Pin and Tape……

…….A term regularly used here at The Rigging Company. Yet this small detail appears to elude most, at least when it comes to doing it correctly. I always say, “details are what make the difference between a professional job and one that is well, not so professional”. If you take notice as to how your standing rigging was pinned and taped, you can usually tellĀ whetherĀ or not you were amidst skilled riggers.

Correctly Pinned and Taped

Sizing the cotter pin:Ā The diameter of the cotter pin should be the largest that will fit into the hole. In regards to length, choose a pin that is just long enough to bend both legs (no more than 2 times the length of the diameter of the stud or clevis pin). Cotter pins that are too long can cause snags and are if nothing else, unsightly. Cotter pins that are too short make it difficult to bend the legs and are not secure.

How to bend a cotter pin:Ā First, to insert the cotter pin, sometimes you will need to turn the turnbuckle and top stud to align the cotter pin hole (read here on how to adjust a turnbuckle). With clevis pins make sure that the hole is turned to the desired location before loading the pin.

NOTE: Cotter pins and clevis pins are always to be turned aft or inboard whenever possible.

There are several ways to bend a cotter pin. One, is to bend only one leg slightly and position the head so that it is opposite of gravity. This is the quickest, yet a safe method of securing a cotter pin.

Properly bent cotter pins at turnbuckle

Another version would be to bend both legs to an approximate 45 degree angle (see pic on the right, at the chain plate). Here the head can be positioned in any direction. This is the preferred method in aviation.

A third version is to bend the legs so that they are at 180 degrees toĀ each other (also pictured right in the turnbuckle). Although extremely secure, this method usually only works well within the confines of a turnbuckle body, otherwise the legs stick out too far and might get ‘caught’ up.

Bent Cotter pin

The last method is my least favorite as it is the most tedious. Here you bend the cotter pin legs all the way ’round'(pictured left). This may be necessary like up at the masthead or anywhere the cotter pin legs tend to be exposed to things that will easily snag, like rope.

Rigging Tape

So why tape? Well you need to tape to cover any sharp edges from getting snagged on sails, hands, ropes, feet etc… Many people frown on the technique of taping cotter pins at the turnbuckles. Yes, when the tape is allowed to stay on the turnbuckle for more than a year it starts to look shabby. For this very reason alone I have grown to like the neat, taped look. Old cruddy tape is a clear reminder to pay attention to your rigging.

To tape correctly is (believe it or not) a bit of a skill. Below is the technique that I follow.

How to tape Cotter pins

I start by taping from the top, down (pictured above). This allows me to make a second pass from the bottom up.

How to tape your rigging

Taping from the bottom up (pictured above) allows water to run off of the tape instead of sitting on its edges. It also makes the seamĀ disappear visually and gives it more of a molded look.

Reverse tape stainless steel

It is also a good idea to try and ‘reverse’ tape any stainless steel, as adhesives can cause pitting in stainless steel. Start of by applying the tape sticky side out (pictured above).

Please Note:Ā Turnbuckle bodies these days (as pictured) are usually made of chromed bronze, not stainless steel, hence reverse taping is not necessary.

reverse tape rigging part II

After you have covered a sufficient area, fold the tape over so the shiny side is out (pictured above). Continue taping covering any exposed adhesive. Make sure you finish on the way up and ALWAYS cut the tape without stretching it (pictured below)!

Always cut the tape without stretching it!

Optional cotter pin coverings are available and come in either PVC tubes, leather covers, and Velcro wraps that have the cotter pin sewn or riveted in. If you need an alternative to taping I would recommend theĀ leatherĀ or theĀ Velcro wraps.Ā imageTry and stay away from plastic tubes as they can break or becomeĀ brittleĀ in sunlight, this can create sharp edges. Be aware, anytime you cover your stainlessĀ hardwareĀ and leave it covered so that dirt and mold can form, it will cause the metal to oxidize, rust and deteriorate prematurely.

So once a year, take off your turnbuckle coverings and clean what is underneath!

Leather T.b. covers

Finally, you can also use silicone dabs to cover the sharp cotter pin legs in some applications (usually only aloft). It is very unlike me to okay the use ofĀ siliconeĀ as this has got to be the most over and improperly used product in the marine industry. So please use it sparingly and not until everything else is done first. Otherwise you areĀ likelyĀ to get that stuff everywhere.

Properly pinned and taped sailboat turnbuckles

Thanks for the read and stay tuned for more……

6 thoughts on “Pin and Tape……

  1. Hi, is it not possible to tape with a good quality amalgamating tape, this way there is not a sticky side, additional UV should not be an issue as it is recommended above to change the tape every 12 months.

    1. Hi Matt,

      Totally possible, we just don’t like the stuff. It gets gooey and is hard to remove. Self amalgamating tape or electrical tape or wrap pins, are rigger approved….just don’t use Duct Tape because that’s for ducts.


    1. Mmmm. Good question, really I’m not sure. As long as it is made of 304 stainless steel at the least…I would say a very long time. They usually are only tossed because they are only good for one or two re-bends before becoming too distorted.


  2. The picture shows the bottom end of the turnbuckle completely taped so it forms a kind of container that will collect water, salt and dirt on the thread. I would leave a draining opening at the bottom end, or does that introduce another snag?

    1. You are right, wow nice attention to detail! If you look at the rest of the lower tape jobs on the other stays there is a space for water to drain out. Typically this is a result of how open or closed the turnbuckle ends up being. I should have mentioned this in the write up, but sometimes when the turnbuckle is too open or too closed, I will bend the cotter-pin legs both in the same direction to allow for neater/ better draining tape job.

      To your point, I’d say yes, to go the extra mile and ensure that water can get out. I like that way of thinking! We should consider you for employment ;-0).

      Thanks for the read and for commenting!


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