Author Topic: A Better Square Knot  (Read 11948 times)

Son of Liberty

  • --Son of Liberty
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 42
A Better Square Knot
« on: July 08, 2009, 01:45:19 AM »
As a Scout, one of the first knots I learned was the Square Knot (Reef Knot).  However, it is my experience that many in the knotting community despise this knot.  I realize it is constantly misused, but I am understandable still fond of my first endeavor into the wonderful world of knots.

So, I'm setting out on a quest to make the "better Square Knot."  I'm trying to keep its basic structure the same, but tinker with its design until it is safe for the heavy workloads it is continually misused for.  My first attempt is simply adding two half hitches into the mix.  It's tied like a Thief's Knot, but the two working ends should end up on the same side.  Please tie this for yourselves and test the logistics of it.

Thanks,

--Son of Liberty
All men die.  Few men really live.
--Brave Heart

Dan_Lehman

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3675
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2009, 05:04:24 AM »
However, it is my experience that many in the knotting community despise this knot.
Although this to some extent seems to be the "community who read knot books"; the knot
is found here and there, otherwise; it is sometimes secured by securing the ends to the S.Parts.

Quote
I'm trying to keep its basic structure the same, but tinker with its design until it is safe for the heavy workloads it is continually misused for.  My first attempt is simply adding two half hitches into the mix.  It's tied like a Thief's Knot, but the two working ends should end up on the same side.

Given that your image doesn't show the ends on the left side -- both run out of the image --,
we'll have to take your word for it.

What you show, minus one "half hitch", was verbally presented sometime circa 1880
by Tyrrell Biddle; Geoffrey Budworth wrote short article entitled "Wot Knot?" about the
associated image, really -- the words escaped him in import.  The words, thought by a
cursory consideration to denote a Double Sheet bend, are
Quote
[in reference to the adjacently presented (single) Sheet bend's end]
If taken around again, and through the bight again, it holds better ...

But among the faults laid on the Reef knot is weakness; I'm not sure that this is any
result of slippage or distortion, but just its form (though to my eye, that would seem
to be pretty decent, the way the rope bends on entry!?).

If one makes certain small extensions, it's amazing what other common knots will
result -- the Ring Bend, a reverse Shakehands Bend, the Sheet Bend, the Half-Hitch(Grass)
bend, to cite a few.  With all of the other, lesser known (one might say "ignored"!)
decent bends out there (notably Ashley's #1425 [no 'a']), one might find better
returns on efforts to learn them in a general exploration of the knotting universe.

Cheers,

--dl*
====

squarerigger

  • Global Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 729
  • IGKTPAB Immediate Past President
    • The Knot Guy
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2009, 05:42:35 AM »
Hi Son of Liberty,

A better square knot or an alternative knot that has some semblance of some parts of a square knot?  The reason, I think, that the square knot is so used is because it has elements of simplicity and ease-of-remembering.  For the average Joe or Jane it seems to be something they can normally remember how to tie, never having been schooled in knot-tying.  It would be pure fiction, I think, to expect the general populace to include knot-tying as any element of educatuion in their life, particularly with respect to alternative knots - after all, aren't knots an anachronism?

No matter what my thoughts are - in real life it is the popular knot to which the people tend to migrate, if at all.  Might just as well throw our hands in the air, forget having any knots that will never be used and stick with the dumbest dumbed down version - Velcro(R)!!  I do admire your trying but I think you are addressing the proverbial dead horse...

SR

[Inkanyezi] gone

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • Pro three strand splice
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2009, 08:14:15 AM »
Hi Son of Liberty and welcome.

I had the same thoughts as squarerigger about the subject, and it is in no way new. Moreover, the way of tying that is suggested is utterly complicated, thus hard to remember, and it lacks one elementary feature that the reef knot has when used for it's primary purpose; you cannot draw it tight for making a package or such. I recall a set of knots I never learned, presented by Harry Asher iirc, the Simons. Although fairly reasonable knots, they all lack the simplicity of the sheet bends, which makes them so easy to remember and to do. The only advantage of the Simons is that they are built upon the square knot principle.

The logistics of the Simons are simply more complicated than for the commonly used knots. This applies for your suggested knot too, although to a larger degree, particularly by starting like the thief knot. It might also be noted, that about halfway through, there is something that resembles a sheet bend, and one must then consider how much simpler it is to tie a double sheet bend.

