When the good people who make up the requisite committee of the IGKT
get together to discuss a purported "new" knot, just what is it they seek and how
do they make the differentiation? Maybe one of them will be kind enough to respond ...
One of them will. I've been a bit slow in so doing, looking back over some old notes
et cetera. --and over a now aged draft of an article "On *New* Knots" I'd begun forKnotting Matters
, which has languished unfinished; I'll excerpt from it here. But
I can present some of the history and the rationale of the committee, here.
My motivation for establishing the New-Knot Claims Assessment Committee
(back in 1999-November, pub'd in km67:03-6, June 2000) was, as stated:
In response to the issue raised in km57:57 and in various KM Letters,
most notably that from Roger Miles [km58:12], the Council has approved
the formation of a committee of the IGKT to handle the initial validation
of new knot claims. Guild Member Dan Lehman, who made the proposal
to the Council, has been appointed as its chairman. This committee is
named "New Knots Claims Assessment Committee (NKCAC)";
its purpose is to receive, review, and give technical opinion on claims
by members and others: that a knot is unknown in knot literature and is
valid in terms of performance.
One obvious relief as I saw it was the removal of such Is-it-New? queries
from KM when in many cases the answer was clear. (E.g., one fellow,
as did I ca. '73, "invented" the Marlinespike hitch -- no benefit to having
KM pages carry such a claim or question, and then the answer(s). The
Perfection/Anglers Loop has appeared more than once there; and some
other, single bowline-in-the-bights have been repeatedly presented.)
Beyond that, our "assessment" was hoped to put a candidate novelty
through some pulling & testing and various-materials checking.
That was the glorious if naive intent of the committee. Over time,
various of the members lost interest or failed to find it, and this
poor manager left some matters idle, even. (Roger, e.g., decided
he only liked symmetric bends--no loops or hitches for him! (Hence
my remark re the Hobart meeting.) Brion only added to our work:
he forwarded some claims!) And in most instances, frankly, the
candidate knots were well shy of inspiring, IMHO. Our one published
report addressed a set of knots whose claim to novelty came sort of
second-hand--relayed of an Italian book read by Swede Sten Johansson;
most of the "new" knots were found, largely in EKFR
, and some
more likely novelties were deemed the sort of things about which a
good inventor would want to keep quiet!
(Frankly, I think that much
is invention, & dubious.)
I decided that "new" would be manifest as "new to us" and that meaning
that we'd not found it in our collective resources--though there is only so
much not in Ashley (ample, but not well put anywhere else --well, of
course "ample": infinity minus a few hundred equals . . . infinity). Imagine
the application of this criterion to what I subsequently found in considerable
usage on both sides of the Atlantic, and call "Reverse Groundline Hitch"
--a seizing hitch
(also my term) used by commercial fishermen to bind
together netting & ground-/head-lines! --haven't seen it in a book, as I
distinguish it from the Groundline H. in loading & purpose (& materials!).
But it's hardly "new"; and probably some small publication DOES show
it, but that is so far unknown to me.
This leads me to some strong assertions: (1) it?s easy to invent new knots;
(2) novelty, per se, is a small (and, of course, fleeting!) value for a knot.
If you accept my views on new, you should surely come to agree with (1): even
Ashley hasn?t all so vast a collection of structures in ABOK*, and other books
add little more; it?s simple to step outside of these published knots with a
slight alteration to them--presto, ?new knot?. (*Simplistic claims for ABOK
having ?over 3500 knots? are based on the illustration ID #s, many of which
don?t identify knots, and many knots are illustrated more than once; the number
of actual knots, esp. practical ones, is far smaller: e.g., only about 50 each
of bends & single-loop knots, and 100 hitches are given.)
I should also remark that I take ?knot? to be specific: e.g., contrary
Harry Asher, I do not believe that Ashley was aware of Asher?s ?Shakehands? bend
(or the corresponding loopknot), as the knot of that structure shown in ABOK (#1031)
is loaded differently.
So, one then must shrug ?so what?? (as C.Warner has privately challenged me).
