Book Reviews

International Guild of Knot Tyers

Symmetric Bends by Roger Miles

World Scientific 1995 ISBN 9789812796165

Lester Copestake writes:

Symmetric Bends, eye-catching title for this trim, black volume on the table at the IGKT 14th AGM in the training centre at Gilwell Park. But the place and Charlie Smith created too much fun and diversions. A quick look and I put the book down knowing I had to get my own copy. I got my own copy and the next day I am asked to do a review. How to begin!

This is not so much a review as an appreciation of the 90 coloured drawings of the 60 chosen bends and some 70 ingenious diagrams on a square lattice revealing the open structure of knots. From these it is easy to be sure of tying accurately. It's so full: knot studies growing out of it will engross us all, even leaving out the maths. You are left to devise your own practical methods of tying each one. This alone will keep you happy for ages. but there is more.

He shows that bends are uncountable but has picked and photographed in colour his "best" 60. Some need two aspects to show off the symmetry, over 90 views. The hints on how to invent new ones for yourself and record the structure in diagrams like fig 1 will be the meat of the book for most of us.


Don't we all want to get a good new one to write to Knotting Matters about. These 'ediagrams' are far easier to draw and read than an ordinary sketch like fig. 2.


Fig.3 shows two aspects of the bend drawn up ready to photograph (he tells you the exposure) and fig 4 is the four stages on the method of tying.


There is a paragraph on each bend, usually omitting tying methods. Fig 4 illustrates the author’s wisdom in avoiding a field where every knot tyer thinks he knows best.

Tiny changes make new bends. That's why there are so many waiting to be discovered and why Roger Miles' methods seem such a great aid to knot tiers. You can devise your own diagrams. Discover a new bend. Start using pencil on the lattice. He gives lots of hints. Finally you can look for a slick way to tie it. The author asks you to write and tell him of any good ones that you turn up. Why not also write in triumph to Knotting Matters. Indeed why not? This is part of what the Guild is for. Moreover his prose is so conversational and disarming that I forgive him for leaving my favourite bend (the Butterfly knot shown) out of the 60, even if it is "symmetric". But is it? All dictionaries that give the word say it means symmetrical; implying due or just proportion, balance, harmony and more. I would prefer the harmonious term did not the harsh short form suit the difficulty of a concept with many modes. Read on!

Roger Miles quotes Harry Asher's old guild maxim as sat out on page 55 of his most inspiring 'Alternative Knot Book'. "If a knot is symmetrical it is likely to be a good one." Whereunto a mathematician added; "If it's not symmetrical throw it away." A hard notion for the practical man to accept. Besides the Butterfly, the structure is the same as the loop in ABOK #1053, I would add two knots; Tarbuck & constrictor; sundry hitches timber, buntline, clove & awning, maybe the figure of eight and who needs any other for real rope work?

Of course we need all sorts and qualities in knots. On page 75 he gives a list of the qualities of a good knot, like Charles Warner’s list in KM41 p22 but adds the vital ingredient "Charisma".

I was long out of University by the time new maths came in. But any symbols not explained in the text I have linked up under net theory in an A-level crib. But I am leaving chapter 3 and 4 to last. No need for maths to enjoy this book. All you need is to be a dedicated knotsman.