Monday, October 10, 2011

A Very Knotty Post

"Aye, new yew wood knot"
- Answer to the question, is that a new wood carving? Also an example of the flexibility of the English language - the exact same spoken sentence but with totally different meaning called be spelled "I knew you would not".

Boy Scouts and knot lovers alike should check out Andy's Most Useful Knots at Andy begins with
"For a long time, I wished I knew a set of knots that would be the knot equivalent of a Swiss army knife. I knew a few good knots, but every once in a while I'd try to do something like lashing two pieces of wood together and I'd grunt at the end because I didn't know a satisfying way to stop the rope."
I had the same experience recently while assisting our local Boy Scout Troop. They were lashing logs to make a tent and I realized I had no clue what to do. I know many knots but not lashing.

Since Andy's Knot page includes great knot tying pictures I won't every try to summarize it here. I will note something important that I learned.

When I teach Cub Scouts I point out that yes the Square Knot is wonderful. Easy to tie, a symbol of Webelos and Scouting friendship, etc. But I would not trust my life to it. People often tie it incorrectly and make a granny knot instead of a square knot with right over left, then left over right to get the classic intertwined loop look. The granny knot is not as secure and could come unbound under stress. Even when the square knot is properly made, it does NOT bind two ropes together well if the ropes are different widths or different materials. Instead I teach a sheet bend to connect two ropes.

A knot that I really like is the bowline which can be used for nearly everything. But Andy's page pointed that that the bowline suffers from the same flaw as the square knot. It is very easy to make a mistake. Hopefully you will recall the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back down the hole for making the bowline. But what I and others have trouble remembering is the correct making of the hole itself. Does the loop for the hole cross on top or underneath the binding end of the rope? (Answer is on top) According to Andy, rock climbers now prefer the "threaded figure-eight" knot. 

Bottom Line

Every Knot has a purpose and limitations. Get to know the knot families and a good knot for each purpose:

1. Attaching a rope to boat, post, climber, etc.
2. A fixed loop in a rope
3. A sliding loop
4. A tension loop (grips under stress but can be adjusted)
5. Tie two ropes together (Bends)
6. Constricting knots (closing the mouth of a bag or tieing objects together)
7. Stopper knots  (making a kink to stop a rope from slipping out a hole)
8. Lashing

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