Knowing a few terms for knot tying is very important for following both illustrations and descriptions in the text. When you work with a rope, it generally has a standing part, bight, and running end (FIGURE 3-1).
When a knot is tied at the end of a rope, the very tip is referred to as the “running end.” In fishing publications, this section may be referred to as the “tag end.” Using this term in knotting directions gives the important distinction that the very tip of the rope is delivered where the directions say, whether it is over or under another rope, or through a loop of some kind. The other end of the rope — the leading part that is not manipulated in the knot tying — is called the “standing part.”
FIGURE 3-1: Standing part, bight, and running end
The term “bight” is the middle part of the rope that is not the running end or standing part. Just as a running end can be directed in many ways in the construction of a knot, a bight can be made out of any part of the rope, and directed the same way. If an arrow in an illustration seems to come from the standing part and not from the running end, it usually means that a bight should be formed and taken in the direction the arrow shows. It may help with some knots to fold the bight over very tight, thus forming a narrow doubled piece that can pass more easily where needed.
The Crossing Turn
Another important structure in knot tying is the crossing turn, used in many of the knots you'll learn in this book. You can quickly create a crossing turn by grabbing a part of the bight and giving it a half twist that forms a loop, as seen in FIGURE 3-2. When making a crossing turn, it is very important that the orientation of the over-under section of the crossing is correct for the knot you are tying. In practice, you will quickly get the crossing orientation correct each time by associating it with a twist in a certain direction, which is quicker than trying to think about whether the running end crosses over or under when producing it.
FIGURE 3-2: The crossing turn
When you tie a knot in the rope without ever using the running end, you're said to “tie in the bight.” Tying in the bight may be done in the middle of the rope or near the end (as long as you're not moving the running end). For example, you can make a Clove Hitch by making two crossing turns in the bight, as shown in FIGURE 3-3. Then, lay the right crossing turn over the left one, and the resulting hitch can then be placed over the end of a post.
FIGURE 3-3: Two crossing turns for a Clove Hitch
Many knots that are usually tied with the running end can be tied in the bight by folding a bight anywhere in the line and then using it exactly as you would a running end. When a Simple Overhand Knot is tied this way, the bight that protrudes from the knot where the running end would have been can then be used as a loop. This is a good way to make a loop in very small cord or string.
Another term important in understanding knots is capsizing, which is when a knot changes its shape due to a rearrangement of one of its parts — for example, when you pull on the knot's loop and it straightens out. If you set up your cord as shown in FIGURE 3-4 and pull on the running end, it will leave the crossing turn as it straightens and another crossing turn will form on the cord that was running through it. This transformation can happen in knots when they are not snugged down into their proper form, causing the knot to “spill.” In the case of the Square or Reef Knot, this is done intentionally, to untie it more quickly (capsizing is sometimes done on purpose to aid in tying a knot).
FIGURE 3-4: Pulling on the running end will capsize the knot
When you're making hitches, you'll also come across “turns” and “round turns.” These are two ways of starting a hitch around a ring, bar, or rail (see FIGURE 3-5). With the turn, the running end is passed just once around the rail, which will allow a transfer of strain from the standing part to the rest of the knot. This may be desirable for some hitches that are better able to hold with strain on them. With the round turn, the extra turn around the rail allows friction to help hold against strain in the standing part, which may help when hitching a rope under strain and takes some of the strain off the knot. The round turn is the first part of the popular hitch called the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches.
FIGURE 3-5: Starting a hitch: turn and round turn
The Overhand Knot and the Multiple Overhand Knot structures are used in many knots, and it is valuable to become familiar with their form. FIGURE 3-6 shows the shape of a Multiple Overhand Knot of three turns in what is called its “belly and spine” form (the belly may also be referred to as the bight). When you tighten the Multiple Overhand Knot by pulling on both ends, the belly wraps around the spine until it is barrel-shaped, as shown in FIGURE 3-7.
FIGURE 3-6: Multiple Overhand Knot in “belly and spine” form
FIGURE 3-7: Completed Multiple Overhand Knot in barrel shape