Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 10 Most Useful Rope Knots

A list of most practical rope knots.

This is a totally unscientific sampling of the most useful knots you can learn for general use. I looked at many lists of most useful knots from Boy Scouts to sailors to arborists. Those groups and many others have their own specific lists of most useful knots, but this list is intended for the average Joe or Jane for everyday use. 

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list. Each person has their own group of knots that they turn to in different situations. I don't necessarily agree with this list but they are the ones that turn up most. Take a look at my earlier post on Basic Knots to see what I believe are the best ones to learn.

I suggest you stop at your local lumber yard or Wal-Mart and grab a hank of cord and practice the knots to gain proficiency.  

These are listed with the most frequently cited at the top.

1. Bowline. The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred as the King of the Knots because of its importance. It is one of the four basic maritime knots (the other three are figure-eight knot or stopper, reef knot and clove hitch).

Although generally considered a reliable knot, its main deficiencies are a tendency to work loose when not under load, to slip when pulled sideways and the bight portion of the knot to capsize in certain circumstances. To address these shortcomings, a number of more secure variations of the bowline have been developed for use in safety-critical applications such as the Double Bowline, Water Bowline and Yosemite Bowline. [Bowline. (2014, October 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1010)

2. Square Knot or Reef Knot. The reef knot or square knot is an ancient and simple binding knot used to secure a rope or line around an object. Although the reef knot is often seen used for tying two ropes together, it is not recommended for this purpose because of the potential instability of the knot, and over-use has resulted in many deaths.

A reef knot is formed by tying a left-handed overhand knot and then a right-handed overhand knot, or vice versa. A common mnemonic for this procedure is "right over left; left over right", which is often appended with the rhyming suffix "... makes a knot both tidy and tight". Two consecutive overhands of the same handedness will make a granny knot. The working ends of the reef knot must emerge both at the top or both at the bottom, otherwise a thief knot results. [Reef knot. (2014, October 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

This is the knot you tie when tying shoelaces. Admission; For many years, I tied my shoes in a Granny Knot, which is the incorrect way to tie your shoes. It wasn't until I saw A TED talk that I figured out that I had been doing it wrong. It is still difficult to tie it the correct way after doing it wrong all of those years.
(ABoK #1402)

3. Figure Eight Stopper and Figure Eight Loop. I listed these two together because of the way they tie. Once you learn how to tie these, it is very easy to remember how to do it again. 

Figure Eight Stopper. The figure-eight knot is a stopper knot. It is very important in both sailing and rock climbing as a method of stopping ropes from running out of retaining devices. Like the overhand knot, which will jam under strain, often requiring the rope to be cut, the figure of eight will also jam, but is usually more easily undone than the overhand knot.
(ABoK #570)

Figure Eight Loop. A figure-eight loop (also figure-eight on a bight or Flemish loop or Flemish eight) is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes. The knot is commonly followed by tying a strangle knot (AKA Half a Double Fisherman's Knot) or an overhand knot around the standing end. [Figure-eight loop. (2014, March 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

In my experience the Figure Eight Loop is by far the easiest way to create a loop in the end of a rope. once learned, it becomes somewhat instinctive. It is also a nice looking symmetric knot. 
(ABoK #1085)

4. Clove HitchThe clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most important knots and is commonly referred to as a Double Hitch.[1] A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not particularly secure in that role. A clove hitch made around the rope's own standing part is known as either two half-hitches or buntline hitch, depending on whether the turns of the clove hitch progress away from or towards the hitched object.

This knot is particularly useful where the length of the running end needs to be adjustable, since feeding in rope from either direction will loosen the knot to be tightened at a new position. With certain types of cord, the clove hitch can slip when loaded. In modern climbing rope, the clove hitch will slip to a point, and then stop slipping. With smaller diameter cords, after being heavily weighted it may become difficult to untie. It is also unreliable when used on a square or rectangular post, rather than round.

The clove hitch is also commonly used in pioneering to start and finish a lashing such as the traditional square lashing, tripod lashing, round lashing, and sheer lashing. [Clove hitch. (2014, November 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1245)

5. Constrictor Knot The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

The constrictor knot is appropriate for situations where secure temporary or semi-permanent binding is needed. Made with small-stuff it is especially effective, as the binding force is concentrated over a smaller area. When tying over soft material such as the neck of a bag, hard stiff cord is more effective. When tying over hard surfaces, soft stretchy line is preferred. The constrictor knot's severe bite (which makes it so effective) can damage or disfigure items it is tied around. To exert extreme tension on the knot without injuring the hands, one can fashion handles using marlinespike hitches made around two rods.

Constrictor knots can be used for temporarily binding the fibers of a rope (or strand ends) together while splicing, or when cutting to length and before properly whipping the ends. Constrictor knots can also be quite effective as improvised hose clamps or cable ties. The knot has also been recommended for ligatures in human and veterinary surgery, where it has been shown to be far superior to any of the knots commonly used for ligation. Noted master-rigger Brion Toss says of the constrictor: "To know the knot is to constantly find uses for it…

A heavily tightened constrictor knot will likely jam. If the ends are long enough, one can sometimes untie it by pulling one end generally parallel to the bound object and a bit up away from it, and prying it into the opposite end's part to open the knot. Tools that can be forced between parts of the knot (such as picks and marlinespikes) may help.

If the ends have been trimmed short, or the knot is otherwise hopelessly jammed, it can be easily released by cutting the riding turn with a sharp knife. The knot will spring apart as soon as the riding turn is cut. If care is taken not to cut too deeply, the underlying wraps will protect the bound object from being damaged by the knife. [Constrictor knot. (2014, September 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1188)

6. Zeppelin BendA Zeppelin bend  is a general purpose bend knot. It is a secure, easily tied, and jam-resistant way to connect two ropes. Though its simplicity and security may be matched by other bends, it is unique in the ease with which it is untied, even after heavy loading.

