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How To Tie The Overhand Knot

The Overhand Knot or Thumb Knot is the smallest, simplest and most commonly used knot. It is used as a stopping knot, for example, to prevent the end of a rope from untwisting. When tied at the end or standing part of a rope, this knot prevents it from sliding through a block, hole, or another knot. It can also be used to increase a person’s grip on a rope.

How to Tie an Overhand Knot

Welcome to knot 101. 

This is where you’ll learn the most basic, most essential knot ever created. The overhand knot. 

This knot is perhaps the single most fundamental knot in existence. It is the core of countless other knots and is often used alongside other knots as a way to secure them. 

Technically speaking, the overhand knot is what we in the knot world call a “stopper.” That’s because this knot is often used to “stop” other knots from coming undone. Not to get too ahead of ourselves here, but tying two overhand knots is often done to use one knot as the stopper for the other! 

Alright, enough knot nerd talk. Let’s get to tying. 

How To Tie The Overhand Knot

Odds are, even if you don’t know it by name, you can already tie this knot. The overhand knot is used in pretty much everything from wrapping bows to tying your shoes. However, sometimes it’s good to cover the basics just to get our form right. After all, this essential knot is the foundation of camping, crafting, and climbing. 

Step 1

Our first step is to get a piece of rope, string, cable, or honestly just about anything.

Overhand Knot 1

Step 2

Form a bight in the rope. A bight is a curved section with some slack in it. 

Overhand Knot 2

Step 3

Take the working end over the bight. 

Overhand Knot 3

Step 4

Wrap the working end underneath the loop we just created. 

Overhand Knot 4

Step 5

Pull tight to achieve the overhand knot. 

Overhand Knot 5

That’s it! Really. This is the most essential, most basic knot for a reason. Like we said up top, you’ve probably already tied this one a million times. 

Tips on Tying The Knot

With a knot this simple, the only tip is to respect its limitations. There’s a reason why this knot is part of countless knots and used as a stopper, but only used for basic applications in its own right. 

Put too much load on this knot, and it might come undone. Try to wrap this knot around something that moves too much or is too wide, and it’s bound to come undone when you need it most. 

This is a core knot, but it lacks power on its own. Consider this knot the team player that makes everything work. 

Variations On Tying the Knot

There are countless methods for tying this knot. Really. 

Think back to when you learned how to tie your shoes or recently taught someone how to tie theirs. The over unders, foxes chasing rabbits, and limitless ways to tie this knot give us endless ways to reach the same place. 

If you really want variations on this knot, you can use it as an integral part of pretty much any other knot. 

Advantages of this Knot

The advantages of this knot should be pretty clear at this point. 

We’ll be using the overhand knot for everything from the arbor knot to rock climbing. Whether you’re tying up your shoelaces for a big job interview or you’re about to send El Capitan in Yosemite, you’ll need the overhand knot. 

Disadvantages of the Knot

With a knot this basic, the disadvantages come to its overall utility. While it plays a part in limitless ties, it rarely goes out solo outside of the most basic applications. 

Because this knot is so basic, it’s not a very safe choice for handling dangerous or heavy jobs on its own. You’ll quickly want to upgrade to a double column, hitch, or another type of knot. Even our shoelaces have a few more steps than just an overhand knot. With that said, this is less of a disadvantage and more of learning how this knot is used—and how it isn’t. 

History of the Knot

Here’s where things get really complicated for this basic knot.

The overhand knot is truly ancient. It’s even possible that humans weren’t the first ones to start using this type of knot! 

The hagfish, which looks like an eel, secretes a mucus into the water as a way to scare off would be attackers. In order to escape its own slimy trap, the hagfish literally ties itself into an overhand knot and then pushes all the slime away by moving the knot over its body. It also uses this overhand knot tying technique as a way to attack prey! 

Humans have been using this knot since the earliest moments of our history. Because of how basic this knot is, it’s essentially been with us as long as other essential technologies that make our world go ‘round. 

Now, let’s tie our shoes and learn what this knot can do for us! 

Uses For The Overhand Knot

If you’ve been picking up what we’ve been putting down, you can probably already guess that this knot has limitless uses. 

Here’s just a few of them. 

Survival Situations

One of the biggest pieces of advice anyone can get for survival situations is to take things slowly and move safely. 

The overhand knot can be used as a stopper to secure impoverished tarp shelters, make sure you don’t trip over your shoe laces, and in a variety of fishing and hunting situations. 

Fishing 

The overhand knot is used in countless fishing applications. Whether you’re affixing a new line with an arbor knot or tying on a new jig, you’re going to need the overhand to get the job done. 

Hunting 

Are you going ancient school and trying to snare some small game or did your boot laces break midway through a deep forest expedition? 

This knot pops up everywhere for hunters. 

Camping 

Whether you’re deep wilderness camping in the dead of winter or you’ve got the family in tow for an easy weekend at your local forest preserve, this knot will make sure you have a great, and a safe, time. 

This knot can be used to secure more DIY tents, bundle together firewood, or string up a drying line for those towels and swimsuits. 

Climbing 

In climbing, safety is king. You don’t want to be up on a 30 degree inclined wall and have to worry about how secure your knots are. 

The overhand plays a key role in rock climbing’s most essential knots. 

Around The House

This knot has your back for everything from arts and crafts with the kids to helping you out during DIY projects. 

Related Knots

To Tie an Overhand Knot:

  • Make a loop near the end of the rope
  • Pass the running end through the loop
  • Draw tightly
overhand knot

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