers I am sure I need for something :D
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for the great answers! I will try to make my first soft shackle this weekend.
 
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