Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information


(Books from our library about rope, knots, and rigging -- "marlinspike seamanship." Many titles in our bibliography of sailmaking books, elsewhere on this page, have sections on marlinspike work as it relates to sails. These books go much further. They are arranged by first publication date.)

KNOTS, STEP BY STEP, Des Pawson. Published by Dorling Kindersley (, London, 2012. 400 pp, 7.5” x 4”. Excellent color photography of (your) hands tying a comprehensive array of old standards and an astonishing number of very practical knots and hitches that have been rescued from obscurity. Included are loops, bends, splices, and knots for binding, belaying, seizing, and stoppering. Pictographs indicate activities for which each knot is particularly suitable: sailing, climbing, camping, fishing, horseback riding, gardening. Contrasting colors make it easy to follow the knots, bends and splices that involve two different ropes. The author, an international authority on ropework, is a co-founder of the International Guild of Knot Tyers –

THE RIGGER’S LOCKER, Brion Toss. International Marine, Camden, ME., 1992. 210 pp, 7.5” x 9.5”. Knots, splices, the rigging of small boats, tools, techniques, and a few rope tricks! By the wizard himself. Good black & white illustrations by Robert Shetterly throughout.

THE RIGGER’S APPRENTICE, Brion Toss with Robert Shetterly’s illustrations. International Marine, Camden, ME, 1992. 193 pp, 8.5” x 11”. Emphasis on wire and fiber ropework, including some fancy work, and a few more rope tricks!

CANVAS AND ROPE CRAFT, Frank Rosenow. W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1987. 145 pp, 8.75” x 12”. Rosenow is an artist, and the illustrations are special. He is also a sailor, and apprenticed as a sailmaker, so there is a nice section on cruising sails, emphasizing techniques for durability. The section on canvaswork includes instructions for sailcovers, spray hoods, hammocks, and awnings.

THE DITTY BAG BOOK, Frank Rosenow. Sail Books, Boston, MA., 1976. 128 pp, 5” x 8.5”. This pocket-sized hardback features ways to do most of the “sailorizing” jobs that crop up on a small boat. The author’s nice drawings take you from how to use a sail palm and fid through making a canvas ditty bag.

THE MARLINSPIKE SAILOR, Hervey Garrett Smith. John de Graff, Inc., Tukahoe, NY, 1956, and later editions. 131 pp, 8.75” x 11”. A classic, and still in print. Practical rope work, fancy rope work, and a little canvas work, including a nice design for a deck bucket. Smith, like Rosenow above, was an artist, and the illustrations are very special. The only place I know of with a pattern for canvas mast collars that will fit perfectly on round or rectangular masts.

THE ARTS OF THE SAILOR, Hervey Garrett Smith. D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1953. 235 pp, 4” x 7”. Knots, hitches, seizings, sewing, splicing, belaying, etc., all illustrated with Smith’s distinctive art. It was from this little book that I learned to make a boatswain’s hitch on the hook of a block, and thus haul myself aloft, stopping where I pleased. My copy sailed with me on three boats, and is falling apart. Happily, I see Dover Publications keeps it in print.

THE ART OF KNOTTING AND SPLICING, Cyrus Lawrence Day. United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1947. 225 pp, 8.25” x 10.75”. Seven hundred extremely clear photographs, with explanatory text on the opposite page, make this one of the most intelligible knot books. Organized by type of knot -- bends, loops, hitches, splices, decorative knots, etc. Extremely readable -- Day was a professor of English at the University of Delaware for 25 years, besides being a blue-water sailor and knot addict. Good bibliography of English, American, and European knot books.

THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS, Clifford Ashley. Dunlap & Co., Garden City, NY., 1944. 620 pp, 8.5” x 11.5”. Eleven years in the making, this is THE book of knots. Ashley was an art student under the famous illustrator Howard Pyle, and a sailor. His life-long passion was knots, which he collected ‘longshore (amongst farmers, loggers, fishermen, millworkers, etc.) & offshore (during a whaling voyage). Every conceivable knot, hitch, bend and splice is here. He invented more than one, and improved many. The thorough index will allow the reader to navigate the 3,854 knots illustrated. Contains a complete bibliography of his personal library of books relating to knots. Still in print. This is the book -- along with a few yards of rope and twine -- I would wish for if marooned on a desert island.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KNOTS AND FANCY ROPE WORK, Raoul Graumont and John Hensel. Originally published as a monograph in 1939. My copy is the tenth printing (2002) of the fourth edition of a version published in 1952 by Cornell Maritime Press. 689 pages, 7.5” x 10”. Photographic plates of remarkable clarity illustrate thousands of knots --from the nautical to purely decorative. Predates by a few years the first publication of Clifford Ashley’s monumental work, and deserves to be thought of as “the other” great knot book.

PRACTICAL KNOTS AND SPLICES, Kenneth E. Cahoon. United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1942. 69 pp, 5.5" x 8.5" x a scant quarter inch thick. Fifty nine strictly practical knots, bends, hitches, splices, lashings and seizings described and illustrated with great clarity. Intended for use by midshipmen. Covers every use of rope that might be called for aboard a small sailing craft.

KNOTS, USEFUL AND ORNAMENTAL, George Russell Shaw. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, 1924. 110 pp, 5.5” x 8”. Very clear drawings of our familiar sailor’s and rigger’s knots, many showing alternate ways of tying them. The author had found, in the Japanese department of the Boston Art Museum, a rich collection mostly ornamental knots, several of which are included, making the book particularly useful for decorative knotters.

THE YOUNG SEA OFFICER’S SHEET ANCHOR, Darcy Lever. First edition in London, 1808. Many subsequent editions. Mine is a recent reprint from the Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA. 124 pp, 8.5” x 10.75”. Also currently available from Dover Publications. Full page plates illustrate all the practical uses of rope, blocks, tackles, and rigging aboard His Majesty’s ships. The drawings of knots, hitches, and splices are particularly easy to follow -- I think they have been “copied” into some of the books listed above!

Return to Listings