This page is dedicated to the next knot in the Figure 8 Family of knots – the Single Loop Figure 8. This is the most used figure 8 variation and is used when attaching your rope to something else.
Hopefully you’ve been practicing the Foundation knot, that’ll make tying this knot incredibly simple. To start, take a bight of rope (instead of just the working end like last time) and place it over one hand. From there, the method is the same as the foundation knot: twist once, twist twice, pull through. You should end up with a single loop coming out of the top of the knot that you can use to attach to something or someone via a carabiner. Because you started off with a bight, this knot is sometimes called a Figure 8 On a Bight.
Since we’ve already discussed the benefits of the Figure 8, lets talk about what it takes to “finish” this knot. Some people say that unless a knot is dressed, set, and backed up it isn’t complete. Sometimes that’s the case, but not with the Figure 8 family and here’s why:
- Dressed: a dressed knot has been adjusted so that there are no twists between the lines in the knot. Dressing does not affect the strength of Figure 8 knots, but it does make the knot easier to identify (which is usually why some institutions will require dressing a Figure 8).
- Set: a set knot has been pulled tight. You should set the knot so you can verify it’s been tied properly, but Figure 8s are already an inherently tight knot and will only get tighter (more set) when under load.
- Backed up: a backed up knot has an additional knot tied with the remaining working end to prevent it from being pulled through the knot. Being an inherently tight knot, it’s pretty unlikely the working end (a.k.a. tail) could get pulled through so we don’t require backups. However, you should always have enough tail so that you could tie a back up if you wanted to – typically just a simple overhand.
We will go through this knot step by step just as we did last time. However, since you already know the method we will be focusing on the why behind the methodology.
We believe this method (described and illustrated below) is the best for tying Figure 8 knots. Without getting too technical, the major benefit of this method is that it uses your support hand (i.e. weak or non-dominant hand) as a reference point so that you don’t have to look to see what you’re doing. More importantly, your support hand will also help ensure that you consistently tie this knot correctly every time – as opposed to some other methods where you can get an extra loop (or miss a loop) if you’re not paying attention.
Tying the Single Loop Figure 8
For this knot, take one of your 8-10 ft sections of rope and follow along:
1. Begin by placing your support hand in front of you with your palm facing your midsection and thumb pointed up. This step is not necessary for tying the Figure 8, but it is a great way to get everyone on the same page when teaching this method.
2. Place a bight of rope over your hand so that a foot or two of bight is on the outside of your hand and the standing end is running between your hand and midsection. This step is the key – by using your support hand as a reference point, you can tie the knot by touch instead of by sight.
3. Take your firing hand and make a square, touching fingers to thumbs, with your firing hand palm facing out. This step helps you orient your firing hand and makes it easier to get your twists going in the right direction. You probably won’t see us making the square every time, but we always orient our firing hand in this direction.
4. Using your firing hand, pinch the ropes at the top of your hand and lift the ropes two or three inches. This is where people get tripped up on this knot – they lift the end of the bight instead of the ropes where it goes over your hand. The end of the bight should still be hanging over the front of your support hand.
5. Using your firing hand, twist the bight of rope once until you have created a single loop of rope – your support hand should prevent the working end from coming around your hand. You must twist the entire bight of rope – not just the end of the bight.
6. Using your firing hand, twist the bight of rope again – it should now look like you have two loops (one on top of another) or a number 8.
7. Turn your support hand over, grab the working end of the rope.
8. Bring the working end up along side the 8 that you just created.
9. Start the working end through the top loop with your support hand and pull the entire working end through with your firing hand.
The finished product.
If you actually learned the method last time, this time around should’ve been really easy. We hope the additional information about the method helps you to understand why we use it. Just like last time, we use a mantra to help remember what are the truly essential steps of this technique. What we want you to remember is: twist once, twist twice, pull through. If you can remember those six words, you should be able to tie this knot. Here’s a quick video to show you the whole process:
Dressing, Setting, and Backing Up
As we said earlier: dressing, setting and backing up this knot is NOT required. However, you should set every knot that you tie, just to make sure that it is properly tied. A set knot looks like this:
We should also note that the knot above is also properly dressed. As for backing up a knot, it’s important you know the difference between backing up a knot and managing extra tail. In order to back up the knot, the backup – which is usually a simple overhand – must be right against the Figure 8 like this:
Now, you may decide that you don’t want to backup your knot, but for whatever reason you have a bunch of extra tail that you don’t want flopping around in your face. In that case you could tie an overhand knot at the end of the tail. This is not a backup, but does help manage the tail and looks like this:
But, as we discussed earlier, even if you don’t decide to backup the knot you need to have enough tail to tie one. What we don’t want is a very small that could theoretically get pulled through the knot. Even though it is extremely unlikely that the tail would be pulled through – since this is an inherently tight knot – you don’t want a tail that is this short:
All of the finished knots we have shown up to this point would be considered inefficient. This means that the loop is way bigger than it needs to be (big enough for a single carabiner). Even if you tie the knot inefficiently, you don’t want to load the knot from side to side like this:
In addition to putting undue stress on the sides of the knot, there is a risk of capsizing the knot. The picture below is of a capsized knot – notice how the tail has gotten shorter and is now too short. There’s a risk that if the knot capsizes enough times the tail would get pulled through the knot – this would be bad. Here’s a capsized Figure 8:
When you put all the steps together – an efficient knot that is dressed, set and backed up – it should look like this:
You should now be holding the Single Loop Figure 8 knot in your hands. You know you’ve done it correctly when it looks a lot like the number 8 with a loop sticking out the top.
Last time we covered some typical problems for tying the Foundation knot. These same problems still apply, but the biggest problem we see when tying the Single Loop Figure 8 relates to steps 4 and 5 above. Instead of lifting the entire bight and twisting it, people lift the end of the bight and twist it like this:
Practice, Practice, Practice
After you’ve tied it a few times, tie it again. The goal is to tie this dozens if not hundreds of times so that it becomes second nature. Make sure that you memorize and use the mantra (twist once, twist twice, pull through) as you tie the knot. Again, if you can remember those six words, you should be able to tie this knot.
All images and video courtesy of Denver Film & Digital.