1. Getting ready ~
The Mathew Walker Knot (MWK) was, for a very long time, the only knot named after
an individual. He was a British Navy rigger and invented this elegant, almost
mysterious, decorative knot. There are different versions depending on the number of
strands. A three-strand knot can be relatively easy, the six-strand one we are tying
here is said to be much more difficult. But the difficulty is really only in staying
focused. We’ll tie the knot as part of a lanyard – it serves as a transition from one
type of braid or sinnet to another. In the photo you can see two MWK knots separating
French sinnet (on the left) from the braids with the Star-knot Button and then again
separating the braids from the continuing of the Half-round sinnet on the right. This
tutorial with step-by-step photos should guide you to a very successful result.
Tools and techniques:
Several tools and techniques are going to help you to tie this knot successfully. I use
two kinds of pliers as the key tools. The smaller blue-handled pair I use for both
making the space or pathway for another strand as you’ll see below and sometimes
for tightening a knot’s individual strands. The parallel-jaw pliers I use exclusively for
this knot because it helps the internal guts of the knot to fit better together and tighten
up as you’ll see below. You must make sure any such tool is either
cleaned meticulously or used only for this task. Other tools may
serve the same purposes – use what you’re most comfortable with.
I use a Constrictor knot to hold any part of knot and lanyard work temporarily. So, for
example, when the braids above are complete and the second MWK needs to be
added, I tie a constrictor around both braids to hold them securely. The following
photos show the constrictor in three phases.
Basically it is a clove hitch with an overhand knot under one strand. The first photo
shows the clove hitch;
The second shows the overhand knot tied underneath;
The next one shows the knot partially snugged up; you’ll need to tighten it so it’s neat
and the strands are close together.
When in use for the MWK make sure it is snug – you don’t want it slipping before you’
Finally I’ve found there are a few *Secrets* that will help you tie this knot much more
successfully. I’ll indicate those below with asterisks so you’ll know to pay special
*Keeping the strands straight*
The asterisks show this is the first *secret* to success. The lanyard I am making
starts with a three-strand braid – it’s the loop that goes over the Star knot Button
shown above. So here’s the braid with a constrictor holding both halves. (1)
The constrictor is quite snug so there’ll be no slipping. Notice the strands to the left of
the constrictor are still slightly braided and need straightening.
The second photo shows the top view with strands not yet “seated” correctly.
This is where you must work some magic. The strands coming out of the constrictor
must be neat and in their proper place.
Go around several times pulling gently on two adjacent strands to see if one wants to
move – it happens all the time. Make sure each strand is comfortable where it is –
this will ensure a perfect start to your knot.
This photo shows everything where it should be – and all’s right with the world.
Slow and steady!
This is not the time to rush! Take your time – I’ve made at least 100 of these and I still
make mistakes and have to start over! I recommend trying to do it all in one sitting so
you don’t get distracted and aren’t sure where you left off.
2. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 ~
Okay, the strands have been seated and straightened and we’re ready to get started.
The MWK is a series of overhand knots one on top of the other. Each one after the
first starts over the previous one then goes down and around and under all the
previous knot strands then under its own strand. It’s not as complicated as it sounds!
Here’s the first overhand knot with the first strand (choose any one to start) – I’ve left
it quite loose so you can see how to form the knot.
Next pic is the second one – more of a top view. Take the next strand to the left
coming out of the constrictor. Sometimes I have to wiggle or pull on a strand below
the knot to check which one I just tied – then I move one left for the next knot. Start
the loop on top of the first knot, go around behind from right to left then come up and
go under the first knot strand and under the second’s own loop – look closely to see it
under the first strand on the left below. I’ve snugged up both strands now a bit – this
must be done regularly to keep everything shipshape.
And now the third one has been tied using the next strand to the left – over the first
two at the top, back and around, then up and under the first and second and then its
own loop. See side and top view photos.
Keep snugging - I am constantly snugging on each tied strand while holding the knot
between my fingers, then slightly loosening all again. This helps to form the knot and
keep the strands going around in the right place.
Notice how the strands are being managed – those already knotted are on the right,
those still to go on the left.
3. Now 4, 5, 6 ~
Now it starts to get a bit more complicated. The photo on the right shows the
beginning of the fourth knot – you can see the space waiting for the strand here,
then it’s in place in the second photo below on the right.
