My Bookshelf – The Ashley Book of Knots

There are a lot of self-sufficiency, survival, or homesteading books that I own. I wanted to start listing them, but won’t include books like “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein, even though I’ve read it over a dozen times, and consider it to be a must-read. I will list each book one at a time, and will consist of books I own and consider a resource to rely on. Some are on my Kindle, others are paper pulp, but all are worth reading.

I treat books like a woman treats shoes – I can never have enough…or pass up a book sale, so I have a LOT of them! Books, that is, not shoes.

Here is today’s book:

The Ashley Book of Knots

I decided that the first book I should mention should be a solid one, something that has stood the test of time, and is a giant among it’s peers. This book is The Ashley Book of Knots. This is without a doubt, The Holy Bible of all knot books. This book covers just about every aspect of knots and knot tying you could ever want to know. If I could only have one book on knots this would be it.

First published in 1944, it was the end result of over 11 years of work by Clifford Warren Ashley, an American artist, author, sailor, and knot expert. The book contains more than 3800 numbered entries and an estimated 7000 illustrations. From Wikipedia:

Due to its scope and wide availability The Ashley Book of Knots has become a significant reference work in the field of knotting. The numbers Ashley assigned to each knot can be used to unambiguously identify them. This is a useful function since knot names have evolved over time and there are many conflicting or confusing naming issues. Citations to Ashley numbers are usually in the form: “The Constrictor Knot (ABOK #1249)”, “ABOK #1249″ or even simply “#1249″ if the context of the reference is clear or already established.[2] The book title is also found abbreviated in the forms: TABOK, TABoK, or ABoK.

My worn copy
My worn copy

When I was researching paracord projects, I would stumble across this “ABOK” reference, and had no clue what it meant. Eventually I put the pieces together. Not long after, I mentioned the book to RidgeRunner, and he verified that it was THE knot book to own, and that he’d been looking for a used one for several years, to no avail. I was able to score a used, water-stained copy several years ago, and even in its damaged state, I still paid over $40 for this well used book. An interesting note is that my copy is from the original printing, dated 1944.

Browsing the book is almost overwhelming, there is SO much information on each page. But the explanations are clear, and the hand draw illustrations do a good job of describing each knot. Many knots also include variations on them, how to tie them as well, and why their use may be better than alternatives.

The Ashley Book of Knots
A sample of the illustrations…and of my knot work

This book is a GREAT reference, or an even better gift, for anyone that loves tying knots, or was ever a sailor or a Boyscout. And you can lump in just about anyone that reads my articles too, as the self reliant crowd would also appreciate having a copy.

And for what it’s worth, I use an ABOK #2496 with a loop on one end and an ABOK #600 to top it off in making my paracord survival bracelets. This allows me to use a single strand, and no buckle or fastener, everything is made from the line itself. I like the simplicity and clean lines using this technique gives the bracelet.



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  1. Awesome! now on my wish list…
    This is a great idea for a series. I look forward to seeing what’s on your shelf, and comparing it with my own :)

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