Figure-of-Eight Sailor/Climbing Knot Tutorial





Introduction: Figure-of-Eight Sailor/Climbing Knot Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make the extremely necessary figure-of-eight knot (aka. savoy knot, Flemish knot). The figure-of-eight knot is used when sailing and/or rock climbing. This knot is used as a method of stopping ropes from running out of retaining devices. Sailors knots in general are used because they can always be unknotted. You can pull on the sailors knots as hard as you like, but they will always be able to come apart, so you never have to cut the rope. This is of course extremely useful when sailing or rock climbing because you want  to keep your ropes at the desired length.

Step 1:

Grab a rope and paint your nails. Hold rope as pictured.

Step 2:

Grab the rope end and create the perfect, any-sized loop. 

Step 3:

Make the rope end wrap around the rope.

Step 4:

Pull the rope end over itself and down through the loop.

Step 5:

Pull the rope end downward and voila! It's a figure-of-eight knot!



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    Have you come across the neat way to teach this to kids? Where you draw a head with a bight of rope, strangle it then poke it in the eye?

    2 replies

    Jayefuu et al -- There are in fact two absolutely FANTASTIC Websites for teaching knots . Look for "Animated Knots by Grog " or "Tying it all together".

    The first site shows the rope "tying itself" as the knot forms, and you can slow it down or speed it up at will. Its a very good site for teaching scouts.

    Tying it all together is run by a fellow out of San Francisco (but I don't hold that against him - LOL) who just has an excellent, innate "knack" for using his hands in a way that makes it easy to follow as he ties the knot for you on the screen. I have his book, and while it has a few too many "really fancy but not terribly practical" knots in it for my preferences, its still a very fine book for any KnotHead to own.


    well actually, I am a sailing instructor for childrenbetween 8 and 16. They learn this with no effort at all so I've never needed to simplify it further.

    Do not go climbing with this knot. The correct climbing knot to use is actually a double figure of eight and you thread the rope through itself following the pattern of the original knot.

    Good job, but "sailors knots" is too broad a term, and there are many such knots which, no matter how well they're tied or how good the knot is - WILL jam if subjected to too much strain. That's simply something which "comes with the territory".

    Also - you might want to get yourself something other than that crappy $1.00/ft. Home Depot junk to show knotting demos with. Those who "know" know that the kern of that stuff is paper, and while its nice for tying things to the roof rack, its a VERY bad rope to use for anything but non-life safety use. You certainly should NEVER use it for sailing or ( God-forbid!) - climbing.

    BTW once you get good, there are three or four ways of tying the fig 8 knot that are much faster. But you did a very nice job showing the basic knot. I wish I were as handy with a video or digital camera as I am with knots - if knots are what people like - I could post many things, since i taught marlinspike seamanship for years.


    2 replies

    So what headline would you suggest? As I have been sailing (and climbing) for many years, and used this, I thought it appropriate.

    As the actual tying of the knot was what I focused on, I didn't mind the quality of the rope. The redness of the rope stands out and is easy to read in photos. Also, I think you have to keep in mind what size of boat your using the rope for. I have sailed many times with this type of rope and for leisure sailing it works fine. Would not climb with this, but the goal of the tutorial was to show how to tie the knot, not to model what rope to use.

    Actually I am good, and I do know the other ways of doing this. But then again, as this was to be a beginners tutorial, ergo; not aimed at you, I wanted to keep it simple.

    Have a nice day

    I think you took my tone the wrong way - I didn't mean to offend you but I can see how it may have come across that way -- I'm sorry. You see, I've been teaching and working with ropes since 1976, and I tend to have strong opinions regarding the stuff. (I have a rope locker dedicated just to climbing rescue and boating lines in my back bedroom).

    I'd keep the title, but If I decided to use that particular make of rope for the demo, I think I'd put in a disclaimer about using line dedicated to the purpose. But that's just me being a pest. IMO this line isn't good for much, except non-critical, general purpose use, and (again - IMO) one ought to use a better quality line on the boat - especially for Jib sheets. (Halyards are out of the question naturally).
    I would perhaps keep a hank of this stuff in the equipment locker, just to use in an emergency though.

    Re the fig 8 itself, You're right to keep it simple. Isn't it odd that so many people (it seems) are just flabbergasted when you show them how to tie knots? It seems as if, even when we go very slowly, there are always those who say - "Slow Down- you're going too fast!"

    For those who would like to learn more knots, I would highly recommend starting with Clifford Ashley's classic " Book of Knots" AKA- (ABOK). This is perhaps THE best tome on knots, hitches, splices and bends in the world.

    Cheers, and again, I'm sorry if I came across the wrong way.

    Keep up the good work,

    It's worth adding that when used for climbing, this knot wants a longer tail. (At least a fist's length for the doubled-back harness tie-in knot, much longer for bends.) I don't think this knot has a tendency to roll, but with a short tail it can come undone. (See

    3 replies

    This knot ABSOLUTELY has a tendency to roll. I would not recommend it as a stopper knot. Even a simple overhand will roll less than a figure 8 knot.

    The rolling of a figure 8 will be painfully obvious if you try to use it in pretty much any abnormal loading situation. Examples include the construction of an etrier or if you tie an EDK with an 8 instead of an overhand (note that this is different from a flemish bend, where the two ropes exit opposite sides of the knot.)

    On the other hand, the figure-8 loop (normally loaded) and flemish bend are perfectly good knots. Additionally, a figure-9 will not roll and can be abnormally loaded fairly safely. But please understand how this knot can roll before using it as a stopper knot, or an abnormally loaded bend / loop.

    Okay---good to know. I've always used the double overhand (half of a double fisherman) as a stopper. I'd been told that the EDK should only be done overhand, as well, but I didn't know why. Now I can see why---it's obviously a bad bend if the figure-8 rolls!

    absolutley, I totally agree. You should make a double figure of eight knot when climbing so that your sure.

    So I use to train new starters at my local climbing club a few years ago and some of the climbers use to find the following method easier:

    1. Bend the rope back on itself to form an open loop.
    2. Twist the loop over twice, a full 360 degree rotation.
    3. Fold the rope end either up towards yourself or down depending on which direction you rotated in step 2 and then through the loop.

    I hope that makes enough sense with the images included (I'm at work and have no rope with me, sorry but there's no branding :o] ).

    1 reply


    Yes this also works great. There are a couple ways of doing this but wanted to walk through the basics. Thanks for commenting and taking the time to specify w. photos.

    Have a nice day

    Folks tying this knot should be aware that the "figure 8" picture at the end is not a tightened knot but what the knot looks like prior to tightening. When tightened, the working end (with the tape) should be at a 90-degree angle from the standing end (the rest of the rope). A picture of both pre- and post-tightening can be found here:

    This is a great little stopper knot to know. I use them on the cords of my kids' hoodies and shorts all the time--no loosing the string in the washer or dryer.

    1 reply

    When sailing you often use this approx. thickness of rope, and even though its sometimes gets skewed, you can always twist it back to being as pictured above. but totally, when using thinner string, it does change.

    I would like to have it in pdf for storage but as I can not let me do it?

    Well done job for your first IBLE. Nice clear pictures and easy to understand and follow directions.

    keep up the good work.