An excellent general purpose knot for tying two pieces of string
or twine together, the reef knot is possibly the most commonly used knot
for the job, and is easy to learn. However, it cannot be overly stressed
that the Reef knot is not a long term or secure knot, and it should only
be used to finish parcels or bindings. In other cases, use a more secure
method of bending two ropes together, such as a Sheetbend,
a Double Sheetbend, or a Fisherman's
Unfortunately, the Reef knot can easily change into a slipping Lark's
Head (see below), so it should never be used where life or limb
are at risk.
Holding one end of each rope in each hand, pass the left rope over the
right, and tuck under. Then pass the same rope, now in the right hand,
over the left rope, and tuck under.
It is common to chant "Left over Right and Under, Right over Left and Under"
when tying the knot. (This can also be performed as "Right over Left and
Under, Left over Right and Under".)
The reef knot can easliy be undone by gripping one loose end, and pulling
it back over the knot, in the opposite direction, thus straightening the
rope which is pulled. The other rope forms a Lark's
Head knot, and slips off the tugged rope.
The knot gets its name from its use on sailing ships, when the sails were
"reefed" - rolled up and tied to the cross spar with a reef knot. To release
the sail, the sailors would climb the rigging, and work their way along
the cross spar, pulling the top end of the reef knot down. They only had
to use one hand, holding on with the other. The weight of the sail would
cause the reef knot to slip, and the sail would be released.