Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 10 Most Useful Rope Knots

A list of most practical rope knots.

This is a totally unscientific sampling of the most useful knots you can learn for general use. I looked at many lists of most useful knots from Boy Scouts to sailors to arborists. Those groups and many others have their own specific lists of most useful knots, but this list is intended for the average Joe or Jane for everyday use. 

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list. Each person has their own group of knots that they turn to in different situations. I don't necessarily agree with this list but they are the ones that turn up most. Take a look at my earlier post on Basic Knots to see what I believe are the best ones to learn.

I suggest you stop at your local lumber yard or Wal-Mart and grab a hank of cord and practice the knots to gain proficiency.  

These are listed with the most frequently cited at the top.

1. Bowline. The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred as the King of the Knots because of its importance. It is one of the four basic maritime knots (the other three are figure-eight knot or stopper, reef knot and clove hitch).

Although generally considered a reliable knot, its main deficiencies are a tendency to work loose when not under load, to slip when pulled sideways and the bight portion of the knot to capsize in certain circumstances. To address these shortcomings, a number of more secure variations of the bowline have been developed for use in safety-critical applications such as the Double Bowline, Water Bowline and Yosemite Bowline. [Bowline. (2014, October 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1010)

2. Square Knot or Reef Knot. The reef knot or square knot is an ancient and simple binding knot used to secure a rope or line around an object. Although the reef knot is often seen used for tying two ropes together, it is not recommended for this purpose because of the potential instability of the knot, and over-use has resulted in many deaths.

A reef knot is formed by tying a left-handed overhand knot and then a right-handed overhand knot, or vice versa. A common mnemonic for this procedure is "right over left; left over right", which is often appended with the rhyming suffix "... makes a knot both tidy and tight". Two consecutive overhands of the same handedness will make a granny knot. The working ends of the reef knot must emerge both at the top or both at the bottom, otherwise a thief knot results. [Reef knot. (2014, October 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

This is the knot you tie when tying shoelaces. Admission; For many years, I tied my shoes in a Granny Knot, which is the incorrect way to tie your shoes. It wasn't until I saw A TED talk that I figured out that I had been doing it wrong. It is still difficult to tie it the correct way after doing it wrong all of those years.
(ABoK #1402)

3. Figure Eight Stopper and Figure Eight Loop. I listed these two together because of the way they tie. Once you learn how to tie these, it is very easy to remember how to do it again. 

Figure Eight Stopper. The figure-eight knot is a stopper knot. It is very important in both sailing and rock climbing as a method of stopping ropes from running out of retaining devices. Like the overhand knot, which will jam under strain, often requiring the rope to be cut, the figure of eight will also jam, but is usually more easily undone than the overhand knot.
(ABoK #570)

Figure Eight Loop. A figure-eight loop (also figure-eight on a bight or Flemish loop or Flemish eight) is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes. The knot is commonly followed by tying a strangle knot (AKA Half a Double Fisherman's Knot) or an overhand knot around the standing end. [Figure-eight loop. (2014, March 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

In my experience the Figure Eight Loop is by far the easiest way to create a loop in the end of a rope. once learned, it becomes somewhat instinctive. It is also a nice looking symmetric knot. 
(ABoK #1085)

4. Clove HitchThe clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most important knots and is commonly referred to as a Double Hitch.[1] A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not particularly secure in that role. A clove hitch made around the rope's own standing part is known as either two half-hitches or buntline hitch, depending on whether the turns of the clove hitch progress away from or towards the hitched object.

This knot is particularly useful where the length of the running end needs to be adjustable, since feeding in rope from either direction will loosen the knot to be tightened at a new position. With certain types of cord, the clove hitch can slip when loaded. In modern climbing rope, the clove hitch will slip to a point, and then stop slipping. With smaller diameter cords, after being heavily weighted it may become difficult to untie. It is also unreliable when used on a square or rectangular post, rather than round.

The clove hitch is also commonly used in pioneering to start and finish a lashing such as the traditional square lashing, tripod lashing, round lashing, and sheer lashing. [Clove hitch. (2014, November 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1245)

5. Constrictor Knot The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

The constrictor knot is appropriate for situations where secure temporary or semi-permanent binding is needed. Made with small-stuff it is especially effective, as the binding force is concentrated over a smaller area. When tying over soft material such as the neck of a bag, hard stiff cord is more effective. When tying over hard surfaces, soft stretchy line is preferred. The constrictor knot's severe bite (which makes it so effective) can damage or disfigure items it is tied around. To exert extreme tension on the knot without injuring the hands, one can fashion handles using marlinespike hitches made around two rods.

