Thursday, September 5, 2013

Which Buckles are Best for Paracord Bracelets?

Paracord Crafting does not start and end with Paracord alone. Oh no, no, no! There are buckles. And shackles. And clips. And charmsball bearingsbeadscord locks… and… and… and… Well, you get the idea. There is a bunch of stuff used by Paracord Crafters to create UNIQUE crafts & projects using all sorts of hardware.

This is the first in a series of short-&-sweet posts discussing the variety and applicable use of Paracord related hardware out there. This first post is going to be dedicated specifically to side release buckles used for Paracord Bracelets.

When it comes to side release buckles, the most popular sizes used for Paracord Bracelets are 3/8", 1/2" and 5/8".

3/8" Curved Plastic Side Release Buckles
3/8" buckles are great for bracelets made for children and small-wristed women, as well as for the narrower paracord weaves, such as the familiar Cobra Braid/Solomon Bar or Fishtail. This buckle is a great size for "mini" Paracord Bracelets using Type I Paracord, as well!
These buckles can fit a maximum of 2 strands of ungutted 550 Paracord.

 

1/2" Curved Plastic Side Release Buckles


1/2" buckles are a nice medium size for the average width weaves, like the Blaze Bar, Feather Bar or Tire Tread.
These buckles can fit a maximum of 3 strands of ungutted 550 Paracord.


5/8" Curved Plastic Side Release Buckles



5/8" buckles are often used for men’s bracelets and wider paracord weaves, like the Conquistador or King Cobra.
These buckles can fit a maximum of 4 strands of ungutted 550 Paracord.



5/8" Plastic Side Release Whistle Buckle

 

These buckles come in many different shapes, styles, colors, and materials. They can be curved or straight, plastic or metal, with or without whistles & adjuster bars, translucent or opaque. If you can think of it, I’m sure it’s out there.
5/8" Curved Nickel-Plated Metal Buckle

 




Our next post will be focusing on another Paracord Bracelet connector: the shackle. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is Mil-Spec Paracord?

You might have encountered the “Paracord Craze” controversy about “real” and “fakeType III 550 Paracord. Some people are referring to U.S. Made vs. Chinese knockoff paracord, others mean “nylon” vs. “polyester”, and still others suggest that “Mil-Spec” is real and “Commercial” is fake. While the former two might hold water, the latter argument falls through.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are definitive differences between “Mil-Spec” and “Commercial” 550 Paracord, but each are still categorically “550 Paracord”. Most people are familiar with the “Commercial” version of 550 Paracord: rated to a tensile strength of 550 lbs, 7 2-ply inner strands, 100% nylon, 5/32” diameter, mildew, rot & mold resistant, available in hundreds of colors and patterns. In this blog post, I’d like to address the less familiar “Mil-Spec” 550 Paracord, as an effort to dispel some of the rumors out there.

Mil-Spec” is used to denote that a product has been designed
to meet the requirements of the Department of Defense.
Mil-Spec” is a designation used for “Military Defense Specification”. Consider the following description, taken directly from page 2 of the October 1994 “Acquisition Reform” Report from the United States General Accounting Office (GAO):

“In general, ‘military specifications’ describe the physical and or operational characteristics of a product and ‘military standards’ detail the processes and materials to be used to make the product. The standards can also describe how to manage the manufacturing and testing of a part. For example, a specification might describe the kind of wire to be used in an electrical circuit and a standard might describe how the wire is to be fastened in a circuit and what tests should be conducted on the circuit. Military specifications and standards, collectively referred to as ‘milspecs,’ are a major part of DOD’s [Department of Defense] Standardization Program, which seeks to limit variety in purchased items by stipulating certain design details. Some principal purposes for milspecs have been to (1) ensure interoperability between products, (2) provide products that can perform in extreme conditions, (3) protect against contractor fraud, and (4) promote greater opportunities for competition among contractors.”

In other words, “Mil-Spec” is used to denote that a product has been designed to meet the requirements of the Department of Defense regarding the manufacturing process and materials, as well as the physical characteristics and operational function of the product.

Mil-Spec Type III 550 Parachute Cord has been given the ID “Mil-C-5040”, with the latest specification revision “H”, published in March of 1994. In October 1997, the Mil-C-5040H specification was declared inactive for any new design, but is still used for replacement purposes. You can find the Mil-Spec Revision and Inactive documents in .PDF under the “Revision History” table HERE.

Mil-Spec Paracord was first used in the suspension lines of
U.S. Parachutes during WWII.
Historically, Mil-Spec Paracord (Parachute Cord) was first used in the suspension lines of U.S. parachutes during WWII. Troops then began to find other uses for the versatile rope, which eventually crept into civilian world as soldiers came home from the war. Now, there are literally hundreds of uses for paracord (we’ll need a dedicated blog post for that topic).

I’ll do my best to explain Mil-Spec Mil-C-5040 Paracord in the simplest of terms, but I can’t make any promises. :P The main difference between “Mil-Spec” and “Commercial” Paracord is in the quality control and type of internal yarns used.

