Cross-Locking Clips for Rigging

This week, I’ve been dealing with rigging on a Amati’s American galley gunboat kit, the Arrow, as they call it. It’s a small model with an enormous number of cleats that lines have to get tied off to. While working on this, I realized that some beginning ship modelers might appreciate knowing one of the techniques I’ve used for years. It’s nothing new, and I’m sure most ship modelers already know this, including beginners. But, just in case, I thought I’d mention it today.

Rigging the Amati Arrow Gunboat kit.

When rigging a model, especially when belaying lines, tying them off, seizing them into place, etc., you want to make sure you’re lines are taught as you do it. The problem is that it’s hard to keep a line tight as you’re working on it. If you have really good manual dexterity, you might be allocate one finger to keep a line held down, while the rest of the fingers are busy securing the line into place. For those of us who aren’t gifted with such surgical grace, what to do? Everyone who’s rigged at least one model has some method they use and it may work quite well. I titled this post specifically about cross-clips that I really like for this job, but here are some ideas that I use, including the clips.

I regularly use hemostats rather than tweezers for working on rigging, though tweezers have their uses too. Hemostats make you look like a surgeon, which is rather appropriate, as you generally need surgeon-like skills to rig ship models. The things I like about them is that with scissor-like finger loops, it’s impossible to drop them, so they’re always at the ready. Another thing is that they’re lockable, so you can clamp down on something and keep it clamped.

As for keeping tension on lines, hemostats can lock onto a line, and are heavy enough to pull down on a line if you use their weight and hang them from a line. They’re somewhat large, so it’s sometimes hard for them to really hang down. Also, if you have a few lines you’re working on at one time, you probably don’t have a whole drawer full of these. And, if you did, they might start getting in the way of each other as you try to work around them.

At the other extreme, is the simplest solution: Tape. Painter’s tape or Tamiya brand masking tape work very well to tack down a line and keep it out of the way. It’s not good for maintaining a lot of tension on a line, but it will usually hold a little bit of tension. And, if you just need to keep a knot you just tied off from unraveling, a piece of removable tape can come in handy.


Now, we come to what I find to be about the most useful item for keeping a line tensioned just enough to keep it from slipping back out of a block or off a cleat, etc., which is the little cross-locking steel clamp. These very strong, all metal clamps are a little over 2″ long, and usually come in a set of 3 or 6.

In my early days of ship modeling, back in the 90s, I used to be able to find these things everywhere. I’m pretty sure X-Acto made them and possibly others. However, the only place that I’ve seen them lately is Micromark, where they come in a set of six for about $13.


These clips hold very tightly and they have a little weight to them, so you can let their weight keep a line just taught enough, while you work on it. They’re a lot harder to find than they used to be. But, there is kind of a cheap and quick item that doesn’t just about the same thing, though maybe not quite as elegantly as these cross-locking clips, and they’re very easy to find: The veritable binder clip…

You might have read my post about how to use these as cheap and quick planking clamps. These office clips have many uses, and this is just one more. So, if you don’t have them in your ship modeling tools, you should definitely get a box. You’ll find many other uses for them as well.

But, honestly, I much prefer the cross-locking clips, and writing this post is partly my way of reminding myself that I need to order some more, as I was only able for find two in my tool box this week, while working on rigging the gunboat model. Time for me to order some more! Ω


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