Constrictor knots can be used for temporarily binding the fibers of a rope (or strand ends) together while splicing, or when cutting to length and before properly whipping the ends. Constrictor knots can also be quite effective as improvised hose clamps or cable ties. The knot has also been recommended for ligatures in human and veterinary surgery, where it has been shown to be far superior to any of the knots commonly used for ligation. Noted master-rigger Brion Toss says of the constrictor: "To know the knot is to constantly find uses for it…

A heavily tightened constrictor knot will likely jam. If the ends are long enough, one can sometimes untie it by pulling one end generally parallel to the bound object and a bit up away from it, and prying it into the opposite end's part to open the knot. Tools that can be forced between parts of the knot (such as picks and marlinespikes) may help.

If the ends have been trimmed short, or the knot is otherwise hopelessly jammed, it can be easily released by cutting the riding turn with a sharp knife. The knot will spring apart as soon as the riding turn is cut. If care is taken not to cut too deeply, the underlying wraps will protect the bound object from being damaged by the knife. [Constrictor knot. (2014, September 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1188)

6. Zeppelin BendA Zeppelin bend  is a general purpose bend knot. It is a secure, easily tied, and jam-resistant way to connect two ropes. Though its simplicity and security may be matched by other bends, it is unique in the ease with which it is untied, even after heavy loading.

Although highly improbable, the Zeppelin Bend has been described as being used to secure Airships. Indeed, vice Admiral Charles Rosendahl, Commanding Officer of the American Zeppelin (Los Angeles/ZR3), was even supposed to have insisted that the knot be used to moor his airship. These stories now seem highly unlikely:

Giles Camplin, Editor of Airship Heritage Trust's Journal Dirigible reported the following in Issue No. 60, Summer 2010: (1) the docking procedure typically employed shackling two wires together; (2) in later life Rosendahl claimed ignorance of the knot; (3) a Zeppelin knot cannot be untied under load; (4) a bend joining two ropes would be an awkward way to moor anything; and (5) a rigger who flew on the R100 reported they always used a Rolling Hitch.

Despite being praised by some sources as a nearly ideal bend knot, it is not very well known; Clifford Ashley, author of The Ashley Book of Knots, was apparently unaware of this bend. [Zeppelin bend. (2014, September 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

7. Alpine Butterfly Loop or Lineman's Loop The butterfly loop, also known as lineman's loop, butterfly knot, alpine butterfly knot and lineman's rider, is a knot used to form a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. Tied in the bight, it can be made in a rope without access to either of the ends; this is a distinct advantage when working with long climbing ropes. The butterfly loop is an excellent mid-line rigging knot; it handles multi-directional loading well and has a symmetrical shape that makes it easy to inspect. In a climbing context it is also useful for traverse lines, some anchors, shortening rope slings, and for isolating damaged sections of rope.

The loop is typically attached to a climbing harness by carabiner.

It can also be used to isolate a worn section of rope, where the knot is tied such that the worn section is isolated in the loop (which of course does not receive a carabiner nor bear any loads in this case). The loop portion is isolated when the other two legs are loaded, and in fact the butterfly can be tied as a bend with the ends emerging where the loop would be.

Errors in tying the butterfly loop can produce a similar looking but inferior knot, the so-called "false butterfly", which is prone to slipping. However, some sources suggest this behavior can be exploited purposely for shock absorption. Wright and Magowan called this less secure loop knot the "half-hitch noose". [Butterfly loop. (2014, May 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1188)

8. Overhand Knot The overhand knot is one of the most fundamental knots and forms the basis of many others including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot and water knot. The overhand knot is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. [Overhand knot. (2014, March 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]

As a stopper the Overhand Knot has one advantage: it is one of the few stopper knots that can be tied tightly up against an object or a knot. Although the Double Overhand makes a good stopper "Knot", when an even larger stopper knot is required, the Ashley Stopper Knot is preferred. (ABoK #46)

9. Sheet Bend aka Weaver's Knot. The sheet bend (also known as becket bend, weaver's knot and weaver's hitch) is a bend, that is, a knot that joins two ropes together. Doubled, it is effective in binding lines of different diameter or rigidity securely together, although it has a tendency to work loose when not under load.

