Introduction: The Only Knot You Need to Know.

Picture of The Only Knot You Need to Know.

If you only learn one knot make it the marlin spike hitch. It's simple to tie and leads you right into 4 other great knots. It's much more useful than the common overhand knot which is the same knot you tie your shoe with. If you don't want to tie a knot, check out my invention here.

Here are the 5 knots you can tie with this basic know-how:

1. Marlin Spike Hitch
2. Noose Knot
3. Oysterman's Stopper Knot (trefroil)
4. Bowline
5. Twin Bowline Bend

This is how to tie them from a marlin spike hitch and what you would use them for...

Check out the Paracord Contest!!!!

Step 1: Get a Handle on It.

Picture of Get a Handle on It.

The Marlin Spike Hitch.

With paracord you can only pull around 80 pounds of tension before it starts to hurt your hand. This is where the marlin spike hitch comes in. It's a great way to put a temporary handle into rope. If you have more then one person pulling you can add several handles to the line. These handles could be sections of pipe, tree branches, or a closed pocket knife.

To form this hitch you form a loop in the free end of the cord. Fold the loop over so that you can pull a bight of the standing end through the loop. Thread your marlin spike through the bight you pulled through and pull both ends tight. Watch the video in the intro for a better demo.

A marlin spike hitch story.

While changing a water heater I attached a hand winch to a ceiling stud. Once the heater was hoisted up off the pedestal I had my wife pull on a rope which was tied around the bottom of the heater. This let me lower the heater to the ground while it was angled away from it's niche. The handle on the rope was a hammer which was marlin spike hitched in.

Step 2: Pull It Together.

Picture of Pull It Together.

The Noose knot.

If the marlin spike hitch spills it turns into a noose knot. This knot will constrict around what it's tied around. It's basically an overhand knot with the standing end threaded through. The only problem is that tension will cause it to unravel. To prevent that you need to add a stopper knot to the free end. Que the oysterman's stopper knot.

A noose knot story.

I wanted to take all our beach gear to the shore in one trip. The cooler, beach chairs, towels, shade structure, sand toys, all of it. I placed a towel on the sand and placed a small rock on each corner. I tied a noose knot around the rock which was covered by the corner of the towel. Kind of like a tootsie pop wrapper. This made an improvised sack. Anything I couldn't carry in my arms went into the sack which I carried on my shoulder.

Step 3: Put a Stop to It.

Picture of Put a Stop to It.

Oysterman's Stopper Knot.

Once the marlin spike hitch spills you get a noose knot. From there you can easily get a stopper knot. All you have to do is thread the free end through the eye and pull the standing end tight. This gives you a stable trefoil knot. If you look at the first picture the standing end is cut very short. You can see how three even wraps surround the center cord. It increases overall diameter.

An Oysterman's Stopper Knot story.

After moving I had a great big pile of collapsed cardboard boxes. The trash men here in Vegas can be a little feisty so putting all the boxes in the biggest box wasn't a good idea (they once dumped a box out in front of my house, took the box, and left the pile of trash). I smashed an aluminum can and threaded some paracord from a hole in the bottom through the opening. This stopper knot kept the can in place. Every box got threaded with paracord until all the boxes were stacked. When the trash man came he grabbed the paracord handle at the top of the stack and sent them off to recycle.

Step 4: One Good Loop.

Picture of One Good Loop.


According to Wikipedia,

"The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred as King of the knots because of its importance. It is one of the four basic maritime knots."

To tie this one, start with the marlin spike hitch. Instead of threading a spike though, thread the free of the line. Let the knot spill when you pull it tight. It will form right into a bowline. Check out the video for a better view.

A Bowline story.

While camping I needed a place for a "trash site". I tied a bowline leaving both protruding ends long enough to tie around a tree. I tied a knot in the corner of a trash bag and slipped that though the bowline. It kept the bag off the ground and made it easy to change out when it was full.

Step 5: Double the Fun.

Picture of Double the Fun.

Twin Bowline Bend.

This type of bowline is not very common but works great. Start out with two marlin spike hitches. Place them on a flat surface so they face the opposite way. Where you would place the spike is where the opposing free ends thread through. When you pull it tight let the both sides spill. This forms the twin bowline bend. Pretty cool right?

A twin bowline bend story.

While working on a project (keep your eyes peeled early summer) I needed a very long section of paracord. The two pieces I had were 100' each. I used this bend to splice them together. It worked great and came apart quick when I was done.


dridenh1 (author)2017-11-13

Ooh, thanks for the share!! I learned a lot!!

boatmakertoo (author)2017-04-27

I believe that knots, like "Civics", should be taught in the public schools. One never knows when the need will arise. Many activities require a knowledge of knots. Any kind of boating, fishing, often camping, tying loads to vehicles, building emergency or temporary structures to name a few. Anyone can learn them. Millions of 10-12 year olds learn them as Boy Scouts. I don't know about Girl Scouts. One contributor wrote an instructible about the "taught line" hitch, always one of my favorites. Good instructible, helps satisfy a general need.

dridenh1 (author)boatmakertoo2017-11-13

I recall the days when these skills were taught in the home; now we pay teachers, what.....?.....$35,000 a year to teach these skills.....?

