The patented Fid-O splicing tool and Super Snake were invented by long-time Navy man James McGrew.
Navy Warrant Carpenter James D. McGrew
The youngest of a well drilling contractor’s three sons, he completed high school and joined the Navy in 1937 to see the world.
Rigging practices he had learned in the family well drilling business while growing up soon proved to be an asset. He learned the traditional names used aboard ship for similar work while earning his Coxswain and Sailmaker’s Mate 3rd class training certificates aboard the USS New Orleans in 1938.
His chance to see much of the world came with a tour of duty aboard the USS Augusta, the Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet that started in 1939.
In this picture of the Augusta’s 1939 Asiatic Fleet Championship Sailing crew, he is circled on the lower right.
He learned many of the skills responsible for his rank as a Carpenter’s mate striker from an old Chief who had served in WWI. The Chief taught him to “fix things right if you have the time, and to fix things fast when you don’t”.
When the war started in Europe, advancement came fast in an expanding navy. He had held the rank of CM2c for six months when he was discharged in May of 1941, at the end of his term of enlistment.
His time as a civilian was short-lived, however.
The Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor saw him back in the Navy by December 12, 1941, assigned to duty at the US Naval Net Depot at Tiburon, California, where Carpenter’s Mates with small boat repair experience were urgently needed.
Later in the war, he served aboard a Net Tender in the Marshall Islands in 1944. There, he was appointed a Warrant Carpenter, with orders to join a Lion 9 Mobile Repair Unit being formed as part of an Amphibious Assault Force for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, no doubt because of his boat repair work at Tiburon. When the war ended, he returned to civilian life.
After World War II, with the great expansion of the chemical industry, ropes made of synthetic fibers began to displace traditional ropes made of natural fibers like hemp and cotton. The Fid-O© was invented in 1972, to facilitate the splicing of synthetic rope when manila cordage was no longer available. Many of Mr. McGrew’s 8 patents related to splicing can be traced back to splicing skills and methods he learned as a Sailmaker’s Striker on the USS New Orleans, from a Navy Sailmaker’s Mate First Class who passed on many of his skills man-to-man.
Today, you can benefit from tools created to advance the sailmaker’s art, the 21st Century continuation of a fine old tradition stretching back at least to Roman times!
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