The sheet bend is related in structure to the bowline. It is very fast to tie, and along with the bowline and clove hitch is considered so essential it is knot №1 in The Ashley Book of Knots. It is a more secure replacement for the reef knot (square knot), especially in its doubled variety.

The "weaver's knot" takes its common name from its historic use in textile mills. Even in modern operations, weavers are taught to use this particular knot when correcting broken threads in the Warp (weaving). In practice, weavers are taught to be able to tie the knot in as little time possible, with the mean average being no more than three to five seconds. [Sheet bend. (2014, September 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.] (ABoK #1)

10. Timber Hitch The timber hitch is a knot used to attach a single length of rope to a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.

The timber hitch is an old knot. It is first known to have been mentioned in a nautical source circa 1625 and illustrated in 1762.

As the name suggests, this knot is often used by lumbermen and arborists for attaching ropes to tree trunks, branches, and logs. For stability when towing or lowering long items, the addition of a half-hitch in front of the timber hitch creates a timber hitch and a half hitch, or known as a killick hitch when at sea. A killick is a small anchor or weight for mooring a boat, sometimes consisting of a stone secured by pieces of wood". This can also prevent the timber hitch from rolling.

This knot is also known as the Bowyer's Knot, as it is used to attach the lower end of the bowstring to the bottom limb on an English longbow.

The hitch is also one of the methods used to connect ukulele and classical guitar strings to the bridge of the instruments. [Timber hitch. (2014, October 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.]
(ABoK #1665)

Some of you may have noticed the annotation of ABoK #0000 at the end of each knot. This is in reference to The Ashley Book of Knots and the corresponding knot numbers listed in the book.

Clifford W. Ashley was born in 1881 at the whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He sailed on many kinds of boats in many capacities, from ship's surgeon to interested observer. His ruling passions were marine painting and knot-tying, on which he was one of the world's leading authorities. His paintings are represented in the permanent collection of many American museums and libraries. He spent six weeks on the whaling ship Sunbeam. During the voyage he witnessed the hunt and killing of three whales.

The Ashley Book of Knots is without parallel when it comes to knot tying. Published in 1944, this book is still the number one reference to all things knotting. There are over 7,000 drawings of 3,900 knots and their application in the 619 page knot tyers tome. There is no equal to this reference, bar none. I cannot recommend this book enough to novice knot tyers.

For beginner knot tyers, I would recommend Complete Book of Knots by Geoffrey Budworth.  

For step-by-step knot tying instruction on-line, the very best site is Animated Knots by Grog. They offer the best step-by-step animations and videos for learning how to tie knots. They also have iPhone and Android apps for your phone and tablet. I have the app on my iPhone.

Bonus Knot. And for something completely different there is Surgical Knots and Suturing Techniques. Just in case you want to know what knots surgeons are tying inside your body! Here is a Surgeon's Knot.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More Mil-Spec Fun!

On my last post I said we were going to beat the Mil-Spec horse a little longer. Apparently I was wrong. We're gonna ride that sucker around! So, more Mil-Spec cord fun!

Today we are going to look at other types of  MIL-C-5040H/PIA-C-5040E cord. Other than the most popular being the Type III 550, there are five other types;

TypeInner StrandsBreak Strength
Type I495
Type II4400
Type III7550
Type IV11750
Type IAnone100
Type IIAnone225

Types IA and IIA are listed separately by me. For the reason that they do not have a requirement for inner strands. The inner strand count listed for the other cords are a minimum number. I have seen cord with additional strands. Although it is very rare.

I have heard Type I & IA described as accessory cord, dummy cord and vest cord. It is used to secure objects to your person that you cannot afford to lose.

I have also heard Type IV described as the bigger beefier cousin of Type III. The cords have identical construction with the addition of four extra inner strands in Type IV. I don't believe that Type IV is used all that much. Hence the lack of availability.

I have found sources for all of these cords except Type IIA. I am not sure that anybody is manufacturing it. (I have seen a 425 Tactical Cord that sounds like Type II.) Here is a list of sources for the others, except Type III 550 which I covered in a previous post.

These cords are rare, so don't expect to find any deals.

Type I     The Paracord Store. - Commercial, Not Mil-Spec - 100' - $6.75
Type IA  Adventure Survival Equipment - Genuine Mil-Spec - 100' - $6.95
Type II   Horizon Industries - Genuine Mil-Spec - 1200' $85.87 Very limited selection. One color.
Type IV 5col Survival Supply - Genuine Mil-Spec - 100' - $16.49 Free shipping.

