I find myself tying knots quite frequently.   Here is a summary of what I use.  I'm hoping others will add their favourites.  I've included a few diagrams because they are mine to share.   But there is no shortage of wonderful diagrams and 'animated' examples on the web if somebody wants to see how a particular knot is tied.

Tying a Cord to an Object.

This is a broad category.   Although I do quite a bit of fishing, I won't post about fishing knots just yet.   But general examples might be tying a boat to a wharf or a kayak to a tree.... or maybe tethering a snare or a dog.

The clove hitch is a good basic knot.   I'd typically use this to tie something quickly where long-term security was not a big issue because I think sometimes a clove hitch could work loose if there was a lot of movement.   If I wanted to make this a bit more secure I might take an extra hitch with the tail around the main rope.  The clove hitch is a good knot to learn because it is related to some other knots and is a very quick knot to tie:

The one I probably have used the most in this category is 'one round turn and two half hitches', although I might often make another hitch for insurance.  Basically this knot involves one complete wrap around the object, then the tail end of the rope is tied around the main rope using a clove hitch:

The slipped buntline hitch is one I use often.   If you tie it right, the knot virtually evaporates when you pull the tag end... yet it seems to hold very well.   I use this to tie my trapline markers in place and sometimes use it for tethering possum snares (although you have to be careful that the possum doesn't somehow tangle with the tag end and free itself).   We regularly sell our wares from a marquee, and I find myself using this knot for things like tying our signs in place and rigging a line to hang the weatherproof sides.  The  basic hitch is very much like a clove hitch, except that it is reversed in a sense.  Note that for the slipped version to untie quickly, the tag end has to pass through the loop that goes around the object that the rope is tied to.   If you experiment with this knot you will soon work out what works best:

Making an Eye in a Rope

The obvious one to mention here is the bowline.   I think this is one of the first knots somebody should learn.   Shown below is a conventional bowline, but sometimes I take the tail of the rope in the opposite direction and form a 'Dutch Bowline' which has the advantage of the tail pointing away from the eye.   I use the Dutch Bowline quite often to form the eye on a snare.   The bowline is a good choice to tie around an animal's neck if it has to be tethered as it should not slip and tighten and choke the animal.

A quick eye can be made by doubling the end of the rope and tying a figure eight loop.  Although I am quite familiar with the bowline, in an urgent situation needing a loop I might fall back on the figure eight.  It is relatively simple and foolproof, even if it can be a bit hard to untie if it has carried a heavy load.

The lineman's loop or butterfly hitch is another knot in this category.  It is a good one to know if you want a secure knot in the middle of a rope that is relatively easy to untie.  I like this knot, but I don't often have a need for it.    It is a relatively simple knot with a pleasing symmetry. (Although it is fairly simple, I find myself having to think alot about how to tie it.   Maybe in another couple of years it will flow).

Joining Ropes

The sheet bend was probably the knot I was first taught for this purpose.   But I seldom use it for joining ropes.  I might use it occasionally, especially if I am repairing or making a net (although I still haven't found a way to satisfactorily repair a monofilament nylon net because the knots don't seem to hold).

If I want peace of mind about the security of the join, I will tie a double fisherman's bend.  This is a lovely knot and it holds well.  It isn't the easiest knot to undo though.   Sometimes when I am tying a cord permanently on to something (e.g like a knife lanyard), I will take the cord around the object then tie one half of this knot back onto the main cord.  The knot will slip on the cord allowing you to pull the the cord tight.  If tied correctly in good cord it is almost guaranteed to never undo itself.   Note that the turns have to cross each other for the knot to be at its most effective:

My favourite joining knot is the zeppelin bend.   This holds very well, yet it is relatively easy to undo.   This is my 'keyring knot'.   Keeping keys on a bit of strong cord rather than a ring allows the keys to sit flatter in my pocket.   I still find that I have to put quite a bit of thought into tying this knot, and I find it is difficult to tie quickly, especially if there is a load pulling on one or two of the ropes.

When I have to join two ropes urgently, chances are I will use a single fisherman's bend.... mostly because I am very familiar with the knot and because it is relatively simple.  I have an idea it isn't as strong as the double fisherman's bend but in an emergency any proven knot is better than an analysis of what might be best.

I would advise against using a reef knot or granny knot to join ropes.   A reef knot is good when your life doesn't depend on the knot and you want to be able to undo it (like when you reef sails or tie a package)

Adjustable Knots for Tensioning a Line

The rolling hitch (or midshipman's hitch) is a real beauty.   I use this a lot at our market marquee when I want to hang things up and get them at the right level.   By passing the cord over the hanging point (in my case it is often the marquee frame), and then tying a rolling hitch around the load-bearing part of the cord, I can slide the knot up or down the cord to get the right height.   This would also be a good knot for tensioning tent guy ropes, although there is another knot I like for this but I don't know it's name and I haven't got a diagram.   Note that for a rolling hitch to hold best, the first set of turns should cross each other (although I have had good results when the turns don't cross).  Although you can get this knot to slide by grasping the knot, it will generally hold tenaciously without sliding when the load comes on.

