Top ten knots

Keep your load secure, your awning tied down, and everything ship shape with the right knots. Mother Earth News has a pictorial guide to what they call the top ten knots and link to a page How to Tie the 10 Most Useful Knots. The wikipedia entries on these knots are also worth reading if you want to find out more about them.

The overhand and figure eight knots are simply ways to put a lump in a rope. The serve as stoppers or a means to keep a rope end from unraveling.

The square knot is the one to use to tie together the ends of two identical ropes. If the ropes aren’t identical, use the sheet bend with the stiffest or biggest rope as the bight. The carrick bend might be better for large lines but is difficult to get right and often more suited for the arts and crafts crowd.

The bowline is a sheet bend in the middle of the rope to form a fixed loop. Once you get the trick it is easy to tie. Its the best way to make a rope loop you want to keep a fixed size and not choke whatever it is around.

The clove hitch and two half hitches (not in this top ten list) are the same knot tied on different things. The clove hitch is around something solid and the two half hitches are the same knot around a rope as a slip not. As Mother Earth News notes, the clove hitch needs tension on both ends to be most effective so a loose end is often tied around a load end with a couple of half hitches. While two half hitches will slip on its rope, the clove hitch tends to be rather resistant to slipping up or down its pole. You can add more hitches to reduce slippage.

The taut line_hitch (wikipedia) shown in this list is a bit more complicated than usually represented. It is usually just an extra loop on the down load side of two half hitches. Its main feature is that it doesn’t slip on the rope its tied around like two half hitches but it can be moved if the load is taken off the knot.

The sheepshank is a specialist knot and a rather odd entry in this list. Its purpose is to take up slack in a loaded line. Most of us tighten up ropes at the ends. So getting this one figured out probably shouldn’t rank high on your list.

To really get down to basics, you need to know the overhand, square, sheet bend, and half hitch knots. Everything else is based on that collection. The factors you need to keep in mind in choosing the right knot for solving a problem include the line or rope you have to work with, the strength and slipperiness of the knot that you need, and being able to undo the knot after you are done. A proper knot is a temporary fix that serves a definite purpose, be easy to implement, and not leave any trace when its need is gone.

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