If anybody has any input on additional sources for these cords, I would be happy to hear them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What is Mil-Spec Paracord?

Is My Paracord Mil-Spec?

All right, let's beat this Mil-Spec horse a little longer so I can get it out of my system.

There are very specific requirements for Mil-Spec cord. There is also a lot of misunderstanding involving Mil-Spec cord.

Type III 550 cord from 5col Survival Supply

As stated in the Military Specification MIL-C-5040H/PIA-C-5040E, Type III cord must have a nylon sleeve with 7-9 inner strands of 3-ply nylon. Some commercial Paracord will not meet this standard.

Nylons characteristics are:
  • Variation of luster. Can be lustrous (shiny), semi-lustrous or dull.
  • High durability. Used in seat belts, tire cords and ballistic cloth.
  • High elongation. Can stretch up to 30%
  • Excellent abrasion resistance.
  • High resistance to fungi, molds mildew, rot, oil and many chemicals (reason enough alone to use this material).
  • Melts instead of burning. High melting point. 471° F.
  • Resilient
Some commercial paracord is made with polyester which is not as strong as nylon.  It is resistant to elongation or stretching. It only stretches 5-10%. I believe most, if not all U.S. manufacturers use nylon for their commercial paracord. See my previous post that discusses several of those manufacturers. (Rothco sells paracord made with polyester and nylon.)

Mil-Spec cord must pass a complete battery of tests and standards.The material and cord must meet six ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, six AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists) standards, four PIA (Parachute Industry Association) standards, component testing of; Denier, Tenacity, Melting Point, Twist Single Yarns, Twist Plied Yarns and Plying of Core Yarns, and inspected for eighteen end item visual defects. Not to mention a "Sunshine Carbon Arc Test" and a "Xenon Arc Test"!!!

The core yarns must be wet shrunk for a minimum of 60 minutes at a temperature of 200°. They must be dried at a temperature not to exceed 200°. Sleeve yarns must be wet shrunk a minimum of 30 minutes at a temperature of 160°. They must be dried at a temperature not to exceed 160°.

Of course breaking strength must be 550 pounds minimum. Must be able to elongate (stretch) at least 30% minimum. Length per pound of cord prior to Teflon treatment must be at least 225' feet. Length per pound of cord after Teflon treatment must be at least 208' feet. There is a pH wash test that must fall between 5.5 and 9.0.

It must also be resistant to light verified by a Sunshine Carbon Arc Test and a Xenon Arc Test. In these tests the cord is exposed to these lamps under specific air temperature and humidity for 48 to 50 hours. It is then tested for breaking strength.

It must have a PTFE Fluoropolymer Resin (aka Teflon) treatment. It must be evenly distributed throughout the cord.

When it is delivered to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Military it must be delivered on spools of 1200' feet or 2100' feet. It must have a label with part number M5040-5x. X being the color.

Needless to say Mil-Spec Type III cord is pretty durable and long lasting. It must be able to stand up to punishing conditions and treatment. These requirements assure that the U.S. Military is getting the highest and most consistent quality cord. And of course if your Military parachute is rigged with this material, you can depend on it with your life.

It is for these reasons that Mil-Spec cord is not cheap. At the cheapest, a 1000' foot spool goes for $71 and a 100' hank for $11. If you paying less than this, you are either getting a smoking deal or it's not the real deal.

Commercial Paracord could probably not meet all of these standards. And I doubt that any of it is treated with Teflon or pre-shrunk.

So let's break it down. To rule out that you don't have Mil-Spec cord, look for the following things.

  • Is your cord Black, Foliage Green, Coyote Brown 498, Khaki, Desert Tan 499, Camo Green 483, Natural (White), Olive Drab 107, Foliage Green 504, Red, Maroon, Sea Blue or Saftey Orange? If not, it's definitely NOT Mil-Spec Type III cord!
  • Does it have 7-9 inner strands with three ply threads on each strand and unique color threads on one of the inner strands identifying the manufacturer. (see below for manufacturers and their unique color threads.). If there are no identifying threads, it's not Mil-Spec Type III!
Type IV 750 cord from 5col Survival Supply
These two tests alone can eliminate most if not all of the fakes or imitations. I have seen a merchant selling a patterned cord and claiming it is genuine Mil-Spec. I have yet to see any definitive proof that true Mil-Spec cord is being produced in any color other than what I have listed above. I would invite anyone with information to the contrary to contact me. I want my information to be accurate as possible.  

