Knots and Whipping 3

Be able to do the following and explain their practical uses

  1. Fireman’s Chair Knot

  2. Double clove Hitch

  3. Double Sheet Bend

  4. Bowline on a bight

  5. Highwayman’s Hitch

  6. Sail maker’s whipping

Fireman's Chair Knot

The Handcuff Knot is also known as Fireman's Chair and Hobble Knot knot can be used as a handcuff. However, the knot possesses minimal locking action and could never live up its name. For added security the two ends can be tied together with one or more Overhand Knots.


In Search and Rescue Operations, the Handcuff Knot is avoided because of the inherent danger of damage to the victim. However, it is worth considering if there is no other way of rescuing someone trapped, e.g., in a crevice or in a hole below grade. The two loops are placed around the wrists or the ankles. The two ends are then pulled to tighten the loops for traction. The Handcuff Knot can also be used to restrain an animal or drag an animal carcass.

As a Chair: The size of the loops can be fixed by using each end to tie a half hitch around the adjacent loop. The loops can then be placed around the thighs to lift someone in a seated position. If conscious and able, they hold the lifting end; if not, the free tail is wrapped around the torso and tied back to the lifting end.

Using the Handcuff Knot to apply traction to limbs is potentially traumatic and must be used only when alternative lifting methods cannot be employed.

Double Clove Hitch

The rolling hitch (Double Clove Hitch) is a friction knot that can attach a thinner rope to a thicker one or a single rope to a post or spar. It holds firmly in the direction of the standing part. It belongs to the group of slide and grip knots and facilitates lengthwise pulls on it. Until 1841 it was known as Magnus or Magner’s hitch. At that time the name rolling hitch was applied to round turn and two half hitches.


  1. To clear a jammed block or winch by releasing the pressure off the line.

  2. Sailing and scouting.

  3. To pull up hoses in fire service.

  4. For hauling tools aloft in construction work and arboriculture.

  5. To secure a snubber to an anchor chain.


  1. Rolling hitch on a bight – If there is a long tail end, you can make the knot with a bight instead of an end.

  2. Modified rolling hitch – It is used in orthopedic practices.


Secure and easy


Not secure enough for climbing purposes

Double Sheet Bend

The double sheet bend, also known as the double becket bend is a more secure variation of the sheet bend. It is mainly used to join effectively two ropes that have a marked difference in their diameters or rigidity.


The addition of an extra turn round the bight prevents slipping in the case of extra-smooth ropes. For maximum strength, the free ends should land up on the same side of the double sheet bend knot.

Bowline on a bight

The Bowline on a Bight makes a secure loop in the middle of a piece of rope. It does not slip or bind. It is satisfying to start with a plain length of rope and finish with a secure safe loop in its middle.


  • Emergency Purchase: A Bowline on a Bight can also be used to gain some additional purchase: create a Bowline on a Bight in the rope; pass the free end of the rope round a post, then back through the loops and finally to the post again. This gives a three to one purchase – admittedly with some friction.

  • Foothold: It can be used to make a secure foothold in the middle of a piece of rope.

  • Bosun’s Chair: Because two loops are created it has been claimed that the Bowline on a Bight makes an emergency bosun’s chair which is more comfortable than a single loop. One loop can go round each thigh with the free tail going round the chest for security. Alternatively, one loop would go round the chest and one round the thighs. However, unless the rope was a couple of inches or more in diameter it would require a demanding emergency to make one really appreciate the “comfort” of either of these bosun’s chairs.

Highwayman's Hitch

Robbers were said to use the Highwayman’s Hitch Knot for a quick escape on horseback and it has probably survived because of this tantalizing name. It is one of the quick release hitches which comes handy.

Quick release hitches are dangerous for a climber rappelling down. Frightened by a sudden slip or jerk, a grab at the adjacent line can trigger a fatal fall.


  1. To tie up a kayak shortly before getting to it.

  2. Tethering animals.


It can be untied just with a single tug at the working end, even when the rope is under tension.


Entanglement of the free end with the load might trigger an abrupt release that might be fatal. Hence it is not safe to use it with human loads as in climbing.

Sail maker's whipping

The Sailmaker’s Whipping is the most secure whipping. The whipping turns are contained by the frapping turns that both grip the rope and prevent the whipping from unwinding if damaged. It looks most satisfying when applied to the end of a three-strand rope – each pair of frapping strands follows the twist of the rope and is accommodated in the groove between strands. This whipping can be used equally well on braided or kernmantle rope – but greater care is required to distribute the frapping turns evenly round the whipping.

Techniques: There are several variations of the Sailmaker’s Whipping:

  • Needles: With three-stranded rope, the Sailmaker’s Whipping can often be tied without a needle: the strands of the rope can be opened up by hand to pass the twine through between them. However, a large needle makes the task easier and is essential equipment when tying a Sailmaker’s Whipping round a braided or kernmantle rope.

  • Number of Frapping Turns: Many texts describe this whipping with just one frapping strand lying in each groove – which necessitates a different start to the whipping. As shown in the animation, the short end is initially threaded diagonally and is contained inside the whipping. When using a single frapping turn, the short end must be left outside the whipping turns and then threaded up outside the whipping and through the rope to trap the long end.

  • Completing the Whipping: The animation describes finishing the knot with a chain of square knots. If necessary, use a needle to pull this chain through the rope. The knots are then buried and very unlikely to shake loose.

  • Burning the end: A rope’s end, whipped with a Sailmaker’s Whipping and trimmed is a neat and attractive work of art. Although melting the end diminishes its beauty, it is sensible, provides additional protection, and is recommended. For ropes that contain a core that does not melt, e.g., an aramid core such as Kevlar, it is still worth doing as it still seals the sheath. Ideally, trim the aramid core shorter than the sheath and burn the sheath to cover and bury the core.

  • Braided Rope: It is relatively easy to decide where to thread the twine in three stranded rope – the gap between each of the three strands provides a natural target and the three strands dictate that one pair of frapping turns will lie in each groove. In braided rope the principle is the same, the frapping turns should be distributed evenly round the rope. However, in smaller braided ropes, it is not uncommon to see just two sets of frapping turns 180 degrees apart instead of three sets 120 degrees apart. For larger, and more valuable rope, three sets are strongly recommended.

Last updated