Sections of the standing rigging on a sailing ship, where they could make contact with other items, were 'Served' to prevent chafing. For example, where the shrouds and stays pass round a mast or along the foremost of a set of shrouds where the sails might contact it.

The work actually involved three separate processes: worming, parcelling and serving:


Worming involved winding thin cord or spun yarn into the gaps between the individual strands to provide a smooth base for the parcelling.
The parcelling was made from long, narrow strips of tarred canvas wound in the same direction as the worming, i.e. with the lay.
The serving was applied over this and in the opposite direction, i.e. against the lay.

Serving lines on a model.

To simplify things on a model, the first two stages of the process can be omitted and the serving applied directly to the line. However, winding the serving cord around a fixed line is a tedious task; turning the line in some way whilst feeding the line on to it is potentially much quicker.

There are various designs for serving machines that you can build or buy to be found on the internet.

However, there is another option:

Building and operating a serving machine made from Lego

This article is the latest episode of a 'work in progress. The serving machine described has been used and updated over a period of several years. The machine shown in the background of the first video is a slightly older design than the one described in the building instructions and shown in the second video. It used two shafts whereas the latest version, that described in the building instructions and shown in the second video, no longer requires the shaft at the back..

Lego parts, both new and used, are readily available on-line. You can select and order specific parts from various suppliers and the parts list below contains information on sourcing the parts. However, there are a couple of parts used in the machine that you won't get from Lego!

  • Watch a video on how to make those parts.
    As explained above, this video refers to a previous version of the serving machine (visible in the background). The actual method of making the parts is unchanged but both ends of the shaft now need to be modified. 

The motor shown in the video is an old type geared motor. Using this motor is the simplest design and also the cheapest.
There are smaller, alternative motors available. These are probably more common but require separate gearing. However, if you already have a motor of this type, alternative instructions are provided.
The instructions include parts lists for each step of the construction:

Both motors will run on a 5 Volt supply from a standard plug-top type power supply or three 1.5 Volt cells. A reversing switch is handy, but not essential.

The length of cord in the video has a right hand lay. The machine can be run in the opposite direction for lines with a left hand lay.