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How to Tie Knots: Bowline, Reef Knot, Sheet Bend and Figure-of-Eight

Eugene, an avid self-taught DIYer and engineer, has acquired almost 40 years of experience with power/hand tools, plumbing, and woodwork.

4 Useful Knots Everyone Should Know How to Tie!

The ability to tie various knots is a useful skill to have in the home, in the garden, and 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 of knots, but 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

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

Step1: Make a Loop

Make a loop

Make a loop

Step 2: Put a Twist in the Loop

Put a twist in the loop

Put a twist in the loop

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

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

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

Step 1: Right (blue) Over Left

Right (blue) over left

Right (blue) over left

Step 2: ...And Under

.........and under

.........and under

Step 3: Left ( now blue) Over Right

Left ( now blue) over right

Left ( now blue) over right

Step 4: ....And Under

....and under

....and under

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

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

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

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

.......and then feed it back

.......and then feed it back

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

Step 1: Make a Loop

Make a loop

Make a loop

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

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

...around and back into the loop

...around and back into the loop

Books From Amazon

An excellent Ladybird book from Amazon showing how to tie lots more knots than described in this article. Out of print now, but still available new or secondhand. 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.

how-to-tie-knots-a-simple-guide
From the Ladybird book "Learnabout... Knots"

From the Ladybird book "Learnabout... Knots"

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Eugene Brennan

Comments

Vi on August 01, 2018:

Thank you for the useful information about knots and how to tie them! :)

saji on February 23, 2014:

it is nice

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on April 04, 2013:

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

MomsTreasureChest on April 03, 2013:

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

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on March 04, 2013:

I can knot believe they were knot detailed enough!

Thank you for the comments!

The Logician from now on on March 03, 2013:

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

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

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on March 03, 2013:

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

Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, Southeast Missouri, USA on March 03, 2013:

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.

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on March 03, 2013:

Thanks Angelo! Glad it was of use!

Angelo52 on March 03, 2013:

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

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on March 03, 2013:

Glad you liked this moonlake! Thanks for the comments!

moonlake from America on March 03, 2013:

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

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on September 01, 2012:

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 from Planet Earth on September 01, 2012:

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 on September 01, 2012:

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

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