Here is a list of manufacturers and their identifying threads;
  • American Cord & Webbing      2 Black - 1 Green 
  • Atkins & Pearce                        1 Red - 1 Green - 1 Black
  • Cortland Line Co. Inc.                      3 Tan
  • ELC Industries LLC                         1 Red - 2 Blue
  • E.L. Wood Braiding Co., Inc.           2 Yellow - 1 Black
  • Franklin Braid Mfg.                          2 Black - 1 Red
  • Gladding Braided Products Inc.        1 Tan - 2 Black
  • Gudebrod Inc.                                   1 Blue - 2 Yellow
  • Hope Global                                      1 Yellow - 1 Green - 1 Tan
  • Mills Manufacturing                          3 Green
  • Rhode Island Textile Co.                   2 Black - 1 Blue
  • United Stretch Design                        3 Yellow
I do not have information indicating that all of these companies are actively producing Mil-Spec cord at this time. There are five of them that are producing both Mil-Spec cord and Commercial Paracord. I have underlined those. See my prior post that talks about those companies.

Hopefully this information can lie to rest the questions regarding Mil-Spec cord. If anyone has any information that may contradict my research, please let me know. I am not above reproach. Thanks for reading! Happy tying!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

And Yet More Resources!

Where to Get It and How Much It Costs.
In the search for sources of Paracord, the choices are numerous. Prices vary wildly along with type and quality. As stated in the previous post, it's not always Mil-Spec. Read between the lines very closely and maybe you'll figure out what you're getting. Some sites are very clear on what they are selling. There are sites that state clearly that you are getting "Commercial Paracord" or more vaguely, "Military 550 Paracord".Other sites state that it is made to mil-spec standards. That's not always true. It may have the same basic physical characteristics as mil-spec but it would never meet the rigorous testing standards. And let's remember the one basic rule, if your Paracord is not Black, Foliage Green, Coyote Brown, Natural (White), Olive Drab Green, Red or Orange, it's definitely NOT Mil-Spec Type III cord! Again, you get what you pay for. And for most, it may not matter. The genuine cord is very nice, but if exterior appearance is all that matters, then don't sweat it. Then there are those of us that are OCD and have to have the genuine article. So go ahead and spend the bucks and get it. 

With constant war going on for the last twelve years, the availability of tactical gear has grown exponentially. Some of the sites that sell paracord are also tactical gear sites that cater to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Fact; Since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, about 2.5 million members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and related Reserve and National Guard units have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to Department of Defense data. That's a lot of people! So it's easy to see what's driving interest into tactical gear and related items.

The following list is far from exhaustive but is representative of what's available. Disclosure: I have no allegiance or relationships with any of these vendors. (Although if one of you wanted to throw some samples my way, I would not object!) I cannot vouch for quality or construction of any of these items, so buyer beware.

Paracord Planet These guys seem to be the leading seller of paracord these days (May 2017). I'm not sure who is making their cord. Either way, I would tend to stick with Nylon cord. Typically most nylon cord is USA made. Whereas polyester is usually foreign made (China!). They have a large selection of different diameters of cord to include ParaMax. It is a 1200 pound cord. Very robust. They also have 750 cord which is 550 cord with additional inner strands. It's basically a heavier 550 cord.  $9.50 for a one hundred foot hank of 550 paracord. $19.99 for a one hundred foot hank of Mil-Spec Type III 550 paracord. If you want sheer variety of different sizes of cord, this is the place to go.

Supply Captain  These guys have been around for awhile. It appears they sell Commercial Paracord from E.L. Wood. E.L. Wood manufactures genuine mil-spec cord for the U.S. Military and is a listed vendor with the Department of Defense. 1000' foot spool goes for $55. 100' foot hank for $9. Not sure about shipping. It is based on weight. They make you register in order to see the cart with shipping. They also sell accessory cord (Type I Paracord) and shock cord (mini bungee cord). No Mil-Spec cord.

Camping Survival These guys sell Gladding Paracord, E.L. Wood, and Rothco cord, You can get a 1000" foot spool of black for under $39. Most other colors go for under $38 for a 1000' foot spool. Their 100' hanks (that's a funny word!) go for $6.43. Shipping on all of their 1000' foot spools is $5.25. Shipping is also $5.25 for 100' foot lengths. Although you can add additional lengths with not much additional shipping charge. They also sell an 850 Pound test cord made by Gladding for $49 for a 1000' spool. A lot of the cord they sell is made by Rothco. Last I checked Rothco wasn't a manufacturer of Mil-Spec cord. They sell "U.S. Made Military 550 Paracord" That is NOT mil-spec cord. No Mil-Spec cord. 

