The monkey paw knot is typically seen as ornamental — key chains or hiking stick embellishments, which is why we are learning how to make them. They can also be used in nautical applications for adding “weight” to the end of a rope that needs to be tossed onto shore during docking or along fishing nets to make them easier to cast out and pull back into the boat. Climbers could also use a monkey paw at the end of a rope to jam into a rock crevasse to be used as an anchor to hoist themselves upward.
This knot is not the easiest to do at first — it take a lot of practice! So, keep trying and do your best each time. With patience and practice, you will be able to figure it out, and it will be worth it!
Follow through these steps to practice making your three-loop monkey paw knot. You may click on each image to open up a larger view. Once you master the design, use the remaining slack, or tail, of your leather chord to slide on your color beads and tie it onto your hiking stick.
Tip: While forming the knot, you do not have to keep it very tight. The final process will be working through the knot to tighten it up after you have formed all of the loops and inserted your marble into the center.
STEP 1 | Take your leather cord and drape it behind your middle and ring fingers of your left hand creating a single loop. Leave a short tail in the palm of your hand, held in place by your thumb, and the full length of the cord running down behind your hand toward the floor.
STEP 2 | With your right hand holding onto the end of the long tail of the cord, wrap it up and over your middle and ring fingers creating a second loop.
STEP 3 | Repeat the same wrap around to create a third loop. Then, just start again as if you are going to make a fourth loop, but stop the cord between your middle and ring finger… because now you are going to start looping at 90 degrees.
Tip: While making your loops, try your best not to overlap each loop. This is tricky, and you will have a chance during the final tightening process to straighten things out — but it will be easier if you keep them straight during the looping.
STEP 4 | Take the long end of the cord, wrap it behind your three “vertical” loops and thread the end through your middle and ring fingers (you can see the end of the cord point “out” toward you in the image).
STEP 5 | Bring the cord “horizontally” across the front of your first three loops.
STEP 6 | Continue wrapping around “horizontally” until you have three loops, just as you need for the first three “vertical” loops.
STEP 7 | So, you have a “vertical” set of three loops and a “horizontal” set of three loops. Now, you are going to create another set of three loops that wrap inside the knot. This will form a seat for your marble. Gently remove the knot from your middle and ring fingers being sure to hold onto it with light pressure to keep it from falling apart (I used my thumb and ring finger).
STEP 8 | Taking the long end of the cord, thread it into the top opening of your sets of loops. Bring it straight out and thread it back into the bottom opening of your sets of loops.
STEP 9 | After one pass of this “inside” loop, insert your marble. There will be a lot of extra space for your marble at this point, so you may need to balance it inside the knot.
STEP 10 | Continue looping the cord through the “top” and “bottom” openings of your knot (above and below your marble) to form three loops inside the knot.
STEP 11 | You now have a loose “cage” for your marble with walls forms by perpendicular sets of three loops! Note: your starting point of your cord should still have a very short tail sticking out and the ending point of your cord should have a little length. You will get more length on the end after the tighting it up.
STEP 12 | Tighten your monkey paw! Grab the starting end of your cord (the short part just sticking out of the loops) and pull it out from the knot to tighten it up. Now, working your way through back along the length of the cord into the knot, tighten the cord in the opposite direction you pulled the starting end tight. You will need to follow the cord step-by-step all the way through the knot. At each step, pull through the slack to tighten it up. Make sure you follow the cord like a hiking trail — and don’t jump off the trail or you will get lost!
STEP 13 | After you work back through taking the slack out and tighten the cord bit-by-bit, you will start seeing the “paw” take shape as it forms tightly around the marble inside. The end of your cord will also extend in length to allow you to decorate with beads and tie onto your hiking stick.
Your Monkey Paw and Hiking Stick
In the final image, I left the starting end of the cord still sticking out from the knot. This end can be tied off, if it is long enough, tucked into the knot, or clipped off with scissors.
Remember, the monkey paw knot takes practice! It is OK if you don’t get it after several attempts — I worked on it for multiple nights until getting to the above version (which isn’t perfect, but it is my best so far!). The effort is worth it — the monkey paw is a very cool knot and will be lot of fun to have in your knot skills as you continue your adventures in Scouting.
To more adventure!
Matthew T. Dearing
Cubmaster, Pack 99