Matthew Walker knot

Last updated
Matthew Walker knot
Matthew Walker knot.gif
Category Decorative
ABoK 678

A Matthew Walker knot is a decorative knot that is used to keep the end of a rope from fraying. It is tied by unraveling the strands of a twisted rope, knotting the strands together, then laying up the strands together again. It may also be tied using several separate cords, in which case it keeps the cords together in a bundle. The traditional use of the knot is to form a knob or "stopper" to prevent the end of the rope from passing through a hole, for instance in rigging the lanyards which tension the shrouds on older sailing ships with standing rigging of fibre cordage.


It is not specifically known who Matthew Walker was, nor why this knot was named after him. However, early references from the 19th century suggest he may have been a ship's rigger in the Royal Navy.

The following quote from The Ashley Book of Knots gives possible origins of the knot: [1]


Lever in 1808 speaks of "MATTHEW WALKER'S KNOT" and describes the knot which Alston in 1860 calls the "DOUBLE MATTHEW WALKER KNOT." A refinement of the original knot had in the meantime taken over the original name , which is now generally modified to "a MATTHEW WALKER..

Lever's familiar expression, "MATTHEW WALKER'S KNOT," suggests that he may have known the inventor, who was possibly a master rigger in one of the British naval dockyards. Many myths have grown up around Matthew Walker, "the only man ever to have a knot named for him." Dr. Frederic Lucas, of the American Museum of Natural History, once told me the following story of the Origin of the knot, which he had heard off the Chincha Islands while loading guano in 1869.

A sailor, having been sentenced to death by a judge who in earlier life had been a sailor himself, was reprieved by the judge because of their common fellowship of the sea. The judge offered the sailor a full pardon if he could show him a knot that he, the judge, could neither tie nor untie.

The sailor called for ten fathoms of rope and, having retired to the privacy of his cell, unlaid the rope halfway, put in a MATTHEW WALKER KNOT, and then laid up the rope again to the end.

So Matthew Walker secured his pardon, and the world gained an excellent knot.

This knot is highly decorative, and was historically one of the most common and important knots. On a modern yacht, it is almost unused and unknown. [2]

It has been used in making stopper knots where lariats are used. [3]

How to tie

Matthew Walker knot-slack.gif
Matthew walker.png

A Matthew Walker knot is tied in a circular bundle of any number of strands. To tie the knot, the tier takes each strand and forms a loop around the rest of the bundle, then passes the end through the newly formed loop to form an overhand knot. He then moves to the next strand over, moving around the bundle in the direction he passes the loops. Tying the first strand around the bundle is straightforward, but each subsequent end must be passed through the previously-formed loops in order to contain all of the other strands in its loop. When tightening, it may help to roll the knot along the bundle, especially when using only two strands. The final effect is a spiral knot vaguely resembling a section of a barber's pole.

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop, and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Bowline Simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred to as King of the knots because of its importance. Along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch, the bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

Overhand knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Constrictor knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

Figure-eight knot Type of stopper knot used in sailing and climbing

The figure-eight knot or figure-of-eight knot is a type of stopper knot. It is very important in both sailing and rock climbing as a method of stopping ropes from running out of retaining devices. Like the overhand knot, which will jam under strain, often requiring the rope to be cut, the figure-of-eight will also jam, but is usually more easily undone than the overhand knot.

The figure-eight or figure-of-eight knot is also called the Flemish knot. The name figure-of-eight knot appears in Lever's Sheet Anchor; or, a Key to Rigging. The word "of" is nowadays usually omitted. The knot is the sailor's common single-strand stopper knot and is tied in the ends of tackle falls and running rigging, unless the latter is fitted with monkey's tails. It is used about ship wherever a temporary stopper knot is required. The figure-eight is much easier to untie than the overhand, it does not have the same tendency to jam and so injure the fiber, and is larger, stronger, and equally secure.

A whipping knot or whipping is a binding of marline twine or whipcord around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray.

Figure-eight loop

Figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Stopper knot

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing the rope, at that point, from slipping through a narrow passage, such as a hole in a block. To pass a rope through a block, or hole, is to reeve it. To pull it out is to unreeve it. Stopper knots prevent the rope from unreeving on its own.

