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Monkey's Fist

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Saved by kcasem
on March 9, 2012 at 1:27:11 pm

     One of the most unique and interesting pieces of knot work in the maritime business is the Monkey’s Fist. The knot, while not the most common in the industry, is of a very unique design and has served several useful functions throughout the centuries, from work devices to lifesaving tool to dangerous street weapon. As years have gone by, many methods and technologies in the industry have changed, but this knot has remained an important part of many operations today.

     The Monkey’s Fist has long been one of the most complicated and fulfilling knots to tie. Its original creator and its very early uses have been lost to history, and several different variations exist (The Rope People, p.1). Originally called a Sailor’s Knot, the name “Monkey’s Fist” came from its unique shape (The Monkey Fist, p.1).Today, it is commonly used by sailors to assist in the passing of lines. This requires that a small weight, such as a stone, marble, bit of lead, be in the center of the ball, with the rest of the knot tied around it. This makes the fist of the knot heavy enough to be thrown a considerable distance and at a reasonable velocity (The Rope People, p.1).The line with the Monkey’s Fist is then attached to the line to be passed (usually a mooring line or a lifeline) with a bowline knot or an eye splice, with about 30 feet of line between the two ends (Wikipedia 1, p.1). The line is swung around and around by the deck hand, building up momentum, until it is released and flies towards the dock or other vessel where the line is needed (The Rope People, p.1). Being careful to avoid being struck on the head by the weighted projectile (which has been known to cause serious injury), the attending deck hands grab and heave on the thrown line, and thus are able to pull in and handle the large length which the know was attached to (The Rope People, p.1). Thus, the Monkey’s Fist allows for the safe and efficient passing of lines from ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore. On many modern ships, including the Golden Bear, this is the knot’s primary function.

     The Monkey’s Fist has seen many unique and interesting uses throughout the ages. For many years, it was used as an anchor for rock climbing, with the knot wedged into cracks in the rock face, though this has fallen out of practice for being dangerous and inefficient (Wikipedia, p.1).They have also been used as a safe, convenient, and unobtrusive way to transport precious gemstones (Wikipedia 1, p.1). Because of the knot’s use in lifelines onboard vessels, it has become a symbol of solidarity within the homeless community (Wikipedia 1, p.1). The knot makes a convenient keychain attachment, allowing one to drops keys easily into a purse or pocket and with the knot dangling over the side, the items are easy to retrieve as well. Such small Monkey’s Fists are available in a wide array of colors, making the knot fashionable as well as functional (The Monkey Fist, p.1).  It also makes an easy grab attachment for backpack or jacket zippers (The Monkey Fist, p.1).  Their practicality as doggy pull toys and cat nip treats has also not gone unnoticed (The Monkey Fist, p.1).  It has also become more and more common as an attachment on parachute strings, since the knot gives a firmer grip than traditional ends, and there are a variety of colors to choose from (The Monkey Fist, p.1). 

     The most interesting historical use of the Monkey’s Fist would have to be as a concealed weapon (The Monkeys Fist, p.1). Called a slungshot, this variation featured a heavier weight and shorter length of line (Wikipedia 2, p.1). It was tied around the wrist of the user and concealed in the pocket or inside of a jacket. The weapon was then used like a yo-yo, smashing into the face of the unlucky target, causing serious damage (Wikipedia 2, p.1).In this way, the Monkey’s Fist became the switchblade of the 19th century. Its

popularity with sailors, street gangs, and criminals was so widespread, many states outlawed possession of the weapon. Today, carrying or attempting to use a slungshot remains a felony offense in the states of California and Oklahoma (Wikipedia 2, p.1).

      The Monkey’s Fist is culturally and historically an important knot. Its uses are many and varied, from life saver to fashion statement improvised weapon, all depending on the people who were using it at the time. To this day it remains an important part of line handling procedure and its use is beginning to spread into new areas as well. There is no doubt that this knot will continue to be used for even more diverse tasks.





History of the Monkey’s Fist.Retrieved February 8, 2012 from The Monkey Fist.

      URL http://themonkeyfist.com/history.htm

How to Tie a Monkey’s Fist. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from Wincing Devil

      URL http://www.wincingdevil.com/mf.htm

Monkey’s Fist. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from The Rope People.

      URL http://www.theropepeople.com/MonkeysFist.html

Monkey’s Fist. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from Wikipedia.

      URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey%27s_fist

Slungshot. Retrieved February 20, 2012 from Wikipedia

      URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slungshot

The Monkeys Fist. Retrieved February 8, 2012

      URL http://themonkeysfist.org/about/

The Monkey Fist. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from Ropers Knot Page

      URL http://www.realknots.com/knots/faqknot.htm


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