Original British Royal Navy Sail Maker's Knot Tying Wooden Fid - circa 1790
Original item: Only One Available. We have only had one of these previously, and when we first received that one, we did not know what it was. Based on the shape, we assumed it was some sort of "Club" to repel boarders. However it is actually an essential Naval Sail Maker's tool called a "FID" for sizing the eye letting of grommet holes and used in rope weaving/joining. Usually they are smaller, but this one is quite substantial. Truly amazing! ( We still think it would make a great Club.)
Measuring 15" tall, made a VERY hard wood, known as Lignum vitae, latin for "wood of life". The wood is called guayacan or guaiacum, and in parts of Europe known as Pockholz, from trees of the genus Guaiacum. The trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America and have been an important export crop to Europe since the beginning of the 16th century. The wood was once very important for applications requiring a material with its extraordinary combination of strength, toughness, and density. If any item on a ship required this type of wood, it would be a Sail Makers FID.
It is essentially a very heavy wooden spike with the other end rounded, and is used to hold open knots and holes in canvas, and to separate the "lays" (or strands) of rope for splicing. It has thirteen circular rings carved near the round end, no doubt for grommet sizing (they had BIG grommets). The Fid had to withstand repeatedly being pushed through the heavy fabric sails. They were also used for repairing and splicing the heavy ropes used on the ship, which again required a wood of exceptional durability.
This example does not have any markings on it, but they were not officially issued items, so they usually would not be. A very interesting piece of Naval history, ready to display!
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