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What's all this obsession over knots?

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  • What's all this obsession over knots?

    Knots have a long history in scouting. I understand that. Learning how to tie some good knots is a useful skill to learn and retain. I get that too. But it seems like many people on this board measure the worth of a scout by his ability to tie knots. Things like, "If I went to an Eagle Court of Honor and took out some rope, the boys would break out into a sweat because they can't tie a knot." Scouts have to earn lots of Merit Badges to earn Eagle. I doubt they retain 100% of what they learned on all those Merit Badges. Why is it so important that they retain 100% knowledge of knots? Scouts have many characteristics that define them as being a good scout, like being a good citizen, helping others, etc. Why does tying knots seem to be the skill/characteristic that outweighs all and makes them a lesser scout if they didn't retain that info?

  • #2
    Ask the general public what Boy Scouts do or excell at. First Aid, Knots, Camping, helping old ladies across the street. Tying knots is a requirement of the first four ranks, not an elective merit badge. The square knot is the second most used symbol of scouting. It is an easily demonstrable skill in a interior setting unlike say following a compass heading.

    To me knot tying is a fundamental skill that transcends camping and outdoors. It is a skill that is used throughout your lifetime. Please offer a single demonstrable skill that more better examplifies something Boy Scouts know and use that non-Boy Scouts probably don't know.

    Comment


    • duckfoot
      duckfoot commented
      Editing a comment
      Just ask Lem...tying the sheepshank can get you out of trouble

    • Scoutmaster Jim
      Scoutmaster Jim commented
      Editing a comment
      It's kind of funny that you pick the one knot that was removed from the 8 basic BSA knots as your example.

    • resqman
      resqman commented
      Editing a comment
      Tenderfoot requirement must use the EDGE method to teach someone else how to tie a Square Knot.

      Granted there is no requirement specifically stating you must be able to tie the Square Knot, only be able to teach it to someone else. Presumably in order to teach someone how to tie the knot, you would have to be able to tie the knot yourself.

  • #3
    Knots are a symbol of an active program.....Most Camporees have knot tying contest. You actually had to tie knots to pitch a tent or tarp.

    The point is knots should be second nature by the time a lad is an eagle.

    Comment


    • #4
      Originally posted by dedkad View Post
      Knots have a long history in scouting. I understand that. Learning how to tie some good knots is a useful skill to learn and retain. I get that too. But it seems like many people on this board measure the worth of a scout by his ability to tie knots. Things like, "If I went to an Eagle Court of Honor and took out some rope, the boys would break out into a sweat because they can't tie a knot." Scouts have to earn lots of Merit Badges to earn Eagle. I doubt they retain 100% of what they learned on all those Merit Badges. Why is it so important that they retain 100% knowledge of knots? Scouts have many characteristics that define them as being a good scout, like being a good citizen, helping others, etc. Why does tying knots seem to be the skill/characteristic that outweighs all and makes them a lesser scout if they didn't retain that info?
      Knots are important outdoors. They are easy indicators of what a scout has earned. DIfferent knots are required for First Class. Also, in the old days, it was practically impossible to camp without knowledge of the 6 knots. I use 5 of the 6 in my outdoor life outside of scouts (don't have much use for the timber hitch, but use the rest). I, personally, think first aid is the best indicator of scout quality.

      Comment


      • dedkad
        dedkad commented
        Editing a comment
        I was kind of leaning toward first aid too. If you're out backpacking in the wilderness, would you rather be with a scout who can tie 10 different knots or one who knows how to treat 10 different injuries.

      • qwazse
        qwazse commented
        Editing a comment
        If it's the 11th injury, the one he doesn't know how to treat ... I'll take the knots!!!!

        Seriously, this is a red herring. First aid, especially wilderness first aid, requires a cool head and resourcefulness. If you have to THINK about how to stabilize an injury because you aren't sure how to tie off a sling, or shore a splint, you cost your patient pain. If the square knot is second nature, you can focus on your patient while the hands do the tying automatically. If you know what it takes for a lashing to hold, you won't build a rickety stretcher. The list goes on ...

        First aid isn't about knowing how to use a kit. It's about understanding an injury and using some rope, cloth, and a few sticks (ideally with a kit but sometimes without) to stabilize it and proceed with a rescue.

    • #5
      Knots are not second nature. In this age of velcro and buckles, boys (and girls, if they never braid hair) easily forget how to tie them. I forget them constantly, and am pulling out my spare chord and working the ones I use least often.

