Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Tie Five Useful Knots

I do some outdoors activities like backpacking and canoeing.  During these activities, there is occasionally a need to tie knots.  I've noticed that no one in our group (myself included) knows how to tie any knots, and I feel this would be a useful skill.  I did some searching and found a small set of knots that seem to be pretty useful and learned them.  They are all relatively easy to learn, although I must say figuring out knots from pictures can be a bit confusing.  Luckily, this Animated Knots site is pretty good.

Square knot (Reef knot)

A square knot is one of the most basic knots. Prior to learning these knots it was pretty much the only knot I knew. It's easy to tie and looks pretty with its symmetricalness. That being said, it is apparently a pretty poor knot to use. "There have probably been more lives lost as a result of using a square knot as a bend (to tie two ropes together) than from the failure of any other half dozen knots combined." - Some Knot Expert. In addition to its tendency to come undone it is very easy to accidentally tie the much worse granny knot. It's easy to spot a granny knot when tying, so go to the above site and look at the differences.

Sheet Bend

The sheet bend is similar to the square knot, except better.  Since it holds much better than the square knot, and is just as easy to tie, it should be used instead of a square knot whenever possible.  It is also useful for rope of different sizes.

Double Fisherman's Knot

This is a good knot for connecting two pieces of rope into a longer one. I knew this knot before, but the single version. The double is bit more than just tying a double knot, but still pretty easy. Once you know the double you can easily do the triple or more for added security.  I must say the animation was a bit bewildering at first, but you are essentially just looping the rope around itself and the other rope twice and then passing it back through those loops.

Bowline

The bowline is a pretty good knot, useful for putting a strong loop at the end of a rope. It is probably the most complicated knot in this list, but really isn't very hard at all. The general consensus seems to be that this is the best knot for forming a loop, strong under tension and easy to untie (without tension). Its one flaw seems to be that it can undo itself if there is a lack of tension, which seems like it could be fixed by adding a double overhand knot to the free end (half a double fisherman's knot).

Half Hitch

Frankly, I don't think the half hitch seems that useful. It is used to lash rope to a post, but the bowline seems better to me. I did see it mentioned a lot as a useful knot which is why I'm including it here.  It's also worth noting that a half hitch by itself is pretty weak, but it almost always followed by another half hitch (making a full hitch I guess).

Bonus Knot:
Because I like you so much I'm throwing in an additional knot for free.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this knot here before, but I think it deserves an additional mention.  It is a much more secure way of tying your shoes.  I have a pair of old sneakers on which the laces of worn down so smooth that even double knots would come untied in a few hours.  This knot has never come untied on its own (and I leave my shoes tied for months just slipping them on and off).  It is basically the same as the bunny ears method of tying your shoes, but you tuck both ears through the center instead of just one.

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