The Complete Rigger's Apprentice: Tools and Techniques for Modern and Traditional Rigging
by Brion Toss, Des Pawson, and Larry Pardey

Review by Peter Vanderwaart

Where do you go for answers to questions like these?  

      1. How can I use a piece of line to help carry a piece of plywood?
      2. Should I lubricate my turnbuckles? What should I use?
      3. What is the maximum load that I can expect on the my main sheet?
      4. What knot should I use to attach the rode to my anchor?

(answers at bottom of page)

In today's society, celebrity can come to most any line of work. We have celebrity chefs, celebrity financial advisors, celebrity fitness trainers. Thanks to "This Old House" and its imitators, we have celebrity woodworkers, plumbers, landscapers, whatever. In the boat world, we have celebrity riggers. Brion Toss is one. (But not the first. That may have been the late Spike Africa, "President of the Pacific Ocean.") It goes without saying that a celebrity has a book. Toss has written a couple. He has made a video or two. He does seminars. He has a web site ( As far as I know, he has yet to appear on Oprah!

The Complete Rigger's Apprentice is an enlarged combination of two earlier Toss books: The Rigger's Apprentice and The Rigger's Locker. It contains the answers to the questions posed above and many, many more. One of the first questions that I researched was how to keep the tips of my spreaders from sagging to a decrepit-looking and dangerous angle. Brion had the answer: a bit of friction tape and marline service (page 216).

In concept the book is the text for a one-year apprenticeship in rigging. It is not meant to be complete; no single volume could be an exhaustive compilation of such an ancient craft. But it is thorough in the basics.

What is your interest? Rope? Descriptions of the various types and recommendations about selection. Knots? Two dozen of the most important, including seven bowlines. Splices? The most important splices for each kind of rope, and for wire. Design? Guidelines for masts and rigging. All this plus instructions for serving and seizing, loft and boatyard techniques (such as working aloft), emergency procedures, and decorative ropework. There is even a section on tricks and puzzles. Anyone paging through this book is going to find ways helpful techniques and ways to do things better. Anyone. Regardless of experience.

The emphasis is safety first, followed by workability and durability. Economy is a lesser priority, although by no means ignored. Especially interesting are numerous suggestions for specialized and homemade tools, such as the head of a crescent wrench welded to a marlingspike.

The text is very well written. The descriptions are clear for the most part, and the tone is light without being excessively breezy. The illustrations by Robert Shetterly are excellent. This is one of the most useful books on my shelf.


The answers to the questions at the top: 1) tie up a simple sling, page 259, 2) yes, with anhydrous lanolin, page 11, 3) look it up on the graph, page 22, 4) an anchor hitch (of course!), page 54.