Fid (Lignum Vitae)
15″ long, 1.75″ at widest part
A fid is a conical tool made of wood or bone. It is used to work with rope and canvas in seamanship. A fid is used to hold open knots and holes in canvas or to open the “lays”, or strands of rope, for splicing.
Lignum vitae is a wood from trees of the genus Guaiacum. The trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America and have been an important export crop to Europe since the beginning of the 16th century. The wood was once very important for applications requiring a material with its extraordinary combination of strength, toughness, and density. “Lignum vitae” is Latin for “wood of life”, and derives its name from its medicinal uses; lignum vitae resin has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions from coughs to arthritis, and chips of the wood can also be used to brew a tea. Lignum vitae is also one of the numerous hard, dense woods loosely referred to as “ironwood”. Lignum vitae is hard and durable, and is also the densest wood tradedm so dense it will easily sink in water. The belaying pins and deadeyes aboard USS Constitution and many other sailing ships were made from lignum vitae. Due to its density and natural oils, they rarely require replacement, despite the severity of typical marine weathering conditions, and also resisted jamming in their mortise holes. It is no accident that they were the preferred wood for fids. The sheaves of blocks on sailing vessels were made of lignum vitae until the introduction of modern synthetics.