There must be some reason why the sheet bend has become the standard knot for bending rope. But moreover, your way of tying the knot resembles tying the sheet bend in the form where the end is rove, rather than the elegant seaman's way of doing it. That is the method of tying where the mistake of making it "left-handed" occurs. This is why your suggested knot is inferior even to the Simons, because a Simon is started as the square knot, and for a Simon, it really doesn't matter a lot whether you make a mistake and make one under instead of over, because it will still be one in the series, even though maybe a different one from the one you intended. So your knot has little to offer. It does not offer simplicity, it does not offer security over simpler knots, and like the thief knot, it is started in an awkward way that is prone to error.

Practical knots are almost never created by reeving one end over a structure that you put in another. There are only a few of the practical knots that generally are created by reeving, most notably the half hitches and fisherman's bends. The most used knots are done by some smart movement with the hand, which is easily remembered like a dance step; you can do it blindfolded. The sheet bend, exactly as the bowline, is made by a twist of your hand with the end over one part, only one last movement requires minimal reeving of the end. That's why those two knots have become standard. They are easily remembered and easily done. As a bonus, though different and for different purposes, they can be made in exactly the same way.

And that is also why the square knot is a standard knot. It is easily done and easily remembered. Those are features that must be included in any knot for gaining acceptance. They are present in the most used and secure knots that are used as bends. We cannot counter the misuse of the square knot as a bend by introducing more complicated moves (thief knot approach) into something that we wish that it would resemble the square knot. It has already been done, but failed. How many people know the simple and double Simons, over and under? Those are indeed improvements to the square knot along the lines you suggest, but way simpler. But the knotting sphere in general is a lot narrower. I doubt that many more people than Harry Asher himself would actually use those knots. The sheet bends, single and double, remain standard knots for joining the ends of two lines.

There seems to be only one sector in the knotting sphere more concerned about safety, mountaneering, and for mountaneers more complicated knots may be used for their security and strength. So mountaneers use figure eight bend, fisherman's bends, Zeppelin bend, strait bend and Hunter's bend. The Simons never gained acceptance there, not even the carrick bend did, although a very good knot.

In way of complexity, the carrick bend, tied in the Wave way, is so much simpler than the bulk of knots, that if any improvement is to be done in the knotting scene, it would be introducing the carrick bend to replace the reef knot for bending, and maybe also to replace the sheet bends, for example in scouting. But for those thinking that the reef knot is for bending, there is no cure. Too many authorities have claimed that it is a bend, British Admiralty, scouting etc. We will have to contend with the misuse. After all, people are free to use any tangle they like for any purpose they want. Those really concerned about safety, climbers, don't use the reef knot as a bend.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2009, 10:20:36 AM by Inkanyezi »
All images and text of mine published on the IGKT site is licensed according to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

geminijim

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 12
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2009, 04:07:41 PM »
If you fix the working ends to the standing ends by seizing or tying a loop knot like a bowline, the insecure square/reef knot becomes the very secure strop bend, but this is needlessly complicated and wasteful of rope.

Another simple modification is the surgeon's knot, which takes a second turn in the initial half knot, more tightly locking the bights together. Maybe not the best of bends, but far better than the square knot and easy to remember.

Dan_Lehman

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3675
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2009, 05:13:09 PM »
... one elementary feature that the reef knot has when used for it's primary purpose[:]
 you cannot draw it tight for making a package or such.
I was thinking of pointing this aspect out myself:  that "a better Reef..." begs the question
as to what aspect of it you consider needing betterment, or what is fundamental to the knot.
Qua binder --under slight tension tie--, one needs a structure that is secured at each
step, with ultimate security coming perhaps by the build-up of structure; one cannot have
a knot requiring careful forming and then working.  -- again, for that aspect.

Quote
I recall a set of knots I never learned, presented by Harry Asher iirc, the Simons.
 Although fairly reasonable knots, they all lack the simplicity of the sheet bends,
 which makes them so easy to remember and to do. The only advantage of the Simons
 is that they are built upon the square knot principle.
Hmmm, there are demonstrably few knots that can be as simple as the Reef and
Sheet bend -- at such simplicity, one can readily exhaust the possible structural moves:
the Reef has opposed "U" parts; the Sheet is more complex by making one a "loop"
-- which is just another 90deg curve -- ; make two such loops and you have in one
orientation the Grass Bend ("Half-h. Bend" I might've named) or in Thief-like orientation
something requiring even greater care in dressing & setting.  And you have run out of
alternatives.
The "Simple Simon" knots blur the distinction between Reef/Square ('SquaREef') and
Sheet bends -- frankly, I see SS Under as a secured (added tuck of loop's end) Sheet
Bend.  SS Over can be seen as a minimal Albright knot -- though dressing in rope can
lead to a different geometry than the angler's version of a long reach w/multiple overwraps.

