Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rope Tending and Basic Knots

A few weeks back, we briefly discussed paracord . Today, I'd like to talk a bit more about cordage in general, how to dress it, and a couple of basic knots.

Cords are composed of braided or twisted strands of either natural or synthetic material. Both types of cordage have unique properties. Natural fibers tend to be a bit more elastic and stretchy, but are also susceptible to mildew and rot. Synthetic cords are far more rot resistant, but are vulnerable to heat and have very little "give."

When cords or ropes are cut, the ends immediately begin to fray. There are a variety of ways to arrest this fray, depending on the material of the cord:
  • Natural fibers must be bound or otherwise physically secured.  A few wraps of tape can accomplish this, as can a small amount of super glue. In a pinch, a simple overhand knot will stop fraying, but it makes the rope a bit harder to handle. Another clean, permanent fix is referred to as "whipping," which is the process of binding the end of a rope with thread or string, creating a strong, durable working end.

  • Synthetic cords give you an additional option: they can be melted, giving a secure end that is no larger than the cord itself. Simply hold the fibers in the flame of a lighter or candle until they melt, turning them so they melt evenly. Don't handle them until they've cooled, as they will be hot and sticky, and can cause painful burns.
What it should look like when you're done.

Basic Knots

Overhand Knot
The overhand knot is the basis for the majority of more complex knots.  It is simply a loop with a single pass through, which is then pulled snug.

Lark's Head
A Lark's Head knot forms a loop at any point in a rope.  It is a very useful knot for securing all manner of things.

Start by doubling your line into a loop.

Tie an overhand knot in it and pull it snug.

The loop that forms is solid and will not slip tighter, nor will it move along your rope.

Square Knot
A square knot is the gold standard for joining two ropes together. I was taught to tie one with the mantra "Right over left, left over right."

Cross the right hand line over the left.

Then loop the free end down and over.

 Repeat the same with the left side.

It should look like this:

Then pull tight.

Keep it all secure!


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