RECOMMENDED READS - THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS
“EVERY PRACTICAL KNOT… AND HOW TO TIE IT”
If I hadn’t received such glowing reviews from others before reading the book myself then I probably would have been skeptical of a blurb that claims to include “Every Practical Knot” - now that is a big statement.
Yes, more knots will likely be invented as time goes on, but for most of us we will have to spend much of careers catching up on all the ones that Clifford W. Ashley has collated for us first.
I consider myself a modernist through and through but I still place great value on the generations of experience brought to me by those before us. The fact that the Ashley Book of Knots [often abbreviated to ABOK] represents not only a valuable reference document for practitioners, but also a collation of decades of anecdotal & otherwise largely uncodified knowledge, is to me one of its greatest features.
“A KNOT IS EITHER EXACTLY RIGHT OR IT IS HOPELESSLY WRONG”
The book is separated into 41 chapters and be read from start to finish or referenced from individual sections. However it’s probably worth reading Chapter One “On Knots” just to make sure that you’re up to speed with some of the concepts & terms used throughout the rest of the book.
The famous quote “ A knot is either exactly right or it is hopelessly wrong” originates from this book, Mr Ashley clarifies this further by saying: “Make only one change and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result”. Once this quote is understood it becomes easy to see why the mantra of “Tie, Dress & Set” is now taught with such zeal.
VALUE FOR ALL
Arborists, riggers, rope access technicians, rock climbers & anyone working with rope will all benefit from this book. Mr Ashley has collected several lifetimes of experience [his own & others] into this volume, many of the knots are original to him & they are all described clearly & accurately. He includes a simple icon based identification system which I enjoy searching for throughout the book. This is shown below and highlights some of the most notable knots throughout the book. It depends on how you intend to read the book [bedtime reading or academic studying?] but it may be worth using a highlighter pen to mark out some of your favourites - I have.
DECORATIVE OR PRACTICAL
The ABOK brings Marlinspike Seamanship [which historically has been the largely nautical discipline of ropework & knot tying] to a whole new audience. Chapter 30: Flat or Two Dimensional Knots, can be put to great use on those rainy weekends to teach you how to make ornamental mats out of old rope. I have a few projects in mind for the floor of the Hilux & a front door mat for my new home. You may also find that all of your stopper knots start becoming a lot fancier once you’ve read Chapter 5: Knob Knots, Single-Strand Button Knots…
Due to its encyclopaedic nature, the ABOK has become something of a reference text, consequently the text is often cited by others because of its consistent & internationally accessible format. Readers may find themselves coming across descriptions such as - “The Bowline Knot (ABOK #1010)”.
For the more advanced readers it is worth noting that the ABOK was published before the advent of most man made synthetic fiber ropes. Therefore if there had to be any shortcomings of this book it would be that there is no commentary on the behaviour of knots when tied with rope of a double-braid construction made out of modern synthetic fibers. There is a significant section on splicing, but again this does not cover braided ropes. It does however cover laid rope comprehensively & with great detail.
The book is still in print and is readily available from a range of retailers. Amazon has it for around $50.00 [USD] which equates to less than two cents per knot. Pretty good value for money don’t you think?
NUMBER OF PAGES | 610
KNOTS | >3800
DRAWINGS | 7000
WEIGHT | HEAVY
FIRST PUBLISHED | 1944
ISBN | 0 571 09659-X