True Mil-Spec Type III 550 Cord aka Wholesale Parachute Cord.

Wholesale Parachute Cord has "Commercial Type III 7 Strand Cord" He has a minimum order of $130 for wholesale pricing. They sell a 1000' foot spool for about $40. Shipping comes out to $4.25 per 1000' foot. No Mil-Spec cord. has a retail page with no minimum order. A 1000' foot spool goes for $43 - $48. 100' feet for about $10. Good color selection. Their cord looks like it comes from E.L. Wood. They have Mil-Spec cord. 1200' for $75.95 (Shipping - $14.35). 100' for $11.95 (Shipping - $6.25).

Survival-Pax Co. (Update! 5/19/17. I think these guys are going out of business. Not much to see here.)

Adventure Survival Equipment (aka Best Glide) These guys sell ONLY Mil-Spec cord. You can have any color you want as long as it is Black, Foliage Green, Coyote Brown, Natural (White), Olive Drab or Orange. Yeah this stuff is not cheap. 100' feet for $10 and 1000' foot spool for $96. Shipping is $11 for a 100' foot hank and $13 for a 1000' foot spool. So ordering in small quantities is not a good idea.  

Commercial Paracord

Paracord Galaxy These guys have a ginormous color selection! 355 different color choices of their U.S. made Paracord. And 614 color choices in any sourced Paracord. Prices range from $5.49 to $6.99 for 100' feet to $45 to $50 for a 1000' foot spool. Shipping is $7.50 flat rate for three hanks or more, and $15.80 for a 1000' foot spool. Also glow in the dark Paracord for $17 for 100' foot hanks. And Kevlar Paracord for $75 for 100' feet! Not sure what you would use that for. Especially at that price. It's supposed to be 1050 pound test and rated to 900°!!! Still not sure what you would use that for. They also offer a 650 Coreless Flat Paracord" It is hollow and lies flat. Supposed to be good for whip making, lanyards, rectangular braiding using the crown sinnet knot, flat shoe or bootlaces. I believe their U.S. made cord is from E.L. Wood. Their site is a little clunky. There isn't a sort function on their product page. No Mil-Spec cord. Also, make sure to click on the USA Made button to make sure you're getting decent nylon paracord. For sheer color selection, you can't beat these guys!!

Sgt. Knots These guys offer some good prices on Paracord and shipping. But their color selection is  limited. $40 for a 1000' foot spool with $7.90 for shipping. 100' hanks go for $5 with $3 shipping. Very reasonable total costs. Especially in 100' lengths. They also offer a lot of accessories. No mil-spec cord. They have a neat Knot Tying Kit  for $15 that comes with two six foot lengths of rope, one six foot length of flat webbing material, and waterproof knot tying cards with fourteen different knots. Very handy way to learn common and popular knots.

Atwood Rope Mfg. Not sure about these guys. They claim to be "the largest 550 Paracord manufactures in the USA". They have a lot of patterns that match E.L. Wood. But they also have a bunch of unique patterns. They may manufacture some of their own patterns. Anyway, 100' feet for $7.99. Shipping is $2.83 for a single hank. 1000' spools starting at $60. These guys are a bit of an anomaly. No Mil-Spec cord. What they do have is an very large selection of different diameter rope and cord. All the way from 0.75mm nano cord to 1.5" diameter polyester rope. They manufacture cord and rope in many different materials; nylon, polyester polypropylene, Kevlar, and Dyna X, They also have a device called a "Tactical Rope Dispenser". It is a cased spool of 550 cord (included) with a belt clip and a cutting device for $25. Looks kinda cool. No Mil-Spec cord.

True Mil-Spec Type IV 750 cord
5col Survival Supply These guys sell only true Mil-Spec cord. In addition to Type III 550 cord, they also sell Type IV 750 cord. This cord has the same outer sheath as Type III 550 cord but has 11 inner strands. This gives it a fuller, rounder appearance in addition to greater strength. A 100' hank of 550 Type III 550 goes for under $14 with free shipping. A 100' hank of 750 Type IV cord goes for under $15 with free shipping. These guys also sell bank line.

