Around the tree and through the hole

Years ago my Dad taught me how to tie a the one type of most useful knot. If you only know how to tie one type of knot other than a standard overhand knot this is the one because it enables you to bind things together very tightly. It allows you to pull the string or rope very tight and it stays in place (unlike an overhead knot which loosens it you try to tie a second overhead knot over it). You can then tie one or several overhand knots over it to keep it in place.

The mnemonic I learned is: “The rabbit goes around the tree and through the hole”. I always get confused about how many times the rabbit goes around the tree. If it doesn’t go around enough the knot will not work. If it goes around too many times it will not slide properly allowing it to be tightened.

This knot can save you in emergency situations. It’s a good idea to always have some twine or rope with you and a knife or boxcutter.

Here is the Wikipedia page on the knot which is called a bowline knot.

Update: It turns out that the knot I’m used to tying is actually the figure-eight knot which according to the Wikipedia entry has the feature of jamming under strain. My method of creating the knot also involves the rabbit going around the tree and through the hole. Maybe that’s the difference: With the bowline knot the rabbit comes through the hole first, then around the tree and back in the hole. In my knot the rabbit goes around the tree then through the hole once. If it doesn’t go around the tree completely it will result in a standard overhead knot. If it goes around one and a half times I think it is the bowline knot.

So yeah, the figure-eight knot is really useful because it has the feature of jamming under load which means you can tie things very tight with it. If you make the rabbit go around the tree one half-turn more then you will get the bowline knot which is easier to untie but doesn’t have the jamming feature.