Here, the bar of worthiness is applied: I?m happy to credit, with a published
presentation, knots that have some possible worth--be it in function or in
(interestingly novel) structure--; for the others, I can simply confirm to the
enquirer that we?ve found no match (and qualify the significance of that), and
give our rationale for assessing a knot as dubious. Thus, we must ask what rope
problem the knot solves, and how it compares with known solutions. Perhaps its
value isn?t confirmed, but only suggested--and we then assess an uncertain future for it.
Well, what hangs on new ?!
--to the inventor, fame? Rather unlikely; and the IGKT isn?t giving prizes or certificates
for the discovery of a new knot.
--or just respect from one?s peers? But maybe this shouldn?t depend on being first:
if a child discovers the well-known knots for herself, isn?t that most meritorious?!
Or do we just weigh some absolute value of the invented knots, irrespective of each
inventor?s reach to discover them? In the case of the IGKT, we at most give the new
knot and its inventor(s) recognition and whatever publicity derives from being
featured in KM; perhaps, in some special cases, we might go further, and advocate
the invention to other forums--such as SAIL, Climbing, or a Scouting magazine.
And in giving recognition, we shall try to use words carefully to not imply more
than some objective truth that So-&-so has found this knot, and viola!
Now, even of those knots that can be found in the literature, there are some
that ought to be more widely known, to ?us?--e.g., it was of scant value that the
?new? #1425a (added to ABOK ) was published by Phil Smith in his obscure book.
Thus, Hunter?s (re-)discovery of it made a big splash: voila, here we are today,
IGKT! (And hence my name for it, "SmitHunter?s Bend"--which isn?t used by hunters,
riggers, or smiths!) Some things bear repeating. There might also be cases of
a new tying method or link to some other knots (from which the ?new? candidate
A more reasonably practical/productive course for the IGKT to take is to try to
map/articulate a knotting universe of structures, aiming to organize what is
known, and through serendipity (a good name for lack of rigor!) and the use
of a check list as noted above for any tangle
(i.e., exploring it for different
loading profiles), and other methods of projection
, this universe can be
proactively enlarged--not just sitting back and waiting for the odd (some are
quite so!) query about a "new" knot from the outside world. --a sort of building
of a Greater ABoK
, as it were. --for which, yes, a good knot-ID system
would be most helpful. Nevermind about names so much, or don't let that issue
hamper progress; there is much confusion and via the internet the rapidfire
spread of nonsense, re knot names. Still, Wikipedia e.g. can stand as a now
global reference cleaned of the nonsense, and offers one hope towards that.
Derek opined, as have several others in the past,
it is highly probable that every knot and variation we create will have been
created already by someone, somewhere, sometime in this world.
which I greet with ambivalence. For some cases, it's true--i.p., that grand
knot that bound together knot "tyers" from around the world (and, I will again
crusade, should be the logo for the so-bound guild, it's right-angle four ends
symbolizing the major compass points, E-W, N-S !!
)--; but in others, I think
that both the difference in historical materials (anything like nylon monofilament
fishing line?) and the witnessed lack of ingenuity in known knots & novelties
leads me to seriously doubt the assertion. But at least one can yet argue
"Who knows?!" and cast the doubt. Again, what hangs on "new"?
As for "variant", that is much a judgement call, in my mind. One can e.g. think
of the simplest knot, the Overhand, tied as a binder around something; then
of loading one end to make it a hitch (which can be effective in some cases);
then of making what Ashley calls a Half hitch (and I class as a noose-hitch),
which will work in some cases qua ring-hitch; and then in the form slightly
different in which the tail is set back around the object under the SPart like
a minimal Timber Hitch. These are now four distinct <somethings>, be they
one knot or several or variants. And although simple, it seems that we'll find
such cases where useful variations are simply overlooked. (Among my more
recent discoveries: a re-dressing of the infamous Granny knot, which looks
quite good, in some material--secure when slack, strong-looking, and easy
to loosen (pull ends) (in some other materials, alas, its stability under load
isn't so good. While its only a re-dressing, I regard it as distinct and "new".)
[well, whew, I need to be doing other errands! --all for now]