Did you know a clove hitch is essentially two simple knots? When your Scout is tying lashings, all they need to know to create a clove hitch is how to tie a half-hitch.
For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week, we’re showing you how to tie a clove hitch, which is used to begin and end many lashings. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.
John Thurman, the Camp Chief at Gilwell Park in England for more than 25 years, wrote, “The first and everlasting thing to remember about the clove hitch is that it is composed of two half-hitches.”
If you make one half-hitch…
and then an identical half-hitch…
and bring them together, you form a clove hitch.
The identical half-hitches can be formed in any direction. This is a good thing, because many lashings need to be finished from either one direction or the other.
First half-hitch (finishing a shear lashing).
Both half-hitches are brought together.
When a clove hitch is formed in this manner, snugging it right against the wraps to finish a lashing is easy.
Though the clove hitch is most always taught by laying two turns around the pole to form an ‘X’ and then passing the running end underneath, the approach presented in this video is an essential one that should come into play anytime a lashing is finished with a clove hitch. This video, extracted from the Clove Hitch and Half Hitches video, communicates this basic process in an understandable and straightforward manner.
Whenever I observe a Scout or Scouter trying to finish a lashing by tying a clove hitch, and they’re not first tying one half hitch up against the wraps, and then another snugged up tight against the first, well…I first feel sorry for them, and then I either need to demonstrate how to do it much easier, quicker, and better, or shake my head, tolerate my frustration, and say nothing.
Anyone who is into lashing poles together, for whatever reason, is already using this super-simple technique—or should be.
As we often quote, John Thurman said, “The first and everlasting thing to remember about the clove hitch is that it is composed of two half hitches. What a very obvious thing to say, but there is hardly one Scout in a hundred who learns what it means. If only we can get Scouts to learn that if you make one half hitch and another half hitch and bring them together they make a clove hitch, what a lot of time the Movement would save in the amount of fiddling and fumbling that goes on when a clove hitch is the order of the day. We would be able to start in the sure knowledge that we can make clove hitches and pass quickly on to better and brighter things.”
II. In Pioneering, half hitches are everywhere! Two of them next to each other is a clove hitch, and that’s something we use time and time again. As John Thurman declares, “If only we can get Scouts to learn that if you make one half hitch and another half hitch and bring them together they make a clove hitch, what a lot of time the Movement would save in the amount of fiddling and fumbling that goes on when a clove hitch is the order of the day.”
Scouts will demonstrate they can tie half hitches around a horizontal pole, proceeding from both the right and the left.
Scouts will demonstrate they can tie a round lashing by starting and ending the lashing with two half hitches.
Scouts will lash together two staves to make a longer pole by using two properly positioned round lashings.
Suspended horizontal hitching post or similar setup, to accommodate the entire class
Two or more 5-foot Scout Staves for every Scout (the more the better)
Four 6 to 10-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for every Scout (the more the better)
6-foot x 1-1/2-inch diameter spar set up as a crossbar with a 6-foot length of 1/2-inch nylon or polyester cord, attached in the middle, to serve as a large visual aid
Starting at the center of the 6-foot spar, the instructor slowly ties a half hitch for all to see, proceeding from the left and initially carrying the running end over the top of the spar.
The half hitch is untied and slowly tied again for all to see. This is repeated as necessary while, in like manner, the class ties their own half hitch around the horizontal hitching post.
When each Scout can tie the half hitch, the instructor slowly demonstrates the tying of two half hitches in succession. (No mention needs to be made that this is a clove hitch.)
When all Scouts can accomplish this, three and four half hitches are tied in succession. Scouts give it a go.
Starting again at the center, steps 1-4 are repeated on the other side, this time proceeding from the right and initially carrying the running end over the top of the spar.
Using two Scout Staves and a lashing rope, the instructor demonstrates how, by holding in one hand the two staves and the long end of the rope as the standing part, he can tie two half hitches around both staves working with the running end. This forms a clove hitch which will start off the round lashing. It will be easy to see that since the long end of the rope will be used for the wrappings, to start the lashing, the half hitches will be applied moving towards the nearest end of one of the staves.
Scouts apply the technique, tying the clove hitch around two staves in the manner shown.
The instructor demonstrates wrapping the longer end tightly and neatly around both staves, leaving enough rope to finish the lashing with two half hitches.
Scouts practice lashing two staves together with two round lashings. The space where the two poles are joined, gets two tight round lashings—one on either side of the overlap and right near the ends of each pole. (See photo to the left.)
Scouts combine into one group and, using all the materials on hand, join all the staves tightly together into one very long pole, with round lashings.
The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:
This is one of the basic knots that is very reliable for a number of uses in pioneering work. It is easy to tie and untie and does not reduce the strength of the rope due to sharp turns when under a hard pull.
You start by making a roundturn. This provides extra surface around the spar when chafing or slipping might be a problem. Once you’ve made the roundturn, the rope has a grip on whatever it’s around (see 1). The strain on the rope can then be adjusted before finishing off with two half hitches (see 2 and 3).
The knot is well suited for both ends of a guyline. When it is used in a place where you will not have easy access, as at the top of a tower, secure the running end, (after the two half hitches are tied) with a piece of light cord.
It can be tied in the middle of a long rope by making a long bight with enough rope to make two half hitches after the roundturn.
1, 2, and 3 (below) illustrate the half hitches tied loosely. In actual use both half hitches are pulled up tight.
To make the knot, start by making a roundturn over a spar.
Next, make a half hitch around the standing part of the rope. Then make another half hitch.
When both half hitches are made, pull them tight, and secure the ends with a small cord.
At both ends of large hand and foot ropes for a monkey bridge. Be sure to secure the running ends with a light cord.
When wear is a factor when tied to an iron ring.
For guylines because it does not jam, and is easy to untie when adjustments are needed.