Web Work: Tying the Water Knot by Tamia Nelson

No, this isn’t about HTML or CSS. It’s about joining the ends of a length of nylon webbing. I used tubular webbing to make my camera neck straps, but I didn’t bother with a sewing machine. Instead, I tied the ends together with a water knot. Here’s how I did it:

As Simple as an Overhand Knot

In the photos above, I’m forming a loop from a single length of 1-inch webbing (Panel 1a in the photo above). I made a loose overhand knot in one end, leaving a generous tail (Panel 1b). Then I threaded the other end over the first, following every twist and turn, while making sure that the “follower” lay flat against the “leader” (Panels 1c and 1d) at all times.

Be Neat

Once I’d finished following through (Panels 2a and 2b), I snugged the knot down (Panels 2c and 2d). This took some care, particularly as I wanted 2-inch tails. (In forming a water knot, you want the tails of the finished knot to extend at least twice as far as the webbing is wide. Why? Because the tails will gradually slip with every load-unload cycle, slowly creeping back into the knot. (The water knot is sometimes called the “death knot” in climbing circles for just this reason.) Leaving the tails long makes it easy to inspect the knot for early evidence of creep, however. So do it!

Now here’s the finished knot, seen in both front and back views:

Front and Back

Note that the tails leave the knot on the same side. If your knot doesn’t look like mine, untie it and start over. And be sure to snug it up well. Don’t worry that it will be hard to untie later. It won’t jam under normal loads. Water knots aren’t limited to forming loops, either. They can also be used to join up multiple lengths of webbing, but it’s important that all the pieces have the same width.

That’s it. Are you itching to tie one on now? I’ll bet you are!

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.