In each strand of Mil-Spec Type III 550 Paracord, there are 7 to 9 inner strands. To directly quote the official Revision H document, "the core yarn shall be constructed by plying five yarns of 210 denier, resulting in a 1050 denier yarn, for the initial spin, or by using 1050 denier singles yarn, then plying three of the 1050 yarns (either 5 ply or singles) together, resulting in a final core size of 3150 denier." Denier is a measure of the thickness and weight (linear mass density) of the strand of fiber that is measured. The denier formula is: 9000/(denier value) = Meters of yarn equal to one gram. 8.57 meters of 1050 denier nylon equals one gram. (As a reference, a single strand of silk is 1 denier, meaning that it takes 9 kilometers of silk to equal 1 gram!) There is a piece of ID cord in each strand of Mil-Spec Paracord to identify which manufacturer the cordage came from. The outer sheath is braided using 32 to 36 strands of nylon yarn. The minimum static tensile strength is 550 pounds.
Mil-Spec Paracord only comes in a handful of colors.

Mil-Spec Paracord only comes in a handful of select colors: Black, White, Olive Drab (Camo Green), Foliage Green, Coyote Brown, Tan 499, Red (Medic Red/Drab Red), Solar Orange (Safety Orange/Drab Orange), and a few other basic colors. However, Commercial-Spec cord can come in literally hundreds of colors and patterns, which is why it's so popular with Paracord Crafters.

For a full description of requirements from the Department of Defense, feel free to read through the entire “Military Specification” document for Mil-C-5040H cord.

So, I hope that helps clear things up just a bit. “Commercial” 550 Paracord is just as real as “Mil-Spec” 550 Paracord. The highlight of Mil-Spec 550 Paracord is that it must go through rigorous testing, from raw materials to the final product, in order for it to be certified for U.S. Military use.

Have you found yourself questioning the legitimacy of any “550 Paracord” that you purchased? What was odd about it? Comment below! We’d like to hear what you’ve encountered during the “Paracord Craze”.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Type I Paracord - What is it?


Type I Paracord: You'd be amazed how useful it can be.
You've probably heard plenty about Type III Paracord, what it is, what specifications it meets, what its history is, and the many ways that people use it for (infinite). But, how much do you know about its smaller counterpart, Type I Paracord? Nothing? Great, welcome to Paracord-Blog! :P

Type I Paracord, also known as Accessory Cord or Dummy Cord, is kind of like a miniature version of the ever popular Type III 550 Paracord. In actuality, it’s the smallest “type” of Parachute Cord in production, and is available in Commercial or Military Grade specifications.

Notice the size difference between Type I and Type III Paracord.
The basic makeup of Type I Paracord is an outer sheath and one inner strand. The sheath and inner strand is made of 100% Nylon, making it mold, mildew and rot resistant. The outer sheath structure is braided with 16 threads and the inner core can be 2-ply (commercial) or 3-ply (military). With only one inner strand, Type I Paracord typically measures in around   1/16” in diameter… much smaller than its big brother, Type III, at 5/32” in diameter. This also results in its much lighter, yet still heavy-duty, breaking strength of 100 lbs.

The tensile strength breakdown is as follows:

Outside Sheath - 65 lbs
Inner Strand - 35 lbs 
---------------------------------
Total Strength - 100 lbs

Lots of colors to choose from in the Commercial line!
Normally found in military clothing, vests and other gear, the civilian usage of Type I Paracord is growing in popularity. Ranging from household uses to camping/survival situations, there is no shortage of appropriate applications. Type I Paracord comes in only a handful of colors for the Military Spec version, but the Commercial version can come in just as many colors as Type III (hundreds)!

This cord is FANTASTIC at securing small items that you don't want to lose or drop: small radios/walkies, compasses, GPS units, cameras, cell phones, flashlights, USB flash drives, etc. The Parachute Cord crafting world has taken a particular liking to Type I Paracord, creating miniature bracelets, dog collars, key fobs, decorative knots, and even incorporating it into their Type III Paracord creations! The Paracord talent is forever evolving!

So, there's a small glimpse into the big world of small paracord, of the Type I variety. Have you ever used Type I Paracord? If so, for what purpose? If not, what would you use it for? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review - Paracord Fusion Ties - Volume 1

Front Cover - Paracord Fusion Ties - Vol. 1
JD Lenzen is one of the top instructors for making woven crafts out of 550 Paracord. His instructional videos on YouTube have over 38 million views. If you haven't seen his videos, you can find his YouTube Channel here.

For those who would rather have a physical instructional guide in front of them, in October 2012, JD published Paracord Fusion Ties - Volume 1. In my opinion, this is the best instructional guide for making Paracord crafts that has ever been published. There is nothing else like it.

