8 Basic Knots and Their Uses
In this article you will learn 8 basic knots and their uses.
You will also learn about the different types of knots, and how to choose the right one for the job.
You can use these 8 basic knots in scouting, camping, climbing, general maintenance, first aid, etc.
I admit there are over 8 different knots and their uses in this article. But in trying to cover the most useful knots and uses I branched out. All the knots stem from 8 basic knots and their uses. You’ll see what I mean.
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8 Basic Knots and Their Uses Contents
Basic Knot Tying Terminology
First, I will explain the basic knot tying terminology in this post. It will make learning and tying the knots easier.
Any bend in-between the ends of the rope which does not cross over itself.
The point where the rope crosses over itself.
Refers to the weight of the object you tie onto, e.g., if you are pulling a log then the log is the load.
Like a bight but the ends cross over creating a closed circle.
An overhand loop is when the running end lies over the top of the standing part. An underhand loop is opposite (the standing part lies on top of the running end).
A generic term referring to cord, rope, string, twine, or whatever material which is being used to tie a knot.
The part of the rope used to tie the knot. Also known as the working end.
The part of the rope other than the running end.
Shock load occurs when there is a sudden increase in load. In such a case the load will be much more than the actual weight of the object. An example of this is when a climber falls and his/her weight suddenly loads the rope.
A single wrap of the rope around an object. A round turn (pictured) is where the rope encircles the object.
The Different Types of Knots
Although you can use any knot any way you wish, most of them are best for specific tasks. Here they are in 5 broad categories.
Stopper knots have a few uses. They can add weight to a rope, stop the rope from slipping through a hole, stop a cut rope from fraying, etc. You can also use them as a backup knot against knot failure, i.e., tied around the standing end.
Make loops by tying the rope to itself to create an enclosed circle. Their main use is as attachment points, e.g., as holds to climb up or to clip a carabineer onto it.
Hitches are useful for securing the rope to an object, e.g., a boat to the jetty or around a log you wish to drag.
Use bend knots to join 2 or more lengths of rope together. This can be useful to repair broken rope or for creating a longer length from 2 shorter ones.
Use lashing to join objects together. It is useful for construction.
How to Choose the Right Knot for the Job
Although all knots are useful, there will always be one that is best for the job you are doing. To decide which knot to use you must consider the characteristics of each knot. Gaining in one characteristic will mean compromising on another. You must find the knot with the best balance of these characteristics for the job you need it for.
Your choice of knot must be one that will fulfill the task you need it for. For instance, a loop knot will not be as effective for binding 2 objects together as a lashing would.
Security of a knot is about its ability to stay tied and tight, i.e., not come undone on its own.
Pressure, violent movement, vibration, and other things can compromise a knot’s security.
Choose the most secure knot you can. Remember that increase in one characteristic will decrease others. , e.g., a very secure knot may become very hard to untie. This will be a problem if you need it to be “quick-release”.
Every knot will weaken the integrity of the rope, some more than others. The strength of the knot refers to how much the knot weakens the rope.
This is important when the rope needs to hold weight and/or take shock load. This characteristic becomes important when doing things such as climbing and rescue.
Ease of Tying
When you have to tie something fast or it is a repetitive job, then ease of tying becomes more important.
Ease of Untying
Sometimes you may want the knot to be easy to untie. For example, if you want to release the knot fast without cutting it.
At other times you may want the knot to be more difficult to untie. For example, if you don’t want an animal to release itself, or to stop other people from being able to untie it.
Another factor is how easy the knot will be to untie after it has done its job. Some knots are easy to untie even after baring tension or swelling underwater, or both.
8 Basic Knots and Their Uses
1. How to Tie an Overhand Knot
This is the simplest of knots and is the basis of many other knots. Overhand knots are difficult to untie once tightened.
Make an underhand loop by taking the running end of the rope and passing it under the standing end.
Pass the running end through the loop from the front to the back.
Pull both ends to tighten it.
You can make the overhand knot bulkier by passing the running end through the loop more times. Push the first turn into the middle of the knot.
Doing it twice makes a double overhand and doing it 3 or more times creates a blood knot.
You can use the overhand knot can to create a loop. It works well with fishing line but can be hard to untie.
Double up the rope to make a bight and then tie an overhand knot in the bight.
2. How to Tie a Clove Hitch
Clove hitches are a useful base for many other knots (such as lashing a tripod) and are good in their own right for binding.
There are 2 sets of clove hitch knot instructions.
This first method is good for when the rope is not under strain as you are tying it and you can slip it over your object.
Make 2 loops in the rope which face opposite directions as pictured below.
