Language: jargon: sailing

Sailmaker's Palm: Naut.

  1. A tool used to push a needle through heavy layers of cloth, rope, and/or leather.

A sailmaker's palm is similar in concept to the thimble. It's used to push a needle through heavy stuff, and with great force. The palm wraps around the hand, has a thumb hole, and a rest for the heel of the needle centered over the user's palm. The needle rest is made of metal secured in a rawhide socket. It is called an iron or eye.

There are two specific varieties of sailmaker's palms, and a sailmaker will need both. The seaming palm, used for sewing seams and tablings, has an iron with small indentations for smaller needles. The roping palm is for bigger needles used in heavier work, such as sewing the boltrope to a sail. The thumb hole will have a protective apron of leather around it called a thumb stall so the sailmaker can heave up on the stitch without the thread cutting into the hand. The roping palm's iron will have just a few large and deep indentations.

A good quality palm is unique to the user. It will need to be made specifically for the sailmaker's hand, or must be customized from a stock palm by taking it apart and reconstructing it to fit. A palm will, through use, adjust to the sailmaker's personal way of sewing, and hand shape. Palms are very much a private tool, and it is considered quite rude to try someone else's on for fit without permission.

  • Merino, Emiliano; The Sailmaker's Apprentice: A guide for the self-reliant sailor; International Marine; © 1994 International Marine/Ragged Mountan Press; ISB 0-07-157980-X