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While I have tied, untied, and tested these knots myself and made observations based upon that experience, the type and strength of the rope used can change the properties of a knot greatly. Tying a knot incorrectly is also a huge problem, as you might imagine. Therefore, I urge that you take extra caution with this page, especially if you intend to make a knot that supports a human. I say all this because knot tying is one of those skills that can seem deceptively straightforward, but it is not a simple, easy skill that a person can pick up without lots of practice and learning; this is why it can be so dangerous. In case you missed them, here are my Legal Disclaimers.

Basic Knots

Overhand Knot

Sometimes Secure EXTREME Jamming Non-Adjustable

The overhand knot is the most basic of all knots. It is used in the construction of many other knots. I notice that a lot of people use this knot by itself in situations where a figure-eight knot is preferable, even though both are technically stoppers.

Half Hitch

NOT Secure Little or No Jamming Adjustable

The half hitch is actually a twist rather than a knot. But a half hitch tied around the same piece of rope, sometimes called a single hitch, is a capsized form of the overhand knot. Like the overhand knot, it is used to make other knots. It is perhaps the most unstable knot (by itself) since, as I just noted, it is not even a knot by some definitions.


Stoppers are used to stop a rope from going through a hole, a knot, or some other opening.

Figure Eight Knot

Very Secure Moderate Jamming Non-Adjustable

The figure eight knot is probaby the most important stopper, one of the most important knots, and my second favorite of all knots. It is remarkably easy to tie and holds up to a wide variety of conditions. This knot can (and should) replace the overhand knot where possible, the overhand knot being generally overused and misused by those unfamiliar with knots.

Stevedore Knot

Very Secure Moderate Jamming Non-Adjustable

This is a knot I've learned to like a lot recently. I use it when I need something bulkier than the figure eight knot but don't have the rope, the time, or the necessity to tie something much larger, like the monkey fist. It is very easy to tie and the number of half turns is easy to remember, being tied in essentially the same way as other simple stoppers: 1 for the overhand, 2 for the figure eight, 3 for the figure nine, and 4 for the stevedore.

Diamond Knot

Very Secure Moderate Jamming Non-Adjustable

The diamond knot is even larger than the stevedore knot and is really both a bend and a stopper: it is started with a carrick bend (which is very secure, if tied correctly) and finished as a stopper, so it has properties of both. It is also a very nice-looking decorative knot and, because the carrick bend is hard enough to tie and verify, decoration is this knot's best use in my case!

Monkey Fist

Very Secure EXTREME Jamming Non-Adjustable

The monkey fist is one of the largest stopper knots that is widely known, being very well suited to stopping a rope from going through an opening with is substanstially larger than the rope itelf. In addition to being a stopper, the monkey fist is a common decorative knot and has even been used, both by itself and tied around a small, dense object, as a makeshift weapon. While it takes quite a bit of rope to tie, I am continually learning about new uses for it.


Binds are used to bind a rope around an object, such as tying a package closed with twine.

Granny Knot

NOT Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The granny knot is a weak binding knot, usually resulting from a failed attempt at creating a square knot. Under certain conditions, it can capsize into a clove hitch. It is closely related to the grief knot, which is even less secure.

Square Knot

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The square, or reef, knot is one of the most widely known knots and a decent choice for binding. Since it is easy to tie (though, I should note that it is also easy to mis-tie for a beginner) and holds resonably well, I use it fairly often. If you wear shoes with laces, you may tie this knot every day, albeit with a loop of rope (or "bight") instead of the ends to make a "slipped" version. Under certain conditions, it can capsize into a cow hitch, which is adjustable (viz., it slides); this is why it should never be used to join, or "bend", two ropes together. It is closely related to the thief knot, which is much less secure.

Doubly-Slipped Surgeon's Knot

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The doubly-slipped surgeon's knot is also called "Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot"[1] and is the typical way I tie my own shoes. It is very easy to tie once learned, quite secure under normal usage on shoes, and can be undone much more quickly and easily than most other functioning shoelace knots. The unslipped version, the surgeon's knot, isn't a knot I often use, though its increased friction makes it more secure than the square knot.

Constrictor Knot

Sometimes Secure EXTREME Jamming Non-Adjustable

The constrictor knot is one of the most powerful binding knots ever devised, and one that I use sparingly. This knot is so strong that, if tied properly, it is nearly impossible to untie without cutting the rope. It exerts so much pressure that I've heard stories of hydraulic lines that were temporarily sealed off with this knot. These two properties make it especially dangerous to fingers and other limbs, even outside of otherwise dangerous situations; this knot can easily cut off circulation to a finger or even slice through flesh entirely. In cases where even more security is needed, the double constrictor knot will do the job; I'd rate the double constrictor knot as "Secure". The strangle knot, which is similar to the constrictor knot, is less secure; I don't really use it, but it is worth briefly mentioning and knowing. But, back to the constrictor knot, I should not leave out one of its most important features: it can be tied in the bight, that is, without a working end of the rope available.


