Have you seen that little gem of a website – Animated Knots by Grog. I ran across this via the Yahoo How Things Work [HTW] group. It started when someone posted a message saying something like "Here's an interesting variant on tying a shoelace knot that I didn't know about." (In case you were wondering, the knot in question is called a Shoelace Bow).
So I bounced over to take a look and – you probably won’t be surprised to hear – was immediately sucked in. This is a really, REALLY useful site. It covers 120 different knots from the Albright Knot to the Woggle (this latter one is something I'm going to check out as soon as I've finished this blog because it sounds like a happy, friendly knot I'd like to get to know better). For each knot there's a text description of how to tie it along with details on its structure and uses. But the best part is the step-by-step animations, which make it incredibly easy to understand the process of tying the knot.
Of course the folks in the HTW group couldn’t let things stop there. One of the guys responded as follows:
My standard way to join two slippery ropes (nylon or other similar synthetic) I learned from my father. Tie a figure-8 knot in one rope; follow the figure-8 with the other rope in the opposite direction (i.e., starting at the first rope's end). Pull snug. The result is a nice bend that won't slip and still is fairly easy to loosen.
This prompted someone else to reply:
I think that's called a figure-eight follow-through, or some such. Pretty popular with rock climbers for making loops.
Then someone found it on the animated knots site and said:
Here it is. A Figure Eight Bend.
What? Do you really think that they were going to stop now? You must be joking. Once the HTW group sinks its collective teeth into a tasty topic, they aren’t going to let it go until they've chewed every last factoid out of it. With regard to the Figure Eight Bend, for example, someone commented:
Interesting; I wouldn't have thought of this as a bend that would be acceptable for differing size ropes. (The classic bend for that application is the sheet bend.)
Then someone threw the following nugget of trivia into the fray:
Ashley's Book of Knots has a description in it somewhere of the research Ashley did to find a bend for cashmere yarn that would hold in spite of the shock loading it experiences in a loom. He found one, after a lot of failed attempts.
I know what you're thinking. You've been gripped with the excitement of the chase. "Who was this Ashley?"
you are saying to yourself, "and why was he so obsessed with knots (did he perhaps have a darker side)?"
Actually I just discovered the answer to this question on the Internet and I will share it with you in a moment, but first let's finish my tale. Another member of the HTW group now noted:
I'd love to do some of my own testing. I've seen one web site where a guy tested a few climbing/rescue knots in climbing ropes using a hydraulic ram and a load cell to measure the force. Some popular knots, like a double sheet bend, pulled out before the rope broke.
Almost immediately, someone (who seems to know more about Ashley than one might consider to be reasonable) responded as follows:
The testing Ashley did was more complex than that. In the case he was dealing with, the problem to be solved was the bend coming loose due to repeated shock loads and unloads. So it's not the steady pull that would cause it to fail, but lots of yanking as happens in a loom.
By now the group was charging full bore. Another member threw out the following tidbit to see if it would attract any attention:
Speaking of very secure knots, a nice one – a bit tricky to tie correctly but extremely effective – is the constrictor knot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constrictor_knot).
And, of course someone else rose to the challenge as follows:
The constrictor knot is a wonderful knot. I use it to tie endotracheal tubes in place for surgeries, especially prone surgeries for which I absolutely do not want the tube to fall out. I also use it to either infuriate or amuse my students, telling them that it is probably the most useful thing they will learn during their anesthesiology rotation. I'm not really telling the truth...
I don't like Ashley's instructions for tying it, though. I show my students a single hand-motion method, tied on the bight. And I use an inverted surgeon's knot for shoelaces. I've been amazed over the years how many people notice that I use a variant shoelace knot. Many interesting discussions have resulted. I hang out with nerds.
At which point the HTW pack veered off onto a new course discussing the relative benefit of different knots for different types of surgeries ... the problems involved in tying knots when you are up to your elbows in someone's intestines, and ... the discussion raged on until a more tempting topic enticed them in another direction and they disappeared over the horizon...
Meanwhile, I just performed a search on the Internet to discover that Ashley's book was first published in 1944 and is considered by many to be "the best book every written on knots"
and "an absolute masterpiece"
And, believe it or knot (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), this book is still in print today and is available from Amazon.com (Click Here
to bounce over to Amazon). As it says on Amazon:
The Ashley Book of Knots takes us back to a time when knots saved lives and put dinner on the table. Whether out at sea or in a pioneer cabin, knots were a part of daily life, one that is nearly lost today. But in this attractive, well-organized archive of more than 3,900 different knots–presented through 7,000 illustrations – the art of knot tying lives on, both as a historical reference and a reservoir of handy knowledge.
The Ashley Book of Knots describes every practical knot, what it looks like, where it comes from, and how to tie it. The book includes 4,000 knots, with all the varieties of shipboard knots as well as knots used by butchers, steeplejacks, electric linesmen, knitters, cobblers, surgeons, poachers and cowboys.
At $53 this is a bit rich for my blood, but from this point on I'm certainly going to keep my eyes open whenever I visit a secondhand bookstore.