Now that we have discussed what service can do, you must be wondering how can a line be wrapped so tightly and uniformly? The answer is a mallet! A Serving Mallet to be precise.
Serving mallets are simply tools created by riggers to best apply service. You can't buy them, you have to make your own, and they are all different. I have met riggers who use mallets that look like hammers and have large handles, others that look like small forks. They all tend to be made of hardwoods, but I have once seen an old stainless steel chainplate used as a serving mallet.
The principles that you want to keep in mind when making your serving mallet are:
Comfortable in your hands
Spool of service line attached to handle
Holds itself in place
Able to get into small places
I have seen some mallets that look like a sledge hammer, but they are unable to work the ends of the lines near thimbles and they require a lot of open space to spin them around. Others don't have a way to attach the spool of service line to the end and require a second person to pass the line around as you apply the service.
When I made mine, I used a hickory hammer handle, cut a groove into the end and lashed a paint roller frame to it. This holds the spool of service line so that I can do it alone without the aid of someone to pass the line along with me. I cut a groove in the side of the hammer end and that holds it to the line. By doing a series of wraps, the mallet stays firmly attached to the stay and provides enough resistance to tightly wrap the line around the stay. Being how the head is thin, I can service all the way to the very end of the stays, right up to the thimble.
If you search "serving mallet" in Google:Images, you will see they almost all have grooves cut into them. These were not there when they were new. As thousands of feet of service line pass down the same path on the mallet, grooves will begin to take form. They are wonderful when they do as they will help guide the line along the appropriate path. Because each mallet is the creation of the rigger and the construction of his thoughts and needs, they don't seem to want to sell them (at least they weren't selling them when I was looking for one and had to make my own).
Service might seem like an easy concept, and it is! You just have to keep a lot of tension on the line and wrap it very tightly. There can't be any overlapping lines, it must be completely flat and smooth. If there is variability in the tension, it will lead to variability in the wrapping. While it is easy to wrap a line over and over, starting and stopping are a bit complicated. If you want to service your own line, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know and I can post more detailed instructions with a video of how to start and how to finish the service.