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The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford W. Ashley is one of the best and most well known knot reference books. The subtitle “Every Practical Knot – What it Looks Like, Who Uses it, Where it Comes From, and How to Tie It” pretty much says it all. The book contains drawings and instructions for thousands of different types of knots. It starts with the humble Sheet Bend and ends with the Crossing Knot with many useful and obscure knots along the way, as well as splicing, matting and other related subjects. Full of anecdotes and historical footnotes, this is a profoundly good read. The book is so important it even has a Wikipedia entry. There’s a limited preview on Google Books should you still be on the fence. New price is about $55.00 on Amazon (it’s a big hardback) and used prices start around $35.00.

Via Amazon [What’s This?]


17 Responses to A Good Read: The Ashley Book Of Knots

  1. Pete D says:

    I’m tempted, but I know I’ll never read the entire “Bible of Knots,” nor any other Bible for that matter!

    What I want is the cliff notes version. I want a thin book that will let me pass my knot test with a “B.”

  2. kyle says:

    Pete D:

    artofmanliness.com has a bunch of videos on how to tie some essential and basic knots that will get you by with that B you are looking for. (you could also probably try youtube for that matter).

  3. Mac says:

    Pete – LOTS of good knot books out there. I have too many (according to my wife)… a few good basic ones:
    Klutz Book of Knots (they have a cool site too, lots of kid stuff). Only a dozen or so knots here, but a great book. You want this one.

    Morrow Guide to Knots (this one is excellent, IMHO). Lots of knots, a couple steps up from Klutz, but nowhere near Ashley. Get this one if you feel the need after Klutz.

    Really cool site: http://www.animatedknots.com

  4. Simon says:

    I can’t remember when I bought it from Lee Valley ( http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=10013&cat=1,46096,46117&ap=1 ) but it’s still available through them at 76.00 $CDN.

    The library in their flagship store (Ottawa) is astonishing.

  5. Now if there were a mobile “Knot” app for iPhones or blackberry’s I would consider getting that. I like Pete’s remarks because; yes, we don’t need to have a massive book. But if there was a smaller version in a digital format with some portability and instructional interactivity that would be very helpful.

  6. Mac says:

    GG – Not a digital solution, but definitely mobile, try Pro Knot Cards. I think they’re available all over, but I got mine here: http://hitthetrailnewnanga.stores.yahoo.net/prokntyca.html

    A digital solution is available for Palm OS users. The software is ’33 Knots’. Other OS’ may have something similar.

  7. Geoff says:

    I say we start a thread discussing exactly what knots people use regularly. Ashley is a great reference, and I own a copy, but I pretty much use a handful of go-to knots, and leave the more exotic ones for either decorative work or special projects. Here are the ones I have in active circulation at the moment:

    * Bowline — enough said
    * Reef knot / square knot — gotta tie my shoes
    * Sheet bend — when connecting any 2 lines together. (Really great when the lines are of different thicknesses — the thick one forms the bight and the thinner one forms the loop)
    * 2 half-hitches — fastening a line to a stationary object
    * Clove hitch — same as 2 half-hitches
    * Matthew walker knot — a really cool lanyard knot, on my keychain
    * Chinese good luck knot — on my truck key w/ multiple loops, 1 for the key, 1 for the remote, the third end for the lanyard end, with said Matthew Walker knot
    * Mooring hitch — for attaching a line to an object that can also spill quickly
    * Bowline on a bight — 2 fixed loops at the end of a line

    I can’t think of others at the moment, but I would say those are pretty much in order of how often I use them. Any tool user should know the 1st 5 by heart, in the dark, behind their back, 1-handed, and when best to use which one. The others are useful, and there are countless others that have their rightful place in knot usage, for sure. Just ask Ashley.

    What knots do others use on a regular basis?

  8. @Peter D. (and anybody) Check out animatedknots.com for some basic knot knowledge.

    I prefer a rolling hitch to a clove hitch. It doesn’t come undone as easily:

    I also like the carrick bend:

  9. PutnamEco says:

    I blame Ashleys for a bunch of knots I use, This book has been around forever, I first heard about it when I was in the scouts.
    Some knots I use not already mentioned. Truckers hitch, Magnus hitch (like a rolling hitch),
    constricter, timber and killlick hitch, for a stopper knot I like to use a figure eight. and for fishing, fishermans bend, improved clinch, and bimini twist.

    Geoff Says:
    * Matthew walker knot — a really cool lanyard knot, on my keychain
    * Chinese good luck knot — on my truck key w/ multiple loops, 1 for the key, 1 for the remote, the third end for the lanyard end, with said Matthew Walker knot
    You may like Stormdranes blog (http://stormdrane.blogspot.com/) he does a lot of decorative work with paracord.

  10. Mac says:

    Wow, this could get long quick…

    In addition to the above, a couple I use often… the taut line hitch (camping tent lines) and the chain sinnet (I think it’s also called a monkey chain) for shortening line, as well as the fisherman’s/double fisherman’s and surgeon’s.

    Not really a fan of the reef/sq knot, past the boy scout badge. 🙂

  11. Skeptical says:

    For the iPhone I used Knot Guide by WinkPass (http://winkpass.com/knotguide.html ) while it doesn’t have the number of knots that Ashley’s Book of Knots, it does have a number of practical knots. The publisher has consistently added new knots since I bought the app.

    Ashley’s still has a place of honor on my bookshelf, it is one book that is worth having.

  12. Ed says:

    I’ve had my copy of Ashleys for years and would not think of being without it. I have other knot books, but the ABK is the eternal favorite.

  13. Geoff says:


    It’s interesting what you say about the reef knot. I would guess it’s probably one of the most ubiquitous knots around, but in a form most people don’t recognize. The “double-slipped” reef knot is what most people either actually tie or attempt to tie when they tie their shoes. I have helped a number of friends understand why their shoes never stay tied because what they’re actually tying is a granny knot instead of a reef knot. I’ve found that for these folks, they’re tying “right over left, right over left” or vice versa instead of reversing the second part. It’s easy to see because the reef knot lines up along the path of the laces, where the granny knot ends up perpendicular to the laces underneath.

    Years ago, I actually demonstrated the sequence for tying the double-slipped reef knot to land a teaching job. I was asked to demonstrate 10 minutes of instruction on a topic of my choosing for a technical training position, so I used knot tying as the subject. 10 minutes later, I had them tying a double-slipped reef knot around a piece of wood at their seats and then asked the group if it looked familiar. 1 person said it looked like the knot they used to tie their shoes, and I announced that for the past 10 minutes I had actually been teaching them to tie their own shoes. I got the job…

  14. Cheryl says:

    The Knot Guide iPhone app is also available on the Palm Pre and Android phones. It now has close to 80 knots.

  15. Mac says:


    Cool story on your ‘double reef knot’ lesson.

    I too know the small but hugely significant difference that leads to a granny knot, as well as that it’s what kids (and I guess a lot of adults) wind up tying their shoes with.

    Nice that the Knot Guide app has a webOS (Palm Pre) version – that’s where I’m probably headed when I’m able to upgrade without penalty.

  16. freddy says:

    I remember that picture from when I was a child, many decades ago…

  17. Jim K. says:

    Another pretty decent book is the Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework. I’ve had that for a number of years and find it to be quite good (though not the ultimate, that award would still have to go to Ashley’s).

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