A Guide to Tying Knots in Rope (Reef, Bowline, Figure-of-Eight and Sheet Bend)

Updated on March 28, 2018
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Eugene, an avid self-taught DIYer, has acquired 30 years of experience with power/hand tools, plumbing, electrics, and woodwork.

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4 Useful Knots Everyone Should Know How to Tie!

The ability to tie various knots is a useful skill to have in the home, garden, when fishing, camping or taking part in other outdoor activities. You may have learned how to tie knots in the Scouts, Girl Guides or at summer camp, but by this stage the steps involved in tying them may be a dim distant memory! There are probably 50 or more types, however this guide concentrates on four useful knots and how to tie them.

What Are the Most Useful Knots?

  • Figure-of-eight knot for stopping a rope pulling through a hole
  • Bowline for making a non-tightening loop at the end of a rope
  • Reef knot for joining equal diameter ropes
  • Sheet bend for joining ropes of different diameter

Overhand Knot

If someone asks you to tie a knot, this is probably what you would tie. An overhand knot can slip though, especially if the cord/rope is made from low friction slippery material. Therefore it can become undone and is unsuitable and potentially dangerous in many applications.


overhand knot
overhand knot | Source

The Photos

Ignore the pins in the photos which I used to hold the cords in position. I only had two hands to operate the camera and needed some assistance!

Figure-of-Eight Knot

A figure-of-eight knot is much more secure than an overhand knot and less likely to become undone. It's useful for stopping a rope pulling through a hole, e.g. the starter cord on the pull grip on a lawnmower

Figure-of-eight knot
Figure-of-eight knot | Source

Step1: Make a Loop

Make a loop
Make a loop | Source

Step 2: Put a Twist in the Loop

Put a twist in the loop
Put a twist in the loop | Source

Step 3: Take the End of the Cord Around the Back

Take the end of the cord around the back
Take the end of the cord around the back | Source

Step 4: Thread the End of the Cord Through the Loop

Thread the end of the cord through the loop
Thread the end of the cord through the loop | Source

Reef or Square Knot

A reef or square knot is useful for joining two ropes together. However it is only reliable and safe if the two ropes are of similar diameter.

To tie the knot, remember "right over left and under, then left over right and under" as described in the photos below.


Reef or square knot
Reef or square knot | Source

Step 1: Right (blue) Over Left

Right (blue) over left
Right (blue) over left | Source

Step 2: ...And Under

.........and under
.........and under | Source

Step 3: Left ( now blue) Over Right

Left ( now blue) over right
Left ( now blue) over right | Source

Step 4: ....And Under

....and under
....and under | Source

Sheet Bend Knot

A sheet bend knot is safer than a reef knot for joining together two ropes or cords of differing diameter.

Sheet bend knot
Sheet bend knot | Source

Step 1: Thread the Smaller Diameter Cord Through as Shown

Thread the smaller diameter cord through as shown
Thread the smaller diameter cord through as shown | Source

Step 2: Take the Smaller Diameter Cord Around the Back

Take the small diameter cord around the back
Take the small diameter cord around the back | Source

Step 3: .......And Then Feed It Back

.......and then feed it back
.......and then feed it back | Source

Bowline

A bowline knot can be used to create a loop at the end of the cable. The loop doesn't pull tight when tension is put on the rope. A variation of this is the "bowline-on-a-bight" which is tied in the same way but the rope is doubled over initially. This results in two loops and can be used for hauling up something from the ground.

Bowline knot
Bowline knot | Source

Step 1: Make a Loop

Make a loop
Make a loop | Source

Step 2: Feed the End of the Cord Through the Loop

Feed the end of the cord through the loop
Feed the end of the cord through the loop | Source

Step 3: ...Around and Back Into the Loop

...around and back into the loop
...around and back into the loop | Source
Knots (Learnabout)
Knots (Learnabout)

An excellent Ladybird book showing how to tie lots more knots than described in this article. Out of print know, but still available new or second hand. I bought this as a child 40 years ago and it's one of my favourite Ladybird titles in my collection, which I still occasionally reference.

 
From the Ladybird book "Learnabout... Knots"
From the Ladybird book "Learnabout... Knots" | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Eugene Brennan

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      • profile image

        saji 4 years ago

        it is nice

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks a lot for the comments. Glad you liked it!

      • MomsTreasureChest profile image

        MomsTreasureChest 5 years ago

        Great hub with terrific how to instructions, thanks for sharing!

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        I can knot believe they were knot detailed enough!

        Thank you for the comments!

      • tsadjatko profile image

        TSAD 5 years ago from https:// www.consumeraffairs.com/ online/ hubpages. html

        I'm knot getting it. Do you have more detailed instructions? :-)

        Voted Uop, useful, interesting and depending on your reply maybe Funny.

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Hi Patsy. Thanks for the kind comments and glad you found it useful!

      • Patsybell profile image

        Patsy Bell Hobson 5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

        I really like this hub. I can use several of these knots in the garden. Your photos are very helpful. Voted up and useful. I like your style.

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks Angelo! Glad it was of use!

      • Angelo52 profile image

        Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

        Nice articles on tying these knots. The photo step-by-step was very useful. Voted up and sharing.

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Glad you liked this moonlake! Thanks for the comments!

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 5 years ago from America

        Very good information. Your pictures are great they really help. Voted up and Shared.

      • eugbug profile image
        Author

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks Marcy and forall. I had sort of forgotten how to tie the sheet bend and had to look up my "Ladybird" book on knots which I got when I was 11. I knew it would come in handy someday!

      • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

        Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

        I have always wondered how some of these knots were made, and what they were called! I wasn't lucky enough to be in a scouting program, so this was very interesting to read. Thanks! Voted up!

      • forall profile image

        forall 5 years ago

        Great hub. I like the tips you shared. Well explaining pictures. Voted up, interesting and useful.

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