We did in Girl Scouts.

nivchek (author)2017-04-28

What does "spill" mean? Thanks!

cattery_mom (author)nivchek2017-10-01

To 'spill' a knot is to change its form and rearrange its parts, usually by pulling on specific ends in certain ways.

w6pea (author)2017-05-05

Thanks for taking the time to post this. I all the years I drove trucks I have so many problems at tying knots I can tie knots but for me to try and teach someone else how to tie a knot forget. Maybe I don't have the patience.

SherylinRM (author)2017-05-05

Cool. Thanks for this :)

clr_box (author)2017-05-02

Great instructions. This really simplifies the knot making process. Thanks

Oconeepond (author)2017-05-01

Great! Very clear instructions!

Chuck666 (author)2017-04-27

Please remember there are lots of reasons for more than one knot. Part of the reasons are the security of a knot and then there is the ease of undoing the knot and then there is the damage too tight a knot does to the line.

So....the correct knotsfor the tasks.

PeeDonkeyPit (author)2017-04-27

I love knots! My favorite is the Prussic Hitch... Thanks for a knotty read!

I used to carry a piece of paracord tied with a prusik knot in the pocket of my coat, I'm a retired firefighter and spent a lot of years in ladder truck companies which were responsible for high angle rescue and anything involving repelling and ropes. We used the prusic loop when repelling to create a "step" on the rope we were on. If for any reason we had to stay in one place for a while or needed both hands free or needed to change from one rope to another we would take the loop and wrap it around the rope we were hanging on so we could put a foot in the loop and stand on it. If you had two loops you could actually climb a rope by sliding the loops up as you raised your foot, standing on it and sliding the other loop up as you raised that foot. It was slow but it worked and could save your life!

jlsmoothash2o (author)2017-04-27

This is just a figure 8 knot with a spike in it. Here is a pic of a figure 8 knot. Which I think everyone should learn. Because it is the most common knot and leaves to all your other knots you are showing here

BenRumson_NoNameCity (author)2017-04-27

Good simple summary. Thanks for the post.

I carry around two 12" long cords in my pocket at all times. One is black, the other red. I use them to practice knots when ever I'm waiting for an appointment or if I need to take my mind off the "rat race" to relax and clear my mind. Each day I pick a different knot to practice. Muscle Memory is a big help in knot tying.

ocps (author)2017-04-27

To know a minimum of essentials knots it's for me very importantly. Thanks for this instructable.

fw 190D (author)2016-04-12

"The only knot you need to know"......

So your saying the others are knot needed?

Jimus (author)fw 190D2016-04-13

I was an engineer during my stint in the army. Knots (AKA "Line Management) was pretty extensive. But we also built .bridges with logs, rope and good knots that tanks (ok small tanks) dove across. I tried to show my 7 yr. old a few of them and while he readily picked most up-he finally got bored and said "Dad...I have velcro!" He's entirely too smart for my own good.Back before ratchet straps, as well as now, it's a very handy hitch.

fw 190D (author)Jimus2016-04-14

Hello Jimus, thanks for replying. I'm always amazed at what army engineers can do with relatively basic construction materials. An obvious necessity out in the field. My biggest problem is having to do knots the other way 'round as I'm left handed. Even my shoe lace knots are something I worked out for myself to make it easier. None of my family could show me, they are all right handed and trying to watch them and somehow visualize it in a mirror image is not possible (for me). Consequently I don't have a repitoire of knots to rely on.

My dopey humour is on display in my first comment. I used "knot" instead of "not". I like your "He's entirely too smart for my own good." :P

knavefool (author)fw 190D2016-04-21

DaVinci's "mirror writing" is often mentioned as a security feature, if so it's a pretty dumb one since anyone with a mirror can easily read it forwards. But it is a way for left-handers to write without getting ink all over the heel of their hand. I think the mirror writing was just DaVinci's out of the box solution to a problem all southpaws face.

ESaungikar (author)knavefool2017-04-27

As a lefty, I have found it's very easy to address this problem by turning the paper 45 degrees to the right (i.e. 12 o'clock becomes 3 o'clock). Then your hand rests beneath the writing line, and you can use more of a pulling effort than a pushing effort, and your hand is relaxed. No additional hardware required! The only time it's a problem, is when signing contracts and the person offering holds onto the paper at the top, square with the edge of the table.

