Paracord and Beads

1st Jul 2015

Paracord! I'd heard the name, but I wasn't really sure what it was. Looking at the photos it looked like a Kernmantle rope "in miniature" 

I've used rope both in climbing and rigging for my photography for well over 30 years and in that time I've used just about every conceivable "Genre" of rope, so what exactly is paracord and why has it become so popular over the last couple of years and developed into a huge industry?

Parachute cord (also paracord or 550 cord when referring to type-III paracord) is a lightweight nylon Kernmantle originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes. This cord is useful for many other tasks and is now used as a general purpose utility cord by both military personnel and civilians. This versatile cord was even used by astronauts to repair the Hubble space telescope!

So, its been around a while in its original guise. Its been used in the Military for ages, but its how civilians have jumped on it and have started to make it into jewellery that interested me. There are literally tens of thousands of websites that not only sell 550 paracord by the metre, but also paracord bracelets, lanyards, necklaces, belts, key fobs, its turned into a multi million pound industry.

Like a lot of relatively new "Fads" there's all sorts of stories as to how or why they've developed like they have. So, the story goes that some guy in the military decided he couldn't be bothered to coil up his paracord and put it in his pocket, or pop it in the lid of his rucksack in order to carry it. Perhaps he was just very ingenious, or perhaps fashion conscious, or maybe just plain old bored one evening, but the story goes that he weaved his paracord into a stylish bracelet and wore it on his wrist. Then when he made camp and wanted to tension the fly sheet on his tent, he just undid his bracelet and "hey presto" he had about eleven feet of paracord. The next morning when they decamped, he just made it back into a bracelet. Great story, personally I think I'd just throw it in the top of my rucksack! If I wanted a cool looking bracelet I'd just wear it and carry some more paracord - its a great story though.

As it happened I needed a lanyard for one of my smaller pocket knives that didn't have a pocket clip and spent most of its time rattling around in the depths of my pocket entrenched somewhere firmly beneath a soggy hanky, a couple of dog "poo bags" intermingled with tens, twenty and fifty pence pieces, so when it finally came to extricating it, it could prove quite problematical, hence a lanyard. 

I looked online for knife lanyards and to be honest I wasn't impressed by the prices of what is essentially just a short length of rope. Some on the other hand have beautiful and very elaborate hand made beads incorporated into the weave, others are multi-coloured.

Did I really want to pay upwards of £15 for a piece of string to fish my knife out of my pocket or if I fancied something a little more special I could add a Custom, hand made "bead" by Starlingear for a mere £200! (they are awesome) Call me a "tight wad" but the answer was a resounding NO. I'd make one myself.

I'm no slouch when it comes to rope-work! So I did what we all do in circumstances like these. I switched on my computer and Google'd "Paracord lanyards" Within 0.35 seconds (google tells you things like this) I have 443,000 potential links to click. Lets go one better, lets click on video's, as I've always been better at visualising things if I can see them. So I clicked on videos and I've got less choices, only a 121,000 of them, but google did a fine job of finding them for me, this time in an incredible 0.24 seconds, makes you wonder what we did before "G" was around and the answer is likely to be Libraries. You remember those places? They all shut as soon as we all got a PC and Google got popular

Like a lot of us when we find ourselves in front of a screen being offered so many options. We start off looking for one thing and somehow end up finding something else, which seems a whole lot more interesting. In my case I wanted a simple video outlining how to make a lanyard for my knife. But ended up making a "Mad Max" bracelet! I'm not really sure how? I just clicked on a link and that took me to YouTube and then the "next video" was a "how to" video posted by a guy who has a dedicated website to Paracord and who had been sat in the audience at the cinema watching the latest re-incarnation of Mad Max 2015. Somewhere in the film he'd spotted one of the characters wearing a paracord bracelet! The guy came straight home and worked out how to make it, made a video and posted it on his website which believe it or not, is called "Bored Paracord" So, I'm now the proud owner of my very own Mad Max paracord bracelet which I "pimped" with a little Hoplite bead I'd bought from a great shop I've recently discovered called Heinie Haynes who also sell Paracord and have the wonderful strap line on their website "Premium source for the hardest kit on the planet" Love it!

It took me about 15 minutes to make, once I'd assembled all the bits. It looks great and I've worn it everyday since. I can't imagine I'll be taking it to bits whenever I need a piece of string, thats what the 20ft in my rucksack lid are for, but you never know! I did make that lanyard, which I also incorporated another little Hoplite bead in to, this time in Pewter which looks very cool, link here if your interested, costs a whopping £4.95. Have fun