Offset overhand bend

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Offset Water Knot
Sackstich Tropfen.jpg
NamesOffset Water Knot, European Death Knot (EDK), Offset overhand bend, Flat overhand bend, Thumb knot, Thumb bend, Creeler's knot, Openhand knot
RelatedOverhand knot, Water knot
Typical usesewing, weaving, baling, climbing, rappelling
ABoK#246, #359, #1236, #1410, #1557, #1558, #3789

The offset overhand bend (OOB, ABoK #1410) is a knot used to join two ropes together. The offset overhand bend is formed by holding two rope ends next to each other and tying an overhand knot in them as if they were a single line. Due to its common use in several fields, this bend has become known by many names, such as thumb knot, openhand knot,[1] one-sided overhand knot or flat overhand bend (FOB), though the terms "one-sided" and "flat" are considered incorrect.[2]


Long used by weavers to join the ends of yarn, the offset water knot is very old. It was one of the knots likely identified among the possessions of Ötzi the Iceman, who dates from 3300 BC.[3]

The knot is also tied in a slipped form by mechanical balers to bind straw and hay, but this bend is not practical to use as a binding knot when tied by hand.[1]

In climbing and mountaineering[edit]

In rock climbing, the offset water knot is a favored knot for joining two ropes for a rappel longer than half the length of the ropes.

There is controversy over its safety, as it can fail by capsizing under high loads,[4][5][6][7] and some American climbers refer to it as the European Death Knot, abbreviated to EDK. Failure of this knot has been implicated in some accidents and near-misses.[8][9][10]

Many sources argue that this is misnomer, and the knot is safe for abseiling/rappelling, since this doesn't generate such high forces, and the knot, being on one side of the twin lines used in abseil, sees only half of this force. They believe that with proper attention given to dressing and cinching the knot, the risk of capsizing is highly unlikely.[11]

Several sources recommend adding a second overhand as close as possible to the first (a stacked overhand or double overhand) for most situations, which maintains most of the benefits of the single overhand, while preventing it from capsizing.[11][10][9][12][13][14][15][16]

Easily formed in most line, the offset overhand bend is jam resistant at nominal loads of one person (i.e. approx 100kg). The jamming threshold is thought to be approximately 3kN (300kg). The instability threshold is thought to be approximately 5kN (500kg) – that is, a capsizing event becomes increasingly probable as loads approach 500kg. It is critically important to pay close attention to dressing and cinching of the knot before attempting to abseil. That is, climbers must exercise due diligence when tying this knot – by pulling firmly on each of the 4 rope segments – which is necessary to achieve a properly compacted and cinched dressing state. There is no room for carelessness when tying this knot.[17]

Despite questions about this knot's security, it does present some advantages for use in rappels. Because the knot is offset from the axis of tension, it can translate more easily over rough surfaces and 90 degree edges than other knots; and it is quickly tied and readily untied. Since a stuck rope on a descent also represents a serious hazard to climbers, these advantages, along with ease of tying, have led to its popularity. It is recommended by some sources with the caveats that the tails be of sufficient minimum length (never less than 200mm), the knot be diligently dressed and fully tightened by pulling individually on all four rope segments, and then subjected only to moderate rappelling loads.[18]

mid rotation state of #1410 Offset overhand bend

Furthermore, #1410 (Offset overhand bend) can be rotated to induce a choking effect to trap and crush the tails. Virtually all testers appear to only examine this knot in its mid-rotation state. It is theorized that this mid-rotation state is in fact the orientation where the structure is most vulnerable to capsizing. A new round of testing is long overdue to investigate the potential benefits of rotating the structure to induce a choking effect. In addition, when tying the offset overhand bend using different rope diameters, the thinner diameter rope must be positioned underneath the larger diameter rope. This tactic further inhibits any likelihood of capsizing.

