How to Tie the Square Knot

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How to Tie a Square Knot

Three Methods:

A square knot, also known as a reef knot, is a simple way to bind 2 ropes, strings, or lines together. Because it is simple to make, durable, and can be undone quickly, the square knot is a staple of camping, pioneering, and sailing.


Tying a Basic Square Knot

  1. Take two ropes and lay the right-hand rope over the other.
    • To make this knot, you need two strings, ropes, etc. Alternatively, you can use the opposite ends of a single rope.
    • In our example, we'll lay the right-hand rope (the orange one in the graphic above) over the left-hand rope (the yellow one). However, if you lay the left-hand rope over the right-hand rope instead, you can still get a square knot if you reverse all of the following directions.
  2. Wrap the right-hand ropeunderthe left-hand rope.
    • The end of the right-hand rope should now be pointing out to the left (and vice versa.)
    • Note that the first two steps for making a square knot are the same as you'd use for tying your shoes.
  3. Bring the right-hand rope back over the left-hand rope.
    • This is, again, identical to how you would begin tying a pair of shoes.
    • At this point, you should have what is known as ahalf knot.If you were to repeat the steps above again, you'd get a standard overhand knot.
  4. Bring the original right-hand rope over the other rope.
    • Notice that the rope going over the top is still the orange rope in the graphic above. The end of this rope will be on the left at the start of this step, but it's still the rope that wasoriginallyon the right, so it's the rope you'll lay over the top here.
  5. Pull the original right-hand ropeunderthe other rope.
    • This is virtually the same as in Step 2, just going in the opposite direction since the original right-hand rope is now coming from the left.
  6. Pull on both ends firmly to tighten.
    • Try to pull all four "slack" lengths of rope with equal force. If you don't, the knot may not hold its shape and may even come apart as you tighten it.
  7. Check your square/reef knot.
    • From the front, your square knot should look like the one in the graphic above. You can also find good reference images at and other knot sites.
    • If you have tightened the rope correctly, you should see that it forms a neat, even knot from two loops with one loop wrapping around the base of the other.
  8. Undo the knot by pulling the loops outward.
    • Untying the square knot is simple — just grab the round part of each loop in your hands and pull in opposite directions. The knot should come apart easily.

Method 1 Quiz

When you wrap the right-hand rope under the left-hand rope, then bring the right-hand rope back over the left-hand rope, what kind of knot will you have?

Using an Alternate Method

  1. Double up the left-hand rope to make a loop.
    • Start with one rope in each hand (as you would in the method above) and fold the left-hand rope on top of itself to make a good-sized loop.
    • This method will make a knot that's identical to the one in the method above.
    • As above, you can make a loop with the right-hand rope and reverse the directions to get the same knot.
  2. Put the end of the right-hand rope through the loop.
    • For the next several steps, you may want to curl your left index finger around the base of the loop to keep it together for convenience's sake.
  3. Bring the right-hand ropeunderthe bottom of the loop.
    • Thread the right-hand rope through the loop. Pull it down and through — it should pass under thebottomhalf of the left-hand loop.
  4. Bring the right-hand ropeoverthe two ropes at the base of the loop.
    • Next, pull the right-hand rope (the one that's threaded through the loop) and bring it up over the two ropes that come together at the base of the loop. If you're holding the loop in your left hand as directed, these should be at theleftside of the loop.
    • When you're done, the right-hand rope should be above the loop.
  5. Bring the right-hand ropeunderthe top of the loop and pull it through.
    • Finally, take the end of the right-hand rope (which is now to theleftof the loop) and put it under the top part of the loop. This mirrors the motion you made earlier on the bottom half of the loop.
    • At this point, the right-hand rope should be back "inside" the loop. Pull it through to complete the knot.
  6. Pull all four ends tight with even tension.
    • Congratulations! Your knot should be exactly the same as the one you made in the method above.

Method 2 Quiz

How do you begin a square knot using an alternate method?

