Saturday, June 18, 2005

Useful- Trucker's Hitch, Slide Rule

For no apparent reason I was reminded of a useful trick I learned somewhere, perhaps Air Force survival school in 1975, that has been a handy thing to know from time to time. I refer to a practical knot for tying things down, known as the Trucker's Hitch. I have used it for years to tie large objects to my car or tie down my partially open trunk when hauling stuff too big to fit nicely inside.

I'm not much of a knot master despite four years in the Cub Scouts and several weeks of Boy Scout camp in my youth. I may have completed a merit badge on knots, but don't remember any that I found useful. But Scouting did familiarize me with half-hitches and later I built on that knowledge when I needed to know more. [In the Air Force we studied knots and also learned to make backpacks and belts with pouches out of parachute gear for survival use.] The Trucker's Hitch, as I apply it, is simply a complication of simpler knots that removes the tension from the part of the knot you will eventually need to untie.

I said "as I apply it" because there seems to be some dicrepancy in what actually constitutes a Trucker's Hitch as indicated by these two different web-based explanations. and

My Trucker's Knot looks more like the Boy Scout description but I find mine even simpler and quicker to apply. I start with a single cross-over knot sort of like the first step in tying your shoes. You don't need two ends however, when tying big things down you usually fasten each end separately and have only one end of the "shoe lace" and loop it around something just before making the knot. You might use a three foot piece of rope or string and your leg to follow along. Tie one end off nearby and wrap the remaining end around your leg or a chair leg to practice.

Assuming you are tying something down you now have one end of the rope tightly over the item and the other end wrapped around your fastener (leg?) with a single hitch or cross-over knot in the rope and the remaining free rope in your primary hand. I usually tie left over right so I'll assume you did the same for this explanation. Doing the opposite throughout should produce a similar result.

Now do another left over right where the right is your hand with a grasp on the remaining rope, but not the end, and the left being the tight portion of the line over your load. This time, when pulling the line through, don't pull the free end through but pull that part of the line through leaving a four to six inch loop sticking up between two half hitches as you draw it tight.

You will notice that there is no tension on this loop but on the hitches below it. At this point, pulling the free end would make the loop smaller and eventually untie the second hitch releasing tension on the load. To stop the free end from moving you make a similar sized loop to the inside with the remaining rope and drop the new loop over the first one pulling it into a new half hitch over the first loop. Do another and you are finished. To untie your load, simply slip the last two half hitches off the loop and pull the free end to release tension on the single remaining knot holding the load.

With a little practice you can tie this knot in about three seconds without thinking about it and untie the tightest rope as quickly if secured with this knot. I hope you can follow these directions and take a few minutes to learn this valuable knot well. I guarantee it will come in handy some day if you can remember how to do it.

If you can't follow any of these directions, just Google (search on) "Trucker's Hitch" or "Lorry Hitch" in the U.K. There are many explanations, pictures and even animations out there on the web to help. But I have found the best way to learn this knot is to practice using it in a typical situation. All that matters is to end up with a knot that holds fast under stress but remains easy to untie. See for yourself what works and what doesn't.

It is very satisfying to have the knowledge and minor amount of skill or practice to get the job done with few tools. [Anybody can do a job with all the right tools.] With a length of rope and this practical knot you can turn your passenger car into a far more versatile piece of equipment than it normally would be (unless you drive a Hummer). But don't press your luck. If you really need a truck or trailer, this knot isn't an adequate substitute. I'm glad I took the time to learn to do this knot and wish it would be taught in schools instead of so much useless nonsense. In fact, I can't think of many useful things I ever learned in school except maybe basic Algebra.

Perhaps one day I'll explain how to make a simple circular slide rule for price comparison while shopping. It takes only two pieces of laminated paper printout and a fastener (sewing snaps, those replacements for buttons, work great), needs no batteries and quickly tells you which size saves you money. Don't always assume it is the larger one. It frequently isn't. And those shelf stickers with price per unit are often useless ore even wrong.

Learning to use the C & D scale of a slide rule (straight or circular) is another useful skill everyone should master. Here are the templates you will need. You can adjust the size with a copier that expands or reduces.

Using your slide rule couldn't be simpler. Just turn the inside wheel to put Quantity (ounces) on the inner scale below Price on the outer scale. Look above the other quantity number for a comparable price. Look above the 1 for a unit price (price per oz.). Note: As with electronic calculators, it is important to first make a rough mental estimate so you will know approximately what answer to expect. Otherwise, you won't have any way of knowing when you make a mistake!



Blogger Chris Howard said...

Hello PC Guy

the Trucker's Knot can be difficult to remember, your way sounds different to the ones I know. I have been shown 8 different ways to tie the Trucker's Knot, some harder than others but all working the same and requiring knots to tie.

I wasn't happy with any of them so I invented my own tool to replace the Trucker's Knot, its called a Tite-Tie. The Tite-Tie has no moving parts, requires no knot tying, has a load capacity of 1985lbs and works with most rope sizes including nylon ropes and also webbing. You can see how it works on my web site at

If you would like more information about the Tite-Tie please contact me at or if you are interested in getting one I have them for sale on my web site at

kind regards
Chris Howard

7:45 PM  

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