      But, when I throw a tarp and some rope down and say "Rig us a Tarp/Tent/Changing Station/Latrine ..." or when breaking camp say "All guy lines in chain knots, please" youth who can't tie, lash, and splice waste my crew's time.

      Knowing your knots means I can count on you to get the job done when the rolls of velcro, belts, stays, and buckles are out of reach. It means YOU took the trouble to be prepared. It means you took the trouble to STAY prepared. It commands my respect.

      Failing to retain that knowledge is up there with thoughtlessly leaving your gear behind. It's a disgrace.

      Comment


      • #6
        As a scouter who spends about 20% of the year camping in the back woods, tying knots is a skill which I use almost as much as fire-building. A scout who cannot tie a small variety of knots isn't spending much time in the woods being a scout. I have seen a lot of troops who never leave the park-n-tent campsites and the scouts never get to fully appreciate the wild. They don't "scout" the unknown woods and explore using all the skills they have "learned". When the requirements are just a list, and ranks are a completion of lists they cease to be descriptors of competence. A true first class scout should be able to lead his patrol into the woods navigating by map and compass, selecting a proper site, setting up camp and cooking meals planned and prepared. These are the skills supposedly demonstrated on the way to First Class. One of the best lines I have ever read in the BSA Handbook for Boys (1911 edition) regarding the aim of scouting, penned by John Alexander: "All that is needed is the out-of-doors, a group of boys, and a competent leader." That leader is not us, it is a First Class Scout.

        Comment


        • #7
          A boy scout not being proficient in knots is like a cop being a poor marksman, or a carpenter being bad at fractions, or a wide receiver who can't catch a football. There are certain skills that inseparable from their profession.

          Though it's been over 35 years, I use the knots from my scouting days regularly. The other day, I helped a friend pull down some dead trees on his property. Using different width tow straps, I was tying taut line hitches, an occasional sheet bend, and the timber hitch like gang busters. Worked like a charm.

          We live in an age of "familiarization is good enough." Not true. Some skills are musts. Knot proficiency is one of those if we wish to claim the titles "scout" or "scouter."

          If scouts or scouters want to avoid being nervous about basic scout skills, they've got to practice, and take pride in their craft. If I can do it, anyone can!

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by perdidochas View Post
            ... don't have much use for the timber hitch, but use the rest ...
            Me neither, except last week I was setting up a tarp and using a heavy rope for a ridge line between two trees. Not enough rope for my usual clove hitches (these were massive oaks that seemed to take great pleasure in dropping acorns from 200' up, thus the tarp!), but timber hitches worked just fine. Course, when I told SM to tie off with a timber hitch, he stepped off the table and gave the rope to me!

            Comment


            • #9
              Used a timber hitch last year, interestingly for its designed purpose. We needed to move some logs for a lean-to we were fixing and the timber hitch was the perfect choice to tie on to the human mule powered line. I have never used the sheepshank. Even its designed purpose is "dumb" IMO.

              Comment


              • JoeBob
                JoeBob commented
                Editing a comment
                The best thing about a timber hitch is that you can UNtie it after pulling heavy loads. Most of the other knots cinch tight. When you take the pressure off a timber hitch, it falls apart.

            • #10
              I'll argue the other side just because I like to argue....

              While I agree knots are an important skill and have some long tradition in scouts, they are a bit of an anachronism. We don't teach kids today how to type on typewriters because they'll never use one. Kids don't use the card catalog in the library because there's a computer. Kids don't carry quarters in the pockets anymore because they have a cell phone for emergency calls. Kids are starting to leave text books behind in favor of e-books. Kids don't care about map and compass because they have GPS and phones. Kids don't retain knots because there are bungy cords and Velcro and webbing with friction buckles and/or come-alongs to take the place of rope for many tasks. Kids just don't see the value in knots. And they won't until the cute girl needs to move and they can tie-down something in the back of their pick-up.

              Some of the knots the scouts teach, like the bowline, seem to be falling out of favor. We're sponsored by a fire department which teaches their members to use a figure 8 w/follow-through or a figure 8 on a byte to put a loop in the end of a rope. That's also the knot the scouts learn at the local climbing gym to put the belay rope on their harness. The logic offered by the FD is the figure 8 is easier to tie correctly, creates less load-bearing reduction on the line when tied, and is easier to untie (I do question the last point). When one of the "big" knots is questioned by other professionals as less than appropriate, it puts a huge dent in the rest of the knots program.

