Basic Arborist Knots

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Basic Arborist Knots

This guide covers the most important arborists knots for tree work and includes references on how to tie them.

In our video tutorial above, we cover step-by-step how to tie various tree climbing knots such as the Bowline with a Yosemite finish the Running Bowline, the Alpine Butterfly, or the Blakes Hitch.

Below we'll walk you through some of the differences and how an arborist can choose the best knot for each situation. Let's dig in!

The Knots Every Arborist Should Know



What knot you choose and how you tie it is directly linked to what you are using it for. A bowline is a versatile knot and can be used at the end of a rope to rig large pieces of wood to the ground, or as part of a tie-in for a tree climber. When you tie off to a piece of wood you are lowering, use a running bowline. When you use a bowline as a basal anchor with a climbing rope, you want to finish it with a Yosemite finish, or a stopper knot.

Alpine Butterfly

When you need a knot in the middle of the rope, or when you don't have access to one end of the rope, choose the alpine butterfly. It forms a stable loop on a bight that you can load in any direction, even with the rope loaded on each side. One downside of the alpine butterfly is that it can be difficult to untie when loaded heavily, however, normally it is easy to untie.

Knots for Rigging

When you need to attach a rigging tool to the tree, there are several rigging knots to consider that are better suited for heavy loads and larger sling diameters. The most secure knot for tying a port-a-wrap, pulleys, or rigging block to the tree will be the cow hitch, finished with 2 half hitches. We even have a video on this knot specifically as it is our recommended knot for this purpose. One of the older knots used today is the timber hitch, which when tied, dressed, and set correctly is secure, but can loosen and become untied if not used correctly.

Knots for Ascent and Descent for Tree Climbing

Knots and Friction Hitches used for ascent and descent while tree climbing, specifically to help climb a rope, are prusik knots and climbing hitches.

Blake's Hitch

One of the first climbing knots every arborist should learn is the Blake's Hitch, which is a secure and easy-to-tie knot for tree climbing. You should always use a figure 8 knot or a double fisherman as a safety. The Blake's Hitch or a tautline hitch both require a knot to attach to the tree-climbing harness as well. You can use an anchor hitch or a bowline in this situation.

Watch the video for a demonstration of how the Blakes Hitch allows the climber to ascend or descend the rope without any additional tools.

Prusik Knots

In our How-to Tie Climbing Prusiks Video, we demonstrate and discuss the 4 basic prusik types including the English Prusik/French Prusik, the Swabisch, The Distel, and the Valdotain Tresse (or VT). We also cover how using a sewn eye to eye varies from using spliced eye and eye prusiks.

Knots for Tying on Tools

In most cases, a simple overhand knot is a bad choice to use for tying on a tool.

A clove hitch is a great choice to clip tools onto a rope with a carabiner or send a saw up to a tree climber. If you need to send up a tool to an aerial worker that doesn't have a clip or snap available you can always consider something as simple as a good old-fashioned girth hitch. The video above also demonstrates the difference between a slipknot and a marlin spike, which is important to learn.

Choose Safety First

Tree care workers benefit from strong knot tying knowledge, and learning new knots is fun. The important thing to remember is that you shouldn't use a knot you aren't comfortable with when there is any risk. Choose the knot based not only on the situation but what type of line you are using. The best knot to use with a throwline might not be the same as with a bull rigging line. Always double check your knots and be sure to TDS: Tie, Dress, and Set!


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Hi, I'm Nick Bonner with Today we're going to talk real briefly about how to tie arborists knots. One of the most important and most prevalent knots in the service industry is the bowline. A bowline bow line is tied by forming a twist in the rope with the standing and in the back. Take the bitter end up through the twist around the standing line and back down through the twist. Tie properly with careful attention to TDS or tie dress and set will show the knot like this. Here I'll show a quicker and more advanced way of tying this climbing knot here the bitter end is pressed against the standing line and then twisted around it. slack is pulled through and then taken back down forming your bowline. What is known as the yosemite finish in the arborist industry is when you take the bitter end which should exit In the back and the inside of the loop, take it behind, cross it over the front of the loop and then back around, retracing retracing the second half of your knot. This forms the yosemite finish which increases the bend radius and decreases the likelihood of the knot on time to take the bowl and a little bit further, let's talk briefly about a running bowling.

A running bowling is when a bowling is tied around the other end of the rope. So what's what this allows us to do is run the bowline up and choke it around a branch. Be careful because you may not be able to retrieve it if it goes too high. That was a brief primer on the bowline. Now let's go over some of the other knots found in tree care.

Let's talk briefly about the Alpine butterfly, forming a bite of rope which is simply a bend. Take one twist, and two twists. What this will do is it'll form a series of crosses. With a little loop here in the middle, you're going to take the main loop and bend it beneath this bottom cross and then stick it through the middle loop that you held open with your thumbs. Carefully tie dress and set this knot by pulling on both ends and the interior loop and you will have formed the Alpine butterfly. The Alpine butterfly is an excellent midline not because it can be loaded from either end, from the middle, and in either direction. This knot is generally easy to untie, but under extreme loading can become what's called a knife knot, which is not that you need to undo with a knife. The easiest way to unload it would be to break this here, and then pull this out. Some other knots that are useful are the marlinspike and the slip. Not a best. The best way to remember the difference is that a slip knot will come out and a marlinspike bike will hold you up forming a twist and go like this is a slip knot. If I pull here, it will come out. If I tie the slip knot again and put a carabiner in it and pull down on the carabiner under enough weight, it will run the knot out like this. Therefore it's not so great for attaching heavy loads to with the carabiner marlinspike which is essentially the same knot but tied in a different direction puts the slipping part to the top side. Assuming that the rope is secure. When you attach a carabiner to it and pull down, it will jam against the carabiner and hold the load. It's important to realize the distinction between a slipknot and a marlinspike because if you use it to tie a chainsaw on or another heavy object, it could come falling down from the sky if you tie the wrong one.

Lastly, I'd like to briefly touch on the Blake's hitch, tie Bowline or another securing not for your main connection, this could attach to a snap a carabiner or any other method of attaching it to your harness. Then, the tale of the bowline will cross the standing part of your line beginning to wrap until you have four complete wraps as seen here, then the final wrap comes in this is very important that it comes across the front of this bridge or connection. Okay, and I'm gonna lengthen this out for purposes of our demonstration so we can see how it actually works. Pass it behind the standing line, and then up through the bottom two of four wraps. Now depending on the type of rope, the conditions, the users weight, this can be tied In different configurations, but this is the most traditional and most often used. Once it's not as tied, dressed and set, it will actually hold here. But we still have one last step that we've forgotten. The Blake's hitch is susceptible to rolling out. And as a result, we always recommend tying a figure eight safety knot in the tail of it, to jam it and prevent that rolling from happening. One of the greatest things about this is this now will allow you to modulate your position in the tree and go up and down. Thanks for watching. I'm Nick Bonner with The world's leading supplier of arborist goods. And remember the discount code ONLINE, we'll save money off every product we sell for web based orders. Be safe.