Lanyards, fobs, keychains and other accesories are not only practical but can be good looking ornamental items too. Custom made items have a special value, even more special if you create your own accesories; one of the nice things about creating your own lanywards, keychains and fobs is that with effort and dedication the end result can be far better than most of the commercial products you can get at the stores, you can use better materials, you can use better accesories, and you can customize the item to your needs.
We are basically going to discuss the creation of keychain fobs, keychains, neck lanyards and wrist lanyads. You can use them for your keys, flashlights, knives, accesories etc. The examples we present are just a small fraction of what can be done with the techniques we are going to discuss so the only real limit is your imagination. We strongly hope you can use this ideas to create your own design and items.
You will need the following materials:
- Paracord in several colors
- A bithane lighter or torch (a regular lighter can work but is not recommended)
- Needle nose pliers
The king material for all those items is paracord, paracord is a strong cord originally created to support parachutes, it is made of nylon and consists of an outer jacket with seven braided inner threads.
Only about 3/16 of an inch thick, it can support up to 550 lbs (under perfect test conditions). Paracord generally has very good strength for is thickness compared to other common kinds of rope, and because of its tough nylon construction, it is resistant to rot and abrasion.
There are various types of paracord, Type I, Type II, Type III and Type IV, with increasing roman numerals indicating increasing cord strength and an increasing number of inner braids. These inner braids can be separated out of the main cord in emergency situations for fishing line or sewing thread.
Paracord serves many general uses in the United States Army. It is readily available to soldiers and many infantrymen use the cord in a number of aplications. For example, when threaded with beads, paracord may be used as a pace counter to estimate ground covered by foot.
There are several good suppliers for paracord, you can check in Supply Captain, there are many many colors at Lighthound, the ACU camo color and others can be ordered from CountyComm and you can order the Glow in the Dark version from TAD gear. The price is variable aprox $6 per 100 foot is a good price but can be more expesive for special colors or in smaller quantities.
In order to start we will describe common knots that are very useful in paracord crafts, if you want a complete and definitive guide for knots we recommend you to check The Ashley Book of Knots ($50 at Amazon).
The Square Knot
The square knot uses 2 strands of cord, you can use the same color or 2 different colors for a combined finish.
The result is useful as a fob or terminator with squared shape. If you want to leave a small lace of paracord in the end then you should plan the length before starting the knot, you can use a small rubber band to sepparate the lace from the rest of the cord.
If you want to install a solid ring you also have to do it before starting the knot. You can learn how to make a square knot following this link.
The Cross Wave Knot
This is a variation of the square knot that produces a cilindrical result instead of a square, the paracord strands doing spiral waves.
It has a nice look when you combine strands of paracord of different color. The procedure to create this knot is almost identical to the square knot but what you do in every step is slightly different basically you cross the strands of paracord instead of bending them along straight lines. You can learn to make this knot following this link.
You can put a cilindrical small object in the middle of this knot to create a paracord covered kubotan, a pen or choppo sticks.
The Cobra Stitch
The Cobra Stitch also known as Solomon bar knot is the star of the "flat" knots. It can be used to enhance lanyards, to create fobs, to create bracelets, to create belts, straps for bags or pouches, straps for flashlights, etc. This interesting knot can also be used to "store" paracord inside the knot itself in a way that can be easily pulled out in case of need, that is why you will often see bracelets or belts labeled with the word "survival" meaning you can use them to get cord in case of need.
The Cobra Stitch can be done with a single strand of paracord, with 2 strands or with 3 strands depending on the kind of result you want. You can leave a loop of cord outside of the cobra stitch to be used as an attchment point. Follow this link to learn how to make the Cobra Stitch.
The King Cobra Stitch
A King Cobra Stitch is just a Cobra stitch made on top of another cobra stitch. This is used to create a wider, bulkier version of the Cobra Stitch. You really don't need instructions if you know how to make a Cobra Stitch but in case you want to check you can follow this link.
