Val ties the canoe

Craft & Design Technology

For the past couple of decades, Val has been using this knot to tie down everything from canoes, tarps and other implements of camping and boating. Last summer, I captured it on camera as he showed it to me and Mark. Whenever I see somebody driving down the road holding a mattress on the roof of the car with their left hand, I think of how knots like this are a lost knowledge.

How do you tie things to the top of your vehicle? What is your magic, all purpose knot? How did you learn the ropes? Have you taught your kids to tie things other than their shoes? Join the conversation in the comments and please add your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

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30 thoughts on “Val ties the canoe

  1. Bren says:

    That’s a classic knot with great utility! I’ve always heard it called the trucker’s knot, but it probably has a real name. Easy to tie, but even easier to untie–Val should’ve shown how easy it is to just pull on the tail of the rope and the knot pops open (after untying the two half hitches that he finished with)

  2. SKR says:

    I always say that life is a little easier if you know a few good knots. That is one of them. I tend not to use it very often as I prefer the midshipman’s knot for tensioning. The other knot that everyone should know is the bowline knot. It is easy to untie but it won’t slip at all. The clove hitch is also pretty useful too.

  3. Barry says:

    I don’t know the “real” name for that, but it’s made up of two really useful knots, the first is a slip knot, which is a loop that has one fixed line coming from it and another running end that is used to tighten the knot, and the second is the half hitch (he does two), which is really useful for tying off the painter of a boat, (or just tying anything you don’t want to come loose) with a “round turn and two half hitches” which is just a full wrap-around of the rope and two half hitches.

    I agree with the other commenters, the clove hitch and bowline are really useful and everyone should know them. Also useful are lashings, like the square lashing for tying two spars at right angles, or the sheer lashing for tying them both pointing in the same direction.

    The timber hitch is another handy one for quickly attaching a rope to something.

  4. stephen crosby says:

    The trucker’s hitch is one of the many knots you learn as a boy scout. Maybe this would classify as a ‘lost knowledge’, but there are plenty of circles where this knowledge is alive and well. There are a whole host of very useful knots out there. If you’d like to see some others that I’ve found useful to know check out the taut line, timber hitch, clove hitch, sheep shank, and mooring hitch.

  5. Craig A. Betts says:

    I learned that exact knot when I was driving a big rig. I never met a trucker that didn’t use that knot, or at least a variation of it. I have also used it to straighten tree that I have tied off to a stake. Kinda like having a block to gain leverage.

  6. Pe'er says:

    Well, thats a nice way of doing that. I would say essential nknots to be round turn and 2 half hitches (which I swear by), bowline, timber hitch, figure of eight, reef, oh there are too many more. I use this sort of stuff everyday, I learnt it by being a Scout but now I’m teaching Scouts myself! I’ve never really liked clove hitches as they are easy to mis-use as my parents found out when the old tyres they were using as fenders slipped off into the river! The less well know knot I like is the fishermans knot, for joining two ends of rope securely, and works well even in nylon rope.

  7. Dave says:

    I bought a used Mother Earth news magazine just because of the article on a knot that it had inside. It is a GREAT knot for tying two lines together. The history makes it interesting. Here is the web link to the same article.

  8. chairborne says:

    the art of knot tying is still alive and well in the military, I used to carry around a knot card (like this one: with a length of 550 cord (parachute cord) tied through the rivet hinge thingy, when ever I had a spare second instead of playing tetris on my phone I’d go through the stack of cards.

    then again, there’s an old army saying for those of you who aren’t willing to learn: if you can’t tie a knot tie a lot.

  9. Orpheline says:

    Ask This Old House did a segment on knots – I can’t find the video, but they have the article here:,,217079,00.html

  10. Ben says:

    It’s a Clayton’s version, a bit easier to remember than the “proper” version:

  11. Ben says:

    That’s a Clayton’s version, a bit easier to remember than the “proper” version:

  12. Charles says:

    This is hardly lost knowledge, as several have already pointed out. Boy scouts know this knot, farmers, fishers, canoers and truckers. As the digital age encroaches, does our need to strap real world things to one another dwindle so much? I’m sorry but the cry of “lost knowledge, lost knowledge!” sounds rather chicken littleish to me. It sounds like the author never had this knowledge at all, and simply assumes it was lost before it got to him.

    To answer the questions this is an essential hitch. The bowline is an essential loop. The figure eight is nice too if you fancy a loop. And the monkeys fist if you fancy a – something fancy. Look for the animated knots web page; it’s got great pictures of all the best knots.

  13. Chris says:

    Instead of making a slip not, which is just an overhand knot, you go around one more time, you can make it a figure eight slip knot. A figure eight knot is much easier to untie if it gets really tight. Everything else is the same.

  14. Gaffertape says:

    The problem with that knot is that if you put it under a lot of load or the rope gets wet then the slip knot tends to become difficult to get undone. this one unties much more cleanly.

  15. Brian Timm says:

    The point is that Boy Scouts really is awesome. Even you you or your kid don’t wanna get involved.. go scavenging for some knot references… or ask your local scoutleader… this kind of stuff is invaluable and I’m glad I learned it when I did.

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