West Coast Paracord Lots of colors and patterns. Called "West Coast" but located in the absolute least coastal location possible; Fargo, North Dakota. Go figure.100' hanks go as low as $4.99. They sell ten foot hanks for $1.99. Shipping starts at $5.50, so you may want to combine your orders. They have a huge selection of colors and patterns. Not sure who makes their cord. I've seen their colors and patterns elsewhere, but they seem to have changed the names. Their cord is nylon and American made. There are 68 different solid colors and 304 pattern colors. They have eleven colors of Mil-Spec cord. 100' goes for $13 and 1000' for $140. Shipping appears to be free on a 1000' spool. Also many other size cords from Type 95 to 850 cord.


So, if you want genuine Mil-Spec cord, you will have to go with 5col Survival Supply or Adventure Survival Equipment aka Best Glide, or West Coast Paracord.

For Commercial 550 Cord, out of all these sites, I would pick Camping Survival for pricing. (Seems like everything is on sale. They may be getting out of the paracord business.) Their site is also pretty easy to use. The sheer selection award goes to Paracord Galaxy with over 614 color choices!!! Remember not all of that is U.S. made.

With my research on different sites I have come to the conclusion that the majority of U.S. made Commercial Paracord sold, is made by two companies. Gladding Braided Products, Inc. and E.L. Wood Braiding Co., Inc. Gladding appears to have 115 different colors and patterns and E.L. Wood  has 193. And Franklin Braid Manufacturing Company has 44 different colors and patterns. All three of these companies are manufactures of Mil-Spec cord for the U.S. Military. If you want to purchase American made cord in bulk, you might not go wrong by contacting one of these companies. Rothco sells commercial paracord made in the U.S. and China. Their U.S. paracord is nylon and their China paracord is polyester. Not sure who makes their U.S. paracord.

P.S. I was digging around on the Defense Logistics Agency web site and found the order numbers and pricing for paracord. DOD charges their own customers about $49 for a 1000' foot of Type III cord. Of course they have to order one hundred 1200' foot spools. That's 120,000 feet for those of you that are slow at math! If you want a single spool, you would pay $67 for a thousand feet of cord. They are still paying less than you for Mil-Spec cord!

Edited: 01/30/2018

Friday, February 21, 2014

Types of Paracord

A lot of the current interest in Knots has been driven by Paracord and Paracord creations. Most recreational knots being tied today are being tied in Paracord. What is Paracord? Paracord comes in many different forms. 

The original paracord was used in the suspension lines of U.S. military parachutes in World War II. I believe those cords were made with silk. Synthetic fibers were not real common until the end of WWII. Today's Paracord is manufactured with Nylon. The official Paracord is Department of Defense Military Specification "MIL-C-5040H CORD, FIBROUS, NYLON" This specification was adopted in 1987. The last revision to this specification was in 1994 It covers several different diameters and strengths of cord. The most common is Type III. This cord has a minimum braking strength of 550 pounds. Hence the nickname "550 paracord" The other types of cords range in strength from 95 pounds for Type I to 750 pounds for Type IV. The specification also requires that the cord be natural color (undyed fiber) or Camouflage Green 483 (a standard US Army camo color aka Olive Drab) The cord shall also have 7 to 9 inner strands. Each manufacturer also must put in three colored inner strands that are unique to them for identification proposes. 

BUT, that specification was replaced in 1997 by a civilian standard. "PIA-C-5040E CORD, FIBROUS, NYLON". This standard was developed by the Parachute Industry Association and adopted by the Department of Defense. That standard is physically the same but the testing standards are much more rigorous. The cord must be resistant to light and and be ph neutral. There is also a requirement for a fluorocarbon (Teflon) treatment. Also there are no color restrictions. So today's paracord has much better wear and tear features than old school paracord. It can probably last a long time.

Genuine Type III Mil-Spec Paracord should have a label as such; M5040-5x. X being the color. If it doesn't have this label, it's probably not genuine paracord. In fact, if your Paracord is not Black, Foliage Green, Coyote Brown 498, Khaki, Desert Tan 499, Camo Green 483, Natural (White), Olive Drab 107, Foliage Green 504, Red, Maroon, Sea Blue or Orange, it's definitely NOT Mil-Spec Paracord! Those are the only colors produced by manufacturers for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Military.

I seriously doubt any manufacturer is going to go through the process of; wet shrinking the yarns in 200° F water for thirty to sixty minutes, meet six ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, six AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists) standards, four PIA (Parachute Industry Association) standards, component testing of; Denier, Tenacity, Melting Point, Twist Single Yarns, Twist Plied Yarns and Plying of Core Yarns, and testing EIGHTEEN end items. Not to mention a "Sunshine Carbon Arc Test" and a "Xenon Arc Test"!!!

