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Turk's Head

Types covered on this page:

Basic 3 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

Long (Butty 'Elum) Turk's Head

7 Lead x 8 Bight Turk's Head

Turk's Head Tying Jig

9 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

13 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

17 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

Basic 3 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

Figure 1

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This is a very decorative knot either in the form of a cylinder around a tiller bar, swans neck or butty 'elum or flattened as a mat on which to rest the working end of a cabin shaft. Three tied around a curved butty tiller bar will protect the tiller paint and roof paint when the bar is unshipped whilst locking.

With more bights at the preparation stage, it can be tied around the circumference of button fenders to prevent spreading (on impact) or fore-and-aft as a readily replaceable wear strip.

Make two loops (two turns of a coil) in a line [1] and take the second (upper) coil back behind the first (lower)coil [2]. Thus far you have formed a clove hitch.

Take the working part around toward the standing part and then weave it alternately over and under the intermediate strands as it is worked through the knot to the far side [3-7].

Now take the remaining working part once more back around towards the standing part and carefully double or treble the lay.

Gradually tighten the knot and trim each end so that they lie beneath one of the cross-overs. If necessary seize the ends to adjacent strands under the work, glue with PVA adhesive or, if synthetic, secure to the adjacent strands by carefully melting.

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Figure 9


Long (Butty 'Elum) Turk's Head

Because a butty 'elum is so wide the basic 3 lead x 4 bight turk's head needs to be extended into a 3 x 8, or even 3 x 12, version give a visually satisfying result.

The figures below illustrate the procedure to follow which starts with winding a line three times around a suitable support. For the photographs this is simply a piece of cardboard but in practice the back of a straight-backed chair might be stronger. Whilst out boating such may not be readily to hand but I recently made made such a turk's head, at Worsley on the Bridgewater canal, using municipal park railings to support my line.

For clarification note that, in the diagrams, the parts of the line which pass behind the board do not ever cross over each other but rather lie roughly parallel. Click on any of the photos to obtain a more detailed view.

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Figure 16


7 Lead x 8 Bight Turk's Head

Shown above is the 7x8 turk's head which I am presently using to cover the join between my tiller bar and the swans neck rudder post.

I am indebted to Loren Damewood and his golden knots website for showing me how to tie this version over my hand, although I find it less fiddly to use a piece of strong card which is notched top and bottom to hold the line in place whilst it is being worked.

Figure 17

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Figure 19


17) First the line goes around twice with two crossings (there are no crossings hidden behind the hand).

18) The third lead is passed behind the first one then down between the first two.

19) At this point the running part is following the same path as the original first turn. Notice that it comes up and goes over the standing part this time - keep track, it will alternate. Notice also that when it follows it into the second tuck it switches sides so that it is always above it toward the top of the hand.

Figure 20

Figure 21

Figure 22


20) This time the running part comes up beneath the standing part to continue the under/over/under/over pattern. At this point if the running part were to be tucked in parallel with the original standing part it would make a five-lead by six-bight knot. Don't stop now, though!

21) It comes up from beneath, goes over the standing part and then proceeds to parallel it just as it did in figure 19. It is following the same path, but always to the same side. This is important.

22) Again it comes up from beneath and goes under the standing part, then over the first loop, then under, over, and so on. Don't lose the loops along the edge, just take your time and keep the over one, under one pattern in mind.

23) The running part feeds back into the knot where the original line started (the standing part).

It would be possible to just keep going with this pattern and the results are predictable. The next stop is a nine-lead by ten-bight turk's head, followed by an eleven-lead by twelve-bight turk's head, and so on.


Turk's Head Tying Jig

I am indebted to Des Pawson of Footrope Knots for the design of this Jig and for the inspiration behind the schematics used in the following sections to provide guidance in using' the jig to tie some of the more 'complex' turk's heads. His books 'THE HANDBOOK OF KNOTS' and 'DES PAWSON'S KNOT CRAFT', at GBP 10.99 each, are well worth purchasing if you have more than a passing interest in knots.

Figure 24

Des Pawson


The jig was made from a spare piece of plumbing waste pipe and four suitable lengths of wooden dowel. The pipe was drilled across its diameter aiming for a reasonably tight fit for the dowel. The pipe was then drilled at right angles close, but out of register, with the first dowel and the whole procedure repeated at the other end of the pipe. If the fit is, or becomes, a little too loose then constrictor knots made in twine may be tied to the dowels close to the pipe to restrict movement.

A round turn of masking tape top and bottom allowed me to label each dowel end, I II III and IV at the top, and 1 2 3 and 4 at the bottom. The schematics in the sections below use this same number arrangement.

9 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head

Figure 25


Tie an overhand knot around peg number 1 and take the line up and right round the jig to peg number II working clockwise (looking down on the axis). Then continue on round and back to the left-hand side of peg number 2, going over and over each time the line crosses the line already in position. Carry on round to peg number III going over and over. From peg III go on to peg 3 going under, over, under, over. From peg 3 to peg IV going under, over, under, over. From IV to 4 go over under, over, over, under. From 4 round to I going over, under,o,o,u,o. and finally complete the full circuit by returning to 1 by going u,o,u,o,u,o,u,o. Now take out the dowels before doubling or trebling.


13 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head


17 Lead x 4 Bight Turk's Head