Bends are used to join two ropes together. If a knot is not a bend, it should never be used as one.

Grass Bend

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The grass bend is one of the simplest bends that reliably works. It is a capsized form of the grief knot (in turn a variation of the granny knot), which is quite ironic: the grief knot is known as one of the most unstable knots. It is also related to the sheet bend, and this is how I accidentally "rediscovered" it one day: if you take a left-handed sheet bend (a sheet bend with the working ends exiting the knot on opposite sides) and reform the "square side" into another "sheet bend side", you should get the grass bend. I've heard that this bend works especially well with flat material, like webbing or, as the name implies, grass. I have one big caution, though: if the knot is not properly "locked" into the correct form, it will quickly capsize and assume the properties of the grief knot; this is usually a bad thing and forms the basis of my decision to rate it as only "Sometimes Secure".

Sheet Bend

Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The sheet, or weaver's, bend is the standard for uniting two ropes that may need to be untied later. It is very easy to tie and untie and will hold very well under stress. However, under very high loads and when using ropes of slightly different sizes, the "Very Secure" double sheet bend should be used. The sheet bend is essentially the same knot as the bowline, only used in a different way. The proper way to tie a sheet bend is with both working ends of the rope exiting the knot on the same side, otherwise it becomes a left-handed sheet bend; I've not noticed a substantial difference between the two in my own testing, though. While binding knots should never be used as bends, bends can be used as binding knots, and this is one bend I often use as a more secure binding knot that suffers from little or no jamming.

Figure Eight Bend

Very Secure EXTREME Jamming Non-Adjustable

The figure eight bend is a form of the figure eight knot where two ropes form the figure eight. It is a bit stronger than the sheet bend family and has the advantage of being very easy to tie and verify as tied correctly. It will jam more easily than the sheet bend, but only under very heavy loads; in most cases, it could be considered to have "Little or No Jamming".

Butterfly Bend

Very Secure Little to No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The butterfly bend is the bend form of the butterfly loop, and it has all of the same great properties of the butterfly loop, below. I use this bend quite often, and I think it is the strongest bend that can be easily tied. It is also much gentler on ropes than other bends, so it won't reduce the strength of the rope nearly as much as a sheet bend will. While I've heard about (and witnessed) sheet bends and double sheet bends slipping under high-stress loads on synthetic line, I've never seen such a thing befall the butterfly bend. It is hard to praise this bend enough.

Fisherman's Knot

Very Secure EXTREME Jamming Adjustable

The fisherman's knot is composed of two overhand knots and has the advantage of being adjustable. But, because of the extreme jamming involved in an overhand knot, the fisherman's knot is usualy called for only when the rope is not going to be re-used for something else. For more strength, the double fisherman's knot, consisting of double overhand knots instead of the "regular" [single] overhand knots, can be used. Some possible rolling of the knot down the ropes aside, this is one of the strongest bends.


Hitches are used to create a special loop around an object or rope; in contrast to traditional loops, they are generally adjustable and suffer from little or no jamming. Indeed, I very rarely use loops anymore unless I need something fixed and/or extremely secure; I've found that hitches can be used for most of my needs.

Timber Hitch

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Adjustable

The timber hitch is one of the most basic hitches and is often used to temporarily secure a rope around a log, hence the name. In reality, it fits easily around a great variety of objects. In the case of especially spherical objects, however, it is necessary to upgrade to a killick hitch, which is essentially a timber hitch with any number of half hitches added at strategic points around the object, creating almost a web of rope and preventing it from falling out of the knot.

Clove Hitch

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Adjustable

The clove hitch is one of the most important hitches not only because it is fairly strong and easy to tie, but because it forms the basis of more complex hitches. If a loop (technically a "noose", because it adjustable, unlike a true loop) is made from a clove hitch, it can be called a buntline hitch or two half hitches, depending on whether the loose, or "standing", end exits the hitch towards or away from the noose. I have not been able to figure out which configuration is stronger, either through research or minor experimentation, so I use either, calling them both clove hitches for convenience. I don't really use nooses made with a clove hitch and an added half hitch in various configurations (e.g., a taut-line hitch): while they may be stronger under tension than the clove hitch, I find it just as easy to make two (or more) clove hitches in a row, far surpassing the strength of these other hitches. The clove hitch can be tied in the bight, that is, without a working end of the rope available.

Cow Hitch

NOT Secure Little or No Jamming Adjustable

The cow hitch is one of the most common knots, often being used for such things as attaching name badges to lanyards. Because it can be made so quickly and tied in the bight, that is, without a working end of the rope available, it has a wide range of lighter-duty uses. The prusik hitch, a cousin of the cow hitch with a lot more turns added for extra friction (and which I'd rate between "Sometimes Secure" and "Secure", depending on who is using it), is used in certain types of mountain climbing and arboriculture.

