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Ever since I was small I remember having an interest in the sea and doing things with my hands, often with recycled materials. As for ropework, I was also interested in knitting.
Many were the instruments and ships I developed from old wooden whiskey boxes in my childhood.
My first real boat I built of recycled panels and tarpaulin. Boating was
my big interest and to borrow my father´s boat I had to learn basic
skills in knotting and splicing.
For safety, said my father, and happily taught me skills he had learned from his father and grandfather.
Not even the cold winters could keep me away from my beloved sea. Some
woodworking and rigging jobs and my ice yacht was ready to take me to new adventures.
The motorboat was always launched as soon as possible.
It was the sea that drew me into Sea-Scouts where I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting some old-timers who taught us about ropes and knots. Not just ordinary practical knots but something even more intriguing:
fancy knots, lanyards and mats – I was sold!
No one around me had to have a plastic key fob anymore. Naturally, in my short military career I served in the Navy.
My interest in woodworking became my profession as I studied to become a cabinet maker. My love for the sea was present even in my woodwork. As the
final ”examination work” I made a bed, inspired by S/Y Sigyns Captain´s bunk.
Above all, it was the nautical history that inspired me and one day I challenged myself by making a traditional sailor´s chest with fancy beckets. I
closely studied the beckets on an antique chest my father had and could
figure out all the knots except those in the bolt. I replaced the knots with wooden knobs that I even have today, with those beckets reminding me that life is a learning process.
One day my life came to a point where I had to stop and look in which direction I should continue. I have always found it easier to think while my fingers are busy so to help me I took my trusted ball of hard laid cotton cord that I had inherited from my father and started knotting. Some time earlier my father had passed away and all the material that he had collected about his grandfather’s life on board sailing ships in the late 1800’s came into my possession. Reading the book, based on this material, that my father had written about my great grandfather Albert Herman Snellman made me feel like I was sailing under his command on the seas.
Learning about the life of seafarers during that time made a huge impact on me
Learning about the life of seafarers during that time made a huge impact on me. With Captain A.H.Snellman’s life as my inspiration I soon turned into a professional knot tyer. I closely studied my Ashley Book of Knots and took the decorative knots out of their original context and turned them into objects that are not just beautiful but are also practical. Tools that I needed I of course made myself – a habit I had learned from the old time cabinet makers during my woodworking career. Key fobs, candle holders and door knockers filled my days and soon I ran out of my inherited cords. I started looking for more cord only to find out that it was nowhere near the same quality. Stubborn as I am, I didn’t accept any poor replacement and decided to make my cords myself. Rope-making machines I naturally built myself and after long days of trial and error I managed to develop a process for making very hard laid cord on my ropewalk and to repeat the process with the same precision every time. I would never have to run out of material again!
Currently, I make cords and tools not just for my own needs but for anyone who is interested in the noble art of knot tying. I try to balance between ropewalk and knotting since my mind and fingers need to be occupied from time to time with tying beautiful works of art. As collecting all the knowledge I needed for decorative knotting required me to do a lot of work, I try to smooth the way for upcoming knot artists by holding courses in ropework and knotting, as well as making tutorial videos for easier learning.
“Welcome to the incredible world of knot tying”
– Mikko Snellman
(for 10 m (33ft) hanks)