October 02, 2005

The sheet bend is an old friend

I have started taking Fredrik to the city library as a fun father-son project. On our first visit we got our library cards and picked out secret four digit codes. Fredrik checked out a horror story for children written by Oscar Wilde-- Ghost of Canterville or somesuch, and a book about spiders. The second time around he got a great comic book about the Nordic Gods and is learning about Tor and Tyr and Frida and Odin who live on the 'home farm' and fight giants.

I found a great book about knots for myself, a true classic, The Ashley Book of Knots. It contains no fewer than 3854 knots, from the Adjustable Bend to the Zigzag Ring Hitching. From the introduction,

When I arrived at a proper age I went to sea and served my apprenticeship in knots aboard the whaling bark Sunbeam....Under Captain Smith's tutorship I progressed rapidly in knots and marlingspike seamanship to a point where even my teacher admitted that if I persevered and retained my health I might someday hope to grasp the rudiments of the art. When I had learned all that he offered I repaid him rather shabbily for all his kindness by slipping forared in the dogwatches and picking up, at the forecastle head, three knots with which he was unfamiliar.

To me the simple act of tying a knot is an adventure in unlimited space. A bit of string affords a dimensional latitude that is unique among the entities....If we move a single strand in a plane, interlacing it at will, actual objects of beaury and utility can result in what is practically two dimensions; and if we choose to direct our strand out of this one plane, another dimension is added, which provides opportunity for an excursion that is limited only by the scope of our own imagery and the length of the ropemaker's coil. What can be more wonderful than that?

I have been walking around the house for about a week now trying to tye Monkey's Fists and Turk's Heads. I can make a fairly decent Monkey's Fist now. My wife takes the view of Dr. Johnson:

Knotting outght to be reckoned, in the scale of insignificance, next to mere idleness.
-Dr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

Here is Clifford Ashley's description of knot number 1201:

Although handsome, this knot is somewhat ponderous and I would hesitate to recommend it for anything less than a meeting of the Garden Club itself. The purpose of the knot under the circumstances would be to provide roped-off areas so that guests might be spared the embarassment of trampling on the flower beds.


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