Knots

Before diving into the details of knots, I like to work on the mindset of tying knots by studying terms. See my previous article. Once you understand how to talk about knots, tying them is greatly simplified.

A great knot is easy to tie, stays tied, and is easy to untie, so let's make some knots great. Put down that video game already, and pick up a rope. For it's fit to be tied.

BSA Knots

The Boy Scouts of America has 7 knots which it emphasizes in teaching boys to tie knots. It is certainly only a handful of a much large number of frequently useful knots, but certainly these knots hold the sweet spot before most others, as having a versatility of function and a simplicity of form which has stood the test of time.

Square knot

square knot drawn in marker

Do you also see a square when gazing at this knot? As hinted, I do, but my experience is that most do not.

Join ropes bight-in-bight
run right end over left and twist; now left over right and twist.
How much to use
  • 2 ropes of equal width
  • Spare lengths in each rope of a bight and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run each running end back along the other rope's standing part
  2. Cross the right rope over the left rope
  3. Do a full twist
  4. The right end is now on left (switch hands)
  5. Run each running end back towards one another
  6. Cross the left running end over right
  7. Do a full twist
How to check
  • Each rope forms a bight
  • Each eye holds the other neck
  • Standing parts twisted together
  • Running ends above
How to loosen
  1. Grab each neck or grab each end
  2. Push towards the knot

Timber hitch

timber hitch drawn in marker

I imagine a log or some venison could be dragged homeward with this simple knot.

Drag a large object
Run a loop up around the object; Put a bight up around the rope; 3 twists back down along the loop
How much to use
  • 1 large bulky object
  • 1 sled or tarp (optional, for ease of dragging)
  • 1 rope
  • Spare length of rope of 3 twists, a turn and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run a loop up around the large object
  2. Run a bight around the standing part back up
  3. Run at least 3 twists back down the large loop
How to check
  • Standing part runs straight
  • Large eye holds the object
  • Small eye holds the standing part
  • The neck of small loop has 3 or more twists
How to loosen
  1. Grab the small loop
  2. Pull away along the standing part

Clove hitch

clove hitch drawn in marker

This might be a quick way to hitch a horse when robbing a bank, or so I'm told.

Two turns to hitch a spar
Overhand turn; Cross; Underhand turn
How much to use
  • 1 spar
  • 1 rope
  • Spare length of rope of 2 turns and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run a turn up around the spar
  2. Up over the standing part
  3. Another turn up around the spar
  4. Run the end up under the X
How to check
  • The rope does not turn back
  • The ends meet the spar between the loops and under the midpoint
How to loosen
  1. Grab each end
  2. Push towards the knot

Bowline knot

bowline knot drawn in marker

It's sometimes called the king of all knots. If tied properly, the loop formed will not cinch tight, nor slacken. The bowline knot is an excellent knot for pulling a fair maiden from the bottom of a well (pulley sold separately).

No-slip hitch
Right overhand loop in left hand; Running end in right hand; Up thru the eye; Around the standing part; Down thru the eye
How much to use
  • 1 huggable object
  • 1 rope
  • Spare length of rope of a loop, a turn, a bight and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run a small overhand loop
  2. Run a turn around back (of yourself or the object)
  3. Run up through the small loop
  4. Run out behind the standing part
  5. Run down through the small loop
  6. Pull the standing part out and running end in
How to check
  • The knot forms a small overhand loop, large loop (a turn around a huggable object), and a bight
  • Small loop holds the neck of the bight
  • Bight holds the standing part
  • Small loop is at the standing part
  • Standing part is outside the large loop
  • The running end points down into the large loop
How to loosen
  1. Push the bight up away from the knot
  2. Grab each end
  3. Push towards the knot

Sheet bend

sheet bend drawn in marker

Perhaps this knot got its name for its employment in escaping castle towers with only a few changes of bedding.

Join 2 ropes of unequal width
Overhand bight in big rope; Little rope: Run up the eye; Underhand loop up on the neck
How much to use
  • 2 ropes
  • Spare length of big rope of a bight and a hand
  • Spare length of little rope of a loop and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run an overhand bight in the big rope
  2. Run the little rope up through the bight
  3. Run an underhand loop up around the neck of the bight
How to check
  • Bight in the big rope
  • Loop in the little rope
  • Loop holds the neck of the bight
  • Bight holds the standing part of the little rope
  • Both running ends above their standing parts
  • No running end in the bight
How to loosen
  1. Grab the bight of the big rope
  2. Grab the standing part of the small rope
  3. Push towards the knot

Two half-hitches

two half-hitches drawn in marker

This simple slip knot slides easily to grip a grommet.

Hitch an object
Overhand turn; 1 overhand twist in; Cross; 1 underhand twist out
How much to use
  • 1 grommet
  • 1 rope
  • Spare length of rope of a turn, 2 twists and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run a turn around the object
  2. Run an overhand twist in the turn (continue along the turn)
  3. Run an underhand twist out the standing part (finish up through the small loop)
How to check
  • The standing part continues straight into the turn
  • The running end has a clove hitch around the standing part
  • The running end does not form a cow hitch around the standing part — If so, you have a very similar knot called the double half-hitch
How to loosen
  1. Grasp and slide the knot along the standing part
  2. Push both the running end and that of the turn towards the knot

Taut-line hitch

taut-line hitch drawn in marker

Hitch an object
Overhand turn; 2 twists in; Cross overhand; 1 underhand twist out
How much to use
  • 1 grommet
  • 1 rope
  • Spare length of rope of a turn, 3 twists and a hand
How to tie
  1. Run a turn around the object
  2. Run 2 overhand twists in the turn (continue along the turn twice)
  3. Run an underhand twist out the standing part (finish up through the small loop just formed)
How to check
  • The standing part continues straight into the turn
  • The tension and loop size may be adjusted by slipping the knot
How to loosen
  1. Grasp and slide the knot along the standing part
  2. Push both the running end and that of the loop towards the knot

Knot relationships

Tie two half-hitches and observe: Do you see a clove hitch on the standing part?

Tie a bowline and observe: Do you see the sheet bend? Hint: Imagine cutting the large loop (the turn) near where the small loop ends and where the turn begins.

A taut-line hitch is like two half-hitches except it adds another twist in the large loop before the final twist out.

Now, if you feel like you have magically mastered these knots after my tutoring, I am glad. You could call me Harry Potter, but that just feels too sac-rowling-ious. Wouldn't you agree?