For people who like to make things

Humans have been using rope as a tool for thousands of years, even before we started recording history. Knots and rope-tying is one of the few technologies that have persisted essentially unchanged in all of the known human history. This is the second in a series of posts about the most important knots. The bowline knot is certainly in the top two or three.

[This is the sixth of my 30 days posts, and the second of a series of posts on knots. The first was posted, oh, about five and half years ago.]

I’m not going to make a video or draw pictures on how to tie a bowline, because you can see the video above and also find a great one here, at the Animated Knots website. I just want to stress a few important characteristics about this knot:

  • The bowline knot is great for when you need a loop at the end of a rope. As long as there is stress on the knot, the knot will not come loose by itself.
  • This also means that the knot is difficult to tie and untie when there’s stress on the rope.
  • This also means that if there is intermittent stress on the rope, the knot may shake loose. So, it’s not the best knot to use when you’re tying a boat to a mooring.
  • If you’re ever in the water and someone throws you a line, you can hold on to it with one hand, and tie a one-handed-bowline around your torso with the other. That way you don’t have to rely on your grip while your new best friend pulls you back onto the boat.
  • If you’re going camping or boating, I would recommend you learn both ways of tying this knot: the regular one, and the one-handed one.

I was recently travelling to London when the extensible handle on my carry-on bag broke. Luckily, I had a couple of feet of paracord and a carabiner in my backpack. I was able to tie a bowline on each end of the paracord. One end looped through the short handle, and the other through the carabiner. This makeshift handle was a very convenient hack that took about 30 seconds to fashion but made walking through the airport a lot easier.

There are many resources out there for learning how to tie knots.  My favorites are the Klutz Book of Knots, The Complete Book of Knots, and the Animated Knots website.  Of course, no discussion on knots can be complete without mentioning the definitive reference, Ashley Book of Knots, with more than 3,900 different knots and 7,000 illustrations.

See you tomorrow.

© 2022 Aijaz Ansari
The Joy of Hack by Aijaz Ansari is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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