Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Infocard: Useful Knots

I often need knots. I have often learned the knots I need. But these two things never happen close enough together to result in long term knowledge storage. This Make blog post gave me the idea of collecting a few useful ones and putting them on wallet card.



Printed front and back on a business card and then laminated, it can nestle in my wallet until I need them. Alternatively, for this particular application, I could secret cards in amongst any ropes I might use so they are johnny-on-the-spot at the right moment.

And speaking of applications, I was also thinking this could be a neat idea for other things. How to mix drinks, electronics cheatsheet, math formulae, What To Do If Arrested, etc. In fact, it seems like such an obvious idea I spent some time googling to see if anyone had set up a Web 2.0 social networking site to do this. Nothing. So I hereafter document my process for my future self and anyone else who wants to make one:

  1. Design it up a bit. In this case, I tried to pick some knots that were both unlike each other and also widely useful. There's a loop, a general "tie to a post", a stopper that can also make a second type of loop and finally a bend, which is a knot that attaches two ropes. I also wanted a "scenario" that would tie it all together (ha!). And it all has to fit on a business card.

  2. Once the contents were identified, I drew all the images with pencil. I actually first started with some copyright-free knot images from a Project Gutenberg book, but there were a few problems with that. The main one was that not all the knots I wanted had drawings. Also, the images were too busy to be shrunk down that small.

  3. Trace with pen. May not have been strictly necessary, but didn't take too much time anyway. Scan. Load into Gimp and fix any boo-boos. Smudges, pen dropouts, etc. With a cheap graphics tablet, I could have skipped a lot of this.

  4. Bring into Inkscape and auto-trace bitmap into a vector format.

  5. Use Scribus to lay out the page.

  6. Print onto business card template thingies. Get laminated.
If this were an online service or community or whatevs, there would be PDFs and/or inkscape/scribus files. However, I don't have a way to host anything but images here. Suggestions?


  1. Awesome idea. I used to have a wallet-sized NYC subway map that was really useful, but it broke (I think it was plastic rather than laminated card).

    Now all I have is the laminated miniature version of my high school diploma. To which I refer almost constantly.

    I use freeshell's $1 lifetime account for hosting non-image files. It has a daily bandwidth limit so you have to lock out search engines in your robots.txt, but it doesn't subject your readers to ads or anything.

    And one final note, if you were to go ahead with the drink recipe infocard modeled on this, then it would have to be entitled, "How To Tie One On."

  2. Unfortunately, I'm about 15 years too late with my idea. Now that everyone (except for me and thee, and I'm not sure about thee) has a PDA....

    A whole dollar?!

    Nice. If I knew any drink recipes, I'd totally make one and call it that. Also, I need a corporate behavior (copy machine instructions and the like) called "How To Tie A Tie". Oh and a referee cheatsheet called "In Case Of Tie". Restaurant menu: "How To Order Thai". And so forth.

  3. You could create an Instrucatble on www.instructables.com with pdfs

  4. This is a great idea, would love to see a web2.0 site with a form that users fill out and then it creates a PDF from the inputs that people can download and print duplex to make a small card. Pity I don't know any PHP or Ruby to do it...

  5. I wasn't too excited about the instructables idea until I got what you meant about the PDF hosting. Good idea.

    Yeah, the Web2.0 thing was exactly my idea. But I don't have the knowhow or time to do it either. Also, I just got a pda thing, so the wallet card is semi-obsolete. (Still good to have a card to stow in the car or whatever, though.)

  6. Hello there.

    Arrived here from the Make Blog. Thanks for your work: I printed your infocard, laminated it and it's now in my wallet. Thanks again for your post and detailing how did you do that.

    In fact there is already a site 2.0 like the idea you're talking about, they have nothing about knots though. I found it again in the Make Blog in...2005. It's called PocketMod, check it out.



  7. Hey, PocketMod is pretty cool. The multipage is a good idea, although it makes lamination kinda hard.

    And your blog is giving me a chance to try out Google Reader's subscription auto-translation feature.

