Monday, 24 August 2009

No more knots

The Secret Laboratory is not just about invention - it's about learning too. The Secret Laboratory is happy to share learning.

Did you know that there is a strict definition that distinguishes a knot from a tangle? There are computer programs out there that can analyse random tosses of string (Grannies) and declare whether or not a knot is present. Just for the record, if you can fix both ends of the string, rope, cable, whatever, and still untangle the mess between, no knot was present, howsoever convoluted and difficult to sort out. The famous disappearing knot is not a knot at all.

When it comes to knots, I'm a minimalist. I know about seven knots (reef, sheet bend, fisherman's, double fisherman's, bowline, half hitch, alan) and these are great for most purposes. I know when and where to use them. I don't need or wish to learn the other few hundred variants on the theme. It's not for nothing I was never a Boy Scout, although I did accidentally become a First Biddulph Brownie Guide when I gave my vows to a Snowy Owl I got drunk with in Switzerland 28 years ago. I thought she was joking. Apparently not, as I discovered at breakfast next morning. No way back. Take the vows, do the time...

Am I rambling? Sorry, I intended to discuss my new knotless existence. Knots are weak, they lead to weaknesses in the rope (as illustrated by the break-knot, a knot that allows you to break any rope by the power of subsequently broken fingers alone). You need to leave knots behind and work with the very structure of rope by splicing.

I had always thought of splicing as some kind of ancient maritime excuse for not joining the Scouts (or the Brownies) and avoiding the task of learning hundreds of different kinds of knot. How wrong can one be? Now I will never use a knot where a splice will suffice.

Gaze upon this wonder:

Just an eye-splice on a three strand rope, my first attempt. Isn't it beautiful? These are the people who took me there.

1 comment:

  1. mmm.Being a bit of a weirdo,I like to tie myself up,but I never can quite tie that last knot.Splicing could be the answer.
    Thankyou secret lab.Will comment again if I can get someone to free me.