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The Gallows Knot: A Comprehensive Guide

The gallows knot, originally called the Uni knot, has an intriguing history and is known for its versatility and functionality. Primarily used in fishing, this knot has become a staple for many anglers due to its ability to securely connect lines to hooks or lures, as well as line-to-line connections. The simplicity and reliability of the gallows knot make it a popular choice in various outdoor and marine activities.

Although the name suggests a grim origin, the gallows knot has evolved into a practical and widely used knot across many fields. Its first documented appearance was in 1944, under the name gallows knot (#1121) in The Ashley Book of Knots. Ashley notes that the knot is an alternative arrangement of the multiple overhand noose and demonstrates how it can be manipulated into a more familiar form.

In addition to its prominence in the fishing community, the gallows knot has also found applications in search and rescue missions, mountaineering, climbing, boating, horse and livestock handling, and scouting. The adaptability of this knot ensures that it remains a vital skill for those engaged in various outdoor pursuits. While it may have once been associated with a somber purpose, the gallows knot has undoubtedly secured a place in modern knot-tying.

Construction of the Gallows Knot

Standing Part and Tag End

The Gallows Knot begins with a section of rope, which has two ends: the standing part and the tag end. The standing part is the long portion of the rope that remains stationary during the knot-tying process, while the tag end is the shorter piece used to create loops and turns.


To construct the Gallows Knot, follow these steps:

  1. Make a loop in the rope, ensuring the tag end lies over the standing part.
  2. Create a second loop alongside the first one, with the tag end now positioned under the standing part.
  3. Feed the tag end through the original loop from the back, passing it over the second loop.
  4. Pull the tag end through the first loop, forming two interlocking loops.
  5. Adjust the loops to achieve the desired size.


Once the loops are in position, it is essential to tighten the Gallows Knot securely. To do this:

  1. Grasp the standing part of the rope with one hand and the tag end with the other.
  2. Slowly pull the two ends apart, allowing the loops to tighten around each other.
  3. Continue to apply tension until the knot is fully secure.

The Gallows Knot, when tied correctly, should be strong and stable. This versatile knot is useful for various activities, such as search and rescue, mountaineering, climbing, boating, horse and livestock, camping, and scouting.

Strength and Characteristics

The Gallows Knot, a popular knot among outdoor enthusiasts, displays unique characteristics in terms of strength and functionality. Its design is based on the multi-fold overhand knot, and it typically does not become stronger after the second turn around the noose.

  • When evaluating its strength, factors such as strand crossings and twist fluctuations play significant roles. A knot with more strand crossings and changes in the direction of rotation between strand segments generally exhibits a stronger performance.
  • In terms of breaking strength, the Gallows Knot is considered reliable and suitable for various outdoor applications. However, it is essential to note that the knot’s strength can be influenced by factors such as the type and diameter of the rope in use.

The knot serves multiple purposes in a range of outdoor activities as follows:

  • Search and rescue: The Gallows Knot’s dependable strength makes it suitable for use in high-stress environments, such as during search and rescue operations.
  • Mountaineering and climbing: Its ability to be attached firmly to a shackle or carabiner allows the knot to be quickly and easily handled during climbing.
  • Boating, horse, and livestock: The reliable knot’s compatibility with different types of ropes and its ease of use contribute to its popularity in activities like boating and working with horses and livestock.
  • Camping and scouting: The Gallows Knot can be easily adjusted or untied, making it suitable for temporary or adjustable tie-ups, often needed in camping and scouting activities.

Despite the Gallows Knot being dependable and strong, it is always essential to practice caution and understand its limitations when using it for various activities.


Climbing and Safety

The Gallows Knot is often used in search and rescue, mountaineering, and climbing activities. Its ability to easily open by pulling on the knot makes it a practical choice for these applications. Climbers and rescue teams rely on this knot for secure yet easily adjustable connections.

  • Search and rescue: The Gallows Knot can be part of a rope system used to access difficult or hazardous areas.
  • Mountaineering: When exploring steep terrain or ascending mountainous regions, the Gallows Knot offers a reliable connection point for various equipment.
  • Climbing: In rock climbing and similar activities, the Gallows Knot provides a secure loop for attaching carabiners and other gear.


The Gallows Knot, also known as the Uni Knot, is a popular fishing knot due to its versatility and simplicity. It is suitable for various types of fishing line, including mono, braid, and fluorocarbon. This knot serves two primary fishing applications:

  1. Line-to-Hook/Lure: The Uni Knot can efficiently attach a fishing hook or lure to a leader or main line.
  2. Line-to-Line: By using a Double Uni Knot, anglers can easily join two lines of differing diameters.

Renowned angler Vic Dunaway popularized the use of the Uni Knot for fishing purposes, and it has since become a staple in the angling community.


In boating applications, the Gallows Knot is utilized for its quick-release capabilities and secure connections. Boaters find it useful in a range of situations, such as attaching fenders, securing lines to cleats, and fastening sail covers.

Here are some examples of its uses in boating:

  • Fenders: The Gallows Knot can hold fenders in place, protecting a boat from damage when docking or rafting up.
  • Cleats: The knot can quickly and effectively secure lines to cleats on a dock or boat.
  • Sail Covers: The Gallows Knot can be used to tie down sail covers or other gear when not in use.

In summary, the Gallows Knot has diverse applications in climbing and safety, fishing, and boating. Its versatility and reliability make it a valuable knot for various outdoor enthusiasts.

Comparison with Related Knots

The Gallows Knot is often compared to two other knots, the Uni Knot and the Scaffold Knot. Each knot has its own unique characteristics and applications, making them suitable for different purposes.

The Uni Knot, also known as the Duncan Loop, shares some similarities with the Gallows Knot. Both are based on the multiple overhand noose and can be used for various tasks, but they differ in their construction and performance. While the Gallows Knot generally does not become stronger after the second turn around the noose, the Uni Knot can be more secure with additional wraps around the standing line. The Uni Knot is also more beginner-friendly due to its ease of tying and can be applied in a wider range of situations, such as fishing, where the Improved Clinch Knot is still more commonly used.

Some key differences between the Gallows Knot and the Uni Knot include:

  • The number of turns around the noose or standing line
  • The overall ease of tying for beginners
  • The range of applications and versatility

The Scaffold Knot is another related knot that is worth comparing to the Gallows Knot. This knot shares a similar wrapping pattern but primarily differs in its construction and tightening mechanism. The Scaffold Knot is formed by wrapping the tag end around the standing part of a bight of rope and passing the end through the loops, creating a secure connection. This knot can also include a thimble in the loop to protect it from wear, making it suitable for situations where a sturdy and durable knot is required.

In comparison to the Gallows Knot, the Scaffold Knot offers:

  • A different tightening mechanism
  • The option to include a thimble for added durability
  • A somewhat more secure connection with proper tightening

In conclusion, understanding the similarities and differences between the Gallows Knot and its related knots, such as the Uni Knot and the Scaffold Knot, can help users choose the most appropriate knot for their specific needs. Each knot has its own unique features and applications, emphasizing the importance of selecting the right knot for the task at hand.