Although highly improbable, the Zeppelin Bend has been described as being used to secure Airships. Indeed, vice Admiral Charles Rosendahl, Commanding Officer of the American Zeppelin (Los Angeles/ZR3), was even supposed to have insisted that the knot be used to moor his airship. These stories now seem highly unlikely:

Giles Camplin, Editor of Airship Heritage Trust's Journal Dirigible reported the following in Issue No. 60, Summer 2010: (1) the docking procedure typically employed shackling two wires together; (2) in later life Rosendahl claimed ignorance of the knot; (3) a Zeppelin knot cannot be untied under load; (4) a bend joining two ropes would be an awkward way to moor anything; and (5) a rigger who flew on the R100 reported they always used a Rolling Hitch.

Despite being praised by some sources as a nearly ideal bend knot, it is not very well known; Clifford Ashley, author of The Ashley Book of Knots, was apparently unaware of this bend. [Zeppelin bend. (2014, September 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

7. Alpine Butterfly Loop or Lineman's Loop The butterfly loop, also known as lineman's loop, butterfly knot, alpine butterfly knot and lineman's rider, is a knot used to form a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. Tied in the bight, it can be made in a rope without access to either of the ends; this is a distinct advantage when working with long climbing ropes. The butterfly loop is an excellent mid-line rigging knot; it handles multi-directional loading well and has a symmetrical shape that makes it easy to inspect. In a climbing context it is also useful for traverse lines, some anchors, shortening rope slings, and for isolating damaged sections of rope.

The loop is typically attached to a climbing harness by carabiner.

It can also be used to isolate a worn section of rope, where the knot is tied such that the worn section is isolated in the loop (which of course does not receive a carabiner nor bear any loads in this case). The loop portion is isolated when the other two legs are loaded, and in fact the butterfly can be tied as a bend with the ends emerging where the loop would be.

Errors in tying the butterfly loop can produce a similar looking but inferior knot, the so-called "false butterfly", which is prone to slipping. However, some sources suggest this behavior can be exploited purposely for shock absorption. Wright and Magowan called this less secure loop knot the "half-hitch noose". [Butterfly loop. (2014, May 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1188)

8. Overhand Knot The overhand knot is one of the most fundamental knots and forms the basis of many others including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot and water knot. The overhand knot is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. [Overhand knot. (2014, March 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

As a stopper the Overhand Knot has one advantage: it is one of the few stopper knots that can be tied tightly up against an object or a knot. Although the Double Overhand makes a good stopper "Knot", when an even larger stopper knot is required, the Ashley Stopper Knot is preferred. (ABoK #46)

9. Sheet Bend aka Weaver's Knot. The sheet bend (also known as becket bend, weaver's knot and weaver's hitch) is a bend, that is, a knot that joins two ropes together. Doubled, it is effective in binding lines of different diameter or rigidity securely together, although it has a tendency to work loose when not under load.

The sheet bend is related in structure to the bowline. It is very fast to tie, and along with the bowline and clove hitch is considered so essential it is knot №1 in The Ashley Book of Knots. It is a more secure replacement for the reef knot (square knot), especially in its doubled variety.

The "weaver's knot" takes its common name from its historic use in textile mills. Even in modern operations, weavers are taught to use this particular knot when correcting broken threads in the Warp (weaving). In practice, weavers are taught to be able to tie the knot in as little time possible, with the mean average being no more than three to five seconds. [Sheet bend. (2014, September 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1)

10. Timber Hitch The timber hitch is a knot used to attach a single length of rope to a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.

The timber hitch is an old knot. It is first known to have been mentioned in a nautical source circa 1625 and illustrated in 1762.

As the name suggests, this knot is often used by lumbermen and arborists for attaching ropes to tree trunks, branches, and logs. For stability when towing or lowering long items, the addition of a half-hitch in front of the timber hitch creates a timber hitch and a half hitch, or known as a killick hitch when at sea. A killick is a small anchor or weight for mooring a boat, sometimes consisting of a stone secured by pieces of wood". This can also prevent the timber hitch from rolling.

This knot is also known as the Bowyer's Knot, as it is used to attach the lower end of the bowstring to the bottom limb on an English longbow.

The hitch is also one of the methods used to connect ukulele and classical guitar strings to the bridge of the instruments. [Timber hitch. (2014, October 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1665)

Some of you may have noticed the annotation of ABoK #0000 at the end of each knot. This is in reference to The Ashley Book of Knots and the corresponding knot numbers listed in the book.

Clifford W. Ashley was born in 1881 at the whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He sailed on many kinds of boats in many capacities, from ship's surgeon to interested observer. His ruling passions were marine painting and knot-tying, on which he was one of the world's leading authorities. His paintings are represented in the permanent collection of many American museums and libraries. He spent six weeks on the whaling ship Sunbeam. During the voyage he witnessed the hunt and killing of three whales.

The Ashley Book of Knots is without parallel when it comes to knot tying. Published in 1944, this book is still the number one reference to all things knotting. There are over 7,000 drawings of 3,900 knots and their application in the 619 page knot tyers tome. There is no equal to this reference, bar none. I cannot recommend this book enough to novice knot tyers.

For beginner knot tyers, I would recommend Complete Book of Knots by Geoffrey Budworth.  

For step-by-step knot tying instruction on-line, the very best site is Animated Knots by Grog. They offer the best step-by-step animations and videos for learning how to tie knots. They also have iPhone and Android apps for your phone and tablet. I have the app on my iPhone.

Bonus Knot. And for something completely different there is Surgical Knots and Suturing Techniques. Just in case you want to know what knots surgeons are tying inside your body! Here is a Surgeon's Knot.

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