Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information

Grommets and Rings

There are several ways to put reinforced holes in sails for attaching halyards, sheets, outhauls, lacings, reef pendants, reef points, brailing lines, etc. Here are examples of the most common hardware.

On top are two spur grommets, plain brass on the left, and nickel-plated brass on the right. Below on the left is a hand-sewn brass ring (HSR) with brass liner, and on the right a Bainbridge Inox hydraulically-pressed ring.

Spur grommets have teeth (spurs), which bite into the fabric when the two halves are pressed together with special 2-part dies -- grommet sets. Our loft has dies for spur grommets with IDs from 3/16” (#000) to 5/8” (#5). The two-part dies are struck with a mallet to set the grommets. Nickel- plated grommets will resist corrosion a little better, so plain brass ones are more suitable for fresh water use -- or when a traditional look trumps. Spur grommets are not as strong as the rings below -- but have the advantage of being easily replaced, without damage to the sail, should they become corroded or damaged. We use spur grommets for corner rings in most small-craft sails of under 100 sq ft, and for lacings and reef points in larger sails.

HSRs were the standard, even in large sails, when I apprenticed in the ‘70s. Hydraulic presses and proprietary rings were just coming on the scene. Today brass rings and matching liners, and the necessary dies for setting the liners, are scarce. They are still used when the sail is required to reflect the character of a traditional design. They will, however, lose a tug-o-war with a modern hydraulic pressed ring. There are many styles of sewing in HSRs -- the illustration shows “long and short” stitches to distribute load and avoid the cookie-cutter effect of putting all the needle holes on the same circle. Our loft has rings and liner dies from 1/2” to 1 1/4” ID (#4s to #9s). After the sewing work, the protective liners are set with the special dies using a heavy mallet.

The strongest kind of ring is the toothed stainless-steel type set with an hydraulic press. Dabbler Sails uses only Bainbridge “Inox” rings. The liners and needle-like teeth are of type 316 stainless steel, passivated to reduce the risk of staining the sailcloth. The rings are nylon. We use them in larger sails and whenever offshore work is likely, unless HSRs are specified for an historic or antique boat. We stock Inox rings from 3/8” to 1 3/8” ID. Up to 20 tons pressure is used to set the larger sizes. A distinct disadvantage of hydraulic pressed rings is that, in the unlikely event it is necessary to do so, they are very difficult to remove without damaging the sail.

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