Wall and crown knot

A wall and crown knot is a decorative kind of rope button. The original use of the knot was to put at the end of the ropes on either side of a gangway leading onto a ship as stoppers.

Turks head knot

A Turk's head knot, more commonly known as a sailor's knot, is a decorative knot with a variable number of interwoven strands forming a closed loop. The name refers to a general family of knots, not an individual knot. While this knot is typically made around a cylinder, it can also be formed into a flat, mat-like shape. Some variants can be arranged into a roughly spherical shape, akin to a monkey's fist knot.

Rope splicing Rope merging

Rope splicing in ropework is the forming of a semi-permanent joint between two ropes or two parts of the same rope by partly untwisting and then interweaving their strands. Splices can be used to form a stopper at the end of a line, to form a loop or an eye in a rope, or for joining two ropes together. Splices are preferred to knotted rope, since while a knot typically reduces the strength by 20–40%, a splice is capable of attaining a rope's full strength. However, splicing usually results in a thickening of the line and, if subsequently removed, leaves a distortion of the rope. Most types of splices are used on 3-strand rope, but some can be done on 12-strand or greater single-braided rope, as well as most double braids.
While a spliced 3-strand rope's strands are interwoven to create the splice, a braided rope's splice is constructed by simply pulling the rope into its jacket.

Ashleys stopper knot

Ashley's stopper knot, also known as the oysterman's stopper, is a knot developed by Clifford W. Ashley around 1910. It makes a well-balanced trefoil-faced stopper at the end of the rope, giving greater resistance to pulling through an opening than other common stoppers. Essentially, the knot is a common overhand noose, but with the end of the rope passing through the noose eye, which closes upon it. It may be multiplied to form a larger knot with more than three bights appearing around the knot. It is the result of implementing a double wall knot in one strand.

Rolling hitch

The rolling hitch is a knot used to attach a rope to a rod, pole, or another rope. A simple friction hitch, it is used for lengthwise pull along an object rather than at right angles. The rolling hitch is designed to resist lengthwise movement for only a single direction of pull.

Figure-of-nine loop

The figure-of-nine loop is a type of knot to form a fixed loop in a rope. Tied in the bight, it is made similarly to a figure-of-eight loop but with an extra half-turn before finishing the knot.

Sailmakers whipping

The sailmaker's whipping is one of the most durable and stable of rope whippings known. According to The Ashley Book of Knots, "palm-and-needle whipping, or sailmaker's whipping, is the most satisfactory of all."

Eye splice

The eye splice is a method of creating a permanent loop in the end of a rope by means of rope splicing.

Flemish bend

The Flemish bend, also known as a figure eight bend, a rewoven figure eight is a knot for joining two ropes of roughly similar size.

Reef knot Type of knot

The reef knot, or square knot, is an ancient and simple binding knot used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is sometimes also referred to as a Hercules knot. The knot is formed by tying a left-handed overhand knot and then a right-handed overhand knot, or vice versa. A common mnemonic for this procedure is "right over left; left over right", which is often appended with the rhyming suffix "... makes a knot both tidy and tight". Two consecutive overhands of the same handedness will make a granny knot. The working ends of the reef knot must emerge both at the top or both at the bottom, otherwise a thief knot results.

The reef knot or square knot consists of two half knots, one left and one right, one being tied on top of the other, and either being tied first...The reef knot is unique in that it may be tied and tightened with both ends. It is universally used for parcels, rolls and bundles. At sea it is always employed in reefing and furling sails and stopping clothes for drying. But under no circumstances should it ever be tied as a bend, for if tied with two ends of unequal size, or if one end is stiffer or smoother than the other, the knot is almost bound to spill. Except for its true purpose of binding it is a knot to be shunned.


  1. Ashley, Clifford (1944). The Ashley Book of Knots, p.118. ISBN   9780385040259.
  2. "Double Matthew Walker Knot" (animation). animated knots by Grog. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  3. "How To... Tie A Stopper Knot". Cowboy Way. Retrieved March 24, 2013.

Knob knots