The Slats Knot
The Slats Knot is another flat knot used to create bracelets, belts or straps. It has a different look than the Cobra Stitch probably not so decorative but certainly more functional. The Slatts knot has the nice property that if you don't tie the knot too tight you can easily untie the knot pulling the ends obtaining a large strand of paracord.
So if you want the "real" survival knot to store paracord that can be used in case of need this is probably what you want, you can just pull your belt, bracelet or strap, untie the end and pull the end strands to get a good amount of paracord.
The amount of paracord you can store in a Slatts knot depends on the number of loops you choose to use, the more loops you use the wider the knot will be and then you will be able to store more paracord.
The buckles can be obtained in several different colors from Supply captain. D rings triglides and other plastic hardware or metal hardware accesories can be used to make the belt more complete, adding some attachment points for keyrings for example or other items. You can also try a hollow belt buckle to store some secret items.
You can learn how to do the Slatts knot following this link.
Braiding is used to create cilindrical forms with paracord, braided cord can be used for lanyards, keyrings, dog straps and many other uses. The typical braids use 3 or 4 strands of paracord.
In the typical 3 strand braid you just cross strands of paracord one over the other alternating the starting strand, if the strands are numbered 1, 2 and 3 then the braiding is 1 over 2 and 3, 3 over 1 and 2, 1 over 2 and 3 etc.
With 4 strands of paracord one interesting braid is the diamond braid (picture). The result is a solid chain of paracord that has a nice looking too, since this used 4 strands you can make it in 1, 2, 3 or 4 different colors trying your own combinations can lead to interesting results. You can learn how to make the diamond braid following this link.
The monkey fist is one of the most beautiful and practical end knots for lanyards or fobs, practically the end result looks like a ball of paracord.
You can learn how to make the Monkey Fist following this link. Please keep in mind you will need some patience and practice to master it.
Keep the knot untight and when you are done insert a round object in the middle like a marble and then start tightening and eventually arranging the loops if they got mixed. The end result has 2 free strands of paracord.
Inside the monkey fist knot you can put a spheric object to add some weight to the knot and keep the form, marbles or small aluminium, metal or wooden balls are ideal. You can get them from Smallparts.com.
The Hangman's knot is a common way to finish wrist lanyards it basically converts a single loose strand of cord in a loop that can then be used as an attachment point.
The knot is easy to do, just follow the illustrations, at the end you tighten the knot pulling the 2 free strands you can tuck the short strand inside the knot or you can melt it and fuse it with the other strand if you want. Once done the knot is quite secure and can be used to carry some heavy objects without trouble,
You can use a small ferrule or fastener at the end of the knot to cover part of it, it will give the knot a nice finishing touch.
The number of accesories you can use for your lanyards is almost unlimited, in this article we are just going to mention some common accesories that can be used and are popular or maybe we just like them, you are free to search and use your own pieces of hardware and decorations to make your lanyards as good as you want them to be.
This is a quick dettach string connector, the left piece can be dettached from the right piece pressing on the sides. You thread paracord through the left piece and you use the right piece to attach different objects to your lanyard specially those with a small hole like mp3 players, some flashlights, etc.
This is a break-away lanyard connector, you thread one strand of paracord on each piece, then melt the ends together, close the connector and the lanyard is closed. Under tension the connector will break-away so you have some safety in case a lanyard gets trapped in some machinery or something like that.
This a zipper pull closure, it is used to finish lanyards can be used for just one strand of cord or to join two strands of cord in one end. Just insert the strand(s) in the base and close it using a set of pliers.
The picture shows a ball cord lock it has a spring to keep the cord in place, pushing the button you can slide the lock along the cord, this can be used to adjust the size of wrist or neck lanyards for example. Since passing the cord may not be very easy you can get some help using a drinking straw to pass the cord.