Modifying Your Square Knot

  1. Add extra half knots for added support.
    • To make your square knot a little stronger, skip the "pull tight" step in either of the methods above above and instead repeat the over-and-under half knot pattern to create an additional half knot on top of the square knot. You can "stack" as many of these half knots as you'd like to give your knot additional strength.
    • Note that even "stacking" square knots in this waywon't make your knot safe for critical usage.Don't use square knots (even stacked ones) for securing heavy loads or dangerous objects — they can (and do) fail.Instead, use a more secure knot like a Carrick bend or a Double Fisherman's knot.
  2. Add an extra coil in the first half knot to make a surgeon's knot.
    • Another way to make your ordinary square knot a little stronger is to make what's called a surgeon's knot. To do this, after you wrap your right-hand rope over and under the left hand rope the first time, wrap it over and underagainto create a second coil.
    • After this, repeat the rest of the steps exactly as you normally would. You don't have to add an extra coil when you make the second half knot.
  3. Try using loops (rather than individual ropes) for the entire knot.
    • If you have long lengths of rope to use up (like, for instance, if your shoe laces are too long), you may want to try making a square knot withloopsof rope (also called "bights") rather than single lengths of rope.
    • To tie this variation, simply start with one loop in each hand and treat each as you would treat individual ropes in the standard square knot instructions. In other words, the right-hand loop becomes the right-hand rope and the left-hand loop becomes the left-hand rope and the instructions are followed identically.

Method 3 Quiz

What can you do to make your square knot stronger?

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How do I make a square knot with very thin material?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You do it the same way you would do it with a thick rope.
  • Question
    How do I make a sliding knot?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Start by making a loop and stick your two fingers through the hole. After that, grab the continuing string and pull through. Now you can pull that string to make the hole larger or smaller.
  • Question
    How do I make a square knot for Afghan fringe?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Roll up the Afghan. Place it on a table with a piece of cardboard under it with the fringe pointing away from you. Macrame supplies include a T-pin. Twist a bundle of fringe fibers together for a few inches; two to six strands, depending on the size knot desired. Use an overhand knot to hold the twist together. Repeat for the width of the fringe, securing each knot with a T-pin into the cardboard. Release the first two T-pins. Make the first right over left move and pull snug, but don't allow the knot to cause a pucker. Secure the first move with a T-pin. Advance to the left over right move, and snug down to form the first Square knot. Remove the T-pin for this knot and repeat across the rug.
  • Question
    How do I make a square knot with one string?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Use the two ends of the string and follow the same steps. (The string will need to be pretty long though.)
Unanswered Questions
  • How do I make a square knot with 3 strings?
  • How do I tie a square knot for a tepee?
  • How do you tie a square knot with one rope?
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  • This is a good knot for tying boxes and bundles because it is flat and doesn't stick out.
  • If you have difficulty learning to tie this knot, using two ropes of different colors (as shown in the pictures) can help you keep them straight.
  • After you've tied the first half of the knot, an easy way to remember which way the rest of it goes is to remember that the end that's lying on top then continues going on top, over the other one (see the yellow end in the photo in Step 3, above).
  • A useful rhyme to remember the steps of tying a square knot is:Right over left and left over right makes the knot neat and tidy and tight.


  • This bears repeating: the square/reef knot isnotdesigned to be used under high strain; a strong force pulling on either end can pull the knot apart. Other knots, such as the sheet bend or fisherman's knot, can handle stronger loads
  • This knot works because the friction between the two rope ends holds the knot together. Therefore, it is not usually suitable for slippery ropes, such as nylon.

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of How to Tie a Square Knot was reviewed by on May 5, 2015.

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Quick Summary

To tie a square knot, start by a rope in each hand. Then, cross the rightrope over the left rope in a simple knot. Finish the square knot by tying the rope that's now in your left hand over the rope in your right hand. Pull the knot tight, and voila!

Success Stories

J. R. Lundy

Apr 12, 2019

"After reading an article about shoelaces, I'd been doing it based upon traditional method. Coming here, I found thebetter technique for the square knot. Thanks."
Rated this article:

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Apr 13, 2019

"I already know how to tie a square knot, but if I were to teach someone how to tie a square knot I would definitelytell them to look at this article."


Jun 25, 2019

"Love the article. It helps with things that you might forget how to do. I was taught by my dad how to tie manyknots, since he was an army dude."

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Apr 15, 2019

"Used to have to double knot my bows to keep them from unraveling. Never thought to tie bows into a square knot.Great alternative! "
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Apr 14, 2019

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Apr 9, 2019

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