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The Turk's-head knot

The origin of the Turk's-head knot* is buried in history. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) drew them, and Ashley, Clifford W., 1944,  in pp. 227-228, The Ashley Book of Knots. Doubleday, Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. New York, New York, says:

"There is no knot with a wider field of usefulness. A Turk's-Head is generally found on the 'up-and-down' spoke of a ship's steering wheel, so that a glance will tell if the helm is amidship. It provides a foothold on footropes and a handhold on manropes, yoke ropes, gymnasium climbing ropes, guardrails, and lifelines. It serves instead of whipping and seizing. It is employed as a gathering hoop on ditty bags, neckerchiefs and bridle reins. Tied in rattan, black whalebone or stiff fishing line, it makes a useful napkin ring, and it is often worn by racing crews in 'one-design classes' as a bracelet or anklet. It will cover loose ends in sinnets and splices. It furnishes a handgrip on fishing rods, archery bows, and vaulting poles. It will stiffen sprung vaulting poles, fishing rods, spars and paddles. On a pole or rope it will raise a bole big enough to prevent a hitch in another rope from slipping. On edged tools it makes an excellent hand guard, and on oars and canoe paddles, a dip guard. It is found employed decoratively on whips, telescopes, hatbands, leashes, quirts, and harness; on wicker chairs and basketry; on bell ropes and tassels. Old chest beckets, bell ropes and yolk ropes are resplendent with them."

* Note the use of the Turk's Head knot on the handle of the whip in the video below. (Bernie Wojcicki has been a full time whip maker for 35 years, of kangaroo hide bullwhips and snake whips, from three feet to infinity, from eight plait to 64 plait, signal whips, quirts and Australian stock whips. All his whips are hand crafted to order and none are kept in stock. He specializes in custom work.)

A Turk's-head is made up of one length of string, rope, leather or any other suitable material, and is formed by bights and leads.

How to tie a Turks-head knot

Rope is generally over 25mm in diameter, but sometimes material of considerably lesser diameter is called rope. Usually those under 25mm in diameter but greater than 3mm is cord. Twine is usually between 1mm and 3mm in diameter and threads and yarn are all less than 2mm. Knots is the term applied generally to the manipulation of rope, cord, yarn or leather into simple or intricate designs. The results, depending on the type of knot, can be for specific purposes or used as decoration. Tangles, snarls and kinks are terms used when a mess occurs.

Again to quote from Ashley 1944, p. 227:

“The Turks-Head is a tubular knot that is usually made around a cylindrical object, such as rope, a stanchion, or a rail. It is one of the varieties of the Binding Knot and serves a great diversity of practical purposes but is perhaps even more often used for decoration only; for which reason it is usually classed with ‘fancy knots’.”

How to tie the Turk's-head knot

Follow the illustrations and explanation of the colours, in conjunction with the text, and you’ll find tying the Turk’s-head knot couldn’t be easier.

The green is to indicate the stationary end (B) or to indicate the first wrap, the aqua is to indicate a previous wrap, and the fuchsia is the working end (A) or final wrap.

Place the braid around three fingers of the left hand, palm up (Fig 1). The working-end of the braid is fuchsia (A), the stationary end is aqua (B). Bring the working-end over the stationary aqua end and around the back of the hand (Fig 2). Thread the working-end over first wrap and under aqua (Figs 2-3). Turn left hand over, palm down (Fig 4).

Pull the second aqua wrap over the first aqua wrap (Fig 5). Hold the aqua wrap in position by placing the forefinger of the left hand between the aqua and aqua wraps. Thread end A under aqua and up through the criss-cross loop thus formed by aqua and aqua (Fig 6). Thread end A over aqua and under aqua again (Figs 7-8).

Turn your left hand over, palm up (Fig 9), then bring end A alongside, and parallel to, stationary end B, by threading the strand over aqua, under aqua and over aqua again (Figs 9-10).

The start of the second wrap is as indicated in Fig 10. Lay the working end on the right-hand side as you follow the green strand around the knot.

The Turk's-head is formed by following this strand, B, around three times, that is, until there are three braided strands parallel to each other all around it (Figs 10, 11, 12). It may be necessary to go back around the knot and take in any slack.

The beginning of the third time around is shown in Fig 11. Fig 12 indicates end A near the completion of its third time around. It is important to adjust it so that it will be neat, as well as the right size. Then, too, it will be necessary to remove it from your fingers as you thread end A around for second and third time.

It ends at the same point at which you began, (B). Slide both ends underneath a convenient strand on the inside of the Turk's-head knot and trim.

The easy method
Clearly no need exists for a detailed explanation of how to tie this particular knot below, as the illustration is, to say the very least, self-explanatory, and you are using cord or lace.

How to tie a simple Turks-head knot

Click for Monkey's-fist

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