A knot is a method for fastening or securing linear material such as rope by tying or interweaving. It may consist of a length of one or more segments of rope, string, webbing, twine, strap or even chain interwoven so as to create in the line the ability to bind to itself or to some other object - the "load".
There are a large variety of knots and each knot has specific properties and suitability for a range of tasks. Some knots are well-adapted to attach to particular objects such as another rope, cleat, ring, or stake. Other knots are made to bind or constrict around an object. Decorative knots usually bind to themselves to produce attractive patterns. Choosing the correct knot for the job at hand is one of the most fundamental aspects of using knots well. However, if memory is limited, three of the most useful knots are the bowline, the sheet bend, and the clove hitch.
The number of books, websites, videos, and other resources available to those interested in learning about knots is a testament to the value they hold for humankind. While some people possess an innate ability to look at a diagram or photo and tie the illustrated knot, for others the initial stages of learning are best accomplished by being shown knot tying methods by a person who already knows them. Knot tying skills are often transmitted by sailors, scouts, climbers, cavers, arborists, rescue professionals, fishermen, and surgeons. After mastering a few basic knots, the diagrams and photos become easier to interpret and use to continue the learning process. As more knots are learned, patterns begin to become evident in their structure and methods of tying. The learning of knots rewards practice and patience.
Knots are essential in many industrial, occupational, recreational, and domestic settings. Even simple activities such as running a load from the hardware store to home can result in disaster if a clumsy twist in a cord passes for a knot. Truckers needing to tie down a load may use a trucker's hitch, gaining mechanical advantage. Knots can save the spelunker from foolishly becoming buried under millions of tons of rock. Whatever the activity, such as sailing on the water or climbing on a cliff-side rock, learning well-tested knots prior to some hazardous activity introduces a critical measure of safety. In addition to safety, appropriate knots can prevent the necessity of cutting lines.
Basic useful knots
Some of the most useful everyday knots are the following. Most are both secure and easy to untie:
- For tying a loop in the end of a rope, as around your waist or to secure a ring or grommet: the bowline.
- For tying the ends of two ropes together: the sheet bend works well even with two different ropes. This is just as easy to tie but much more secure than the square knot. If one rope is much thicker than the other, a double sheet bend is better. (Materials such as cables which are not easily tied may sometimes be joined by two interlocking bowlines instead.)
- The fisherman's knot is similar but easier to tie with cold, wet hands.
- For flat material such as (seat)belts, the water knot is best. (However, this is a poor knot for tying ropes.)
- For tying a rope to a pole, the buntline hitch. A slipped variant is useful for quick release. If both ends of the line will be loaded, then the clove hitch will suffice.
- On square posts where the clove hitch is not secure, two half-hitches is good. It can be hard to untie, so the slipped variant may be useful.
- The timber hitch works well on rough surfaces, including square timber, especially under constant strain, but isn't secure if the load jumps around. The Killick hitch is a variant used for hoisting rocks and other odd shapes.
- The rolling hitch is useful when you don't want a rope to slide up on down a pole, or when tying one rope to the middle of another.
- For a clothesline or other line that sags over time, the taut-line hitch can be ratcheted up to take out the slack.
- The trucker's hitch is useful for clinching down a load.
- The sheep shank is useful for taking slack out of the middle of a rope, but will only hold as long as there's strain on the rope.
- The constrictor knot works well for making bundles or tying the neck of a sack. However, it is nearly impossible to untie once tightened, and will likely need to be cut with a knife.
- The alpine butterfly puts a secure loop in the middle of a rope when the ends aren't free.
- For climbing a rope, the Prusik knot allows you to make footholds out of loops of narrower rope which ratchet up the main rope. (The loop can be made by tying together the ends of a rope with a double fisherman's knot.)
- The diamond hitch works well for packing trail animals.
- The figure-of-eight knot stops the end of a rope from slipping through a hole or other tight spot.