Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses The Book of Knots; A Knot a Day: 365 knot challenges for all abilities; and Splicing for Racing Sailors

The Book of Knots: book review

In the spirit of fair disclosure I’ll admit to feeling a certain trepidation when asked to review knot books.

This is based entirely on my own cack-handedness and the slight feeling of frontal headache when attempting to follow diagrammatic instructions.

When therefore I opened this neat little volume and read ‘Knots are more numerous than the stars; and equally mysterious and beautiful’ (quote from Dr John Turner 1988) I blenched.

Hastily I checked the number of stars: 100-400 billion in the Milky Way and at least that many planets, says Wikipedia.

I then checked Dr John Turner and discovered he was a mathematician.

That helped: mathematicians are notoriously prone to calculations where Infinity may be a factor.

The book’s introduction mentioned a prize given for work in ‘theoretical knotting’. Ah.

Most yachtsmen value knots for their practical utility.

This book sorts them by construction and typing method rather than function. Its sections therefore are bends, loops, hitches, lashings, coils, stoppers and whippings.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know how to tie a Hangman’s Noose though the knot histories are interesting. I suppose if one had failed to master the Highwayman’s Hitch (for a quick getaway) then one might well discover the special qualities of Jack Ketch’s knot ‘designed to withstand a heavy shock-loading in rope’.

These days its use is for fishermen.

Although practical applications for fishing, sailing and climbing are explained, they are not the primary focus.

This book made me aware of a community of knotting web masters who ‘represent every kind of knot application, from the basic to the bizarre.’

Joint author Geoffrey Budworth is not only a co-founder of the International Guild of Knot Tyers but also ‘created the knot identification method used by forensic scientists in the police force’.

That’s definitely intriguing.

Buy The Book of Knots at Google Play

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A-Knot-a-Day

A Knot a Day: 365 knot challenges for all abilities

Nic Compton
Adlard Coles £16.00
I’m assuming many knot books are given as presents. Here’s one that arrived too late for my 2020 Christmas round-up but which I’d certainly recommend as a family gift: Nic Compton’s 365 knots include knots for scarves, rope ladders, hanging baskets and magic tricks as well as an extraordinary range of variants on old favourites such as the sheepshank and bowline. Sometimes the variations are very slight – an extra bend or tuck – but the explanation is always interesting and helps the fumble-fingered understand how, for some people, knotting becomes not a science but an art. It’s a tactile and well-presented volume with something for everyone, including the Double Wall Knot for top-gallant sails and a neat method of tying grass around flowers. Some of the activities might even be fun.

Buy A Knot a Day: 365 knot challenges for all abilities from Amazon (UK)

Buy A Knot a Day: 365 knot challenges for all abilities from Amazon (US)

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Splicing CompanionSplicing for Racing Sailors

Gareth Lincoln
Fernhurst £7.99

Narrowly focussed and completely practical.

‘This companion shows you how to do the popular splices on braided rope, which comes in two main types.’

It’s in Fernhurst’s familiar ‘Companion’ format, laminated and spiral-bound so each page will lie flat as you follow the explanations.

The necessary tools are identified on the back cover. There’s no mathematics or art here but if you need to splice a rope to a block, make a soft shackle, a sheet loop, a taper or a continuous line, here are the step-by-step instructions.

Nothing will ever replace direct tuition from some gnarled veteran of the Clipper ships, but for today’s young racing sailors this must be the next best thing.

Buy Splicing for Racing Sailors at Amazon (UK)

Buy Splicing for Racing Sailors at Amazon (US)

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