              Finally, I'd argue that some folks do get obsessed with the means (knots) over the ends (character). Ultimately, we can plot character and competence on a two-dimensional chart to measure any scout. Sure, we'd like for all the scouts to be in the upper-right (high-competence/high-character) quadrant. However, I think we can be equally successful when scouts end up in the low-competence/high-character quadrant simply because the character part is the ultimate goal here. I'd certainly take a scout in either high-character quadrant over a low-character/high-competence scout any day. Even the Army is questioning where they are on the character vs. competence grid (http://www.stripes.com/news/army/cha...roops-1.242931)

              Now, queue the responses about how I'm a wood badge loving management type. I can take it. .

              Comment


              • JoeBob
                JoeBob commented
                Editing a comment
                Actually, being in the back country would seem to be preferable to being in the city when civilization fails. At least you won't have to be immediately concerned over your neighbors trying to kill you for your food and gasoline.

              • perdidochas
                perdidochas commented
                Editing a comment
                I use the bowline for the use it's name implies. It's the knot I use to tie a line to the bow (and stern) of a boat.

                That said, for the cute girl packing the stuff on top of her car, I teach my sons the trucker's hitch (my favorite usage of half-hitches). I teach the other scouts it as well, but don't get quite as much repetition in as I can with my own sons.

                To DC: IMHO, the goal of Boy scouts is to create better men. Character, competence in the outdoors, leadership, the ability to fend for themselves are all parts of that.

              • Beavah
                Beavah commented
                Editing a comment
                "use a figure 8 w/follow-through or a figure 8 on a byte"

                Yah, hmmm.... I reckon yeh can only use a figure 8 on a byte if the lad is doin' Computers MB and Climbing MB at da same time.

            • #11
              You really only need to know a few knots for camping and backpacking: Square, double half-hitch, taut-line, overhand, etc. The ones I use the most are the ones I remember. I keep a field manual with me for the ones I use rarely. The same with scouts - If they go camping frequently, they will get it through practice. If they are parlor scouts, they will forget.

              Self-reliance in the outdoors is a major mark of a Scout and knowing knots are essential to that end.

              Comment


              • #12
                I backpack regularly, with and without Scouts along. Over the past 3 years, I have tied my shoes and once used a timber hitch. My tents don't need knots, my gear doesn't need knots, and my truck is an SUV so everything goes inside it. If I have to top strap, I use straps.

                That said, I teach knots, have competitions, and my unit does pretty well at Camporee. But the only way I get the boys to really embrace the knots is our annual "we left the tents at home, oops!" campout. The boys have to build their own shelters, and start pulling out their handbooks to remember a few knots at times.

                Same issue with fire starting. There are very few places we camp where open fires are allowed. Fuel gathering is prohibited. So backcountry cooking is done with small stoves.

                I like knowing the classics, but sometimes you have to make the program reward the mastery.

                Comment


                • #13
                  I had someone looking closely at my civil war pup tent the other day and it peaked my curiosity so I asked him what was so interesting. There were 3 dozen other tents there that looked exactly the same as mine. He said he was admiring all the different knots I had used and then asked if I was a scout as a boy. I said I have been a scout for 50+ years. He smiled and said, "I thought so." and went his way.

                  There are certain icons of scouting, the necker, the knots, helping old ladies, one match fire starting, and first aid. They all speak for themselves and are easily recognized by the general public.

                  Stosh

                  Comment


                  • duckfoot
                    duckfoot commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Stosh has hit that nail on the head.

                • #14
                  Safety, First Aid & Fun should be first and the Fluer de Lis is the main symbol *nods*
                  But everything scouting is knotted together somehow ^o^
                  Knowing how to tie the friendship knot is pretty cool.

                  Maybe we should introduce a Bondage Merit Madge for adults?

                  Comment


                  • King Ding Dong
                    King Ding Dong commented
                    Editing a comment
                    The Scouts can just grab Fifty Shades of Grey from Mom's nightstand.

                  • berliner
                    berliner commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I never read that book, so I cant really tell.
                    But I was talking about adults :-P
                    Go do another round of YPT KDD ;-)

                  • perdidochas
                    perdidochas commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Last night, the SPL was teaching the troop some First Aid techniques (he had just gone to a Wilderness First Aid Class and is hopped up to share). The SM noted that sometimes knots/lashings are a necessary part of first aid, for example if you have to splint a broken leg and then build a litter/stretcher to carry the victim.

                    We are currently on a knot renewal program for our First Class and up boys. We are requiring they tie the knot of the day before coming into the Scout Hut. Last week was the square knot, this week was the sheet bend. I'm accepting the challenge as as ASM myself. I'm tying the knots with my eyes closed.

                • #15

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