How to Make a Running Turk’s Head

By Hervey Garrett Smith

RopeMariners from the Age of Sail were experts in “marlinspike seamanship,” or ropework, both functional and decorative. One of the most popular knots that sailors learned early on and that people today, sailors and landlubbers alike, use to make bracelets and anklets is the Running Turk’s Head. It is very easy to learn, and all you need is a length of twine and 3 nautical definitions about rope (or twine, in this case) to do it.

  • Standing part: the part of a rope not actively being used to tie the knot
  • Working end: the other end of the rope being “worked” or used to tie the knot
  • Bight: a section of the rope with neither end, often in the shape of a loop


Hervey Garrett Smith explained it best in his book, The Marlinspike Sailor:

Turks Head 1 To start, hold the standing end with your thumb and pass the working end twice around your fingers as shown in illustration No. 1.
Turks Head 2

Rotate your fingers toward you, and tuck the working end as shown in No.2.

Turks Head 3

Pull bight A across to the right and bight B under A to the left. It should now look like No.3.

Turks Head 4

The working end is now tucked through bight B toward you, then over A to the right and up under the bight directly above. It should now look like No.4.

Turks Head 5 Rotate your fingers away from you to their original position and you’ll find you are right back where you started, but the knot is now “set up” and should look like No.5.
Turks Head 6 Now tuck the working end alongside the standing end, as in No. 6, keeping always to the right of it, and following it over and under around your fingers until you are back again where you started.


You will now have a Turk’s head of two passes, and since you need three, proceed to pass the working end over and under once more, again to the right of the previous passes. This sounds confusing as I write it, but it is easy when you have the line on your fingers and the tucks then become pretty obvious.

Having finished your tucks, the next step is to take out all the slack in the strands, starting at one end and working round and round the knot, until every part has equal tension and symmetry. The ends are cut off underneath the strands so they do not show.

Did You Know?

Powder Monkey

The Age of Sail was said to be the domain of “wooden ships and iron men,” but sailing ships also had boys on their official crew lists.

Today, you have to be 14 years old before you can get a job in most states in the US, but in the Age of Sail both merchant ships and navy vessels signed on boys as young as seven years old as regular members of the crew.

What were these kids doing on board sailing ships?

Learn more at Kids as Crew