Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 6

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Best knot teacher
Animated Knots,
All knots are knotty and hard to visualize the first time. This free website is the best knot teacher yet. It beats any of the beginner books I’ve seen, as well as all the other knot websites. The key here is the stepped animations synchronized with instructions, which you can run at any speed. Replay them till you get them right. Animated Knots is the next best thing to having old Pete next to ya. Once you get the basic ones down, try some of the harder ones. There are 75 cool knots animated in total. – KK
Next step beyond the basic knots
Morrow Guide to Knots, $18
Knots are such fundamental tools, and matching the right job with the right knot is so often essential, the important next step from the Klutz Book is the equally lucid and fairly comprehensive Morrow Guide to Knots. Last week my wife Ryan gave a glad cry at the clarity in the book when she wanted to see a couple ways to tie a clove hitch, and learned that it’s easy to put a slip in a clove hitch for quick release. – Stewart Brand
Knot substitute
Nite Ize Figure 9 Carabiner$7
The Figure 9 carabiner lets you quickly fasten – and quickly loosen or adjust – a small-diameter rope to a fixed point without a knot deploying a clever combination of friction and angles. To those of us with knot-dyslexia, this is a real boon. The only requirement: your fixed attachment point must feature either a place to clip the carabiner (i.e. a metal loop in a pick-up truck bed or a thin, sturdy tree branch), or something around which your line can be looped. That could mean securing a Tarp tent to a tree, improvising a handle around a bundle of cables, or securing a travel clothesline between window-grate and curtain-rod.

All you need to do is pull the rope through in the right sequence and finish with the rope’s loose end tugged into the notched “V” section to keep the rope attached and taut. There are actually multiple sequences and ways to work the geometry. Three methods are diagrammed in the instructions that come with the carabiner.

Thus far, I have used the devices only with standard-issue parachute cord, but they’re sized to work with a range of small-diameter ropes. Though the tying system looks suspiciously wimpy, I’ve found it is as robust as promised. I ordered the Figure 9s to replace the mesh netting that came with the roof-rack basket on my car. Not only do these make a decent replacement (i.e. riding around with a kayak strapped to my car this summer), but tying one more knot under the car is something I’m glad to skip. Note: the device is anodized aluminum and weighs a bit more than I expected (slight downside to ultra-light hikers); still, “Not for climbing” is printed on the packaging, repeated in the instructions, and emblazoned on each carabiner. I think they mean it. – Timothy Lord
Quick, easy tie-down
Rope Ratchet, $20 (¼-inch, w/rope)
I wanted to rig a single line of rope across the ceiling of my garage for a storage solution, but was concerned about getting the line tight enough to keep from sagging. Rather than tie up a come-along winch – which requires a lot more hook up room and has a tendency to release quite hard – I saw the Rope Ratchet and decided to give it a try; I’m glad I did. The contraption is basically a rope that’s fed into and around a ratcheting wheel and bracket that holds the line and prevents backspin; you can release the line with a lever. It’s quite simple, but I haven’t seen anything quite like it. I’m using one to hold up a 70-lbs. tackle bag 6 feet off the floor of my garage and another holding about 80 lbs. of plastic lures on a rope stretched across hooks against the ceiling of my garage. I’m using the ¼-inch Rope Ratchet that’s rated for a working load of 150 lbs., but there are different sizes for different needs: the 1/8-inch will hold 75 lbs. up, while the ½-inch will hold 500 lbs. After a number of months, mine are holding strong with no sign of failure. – Doug Mainor

© 2022