The Offset figure-eight bend, a similar knot using the figure-eight knot, has been used in the belief that its greater size and complexity brings more security. But testing and more than one fatal failure indicate the figure-eight variant to be less secure, more prone to capsize at lower loads, and in capsizing uses more of the ends than does a capsizing overhand bend.[11][18] Moreover, while there is one obvious proper dressing of the Overhand Bend, there are a couple of dressings for the Offset Figure Eight Bend.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ashley, Clifford W. (1944), The Ashley Book of Knots, New York: Doubleday, p. 45
  2. ^ a b Gommers, Mark (2017-12-24). "Analysis of Offset Overhand Bends". Professional Association of Climbing Instructors Pty. Ltd (1.6a ed.). Retrieved 2019-02-17. The persistent use of the term ‘flat’ or ‘one-sided’ is incorrect and it is hoped that this paper will assist in correcting the nomenclature.
  3. ^ van der Kleij, Gerre (1996), "On Knots and Swamps", in Turner, J.C.; van de Griend, P. (eds.), History and Science of Knots, K&E Series on Knots and Everything, 11, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, pp. 34–35, ISBN 981-02-2469-9
  4. ^ "Flat Overhand Knot Pull Test With Wet Rope", YouTube (Video), Outdoor Pursuits - Campus Recreation at Auraria, 2014-09-15, retrieved 2018-07-10
  5. ^ "Flat Overhand with Backup Knot Dry Pull Test", YouTube (Video), Outdoor Pursuits - Campus Recreation at Auraria, 2014-11-06, retrieved 2018-10-10
  6. ^ "The Breaking Machine". Vimeo. 0:18 to 0:27. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  7. ^ Delaney, Richard (2012-04-15), "EDK Edelrid 11mm super static", YouTube (Video), retrieved 2018-10-14
  8. ^ Magnuson, Mark. "Use of the Overhand Knot for Rappels". Cragmont Climbing Club. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  9. ^ a b Gaines, Bob; Martin, Jason D. (2014-05-20). Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 84. ISBN 9781493009626. In one such rappelling accident in recent times (in the Tetons, September 1997), the flat overhand failed when it was sloppily tied with too short of a tail. ... For added security it can be easily backed up simply by tying another flat overhand above the first one, although this adds bulk.
  10. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, Andy. "The Ultimate Abseil Knot". Retrieved 2019-02-17. AND THE BEST JOINING KNOT IS… the double overhand. ... During year I used the Simple Overhand Knot to rappel. But one day I almost saw my climbing partner falling because this simple knot.
  11. ^ a b c Moyer, Tom (1999-11-09), Rope and Gear Testing: Pull Tests of the "Euro Death-Knot", Adding a safety by tying a second overhand on top of the first is probably a good idea.
  12. ^ Prattley, Grant (June 2016). "Which bends for joining ropes?" (PDF). Over The Edge Rescue. Retrieved 2019-02-17. [2016 version:] The Double Overhand has the best all round performance. ... [2015 version:] The overhand is not a recommended bend for tying two ropes for live load due to the low break strength and failure by rolling. ... Double overhand is a recommended bend
  13. ^ Reid, Stephen (2003). "Abseil Knots: or 'Instant Death Knot Condemned'". Needle Sports. Archived from the original on 2010-01-31. Retrieved 2019-02-17. As a result of all these findings I am convinced that what I term the Double Overhand is the best knot (if not the safest) to use when joining two ropes together for abseiling.
  14. ^ Jones, Tom (May 8, 2012). "How to Tie Two Ropes Together". Canyoneering USA. Retrieved 2019-02-17. the preferred knot for connecting rope is the European Death Knot ... WITH a back-up knot.
  15. ^ Martin, Jason D. (March 9, 2009). "The Euro Death Knot". American Alpine Institute. Retrieved 2019-02-17. Most guides tie a backup by adding a second overhand bend next to the first.
  16. ^ Geldard, Jack. "SKILLS: Abseil Knots Explained". UKClimbing. Retrieved 2019-02-17. For normal abseiling, if the ropes are dry then I use a well-tied, neat, single overhand knot with ample tails (30cm). If I was double loading the ropes with 2 people at once, or if the ropes were icy, I use a double overhand knot.
  17. ^ Cyrus Lawrence Day (1986), The Art of Knotting and Splicing (4th ed.), Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, pp. 52–53
  18. ^ a b Soles, Clyde (2004), The Outdoor Knot Book, Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, pp. 125–127, ISBN 978-0-89886-962-0