Similarly, Asher's "Vice Versa" knot is perceivable as using a couple simple extensions
to a Sheet bend (one for each part); it also matches the Wright & Magowan Reever Bend,
except in being asymmetrically loaded contrary the Reever.

But, really Asher's knots are pretty simple to tie (as their names might suggest).

Quote
... particularly by starting like the thief knot.
I think that this is a gratuitous misdirection:  I see no reason to try this start, but
just extend from square-knot working -- the result is the same or similar.

Quote
There must be some reason why the sheet bend has become the standard knot for bending rope.
"the standard" ?  Whose?  It is not in any use much by the commercial fishers
whose work I've seen -- the Fisherman's knot is de rigueur, sometimes the Reef w/ends secured;
maybe sometimes a sheet, ends secured (but its main appearance, ubiquity, is in hitching to an
eye!).
 
Quote
...tying the sheet bend in the form where the end is rove, rather than the elegant seaman's way of doing it.
Who is this "elegant seaman"?  -- sounds suspiciously like book myth, given what little of the
"in the wild" I've sampled.  And especially in the use of joining thinner to thick lines, I don't
see your envisioned slap-dazzle formation being what gets done, as it would be upon the thicker
rope to work the magic into the thinner and then be tucked down through the formed loop.
But mostly I find tied knots and have little in this case with which to make inferences; it's not
at all hard to tie it no matter what -- there only so much that gets done, after all.

Quote
And that is also why the square knot is a standard knot. It is easily done and easily remembered.
I'm not sure one won't find the Granny being the more easily or naturally done knot;
I recall remarking at skater Michelle Kwan's boot laces finished orientation that it must
be a Granny (laces bights running parallel w/foot vs. perpendicular).  A nice little bit
of cord I just picked up from somewhere had a doubled Granny in it (qua eyeknot!?).

Quote
So mountaneers use ... Zeppelin bend, strait bend and Hunter's bend.
Where do you get this (mis)information?  -- we really should know what your basis for
this blatantly false assertion is.  (Another person e.g. could get it from reading your remark;
but no one could get it from actual mountaineers or rockclimbers.  -- although Agent_Smith
might like to sway part of this argument.)

Quote
In way of complexity, the carrick bend, tied in the Wave way, is so much simpler than...
I think you're deluding yourself, just as those who thought up supposedly fancy-quick-handed
methods for Rosendahl's , SmitHunter's, & Ashley's (1452) bends have:  you somehow accept
a premise that itself has ample complexity and exactitude to achieve, and THEN there is this
simple tuck & pull & capsize into .. VIOCI !  I don't buy it (this mule resists the pull :D  ).

Or put another way, one can learn to tie knots one way or another way, and what one
actually does will largely depend upon initial teaching & acceptance.  In some cases,
the method will be imposed by circumstance -- e.g., it would be impossible to use some
form-one-rope-into-bight-then-reeve-other... method to make a Reed knot in reefing sails;
or to do that sheet-bend-like-bowline-quick-tie method when hitching to an eye.  And in
many cases of different methods, the judge won't be a stop watch but simply a sense of
whether it was quick enough -- 8 seconds vs. 12 could matter not at all.

Quote
But for those thinking that the reef knot is for bending, there is no cure.
This is an assertion to be analyzed:  isn't the success of a method going to influence its
acceptance?  -- and if those rumored catastrophes (seemingly so predictable; well, at least
oft' predicted adamantly!) occur, I'd expect that to have quick & lasting influence.

Quote
Too many authorities have claimed that it is a bend, British Admiralty, scouting etc.
Frankly, in the world of knots books, it seems quite the contrary:  it is adamantly claimed
NOT to be a bend!  And at least in a case of British merchant marine declaration I've cited in
the BQuibble thread, it's not clear that its requirement for testing carries through to use, though
I think there was implication of that.  (One might reason that lines aren't often bent?)

Quote
Those really concerned about safety, climbers, don't use the reef knot as a bend.
Ha!  Actually, they do, in two cases:  some (seen in wild, then found in some source, IIRC)
use it to join tape/webbing (!!)  -- quite shocked me to see, but ... .  And then there is the
mis-named "Square Fisherman's" in which a SquaREef bend is backed-up by tying Strangle knots
in the ends around their S.Parts (the thought being that this bend is easily untied; for this purpose,
arguably the Thief is the better central construct, arranged so that Strangles area quickly slid snug
and thereby further secured).

