What Knot to Use in a Primitive Situation

by Bill Scherer


It's been my observation that every practicing abo should have several knots memorized, ready to be used anytime. If you are making primitive cordage, then learn a few knots to go with it. Someone once asked me why one could not use the same knot in every situation. The answer is that different knots will fit different situations. A line may be tied onto its own cord, or a different line, onto a post, ring, fishhook, or animal. The strain may be steady, or intermittent, and from one angle or many. Sometimes the knot is only to hold for a short time, or it may be semi-permanent. Some knots are easily untied when wet, or with one hand. Some knots are stronger than others. The physical properties of the cord will also be a determining factor. Ease of untying may or may not be important. Many things should be considered when selecting a knot for a particular job.

What I would like to do here is list some of the knots that I have personally used while practicing primitive outdoor skills. Sometime the line is a homemade cord of natural fiber (flax, dogbane, New Zealand flax, cattail, etc), sometimes a strip of willow bark, or a piece of split pine root.


 Half hitch

  Double half hitch

 Slipped half hitch

Half hitch and double half hitch: The half hitch can be used for hanging a rope from a branch or post. This is another knot that can be made to untie easily with the slipped version. I like to make mine a slipped version. For tethering animals there is a version known as the cow hitch/ lanyard hitch. The cow hitch is made of two single hitches on a post or ring.


 Timber hitch
 Timber hitch with additional half hitch

Timber Hitch: This is used traditionally for skidding logs, sometimes used with an additional half hitch. I use a timber hitch on one end of my longbow string.


Bowline tied off with half hitch


Bowline: This is a loop that won't slip, or come loose. It can be untied even under tension. It is used to attach a line to an object, such as a peg, or ring, or a person (rescue work). This is the knot remembered with "a rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree, and back in the hole". It should not be used with a stiff line.


Sheet Bend: This is used to tie two lines together, to extend a line, or to tie a line to fabric. It is particularly useful for tying two lines of different diameters. A variation is the slipped sheet bend for ease of untying. Try this mnemonic "the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and under the exposed tree root".


Overhand knot


Overhand Knot: Used as a stopper knot or as a sewing knot. If you learn this knot you will have the basis of several other knots. The Overhand loop is the same knot with the line doubled over. Related knots not detailed here are the multiple overhand knot, the Carrick bend and the Hunters bend.


Constrictor knot


Constrictor Knot: The primitive equivalent to a twist tie. Used to close bags, or tie them onto a pole, or to bundle objects together. A good knot for the Egyptian bow drill spindle. This knot can be broken down as two overhand knots, the second over the first. Very similar to the clove hitch; and difficult to untie unless you make it a slipped version.





E-mail your commits to "Bill Scherer" at scherer_william@hotmail.com

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