The strand goes around the back like the others and now we have to get it up through
the three existing strands and its own loop. Here I use the small pliers – see the third
photo, and note that any similar tool will do.
*It’s important to count carefully*
Did you notice the second *secret*? I count down from the new loop at the top right –
we need to go under four – the three strands we’ve kept on the right to remember the
number of knots already tied and the new one. As they say in carpentry, “Measure –
or count – twice!”
The fourth strand is now in the space made by the pliers in the photo on the right.
As you do the same for the fifth and sixth strands you may find you’ll need to make the
path and run your strand up first under the previous wraps, then in a second shot
under its own loop.
I find sometimes the new loop seems too far to the right to get all in one try.
4. Fairing up ~
So here, all knots have been tied – it’s still a bit loose and it’s time for a quality control
Look all around to see that everything is in place. In the photo you can see one wrap
that’s not. It needs to be moved over and up to be in the right spot.
I use my finger nail to hold the top on one knot while I’m snugging slightly each strand
to even them all up.
Then I use my thumb to hold the knot while I snug – slightly – one strand at time all
around – we need to leave it a bit loose but with all knots and strands looking the
Also look from the top down to be sure all strands coming out look right. If not, this is
the time to correct – perhaps by pulling one strand out and starting that one over. It’s
not hard to miss one loop when you’re going under with the 4th, 5th or 6th strands. At
times I’ve had to start the whole thing over!
Your knot should look like this.
Now we’re ready to move the knot into position.
5. Moving down ~
So now we have to move the knot down – there’s a space above the constrictor, then
there will be a small section of slack to take up once the constrictor is removed.
I’ve found this technique to be very effective in getting this knot to where we want it to
In the photo on the right, I’ve taken the knot above, held all six strands in one hand and
the constrictor (or below) in my other and done what I call a series of small “pump-
push” movements. Notice the knot is down to the constrictor and much looser.
So now it needs to be snugged up again using the technique discussed in step 4
above. Do it gently and with finger nail or thumb tighten one strand at a time. I go
around clockwise once then counterclockwise once – pulling slightly on each strand.
The “slightly” is key to getting this right – tightening one strand too much
at this stage knocks the whole knot off.
Then remove the constrictor and repeat this whole procedure – gently and slowly.
When the knot is in the position you are happy with – no slack and looking good
coming out of the braids we started with, you are ready for the final step.
At this point, your knot should look like this one.
6. Finishing ~
The final tightening is just like we’ve been doing – with the *secret* techniques we’ve
been using: *slowly* and *slightly* one strand at a time.
*Hold the barrel*
Again I hold the whole knot between my thumb and forefinger while tightening each
Here’s another, sort of side view.
*Shape the knot*
The next technique I’ve found very effective is to shape the knot as I tighten. I use the
parallel jaw pliers because they are the right size and make it easy. Riggers working
with larger knots of different types use wooden hammers. You could use a small
hammer here if you like – just make sure as you drag it out of the tool bin that it’s
So go around and around the knot with the pliers or a hammer gently squeezing or
hammering. Then snug all strands again – going first clockwise, then squeezing or
hammering, then counterclockwise.
Repeat, repeat, repeat – until it’s hard and tight.
Re-tighten as necessary if this produces any additional
slack in the knot: The MWK's beauty is in the tight spiral
Congratulations! – We’re done! Some like to
leave the barrel round; others like to make it
oval – you can flatten it a bit with the pliers or
I hope this tutorial has been easy to read and follow. If not,
or if you have any questions on it, please feel free to email
Vince and he'll relay the questions / comments to me.
Charles T. Wilson, Sept 2010
San Francisco, CA
|The Six strand
Matthew Walker Knot
Mr. Charles T. Wilson
San Francisco CA
|Click on any
picture to bring
up a larger
The Matthew Walker knot has defied me for longer than many of you have been breathing. I've had countless people try to
show it to me, send me descriptions and otherwise drill the making into my pea-sized brain,and finally, Charles T. Wilson, out
there on the Left Coast, has succeeded. Herewith his writeup and photography on doing the Matthew Walker in a
Once you get this one down, you will be able to do this knot in any number of strands.
As in all of my tutorials, clicking on the picture beside the text will give you a larger shot for more detailed examination.
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Charles T. Wilson & Frayed Knot Arts.
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