Not Known Knots – Introduction

  • 69 Knot
    69 Knot

A few not known knots deserve to be much better known and more widely used:

These knots are relatively easy to tie and untie, and are stronger and/or more secure than knots commonly used for the same purpose. I recommend these knots for general purpose use such as camping. Other than the alpine butterfly, these are not knots for climbing or other use when human safety is at stake. When human safety is an issue, use the proper widely-accepted climbing knot for the purpose.

A few years ago while preparing for a fishing trip with my daughters, I learned the excellent Palomar knot for attaching hook to line. This peaked my interest in knots in general, which I had not explored since many years ago in Boy Scouts. The first thing I learned was that much of what the Boy Scouts taught me was wrong. For example:

  • square knot (or reef knot) should never be used as a bend (i.e. to tie two ropes together);
  • taut-line hitch (or rolling hitch) works much better when the second loop rides over the shoulder of the first; and
  • clove-hitch – while occasionally useful – is not a secure hitch.

As I continued to explore Animated Knots by Grog – a superb resource for knot knowledge – I discovered a few vastly under-praised not known knots. My humble aim here is to sing their praises and hopefully do my tiny part to bring them into wider use.

Oysterman’s Stopper

Oysterman's Stopper

The oysterman’s stopper is considerably bulkier than the much more common figure eight and double overhand stoppers. It is secure unlike the figure eight, and less prone to jam under heavy load than the double overhand. The Oysterman’s stopper has an interesting history. Legendary knot expert Clifford Ashley developed it in trying to duplicate a knot he saw from a distance, on an oyster fishing boat. Having not encountered the knot previously, Ashley assumed it was uniquely used by oystermen. When he had a chance to observe the knot up close at a later time he realized it was just a badly water-swollen figure eight stopper knot. He invented an entirely new knot – by mistake.

69 Knot

69 knot

The 69 knot is more commonly known as the Zeppelin Bend due to the mistaken belief that it was once used to moor airships. It is secure, easily tied, and easily untied. It is tied starting with the end of one rope in the shape of a 6, the other in the shape of a 9. Considered by many knot enthusiasts to be the best general purpose bend, it is somewhat mind boggling that the 69 knot is not widely known.

Alpine Butterfly

Alpine Butterfly

The alpine butterfly is a secure loop in the middle of a length of rope. It is secure when loaded in any direction and does not jam. It can also be tied near the end of a rope as a secure substitute for a bowline. Unlike the bowline, the alpine butterfly will not shake loose when unloaded. It is widely known among climbers but under-appreciated outside of that community. Grog describes a method of tying this knot around the hand. I prefer the twist-twist-tuck method.

Gnat Knot

Gnat Knot

The gnat knot (or gnat hitch) is a secure hitch, serving the same purpose as the buntline hitch. Structurally, it is a marlinspike hitch around the standing line – but tied differently. Unlike the buntline, the gnat resists jamming and thus is usually easy to untie even after being heavily loaded. It is the youngest and least known knot on this list. The gnat knot was first documented in 2012 by Roo in the Notable Knot Index.