Put the right loop over the left one.
Put both loops over the object and pull the running end and the standing end apart to tighten the knot.
Clove Hitch Method 2
Here’s an alternative method for how to tie a clove hitch knot step by step. Follow the clove hitch diagrams if you have troubles.
Wrap the running end of the rope around the object you wish to tie onto. The running end crosses over the standing end.
Wrap the running end around a second time and then pass it underneath itself.
Pull it tight as before.
3. How to do a Reef Knot
A reef knot (square knot) is a good binding knot that’s easy to tie and untie.
Reef knot uses does NOT include joining 2 ropes together. There are far better joining-knots available.
To tie a reef knot put the rope around the object you want to bind.
Take the left end and pass it over the right from the bottom and then tuck it under the right end.
Now take this new right end and cross it over the left end and then tuck it under.
Pull the left strands and the right strands apart to tighten the knot.
An easy way to remember how to make a reef knot is with the rhyme “left over right and under, right over left and under.”
How to Tie a Surgeons Square Knot
A more secure version of tying a reef knot is the surgeons knot.
To tie a surgeons knot, make an extra turn when tying the “left over right” part of a reef knot. This keeps the knot in place while you tie the rest of the knot.
You could also make an extra turn in the “right over left” part to make it even more secure.
4. Round Turn and Two Half Hitches
This knot is fast to tie and very secure. It is also easy to untie even when placed under heavy strain.
To create the round turn, loop the running end of the rope around your object so the rope envelops it.
Tie a half hitch by bringing the running end behind the standing end. Make a turn around the standing end. Next, thread it through the gap you made between the running and standing ends.
Create a second half hitch, in the same way, ensuring it is underneath the first half hitch. Pull both ends to tighten.
In learning to tie a round turn and two half hitches you also learn how to tie the half hitch knot.
Adding the round turn makes it more secure, but if you don’t have enough rope, then tying half hitches may suffice.
5. Tying a Bowline on a Bight
A bowline is a fixed loop that will neither tighten nor slip under strain.
The main bowline knot uses are to tie around things you want to secure/tether, e.g., a raft or a person.
To learn how to tie a bowline knot around something, hold the rope in your right hand with the standing end at the rear.
Make an overhand loop so that the loop faces to the left.
Pass the running end up through the loop you made and then around the back of standing end.
The running end then goes over the crossing point and back through the original loop.
Pull the standing end and the doubled-up running end in opposite directions. This will tighten it.
You can finish the bowline off with a stopper knot (e.g., overhand) tied to the side of the loop.
Once you can tie the bowline practice doing it around things. It changes the orientation so you will need to practice it.
How to Tie a Bowline Around Your Waist
The self-rescue bowline is good for if you find yourself in a “man-overboard” situation. It is tying a bowline around your waist with only one hand.
Wrap the rope around your waist so that both the standing and running ends are to your front. Your waist is between them. In this demonstration, the running end is on your right.
Hold the running end in your right hand allowing at least 15cm of rope beyond your hand.
Without letting go of the running end bring it over the standing part to make a crossing point.
Bring it up through the gap created between your body and the crossing point. This will wrap the rope around your hand.
Using your fingers, but without letting go of the rope, pass the running end under the standing part. Do it after the first crossing point. This creates a second crossing point.
Maneuver the running end with your fingers so it feeds between the 2 crossing points. It feeds from the top down. It should end with you holding the running end.
Next, pull your hand out from the loop on your wrist bringing the running end with you. Pull the knot tight.
6. The Alpine Butterfly Loop
The alpine butterfly loop (lineman’s loop) is a useful knot for creating a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. It is secure, can bear weight in several directions, and is easy to untie even after a heavy load.
Amongst other things, the butterfly loop is good to shorten a rope or to exclude a damaged section. Doing so is better than cutting a rope since a re-joined rope has less strength.
Get a bight of the rope and twist it 2 times in the same direction. You will have 2 crossing points and thus 2 loops.
For ease of explanation, the loop furthest away from the ends of the rope will be loop one. The loop between the ends of the rope and loop one will be loop 2.
Grab the tip of the bight of loop one and bring it beyond the crossing point of loop 2.
Next, bring the tip of loop one up through loop 2.
Pull all ends to tighten.
7. Figure 8 Bend Knot
The figure 8 bend is a good way to join 2 ropes together. It is also good for making a prusik loop of rope which you can use for ascending.
It is best done with ropes of equal width.
First you need to learn how to tie a figure 8 stopper knot
How To Tie a Figure 8 Knot
A figure of 8 knot can do all the same things as the overhand knot but is much easier to untie.
