(For our purposes, the outboard two lines in the photo do not exist.

Take one line and strop tightly to the body of the item to be covered as shown................

As will all single line coxcombs, the French takes an enormous length of line to cover
a given distance,  and you may find that it is convenient and prudent to "hank" up the
line in advance by making a coil and securing it top and bottom so that you can then
pull out only as much line as is convenient to work with, pulling more as you go along.  
Trying to do a long French (or any) coxcomb without this precaution leads to the lay of
the line relaxing as you continuously pull it thru the hitches, the line getting
progressively dirtier from being dragged across the deck or ladder, the long line
getting snarled and twisted and the man doing the work swearing he'll never do this
again except under threat of keelhauling!

The advantage here is that you're only working with a single line, so - providing you
have sufficient clearance between the work and a bulkhead - you can simply strop the
roll of line and pull from that instead of hanking it up.  (putting it in an old pillowcase
will help keep it clean, too!)

(Again, ignore the outboard lines in the picture)

Take the line and make a half-hitch in whatever direction.  Please note that the line
I'm using here is LEFT-laid so, really, I started in the wrong direction as going to the
RIGHT with left-laid line will cause the lay to open a bit when it is pulled tight.

You can ameliorate this by rolling the line in your fingers so as to close the lay tighter
when you are starting to tighten up the hitch... Then the natural tendency to open the
lay as it is snugged down will, with practice, counteract the overtightening.  It's a
kludge, but it works.

This is important for looks as well as the fact that, when doing a "mirrored" set of
companionway rails (the rails are hitched in opposite directions so that they appear
to be mirror-images of one another) you may have one spiral wrap a bit longer than
the other over the course of the run.  For that reason, you should go a certain
distance on the one rail, Then the same distance on the other, and go back and
forth until the rails are done.  You will readily see any "creep" and be able to correct it.
It also gives your muscles a break.

Note that this applies ONLY to "laid" lines.  If you are using a "woven" line, such as "Paracord"  or a blind-cord where the jacket is radially spun
around a core line, the problem will not occur as this sort of line works equally well to right or left, having no "lay".  You must still exercise
caution that woven lines do not get twisted on themselves when positioning the half-hitches as this will produce an unsightly "bump" in the

I find Paracord to be very poor for doing rail and stanchion work as it is exceedingly soft and slippery compared to cotton, hemp or even nylon
laid lines:  due to the lay, these grip the surface of the work better than the radially-woven types which have a tendency to "creep" quite a bit
while tightening up.  Your mileage may vary, but that's my story, and I'm sticking' to it.

Really, that's all there is to the instructions.  Keep half-hitching in the same direction,
be sure you constantly fair up the wraps on the back and sides as well as getting
the hitches as tight as you can and you'll get a fairly good surface covering which,
once varnished or painted, should remain waterproof for quite some time.

Just keep your tightening tension constant and (if working against the lay) remember
to roll the line before tightening up.

The line used here is #45 cotton (5/32") on a 1.5" o.d. Pipe rail and this produces a
pattern repeat of about 2-1/4".   Again, a "dummy run" covering a foot of work - once
removed - will give you not only the precise repeat point for the job but also allow you
to figure out how much line you'll use per foot of finished coxcomb.

In this instance, 5 yards of line will cover about 3-14" or rail, so a 10' rail would
require something like 84 yards to cover it.   Whatever, ALWAYS allow extra line in
your calculations, so for this I'd allow 90 years.   It's ALWAYS better to have line left
over at the end of a run than to find you're several inches short!

(Trust Me On This)

Also, allow a lot of time for any coxcomb job.  It'll take all of it and more.

Here I've redone the coxcomb to the left ((WITH the lay) and you can easily see
the difference between this and picture three.

coignts in the line now run (as they should) parallel to the wraps, the turns
are just a bit neater and the whole is just that much more pleasing to the eye
(well, to MY eye, at least).

Check out the legend on the picture.

I hope you can make use of this and the other tutorials and if you wish to
make a comment on them or a suggestion to improve them, please
EMAIL ME at any time!

Do, please,  send pictures of your projects, in process as well as finished up and
don't hesitate to ask questions!

BACK to the coxcombing main page.
Single Line
French (Bannister)
Last updated  2009-09-04
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The basic coxcomb, the French coxcomb consists of a series of successive half-hitches all going in one direction.  It is the
basis for the St. Mary's wrap and is probably the most commonly seen and done coxcomb of all times.

It gives good coverage when drawn up smartly and works well with the lay of the line being used.