Ashley's Bend

ABOK 1452

David M. Delaney, May 8, 2010
Revised February 2011

A bend is a knot for fastening two lines end-to-end to make a longer line, or to make a line into a loop by joining its ends.

Ashley's Bend is a relatively new knot (twentieth century). It was  invented and tested by Ashley,  and documented by him in the Ashley Book of Knots (ABOK) as #1452.   It is exceptionally reliable, but unless carefully made it sometimes jams under  loads heavy enough to produce significant stretching of the cord in which it is tied. It may sometimes be difficult to untie after lesser but still heavy loads. See Jam Testing.   Some difficulty of untying may be indivisible from the bend's reputed very great security. Those who do not use knots frequently would be better off investing their limited time for learning knots in some other bend: e.g., the double sheet bend, the Zeppelin Bend,  the carrick bend, ABOK 1439,  or the butterfly bend.  

The most widely taught method of making Ashley's bend starts from the configuration in the photo immediately below on the left.  This method is sometimes referred to as the two P's method. The two P's configuration was appparently developed by C. L. Day from Ashley's drawing in article 1452 of ABoK, to the immediate right of the photo of the two P's just below. Day first documented this configuration in the third edition of his book, The Art of Knotting and Splicing, in 1947. Day is apparently also responsable  for naming ABoK 1452 as "Ashley's Bend", since he uses that name in the same book, one year after the first edition of ABoK in 1946. Both Day's two P's starting configuration and Ashley's encourage the making of a jamming version of the bend, shown in the photographs further down the page, below.  Note that in those photos each tail emerges from the bend closer to its own standing part than to the other standing part.  In the non-jamming version of the bend, each tail emerges from the bend closer to the other standing part than to its own. The two P's method can produce the non-jamming version by appropriate manipulations at the dressing stage, but it can be a bit tricky to do so if the two cords involved in the bend are not easily distinguishable by sight or by touch.

ABOK-1452-and-error-1.jpgAshley-drawing-ABOK-1452.jpg Ashley-drawing-abok-1409.jpg
The photograph above shows starting positions that will produce ABOK 1452, Ashley's Bend, and ABOK 1409, unnamed, when completed as indicated below. The line drawings above are reproduced from ABOK.   Since Ashley drew ABOK 1452, Day discovered that it was easier to produce the same knot starting from the "two-P's" configuration labeled "Ashley's Bend ABOK 1452" in the photograph above.

Don't make the mistake of starting from the configuration labeled "ABOK 1409" in the photograph. Here's what Ashley had to say about 1409, "...[I]t is one of the least secure knots known, its only rival being the Whatknot. The change from one of its forms to the other (1408) may happen accidently or intentionally. So the knot is quite untrustworthy."

Note that in the correct (ABoK 1452) configuration the end of the white rope rises up (out of the page) through the loop of the brown q while in the incorrect (ABoK 1409) configuration the white rope descends down (into the page) through the brown q. Complete the structure of the knot by lifting the two free ends at the upper right and pushing them together down through the two loops, thus:

ABOK-1452-and-error-2.jpg ABOK-1452-and-error-3.jpg ABOK-1452-and-error-4.jpg

These photos show Ashley's Bend being dressed to produce the jamming configuration -- the tail of each cord emerges from the bend closer to its own standing part than to the other standing part. The jamming configuration usually results from the two-P's method unless special care is taken in the dressing. See the links below for more detailed instructions and dressings for the non-jamming configuration.

Here are two procedures for making Ashley's bend, the usual two-P's method, with dressing to produce jam proofing, and a "safe two-P's" method, which  has the important advantage that it is virtually impossible when using it to make the hazardous ABOK 1409 by mistake.

1) Two-P's method. As above but includes dressing for non-jamming. Easy to remember.

2) Safe two-P's method.  Precludes making the hazardous ABoK 1409 by mistake.

3) Two-overhands method.  Automatically produces the dressing for the non-jamming version.

It is difficult to find systematic testing data for a wide range of knots.  In the 1930s, Ashley performed security tests for a number of bends for his work for a manufacturer of fabrics. (Described in ABOK #63) The manufacturer wanted a bend that would not slip when tied in mohair, a stiff slippery material.  The jerk testing Ashley performed placed the Ashley Bend (ABOK 1452 -- results tabulated in article ABOK 1543) equal to the barrel knot in exhibiting no slip at all. All other bends tested exhibited either some slip or outright spill (catastrophic failure).  Some users may find the bend useful for this attribute, but it should not be thought of as a general-purpose bend.

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