Here’s how to tie a figure 8 knot step by step.
Make an upward facing overhand loop and then make the running end pass back under the standing end.
Pass the running end back through the first loop you made. Pull both ends away from each other to tighten the knot.
Tying the Figure 8 Bend Knot
Tie a loose figure 8 at the end of one rope.
With the other rope follow the path of the original figure 8.
Ensure that there is no crossover in the rope and that the ends face in an opposite direction.
Pull on all ends to tighten.
How to Tie a Slip Knot
To tie a figure 8 slip knot, put the running end back through the first loop before tightening the knot.
To release the knot pull the running end.
You can also do this with the overhand knot.
How to Tie a Figure 8 Loop Knot
Like the overhand knot, you can turn the figure 8 into a fixed loop by making the figure 8 on a bight.
To tighten it pull on each loose end, i.e., on the loop and the running/standing ends.
Work the knot so it is neat with no crossover on the rope. This will keep the knot strong and easier to untie.
8. How to Lash
Lashes are useful basic knots for scouts or any outdoor enthusiast. Use them to join objects together.
Described here are 4 types of lashing. For all, you will need quite a long running-end.
The Square Lashing Knot
Use square lashing to hold poles together at a 90° angle.
Place 2 poles together in a cross formation so that the vertical one is on top of the horizontal one.
On the vertical pole, below the horizontal one, tie a clove hitch.
Pass the running end under the horizontal pole, on the right side of the vertical pole. Next, pass it over the vertical one, on the upper side of the horizontal pole.
Pass the running end under the horizontal pole on the left side. Pull it tight so that the clove hitch slips to the right side of the vertical pole.
Continue to pass the rope over the verticals and then under the horizontals. This is in an anti-clockwise fashion. Pull each pass tight as you go. Make 3 full rotations.
The long end of the rope should finish having come underneath the right side of the horizontal pole. Bring it back to the front of the horizontal pole and then behind the lower end of the vertical pole. This is frapping. Pull it tight.
Go over the left side of the horizontal and then under the top side of the vertical and pull it tight. This is one frapping rotation. Do 3 frapping rotations and then tie a clove hitch on the lower side of the vertical pole.
When doing the clove hitch, pull the first half hitch tight before doing the second.
Trim any excess away and/or tuck it under the lashing.
The Diagonal Lashing Knot
Use diagonal lashing when the poles do not cross at right angles. It is also useful for when you need to pull the poles toward each-other for tying.
Cross 2 poles on top of each other. Tie a surgeons knot around them so that the running end is to the right.
Pass the running end back behind the poles so it is on the left side.
Bring the running end over and under the poles. Pull it tight. Do this 3 times.
The running-end finishes on the left. Go over the bottom left pole and then under the cross so it comes over the top. Pull it tight.
Do 3 vertical turns pulling tight after each one. Your running end finishes running down.
Do some frapping turns by passing the rope under then over each pole in an anti-clockwise fashion. Keep it tight. Do 3 full rotations.
Finish it with a clove hitch and trim if needed.
How to Tie a Sheer Lashing
Follow these sheer lashing instructions to learn how to join 2 poles together side by side.
Sheer lashing has a few names:
- Parallel lashing
- Pole lashing
- Round Lashing
Put 2 poles together side by side so they lay horizontal. Tie one clove hitch around both the poles to the left of where you intend to make the rest of the lashing.
Lay the short end between the 2 poles to the right of your clove hitch so you will lash over them.
Wrap the running end around the 2 poles pulling it tight after each turn.
Do at least as many turns so that the lashing is the same length as the width of the 2 poles.
Do frapping turns by passing the rope between the 2 poles. Start at the right side and then come back up between them on the left. This should be hard to do since you pulled the lashing turns tight.
Do 2 frapping turns and finish it with a clove hitch on the end of one pole.
Note: You can place wedges between the 2 poles instead of frapping.
You can make an A-Frame lashing by doing a loose sheer lashing.
Pull the legs apart to make the A-Frame.
How to Lash a Tripod
Lashing a tripod is sheer lashing 3 poles together and then pulling them into place.
Tie a clove hitch around one pole, not the middle one.
Wrap the rope around all 3 poles so they are stay parallel.
Weaving the rope around the poles also works.
Make frapping turns where the poles meet.
Finish with a clove hitch on the end pole.
Cross the 2 outer poles to make a rope lashing tripod.
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The Most Useful Knots and How to Tie Them
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Common Knots and Their Uses Conclusion
Learning how to tie useful knots is a handy skill. And knowing the different kinds of knots and their uses will help you choose the right knot for the job.
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