-------
Quote
if you fix the working ends ...
I found some commercial fishing line with the the ends tucked through the lay; it was obvious
why the Reef was appreciated here:  very slight bulk, almost unnoticeable in the twin line ("twin"
by the u-turned parallel parts, SPart & end, i.e.), esp. after some battering-compression of the knot.
If using it in a joint of eyeknots, I think that the Granny structure looks ideal, unjammable (all ends
loaded, here).
As for the Surgeon's knot, that extra twist of S.Parts is immediately cast into the ends upon
loading in rope qua bend (qua binder, they  might stay; but you'll want more than one additional
"throw" -- the medical term, I think -- afterwards for securing it, as there's too much *room* above
the double-twist of S.Parts for a single twist to well bind; double over double, maybe.

Ack, but, yes, the simple addition of a twist (a "double twist") in the ends will yield a secure
alternative quickly tied to the SquaREef knot, which is also fairly easily untied.  It seems to work
reasonably well even it this double-twisted ends aspect is more of a double-wrap of one end
around the other (i.e. imbalance of setting tension, or maybe a consequence of different ropes).
(I'm forgetting who it was who brought this knot to my attention some decade ago as a "new" knot
worthy of better acceptance.)

-------

One sadly needs to give some good testing to knots that are proposed to be put to serious, heavily
loaded use.  Dave Richards's testing of knots in low-elongation & dynamic nylon kernmantle ropes
shows those "standard" bends the Sheet & Fisherman's Knot to slip under high loads, something
one might not perceive with even my sort of body-weight-and-5:1-pulley stressing (especially with
knots one fears could become permanent with even such loading!).  (And I think Dave found more
slippage when testing hi-mod lines, but I've not seen any report from that, possibly incomplete,
testing.)

--dl*
====

[Inkanyezi] gone

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • Pro three strand splice
Re: A Better Square Knot
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2009, 08:56:58 PM »
Oh, as one might guess, it's not the seaman that's elegant, but the way of making the knot. And of course, in the case of very different size rope, the double sheet bend has the thicker end first made into a bight, then the thinner one rove through the pattern. I haven't observed any different way of doing that. However, many times the single sheet bend is done in equal size rope, and then the allegedly elegant way is often used, at least where I am, and that might be due to the fact that this is the way we teach knots. But I agree that it does not apply to the double sheet bend. However, the double sheet bend is often used for attaching rope to an eye, where you of course must reeve the end. And I have never seen anyone but myself use the weaver's way (as in The Rigger's Apprentice by Brion Toss). I also have seen the double sheet bend made by first making a single sheet bend in the twist your hand fashion, whereupon another round turn is rove along the first.

However, I happen to know a few people that climb rocks and walls, and they certainly know and discuss knots as the Zeppelin, and I have seen it used at occasions. However, bending is uncommon, and those have been on small slings, joining the two ends. Otherwise, and mostly, for this purpose, the double fisherman's knot is used, opposing doubled overhand knots around the standing part of the other line. And beside that, the more or less standard knot is figure eight, used for joining ropes in "water knot" fashion, and used for making a loop at the end of a line, as the loop for securing yourself. But these people really discuss knots and their advantages or disadvantages. And so far, there is a sound reluctance to accept anything that is new against what is proven. And the figure eight constellations are said to be proven for security and strength. I find them a bit awkward to untie, but then of course I'm not a climber, and maybe I value the untying aspect more than they do. It seems to me also, that they mostly don't work the knot completely tight, but accept a bit of initial slip if the knot becomes loaded. In that way it is not so difficult to untie, but still amply secure. Maybe one aspect is that they will know that the rope has not taken a fall if the knot is not tightly drawn up. And I haven't seen a sheet bend or even a bowline among the climbers. The common opinion about the bowline is that it weakens the rope too much.

But among those people, there are a few that really do discuss these knots, and they all seem to know one or another of the secure knots beside the figure eight and the fisherman's variations. However, I haven't seen any of those knots except on small slings that function as lanyards for various things, as a knife or a flashlight or a hammer or various holdfasts. And the different knot has been a Zeppelin, the other knots seem to be merely discussion matter, so I confess you're right Dan; those knots are surely not common among climbers, and I doubt that I would see any of them except in small slings for equipment that is carried.
All images and text of mine published on the IGKT site is licensed according to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/