One of the more essential knots* for a body to learn is the Triple Fisherman’s Knot.  It’s a variant of the Double Fisherman’s Knot that adds a third pass to increase the stability and reliability of the join.  It also prevents a high-loading failure mode of some modern climbing ropes.  I typically tie the triple because it only takes a slight moment longer to do vs. the double, even if the triple isn’t really necessary for most needs.

Both knots are used to attach two cords together (used in fishing to attach leaders without using a swivel).  From a physics standpoint, the knots work by using the pressure of the knots against each other to tighten down the inward facing side of the knot, causing it to bite down on both the lines passing through the center of the knot, meanwhile the top of the knot is being pulled into the knot in the opposite direction, compacting the knot and clamping it down tighter.  This combined compression actions results in a secure join.

There are two ways to make the Triple Fisherman’s Knot: the correct way, and the very, very wrong way.

The correct way that results in a secure knot that can be used in climbing applications:

And then there’s the incorrect way which will likely result in the death of anyone foolish enough to use it to support themselves:

It’s extremely important to recognize the difference here.  Tying the triple fisherman’s knot the way the second gentleman there does will get somebody killed.

The difference is how the loops are wound and how the working end of the rope is passed through the loops.  The correct way is to wind the loops back over the standing end of the rope (basically working the loops back towards the end of the rope that you aren’t currently working with) and the working end of the rope that’s being joined in.  This captures both ropes in the knot and properly secures the knot to both.  Once you’ve got your loops, the working end (the end in your hand) is passed out through the loops away from the standing end of that rope.  This is correctly demonstrated in the first video.  The video is very well done, and I recommend watching it to learn how to tie the knot correctly.

What the second video shows is that the working end is wrapped away from the standing end of the worked rope and only around the rope to be joined.  This fails to capture the rope that’s being worked and secure it into the knot.  This makes the resulting join slippery and prone to rolling over and failing.  To add insult to injury, the working end of the rope is then passed around the outside of the knot and then back through, creating a snag point and significantly weakening the core of the knot.  If you were to use this knot in climbing, you would be lucky to live through the mistake.

An important part of knotting is being able to recognize when an important knot is done incorrectly.  If you’re doing some climbing, and you see somebody join a rope as shown in the second video, you’ll want to find somebody else to climb with.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

*There are a lot of essential knots that a person should know, this is merely one of them.