Please, help us prevent you getting ripped off because someone got their account compromised by reusing their email & password. Read the new best practices for using the Exchange FAQ page.

Knot Question

Mar 18, 2001
Thought I would ask you all what you thought. I got a knot book for xmas and wondered what people thought were the 5 (or so) most important knots to learn. Thanks and let the opinions fly, Josh
"If you don't know the knot, tie it a LOT!" :p ;) :D

Bowline tops my list. Allows a loose loop, gets tighter, yet removes fairly easily.

Two half hitches are the most common for my work around the rowing boathouse.

Reef knot is the antidote to a granny's knot.

Cleat hitch for docking a boat.

Shoelace knot. As common as it gets... :D

Square knot

I learned many other knots when in the Boy Scouts, but since I only ever use the knots above, those are the only ones I remember.

Square Knot
Figure-8 family (more than 1, I know)
sheet bend
2 half hitches
clove hitch
taut-line hitch

With the right combination, the figure-8 family can replace a few of these. This is more than the five you asked for but for me these are the basics. There are a few more I like but these will get the work done.
As a self professed knot geek and rope rescue kind of guy, I would say the family of 8's and the bowline are king.
1. Bowline
2. Figure 8('s)
3. Square Knot
4. Trucker's Hitch
5. Shoelace knot
6. When all else fails, the good old granny knot X 10!
don't learn just 5. if you need to limit yourself due to time constraints, etc, learn one knot for each application you might encounter. these are the general categories:
loop: bowline
bend (tying two lines together): fisherman's bend or sheet (becket hitch if one loop is fixed such as a splice) bend
shortening (for a rope you don't want to cut): sheepshank
stopper: figure eight
hitch (tying to a fixed object): clove hitch and cleat knot (cleats won't always be available)

learn to splice at least the eye splice, back splice, and short splice, if you have time, you won't regret it.

knots that are adaptable, like the fisherman's (watermans) knot, and the 2 half hitches are valuable. they can be loops, hitches, or bends. i'd avoid reef knots and granny knots because they can be confused with each other.

i've worked on boats for 14 years, and been on them since i was 8, and can say knowing a handful of knots and splices for the 5 main applications is invaluable. be adaptable. one knot might be perfect for application A but be too bulky or not bulky enough for application B. a knot in one material might slip or seize in another, and some knots are harder to untie than others, and thus won't work in every situation.

if your life depends on how well something's tied you'll be glad you took the time to learn them.

best of luck, and have fun learning. don't get discouraged.:thumbup:

caveat: climbing knots are different. i'd consult a book with knots specifically geared to climbing applications if thats where your interest lies.
In my opinion:

The perfect loop knot is the alpine butterfly, it's symmetric, bidirectionally stable, and can be tied on a bight. Makes for a knot that won't move, makes a loop, and doesn't hurt the rope.

The family of 8's is perfect as a stop knot, can be used to make a quick loop, can be woven back on itself to attach two lines, and it just a generally useful knot.

The sheepshank, clove hitch and taut line hitches are just generally useful knots as well.
Too many people can't tie a square knot.

Actually the important knots to know depend on use, I'd say that a sailor may use a bowline more than a figure eight and a climber may use a figure eight more than a bowline. If you like knots you'll learn many and find your own favorites.

A few days ago I had to tie a pinata in the middle of a rope, I used a butterfly, yesterday I had to pull some big boxes up to the roof, I wrapped them with cord and used a taut line hitch to hold them tight, then tied the end of the cord to a thicker rope using a fisherman's bend.

I tie decorative knots, picture shows some that I've made, if you want to get into this you should learn to do crowns and walls, Turk's head, monkey fist, star knot, diamond, Mathew Walker, etc.


Click to enlarge
Don, your work is what I aspire to do! It must take patience and motivation. Excellent work!