How to Make a Gordian Knot Puzzle

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The Ancient Greek legend of the Gordian Knot is about a knot that was believed to be humanly impossible to untie. However, if anyone solved the puzzle, they would conquer all of Asia. When Alexander the Great began his conquest of Asia, before he had won any major battles, he visited the shrine where the Gordian Knot was located and simply cut the knot in half with his sword. If you are interested in reconstructing the Gordian Knot for a historical function, art exhibit or an Ancient Greek theme party, tying the knot will be a rather simple job, however, untying it is a different story.

Purchase a rope with the largest diameter possible. This will allow for the maximum amount of shrinkage, tightening the knot against itself and preventing anyone from loosening it.

Join the two rope ends together using a piece of twine or floss. Cut a long piece of floss and form a bight with one end, placing it near the one of the rope ends. Wrap the floss upward toward the topmost part of the loop of floss, and poke the tail of the floss through the loop. Be sure to pull tight on the end of the floss, which is folded over in the bight. Repeat the same process with the other half of the floss piece so that it tightly joins the two rope ends.

Lash together the two rope ends by using an "X" pattern, wrapping it around both ends simultaneously with the joint, where the two rope ends meet at the vertex of the "X." The end result should be two rope ends that meet and appear as one continuous loop of rope.

Soak the rope in water for 30 minutes, allowing the fibers to expand through absorbing the water. This will allow the rope to shrink in size after the water dries out.

Fold the loop of rope in half so that if you are holding one end of the half-loop in each hand. You should have four individual strands of rope in either hand.

Tie a series of overhand knots into the rope. Depending on the length of your rope, you might have to to tie more than two overhands knots. Ideally, you should strive to tie up half of the rope's length in the body of the knots. One of the overhand knots should hide the two rope ends spliced together in the body of the knot.

Pass the end loops of the rope over the knots so that they become even more tangled. As you continue to make the rope more tangled into the Gordian Knot, put twists in the end loops by turning each end loop 180 or 360 degrees before passing it over the opposing end.

Pull the knot tight. Allow the Gordian Knot puzzle to sit, permitting all of the water to evaporate, effectually shrinking the rope and making the knot more difficult to untie.

Things You'll Need

  • Twine or floss
  • Bucket of water


About the Author

David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images