  8. Useful knots is great...but it'd be even better if there was a little text suggesting when each knot is most appropriate. (for dummies such as myself)

  9. You can use Drop.io to host the files. It's free. Good Idea thanks. Oh yeah, you should prepare for the "Lifehacker effect"...3, 2, 1

  10. Knots are very useful. The slip knot works well for a hanging noose. The bowline to tie down your guidelines to your tent pegs. Great idea. Haven't looked at knot craft in a much of years. BTW, only kidding about the slip knot-not something you really should try...

  11. One suggestion. Collect up a number of these ideas and make them fit the standard template for business cards. It'd print the results on sturdy card stock of just the right size.

    Knots like you've done, metric-to-English conversion values, wind-chill factors, Marine VHF channel allocations, how to start a fire in the wilderness, how to find water, that sort of thing.

  12. I would also like to know what all these knots are useful for. In the world of knots there are hundreds of knots but no one tells you what they are to be best used for.

  13. The bowline (pronounced "bohlihn") is for making a loop at the end of a line.

    The figure eight is a "stopper" knot to keep a line from running through another knot. But the double figure eight, in the second image on that section, puts a loop in the middle of a line.

    The hitch attaches a line to a pole.

    The sheet bend (or double sheet bend, in the second image) attaches two ropes.

    The back of the card shows how to do a tie-down on, for instance, the top of a car or back of a truck. The only optional item is the sheet bend there, which can be used if you only have two short lengths rather than one long one.

  14. I am a BSA scout master. The card idea is great, but not 100% on the knots.
    The bowline is a life saving knot. In old movies when someone tosses a rope to a buddy stranded at the bottom of a cliff, the bowline is the knot that will lift him. It does not slip, so it is safe.
    The figure eight knot is a stopper knot. If you have a rope that you want to prevent slipping thru a hole, use a figure eight.
    The double hitch, or more commonly, two half hitches is a slip knot. It is used to tie rope to a grommet hole or the like.
    The sheet bend is used for joining two ropes of different diameters. The larger makes the loop. A far more useful knot is the square knot (right over left, left over right). Its just a good knot to join two ends of ropes of the same diameter.
    The tie down on the back is awful! It simply won't work, the rope will be loose. Replace the bowline with the double hitch allowing the rope to slip tight around the post. Then, replace the double hitch with a taught line hitch, which you can slip, but does not slip when tension is set. This allows you to adjust the tightness of the tie down, making it useful.

  15. I tested the tie-down out and it's not loose. The bowline on the left doesn't need to tighten, so replacing it with a double hitch is not necessary.

    I will admit that I considered some kind of taut line hitch for the double hitch, but:

    1) The double hitch is more generally useful, and that's the real point of this card. The back is just an example usage.

    2) If you actually try the tie-down, you'll find that the double hitch works like a taut line hitch in this case. At least it did for me.

  16. Been both a Boy Scout and a Navy Sailor - I made my ship's knotboard.

    When joining two ropes as part of a life-saving rig, do not use the square knot - use the Sheet Bend. A square knot can spill under load into two half-hitches and slide right off the end of the other rope.

    Square knots are best for tying boxes and bandages.

  17. I kinda agree with Mr. Nichols on the tie-down. You can keep the bowline, (I do) But the rest of it should be a trucker's hitch.

  18. Figure-8 is also the canonical climbing tie-in knot.

  19. As for that tie-down on the back any climbers book on knots will explain that a figure-8 is not string when loaded the way it will be in that image.

    Best to replace the 8 with either a directional 8 or an alpine butterfly.

  20. Cool post!

    With the tiedown, I hate it when people use the figure eight loop for the purchase. A slip knot (you need to make sure it's going the right way) works very well and is very quick and easy to move if you've misjudged or have finished with the tiedown.

    I also often use clove hitches with a half hitch or 2 for added security.

    For reference, my knot tying experience/requirements is specific to sailing.

  21. a two taut-line hitch is best for rainflies on tents.