Jimus (author)Jimus2016-04-14

Stranger still. My dad and several uncles were left handed or ambi, so a lot of the things i learned early (shooting.. knife throwing..bow hunting.. hammering) i learned left hand. I still snap shoot left. But a lot of the things i learned later ( pool shooting and such) were never as natural left as right. I try to teach my sons to use both. They seem to pick that stuff up soo easy early on. Unconcious even.

GenevieveB16 (author)Jimus2017-02-19

I learned to tie a bowline ( among other knots) left-handed because of my father.

AdrianM198 (author)2017-01-01

Square knot, granny knot, reef knot - call it what you will, it is still quite accurate to call it 'dangerous' in most circumstances.

'Reef knot' - named for its proper use in reefing sails - bundling them up temporarily with a knot which could be 'spilled' (undone) with one hand just by pulling sharply on one free end. (you are using the other hand to hold on to anything you can to avoid being hurled to your death in freezing ocean or on deck far below). In almost any other circumstance it can accidentally be undone by an unintended pull on a free end!

It's really sensible to, at an early age, encourage people to learn proper knots ( a hitch, a bend and a loop indeed) and to save the reef knot for when they are out on the yard of a square rigged ship - which, sad to say, they are never likely to be!

Claube (author)AdrianM1982017-04-27

Granny knot is what you get when you try to tie a square knot (left over right and under, right over left and under) and fail. Interestingly, most people that know how to tie a square knot fail to do so when tying their shoes. You do it every day but I'll bet if you go slow you will realize you are not tying a square knot which is far more secure.

SailingI (author)AdrianM1982017-01-25

Square(reef) knot is not a granny knot

leemid (author)2017-03-06

You keep saying something like 'let both sides spill' as though 'spill' in this context is understood, which it is not by me, and I am fairly familiar with knots and lines. Other than that, I love this instructable.

provadance (author)leemid2017-04-27

Spill here means to change shape. If you take the marlin spike hitch, and while it's on the spike, push on one of the loops, it will slide around the knot to the other loop and form the new variant. (You are not sliding along the spike, but sliding one loop around another on the knot.) You can think of it as the same knot, but different configuration, although it will act differently.

TonyM257 (author)leemid2017-04-16

Unravels maybe?

Verga (author)2017-04-27

Very nice job. For some reason the video was not showing up, but I went to YouTube and it worked great.

tmcclure2 (author)2017-04-27

Though not a knot, I use the clove hitch a lot.

LastPayLoad0 (author)2017-04-27

monkey Fist?

THE ONLY DRAGONKING (author)2017-04-25

I liked this

knormie (author)2017-02-26

This is so helpful and I just bought one of your gravity hooks, too!

Lumberjck (author)2017-02-10

Knot tying is something I definitley need to get into...i can tie a trucker's hitch and a hook on fishing line....besides that I have to wrap/secure everything with gorilla tape and hope for the best.

aubwin7649 (author)2017-02-06

what is that it is nice

smurf (author)2017-01-29

*its niche

Nikiniku (author)2017-01-22

I just happened to see the "nice comments" statement. Wise words, and I have now made the world a better place by deleting most of my remarks. I now feel like a better man. If I can only keep this up on other sites....

Nikiniku (author)2017-01-22

The taut-line hitch is the most useful and indispensable knot that I know.

BenQ54 (author)2017-01-15

Very useful

Thelundsgaard (author)2016-12-04

Marlin Spike Hitch??

ggrieser (author)2016-09-30

You basically need to know one of three types of knots, a hitch, a bend and a loop. A hitch hitches to something, a bend joins two ropes, and a loop is a loop. There's many types of each.

warrior1866 (author)ggrieser2016-12-04

So, a reef knot comes where. For joining two ropes of equal thickness. Sheet bend for joining two ropes of unequal thickness.

Snidely70448 (author)2016-04-10

No doubt the bowline and its variations are useful knots, but IMHO it is overblown to say it is the only knot one needs to know.

There is the square knot, the timber hitch, the double turn and two half hitches. Each does things the bowline doesn't, and can't.

DanC242 (author)Snidely704482016-10-30

yes, I support you. in me service military i learn this

Im an aborist 15 years certain knots for certain applications each has its use but which is what you really should be discussing...?anybody know the weak point of an inline bowline?answer and ill reply

No weaknesses that I know of, where it can be used. It doesn't come loose under pressure, or bind where you can't get it undone onc pressure is released, A timber hitch is great for dragging timber.

john711 (author)Snidely704482016-09-11

More people have been killed by the square knot than by any other. It easily comes undone under pressure. Absolutely never ever rely on this knot when in a life threatening situation.

Snidely70448 (author)john7112016-09-12

So, don't use it "in life threatening situations." I make a point of avoiding life threatening situations in any case. A bowline is useless for tying up the cord ends around a package. Are you confusing a square knot and a granny knot?

pjay247 (author)Snidely704482016-10-16

Square (reef) knot can be tied wrong easily into a granny. Even correctly tied it can easily be inverted rendering it about as much use as a chocolate fire guard

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