This is an arrowhead closure it can be used to finish a lanyard joining two free strands of paracord, you pass each strand on each side of the bottom piece (the one on the right) and then insert the ends at each end of the top piece (the one on the left) you then insert the top piece on the bottom piece and the lanyard is closed. You may need a set of pliers to close it properly. This is good for neck lanyards since the shape of the end keeps a curvature that is confortable to wear and looks well.
This is an oval cord lock it has a sping and two holes to pass the paracord, pushing the button the cord is free, release the button and the cord gets locked. This can be used to adjust the size of wrist or neck lanyards.
The plastic accesories shown in this article can ge obtained from Lighthound following this link.
If you are making keychains you probably need some split rings, specially strong splitrings can be adequate if you plan to carry a lot of keys or items on your keychain. Spro makes some strong splitrings in different sizes you can ask for information in this site. You can also get good quality swivels from Spro.
For clips, hardware and several different accesories in stainless steel or tianium you can also check Berkeley Point, a high quality source of several items that can be useful when you are creating your own lanyards and keychains.
Skulls are popular decorative items for lanyards and fobs, the pweter skulls as in the picture can look particularly good in your keychain. We are going to point you to pewter skulls, large bed skulls and glow in the dark skulls as shown in the pictures.
Pewter Skulls at Lighthound.
Pewter Skulls at TAD gear
Long Bead Skulls at TAD gear
Glow in the dark Skulls at TAD gear
A small list of decorative elements:
- Beads in plastic, wood or metal, different colors and types.
- Aluminium or Titanium ferrules.
- Hex nuts, steel, ceramic, brass
- Glow in the dark beads or skulls
- Pewter skulls
- Glow in the dark o-rings
- Oval split rings
Finishing Touches and Tips
If you remove the inner strands of paracord you basically get a less bulky version of cord that can be used to produce smaller knots. A cobra stitch can be flatter without the inner strands. And you can also use this technique to thread paracord through small beads or skulls. Once the strands are removed you can thred ball and chain inside the cord to produce a neck chain or bracelet with the properties of ball and chain and the look of paracord.
When you finish a knot you usually end up with some loose strands of paracord, the best way to get rid of these loose strands is to cut them short and then melt the end with a buthane lighter fusing the melted end with some other paracord. Use a set of needle nose pliers to handle the melted end and fuse it with something.
Quick gallery of examples
This is a combination of a square knot and a monkey fist using olive and international orange paracord with a Marble inside the monkey fist for weight. First you measure how much cord you will need for the monkey fist doing a mock version of the knot. Then for the orange strand you just cut as much cord as you need for the square knot plus the amount needed for the monkey fist. The square knot is done first and then the monkey fist is done with the loose end of orange paracord.
This is a pen made with toxic green and black paracord using the cross wave square knot. Since the knot produces a cilindrical result you can use it for pens or kubotans.
To create this object you need to start the first stitch of the cross wave square knot and then place the pen refill in the middle of the knot, then carefully proceed with the knot keeping the pen refill in the middle.
If you have a slim cheap pen you can put the complete pen in the middle and then you will be able to change the refill without redoing everything. For Kubotans just put a solid object in the middle like a bar of titanium, steel or brass.
This is a paracord bracelet made with glow in the dark cord in the outside (white when not charged) and black paracord inside. The black paracord is just a loop of paracord that can be quickly removed from the bracelet by pulling. To create this just set the loop of black paracord and then do a cobra stitch over it with the GID paracord.
This is a cobra stitch knot with the inner strands of paracord pulled you can create the loop ends using the same paracord used for the cobra stitch just placing the loop at one end and then starting the cobra stitch over itself at the other end. In this example a pewter skull was added in one of the ends to give the fob a nicer look.
The knots we have covered in this article are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many many knots you can use to make decorative lanyards and fobs and other items with paracord, the Ashley book of knots is a great source of knots and you can also check the web for ideas, examples and instructions about how to make knots. In the future we can even plan to add a second chapter to this article with even more knots and ideas.
One excellent source of ideas and a fantastic gallery of examples is the online weblog of Stormdrane you can find many ideas, tips and advice about paracord in that blog.