Icicle Hitch

Sometimes Secure Little or No Jamming Adjustable

The icicle hitch is one of the most specialized hitches ever devised and allows a rope to be attached to a slippery, conical object, such as a strong icicle, and still hold! I rate it as "Sometimes Secure" only because it can be hard to tie and is easy to misuse; properly handled, I'd rate it "Secure". One of the most important notes about the icicle hitch is that it can only take force from one direction; force applied in the opposite direction will almost certainly capsize the knot.


Loops are exactly what they say: loops. They are always fixed, that is, non-adjustable.

Figure Eight Loop

Secure EXTREME Jamming Non-Adjustable

The figure eight loop is, as it sounds, a loop made with a figure eight knot. It is quite common in climbing because it is not only secure but very easy to verify. While I have listed it as suffering from "Extreme Jamming", in many climbing situations the knot will not be tightened to the point where this becomes an issue; in those cases, it actually suffers from "Little or No Jamming". Conveniently, it can be tied in the bight, that is, without a working end of the rope available. In just about every way, the figure eight loop is better than the overhand loop, which has very limited uses and suffers from even more extreme jamming; the overhand loop is overshadowed by the other loops to such a degree that I have not even bothered listing it as one of my useful knots.


Secure Little or No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The bowline is often called the king of knots, and it is clear why: it is easy to tie, easy to unite, can carry heavy loads, and uses a very small amount of rope. When I need a fixed loop and plan on using the rope for something else in the future, this is one of the few knots I use. It can be made more resistant to capsizing (which is rare, but possible when loose) with the Yosemite finish. It is also possible to make a double bowline in the same manner as the double sheet bend; I almost never use this version, though, even though I've heard it is less prone to slipping under very high loads.

Butterfly Loop

Very Secure Little to No Jamming Non-Adjustable

The butterfly, or lineman's, loop is probably my favorite knot overall. While it uses a little more rope to tie than the bowline and can suffer from a little more jamming under extreme loads, it is in most other respects far superior: it is easier to learn, much easier to verify, stronger, not prone to capsizing when tension is absent, and, if that were not enough, it can be tied in the bight, that is, without a working end of the rope available!

Knot Slippage and Capsizing

Capsizing is the term for when a knot deforms to the point where it loses its properties; this is usually a very bad and dangerous thing. Knots can also slip down a rope without capsizing. This slippage is expected by experienced knot tiers, so enough rope is reserved to prevent the knot from slipping someplace it should not, such as off the end of a rope! Stopper knots and/or backup knots can (and usually should) be added as extra security, too, when a life is quite literally "on the line". Slippage is far worse on modern, synthetic ropes but can still affect a poorly-tightened knot on a more traditional hemp rope.

Knot Efficiency

Another important factor to consider when tying knots is the knots' efficiency. The efficiency is a measure of how much less strength the rope has due to the stress the knot puts on the rope itself. Generally, the worse a knot jams, the more damage it does to the rope. While I am not sure there are exact numbers for any knot, research I've conducted online[2] seems to indicate that the figure eight family and the butterfly loop are among the gentlest knots on ropes that are also generally easy to tie, verify, and untie. This is no small matter: the difference between a knot on a 1,000kg-rated rope with 40% efficiency (translating to 400kg of rope strength at that knot) and one with 90% efficiency (translating to 900kg of rope strength at the knot) is enormous. Of course, there are other factors, such as water and wear (and a large safety margin), that need to be accounted for when figuring out a rope's safe working load.


This document describes some of the knots I find the most useful out of the thousands and thousands developed throughout history; I've organized them by type. Along with a description, I've given the knots on my list ratings in three categories: security ("NOT Secure", "Sometimes Secure", "Secure", or "Very Secure"), jamming ("EXTREME Jamming", "Moderate Jamming", or "Little or No Jamming"), and adjustability ("Non-Adjustable" or "Adjustable"). I have also tried to address, briefly, the issues of knot efficiency, capsizing, and—critically—safety. Since I use knots all the time, this a way to catalogue some of my knowledge both for my own use and to be able to easily share with others. By picking out which knots I feel are the best and/or most important to know, I hope to provide a list which is more manageable and helpful for learning, teaching, and using the skill of knot tying.


I first created this document in May, 2010. Since then, it has undergone many additions. I last made changes to the content on November 4, 2012.

I created this metadata on July 10, 2011 and last modified it on January 1, 2013.


  1. 1. Until I read through Ian's Shoelace Site, I wasn't aware of all the various ways to tie one's shoes, much less lace them up. I learned about the doubly-slipped surgeon's knot, and also the double helix lacing, from his site and now use both of them. His website is located at http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/index.htm
  2. 2. I've only seen a few really meaningful tests of knot efficiency. The best one on the internet has been removed (I checked in August, 2012) but many archived copies of the page are available from the Internet Archive, such as at http://web.archive.org/web/20110703121041/http://www.caves.org/section/vertical/nh/50/knotrope.html

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