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Essential Knots for Filmmaking: Sheepshank

  • June 22, 2016
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Essential Knots for Filmmaking: Sheepshank

The sheepshank knot is commonly used to secure loads to trucks or trailers. It’s also used by sailors and is one of the most essential knots because it’s a knot that you can easily tie, and it is so powerful. The sheepshank knot is a trucker’s hitch on steroids. You use the mechanics of the rope to actually become a pulley and give you more torque to tie off stuff, kind of like a ratchet strap.

When making this knot, you’re going to want to set yourself up for success. You do that by holding the rope with your two hands, like below.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Notice how I’m holding the rope with my two hands.

Next, you’re going to pull the rope in as below to create a tail.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Creating the tail
Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Here is the tail.

With the tail, cross over the other piece of rope. Then loop the tail up into the hole.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Crossing over the other piece of rope with the tail
Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Looping the tail from under, up into the hole

Do that twice, so your sheepshank knot looks like this:

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
The knot after looping through the hole twice

Now you can pull here to increase tension on your rope.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Pull where indicated by the red to tighten the rope like a ratchet strap

To lock the rope in, make a half hitch for safety. To do that, cross the rope over and pull it up through the hole.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Crossing the rope over the other piece to make the half hitch
Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Pulling the rope up through the whole to complete the half hitch

For extra safety, make a double half hitch in the rope.

Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Cross the rope over the other piece
Essential Knots Cinematography filmmaker film movies tv shooting DP lights
Pull the rope up through the hole
Cinch the double half hitch to secure it.

Once you’ve made your double half hitch, you have your completed sheepshank knot.

Completed sheepshank knot

Taking the Rope Apart:

To take the sheepshank rope apart, pull the rope loose where indicated in the image below.

Undo the first half hitch

Then pull the rope so that the loop comes undone.

Pull where indicated on the image above.

Repeat the same last two steps for the other knot on the rope to completely take apart the sheepshank knot.

All videos were edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

Read Essential Knots for Filmmaking: Clove Hitch

Read Essential Knots for Filmmaking: Bowline

Read Essential Knots for Filmmaking: Figure 8


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