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A WELL-TIED KNOT CAN GO A LONG WAY

Who knows when and how early man tied the first knot? Maybe he was inspired by the way a snake coiled around its prey holding it tight. Or, after trying to get something that was held in place by a mass of convoluting vines the idea dawned on her that she could use smaller twines the same way to attach something like a stone to a stick to make a hammer. Whatever it was, knots were probably one of the first technologies that early humans used as they started to make more sophisticated tools. Today, there are over 2,000 different knots listed in what is commonly referred to as the bible of knot tying, “The Ashley Book of Knots”. Each knot was created to meet the needs of a specific situation, but, in general, they are used for four main purposes:

  • Connecting two or more ropes together.
  • Binding or attaching something to another object.
  • Tightening a rope or set of ropes.
  • Making a loop to use to attach something to a stationary object.

“TODAY, THERE ARE OVER 2,000 DIFFERENT KNOTS LISTED IN WHAT IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS THE BIBLE OF KNOT TYING, ‘THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS’ BY CLIFFORD W. ASHLEY.”

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KNOT VOCABULARY

Like any niche specialty, there are a variety terms and vocabulary that one needs to know to better work with ropes.

Bend: A knot, such as the Sheet Bend, used to connect two pieces of rope together.

Bight: Made by folding a piece of rope into a “U” shape; this can be done either at the end of the rope or somewhere in the middle, depending on what you are trying to do. See Loop, below.

Hitch: A knot used to attach a rope to some object such as a hitching post or tent peg.

Loop: Made by passing the ends or parts of the rope over each other. See Bend above.

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Running End: The part of the rope that is manipulated to make the knot; also called the working end, tail end, live end, or tag end.

Standing End: The part of the rope that is not manipulated to make the knot; it is often connected to something else.

Turn: One pass of the rope round or through an object.

Whipping: A binding knot used to prevent a rope’s end from fraying.

WHIPPING A ROPE

The first thing you need to do whenever you cut a piece of rope is to treat the end in some way to keep it from unravelling. This can be done by dipping it in liquid rubber or by putting some electrician’s tape or duct tape around it. But the most permanent method is to just whip the end with some string or fine cord. This is done by making a bight of string or dental floss at the end of the rope and then wrapping the string around the bight and then securing the running end. See the illustration for more details.

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KNOTS FOR JOINING TWO ROPES TOGETHER

The most common knot is one that connects two pieces of rope or cord together for some purpose such as tying your shoes in the morning, putting a ribbon on a birthday present, or connecting a thin rope to a thicker rope. These knots meet that need.

Square Knot: The square knot is a binding knot, used for tying two ends of the same rope together to secure something tightly.

Sheet Bend: A sheet bend is the best knot to tie two ropes together, whether of the same or of different thicknesses.

KNOTS FOR LASHING

We all have occasions where we need to tie something down or attach a rope to some heavy or stationary object. These two knots are excellent choices for that purpose.

Clove Hitch: This is used to attach a rope to a post or rail.

Timber Hitch: This is used for handling cargo or when you need to move or drag something along like a log or spar. The same hitch is known as a Bowyer’s Knot because it attaches the end of the bow string on a longbow.

KNOTS FOR ADDING TENSION

Every time you pitch a tent and put pegs in the ground, or set up a clothes line, or string up a hammock, you need a knot that will allow you to tighten the strain being placed on the rope to keep it taught. These three knots are designed for that particular purpose.

Midshipman’s Hitch: The midshipman’s hitch is used for any time you need a loop that will hold tight when pressure is applied but that you can easily move up or down the standing part to adjust the tension. A common use is for guide lines on a tent.

Two Half Hitches: This is one of the simplest knots for tying a rope such as a clothesline or the rope of a boat to a pole or a ring. It forms a loop that can be pulled tight yet which is easily loosened again.

MISCELLANEOUS KNOTS

There are literally hundreds of different knots in the world, each one designed to meet a specific need. These three illustrate just how unique those needs can be.

Figure-8 Knot: The figure eight knot is a stopper knot used to make a bulky knot that will not slip. It is designed to stop the rope from running through an opening and to help keep it in place.

Bowline: The bowline forms a loop that will not slip. It is an important rescue knot in fire, mountain climbing, and water accidents. Learn to tie it around yourself, then around someone else.

Prusik Knot: Its principal use is to ascend or descend a rope, or “Prusiking” using loops formed by Prusik knots as hand and foot holds. Two Prusik loops are alternately slid up the static rope: a long Prusik loop reaches the climber’s foot – to allow leg power for ascending, and a second short Prusik loop is attached to the harness – to allow sitting.

So, now that you know a few basic knots, go out and start using them in your daily activities and take the time to learn more of the 2,000 other knots that are out there. There are special knots for most hands-on activities that people do from gift wrapping to mountain climbing.

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