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We’re getting pretty knotty in this part of the internet.
Today we’re looking at another knot. Like the versatile bowline knot, it’s an ancient one but still has modern uses.
The knot of the day is not the have not, nor is it the can not.
Do or do not, these are not the knots we’re looking for.
It’s the monkey’s fist knot!
What is a Monkey’s Fist?
Way back when sailboats were the fastest way to travel, sailors had a problem.
Often they needed to pass rope from their boat either to another boat or to the dock, but ropes are floppy items that don’t like to be thrown far.
Sailors could throw heavier rope further, but that was more effort and took more resources to make.
The solution came in the form of a knot that added weight to a light rope.
Sometimes a rock or other weight was added as well.
This weight carried momentum through the air, so the rope could be easily thrown to its destination!
Also called a monkey’s paw, the monkey’s fist knot is still used today, and can also be used as a keychain fob.
How to Make a Monkey’s Fist Keychain
It’s easy to make a monkey’s fist knot for yourself.
A good first step is to make a keychain.
From there you can make a monkey’s fist with a golf ball, or without a marble, bigger, smaller, however you want.
You’ll need some cordage and, for the keychain, a marble.
Around here we like paracord, so we’ll make a paracord monkey’s fist.
As is common when describing knots, there is a working end and a standing end.
The working end is the end of the rope or paracord we’ll be moving around to form the knot.
The standing end will be hanging out, lookin’ pretty.
You’ll also need your hand. Not, not just the one used to hold the cord, we’ll be using your off hand as the jig for creating the knot.
The instructions are written as if you are right-handed, so if you are left-handed, reverse the hands.
Step 1: Hold your left hand in front of you with your fingers pointing to your right.
Place the standing end under your thumb, standing end down.
Step 2: Wrap the cord three times vertically around those fingers, left to right, going around the back instead of around the front.
Step 3: Take the working end halfway up your fingers and hold it to the right.
Slide your fingers out from under the loops, but hold onto the loops. You’ll probably end up holding the loops open with your thumb and forefinger.
Step 4: Wrap three loops horizontally around the first loops.
Step 5: Wrap vertically around the horizontal loops, but inside of the first vertical loops.
Step 6: Insert a round object, such as that marble.
You don’t have to make a monkey’s fist with a marble or other sphere, but using one will make the next step much easier.
Step 7: Tighten. This is the step that always messes me up.
You have to tighten each loop individually, a little bit at a time.
Start with the loop closest to the working end, tighten it a little, move on to the next, and repeat.
You’ll have to do this multiple times for each loop until you get a tight paw.
You may have to use a small screwdriver or pliers to tighten up the last few loops.
Step 8: Tidy up the loose ends.
You have two loose ends coming out of the monkey’s knot. Tie them together or to a keyring, and there you go!
A monkey’s fist keychain!
Variations on the Monkey’s Fist
If you use a larger sphere as the innards of the monkey’s fist, such as a golf ball, you’ll need to use more than three loops for each direction.
You can also use the monkey’s fist as the end of the rope.
Just tie the end of the rope off with a stopper knot, such as an overhand knot, and tuck it inside the fist.
For making easier paws, try using a jig.
It’s easy to make a monkey fist jig.
Stick four dowel rods out of a wood base, in a square shape.
Just use the dowels instead of your fingers and proceed as normal.
You’ll have to slip the loose knot off of the dowels before you tighten the loops of course.
How to Use a Monkey’s Fist
If you’ve ever tried to throw a length of rope to someone, you know how floppy rope is and how little distance it actually travels.
So if you find yourself throwing ropes a lot, try using a monkey’s fist to add weight so the rope tosses better.
It’s the original use, after all.
You can also use this idea to weight the end of a fishing net, so you can toss one end to a buddy on another boat or across the stream.
Remember that throwing a rope to someone in trouble is a good way to get someone out of a hole or out of a chasm.
It may be a good idea to have a monkey’s fist on one end of a line of paracord if you have some coiled up in your gear.
Rock climbers sometimes like to use monkey’s fist knots. You stuff the knot into a crack in the rock so it serves as an anchor.
You can also make cufflinks from two small monkey’s fists. They call this a silk knot.
Small monkey’s fists also make for great zipper pulls.
Or dog toys. They’re great for tug-of-war.
If you are carrying small precious materials, such as gems, you can hide them in a monkey’s fist.
Monkey’s fists are also a great way to carry extra paracord with you.
It’s almost always better to carry more paracord.
Plus there’s one last use for this knot…
How to Avoid Trouble Using a Monkey’s Fist
A side effect of learning how to make a monkey fist keychain is that you’ll know how to make a monkey fist weapon.
Often called a slungshot, sailors used these as improvised self-defense weapons. You can too.
Just use something very heavy as the weight.
Much like a medieval flail, the length of rope will add extra momentum to your swing, so the weight will strike a target with great strength.
Slungshots like these conceal easily and hit above their weight class.
However, since street gangs carried them as well, carrying a slungshot is illegal in many states.
So pay attention to your local laws!
Also, be careful about the wording of these laws: some of the lawmakers wrote down “slingshot” instead of “slungshot.”
Despite the ancient typo the judges still know that the intent was to ban weapons based on monkey’s fists.
Happy (monkey) fisting!