Another sliding knot is the prussik loop.   This might be used by climbers or cavers as an ascending knot.   You can make loops around a main rope and use them to climb the rope by sliding them up one at a time.   I haven't done much climbing, but there is plenty of info about this sort of thing elsewhere on the 'net.   A prussik loop might be a good way to tie to another rope that you want to pull for some distance.   You can pull it some of the way, then slide the loop up the rope to pull it some more.   I've used it when winching firewood with a hand winch.  By using a prussik loop I could attach to the main rope without having to tie a loop in it for the winch hook.

A knot I have recently learned is the icicle hitch.  Using some suitable cord, this will provide a surprisingly strong grip when tied around what you might think is an object too slippery or tapered to hold a knot (like an icicle).  It is quite amazing, although I think it could work loose if the load was not constant.   I might use an icicle hitch if I had to haul a wire rope and had no way of making a knot or an eye in the wire rope.  I think of this knot as one that is used in temporary situations where it can be kept under observation.

The trucker's hitch is what I would use to tie down a load to a trailer, or if I had to make a really secure tensioning knot on something like a guy-rope.   I don't have diagrams unfortunately, but I have two ways I tie a trucker's hitch (one of them may not in fact be called a truckers hitch).  Maybe I will get around to drawing it one day.  A trucker's (or truckies) hitch allows you to really pull a rope down tight.

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I forgot to include my bowstring knots. Generally I make bowstrings with one plaited or laid eye, and the other end is tied on with a timber hitch which can be undone and adjusted with relative ease. If the string doesn't have a permanent eye 'built in' I might tie a simple figure eight loop to allow the bow to be strung and unstrung quickly.

I should add that if I had to tow something like a log with a tractor, I would be inclined to use a timber hitch to fasten on to the log as it can be quite easy to undo after a heavy load has been applied.
Thanks for this Stephen.
When it comes to knots I have more theory than practice!
I do a bit of fishing so I have a few standards that I fall back on.
A couple of weekends ago a friend showed me a proper truckers hitch- effective and easy to undo even after being pulled tight.
Having seen diagrams on the net I figured out how to make reverse twist bowstrings. After failing several time I was chuffed when I got the flemish loops to work out.
The process took hours but I'm sure that someone could have showed me how to do it in a few mins.- I think it's like that with knots too.
I've never figured out how to make a bowstring with two flemish eyes. Not only is it apparently tricky to get two eyes in one twisted cord, the danged eyes have to be the right distance apart to give the correct brace height. Maybe one day when I have absolutely nothing to do I will concentrate on learning how to do it.

I have generally plaited the one eye in my strings. Never had one break.
During tillering I use a heavier linen string with one loop and use a timber hitch on the other end.
When the bow is tillered I use the tillering string to set up my string length. The new string will stretch (but only a little with linen) as the reverse twists "bed in".
Adding a few twists can get the string exactly where you want it.
If you can make one loop then you can do both. The trick is to make the second exactly how you made the first (the tendency is to mirror your actions).
Again hard to explain, but easy to show- I don't know about you but I learn best by doing!
Very impressive! You are one of only a few people I ever encountered who knows what a zepplin knot is. Here in America, we few who know it call it the dirigible knot or Rosendahl Bend after the US Army officer who in the 1930's supposedly (?) invented or at least introduced it to lighter-than-airship ground crews who needed an easy to tie but secure and jamproof knot to connect a blimp's ground lines with the anchor lines. I never heard of an icicle hitch but it sounds very useful. I would love to see a diagram.

I still can't tie a Zepplin bend blindfolded behind my back in less than ten seconds, but I love it.   Nice symmetry and relatively easy to untie.


Here is a link to a site showing the icicle hitch.   A very simple tie to be used when you are going to load the rope parallel to what you've tied to (not very well explained, but the diagrams give a good idea).


Hi... great thread, pardon the pun.

A knot (or series of them?) I often use to hold a fly or guy rope that can be adjusted or tied with cold wet hands is a round turn then away from the anchor tie one half hitch, come away down the main line about 200mm and tie one more. Repeat this once or twice more and finish with two half hitches. The main line has to be taut to be able to tie it but it will never tighten. I have used this on a fertiliser truck towed out of a paddock with a tractor with no hassle undoing the knots afterwards. the hitches were about 500mm apart. And an animated link to some basic knots... http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Knot


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