Tie, Dress and set: The mechanics of successful knot tying

By Sylvia McNeill © 2020 McNeill’s Tree Service

Do your shoes stay tied? Or are you having to retie them throughout the day. This was a revelation to me after several years (yes, I am a slow learner) of noticing my husband’s shoes never came untied and mine always did. As a professional tree climber who spends his days relying on successfully tied ropes for safety, he takes tying knots, any knots, seriously. It has become a habit.

This is, perhaps, an under-rated skill. One which is taken for granted but one, if not mastered, literally can mean a climber’s life or a job gone horribly wrong as a secured branch or trunk section slips out of its trace causing damage to property or ground crew.

Those three steps: tie, dress and set; should be assiduously adhered to. Each of these steps is simply stated but may be not-quite-so-simple to achieve properly.

Tie: The mechanics of creating the knot. Be sure you understand exactly how the knot-of-choice is configured. Making a mistake at this step can mean the difference between a knot applicable for the task-at-hand or a disaster in the making. There are numerous on-line sources of knots and how to tie them. One example is Animated Knots.

Dress: Maneuvering the rope(s) into proper position within the knot. Take the time to carefully align the rope segments properly. This precision will enable the knot to be set properly.

Set: Once the knot has been created and aligned properly, then, and only then, should you tighten the rope(s) to hold the position.

Continue manipulating the knot until it looks exactly as it is supposed to and set to the desired firmness. The devil is in the details resulting in the difference between success or failure. And is the main reason why my shoes never stayed tied.

Shoe on left foot (right side of photo) will stay tied. Shoe on right foot (left side of photo) will come loose quickly.

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