That being said, there is a LOT of paracord on the market. Some cord says it is made by a certified U.S. Government Contractor. That doesn't mean that the cord is Mil-Spec. Some is labeled Commercial Paracord. This is cord that has the same general physical characteristics as Mil-Spec but probably won't meet all of the testing standards or fiber standards. And I seriously doubt that any commercial cord has been treated with Teflon. All of that would make it very expensive for the manufacturers to make Mil-Spec Paracord for the civilian market. I would suggest buying U.S. made Paracord. Chances are it is made by a company that makes Mil-Spec cord for the U.S. Military and would meet many of the physical construction and strength requirements.

A lot of people complain about cord they purchased online not being Mil-Spec cord. Well for the most part you get what you pay for. If you want to be assured of getting Mil-Spec paracord, and you need a lot of cord, it would probably be a good idea to go to one of the manufacturers of genuine DOD Mil-Spec cord. Such as E. L. Wood or Gladding. (By the way, E.L. Wood unique color strands are 2-yellow, 1-black, Gladding is 2-yellow, 1-green.). In the next post I will list some retail vendors that sell genuine Mil-Spec parachute cord. 

But this begs the question; Do you really need genuine Mil-Spec Paracord? Are you planning on rigging some parachutes for you and your friends? The answer is probably No. If you're making bracelets or tying knots, most any paracord will do. If you think you may need to depend on your cord in a survival situation, maybe you shouldn't plan on Paracord saving your ass. A choice of a much more robust rope may be in order. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

More Resources

Project Resources

A previous entry posted a few resources to get started. A number of years ago when I developed an interest in knots, there were few resources of information. But now it seems that interest has exploded in the subject with a subsequent explosion of information. The driving factor in interest in knots and paracord appears to be driven by the paracord survival bracelet. I don't know the origin of the paracord bracelet. Probably a military one, but I can't find any information. With constant war for the last thirteen years, military usage and availability of paracord has coincided with interest in knots and paracord.

There are limitless sites, videos, books, and resources dedicated to tying the paracord bracelet. Also known as a survival strap, it is a handy way to carry around a length of paracord.

My absolute favorite source of knot tying and paracord source of information and projects is Stormdrane. This guy has more information, resources and imaginative projects than almost anybody. His post date back to 2005 and is probably single-handedly responsible for the concurrent rise in interest in knotting and paracord. He also has a You Tube channel with many instructional videos. He also has a number of guides on Instructables. This is where I first learned to tie a paracord bracelet. He also invented the Rapid Deployment Spool as seen on Instructables and CountyComm.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Basic Knots

This is a list of basic knots that can be used in everyday situations that the average person may encounter. I've left off knots like the sheep shank. There are not many people who work with rope that can recall ever using it. I've also left off the most basic knot; the square knot due to low security. In my opinion it is better to learn one high security knot than a range of knots. Other knots are listed here due to the ease of tying and functionality. (ABOK is the listing number for the Ashley Book of Knots).

Buntline Hitch
The Buntline Hitch was originally employed to secure the buntlines to the foot of the square sails. Repeated shaking and jerking by a flapping sail tended to tighten this knot - hence its value. (ABOK # 1847, p 310)

Alpine Butterfly
This is a fixed loop that can be tied in the middle of a rope. Use it to attach items that you don't want sliding around. And it's a fun knot to tie. You could also use this knot to start the Trucker's Hitch (below). (ABOK # 1053, p 191)

Figure Eight Loop
I like this loop due to its security and ease of tying. The Figure 8 Follow Through allows the simple and reliable Figure 8 loop to be tied to a ring, a carabiner, or your own harness. It is reasonably easy to remember, tie, and check. When completed it forms a Figure 8 Loop (ABOK # 1047, p 190).

Figure Eight Stopper Knot
A easy knot to tie, this is used as a stopper knot. (ABOK # 570, p 95.)

Clove Hitch
A good general-purpose hitch of medium security. (ABOK # 1245, p 224)

Constrictor Knot
The best of all binding knots. It's so good, you will need a knife to remove it. (ABOK # 1188, p 216.)

Truckers Hitch
If you only learn how to tie one knot, this is it. When your friends ask you to help them move, if you can demonstrate this knot, you will be a hero. If you have ever needed to secure a load, this is the knot to do it. (ABOK # 2124, p 344)