Paracord Fusion Ties consists of 123 colorfully illustrated pages which show you how to make 35 different crafts. From Solomon Bars (Cobra Stitch, Portuguese Sinnet) and Monkey Fists to Switchback Straps and Feather Bars, this book has more weaves in it than many of you have ever even heard of.
Back Cover - Paracord Fusion Ties - Vol. 1

The step-by-step illustrations, combined with clearly written instructions, make using this book very simple and intuitive. Don't get intimidated by all of the Paracord crafts out there! With this book, you will be able to easily learn to make much of what you see available in the Paracord craft market.

For those looking to begin braiding 550 Paracord, Paracord Fusion Ties - Volume 1 is definitely a great place to start. For the seasoned Paracord weaver, this book is bound to have some new braids that you've never seen before or it may give you inspiration to create your own custom crafts. All in all, this book belongs in every Paracord crafters toolbox.

Have any of you purchased and/or used this book? If so, let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Paracord Manufacturer Review - Gladding Braided Products

Since we’ve gotten thoroughly acquainted with E.L. Wood Braiding, it’s time to take a look at another very popular braiding company: Gladding Braided Products.

Gladding Braided Products has been around forever and ever and ever… well, since it was founded in 1816 by B.F. Gladding with a single horse-powered braiding machine. :P Today, Gladding specializes in a multitude of products that has only continued to grow year by year. Each and every product is U.S. Made in their Otselic River valley factory in South Otselic, New York. They are also a current U.S. Government Contractor, braiding products specifically for use by the U.S. Department of Defense.


Straight from their webpage, “…We pride ourselves on our tradition of providing uncompromising attention and dedicated service to each client.” Apparently, when they set out to do something, they set out to do it right. If that hasn’t carried them through nearly two centuries, I don’t know what has! Gladding has a unique dedication to their customers in that they have a communal sense of responsibility to serve with dignity and respect. They continually conform to the changing desires of their individual customers, as well as the entire braiding market! They make use of advanced computer and raw material technologies in order to make advancements in their product line, as well as engineering requested custom prototypes and products.

Gladding’s product line is very similar to E.L. Wood’s. However, Gladding has an extra feather in their cap in that they not only produce fiber braided products, but wire braided ones, as well! The materials that Gladding uses include: Aracon, Bronze, Bare Copper, Tinned-plated Copper, Dacron, Dyneema, Fiberglass, Inconel, Kevlar, Monel, Nextel, Nickel 2000, Nickel-plating, Nomex Yarn, Nylon, Peek, Polyester, Polypropylene, Silver-plated, Spectra, Stainless Steel Wire, Trevira, Vectran Yarns, and a few others that they would happily list if you contact them.

The many products that Gladding manufactures include: grounding straps, tubular braids, flat braids, multi-layer braids, coated braids, buss wire, cable harnesses, over braiding, shielding, double braids, solid braids, diamond braids, twine, 12-strand rope, shock cord, Duravet cord, Gladbrite accessory cord, paraline, 650 Nylon cord, Mil-C-5040 Type III 550 Military-Spec Paracord, Type III 550 Commercial-Spec Paracord, plus all sorts of custom requests and prototypes. Of course, the braid diameters range between products, all being packaged in various lengths and forms.


The History Channel stopped by the Gladding Braided Products facility to film an episode of “Modern Marvels” on Ropes & Chains. Check it out here!

So, suffice to say, these guys are pros when it comes to braiding stuff… maybe not hair, but regardless, they’re pros. In regards to their Type III 550 Commercial Paracord, they have a sizeable collection of colors: 57 different solids, patterns, camos and reflectives. While theirs might not be the most extensive, the vibrancy and uniqueness of the dyes that Gladding uses for their cord certainly shows that more isn’t always better. Gladding’s brand of 550 Paracord is very popular with everyone from part-time crafters to full-time businesses. One size fits all!

One criticism that I would have about Gladding’s 550 Paracord is their inconsistency in a few manufacturing areas. From batch to batch, some of their dyes have changed on occassion without notice, which can be a bit of an annoyance to those who depend upon them to deliver the same product that they purchased a month earlier. Additionally, the outer sheath of some of the more intense colors (red, neon orange, etc.) tends to be flattened and stiff. This can be a positive or negative characteristic, depending on the application used by individuals. Their other colors have a rounded sheath, which lends to its flexibility and uniformity in real-world uses and creating unique crafts.
Overall however, Gladding Braided Products is a fantastic company to work with, with fantastic products to show for it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Paracord Manufacturer Review - E.L. Wood Braiding Co.


Now that the “Basics of Paracord” has been introduced, I'd like to introduce a paracord manufacturer that has clearly demonstrated consistency and quality in their products.

E.L. Wood is known for their color selection.
These are just some of the colors they offer.
E.L. Wood Braiding Co., Inc. was founded in 1995 and is currently located in Marathon, New York. They are family owned and operated, manufacturing millions of feet of rope and braided cordage each year. All of their products are U.S. Made, which they will proudly stand behind. Plus, they are an official U.S. Government Contractor, supplying the U.S. Military with all sorts of rope and cordage.

E.L. Wood prides itself in being at the fore-front of developing and manufacturing new and custom products to meet the ever-growing, ever-changing demands of the market. They are able to do this by continuously updating their technology to support higher quality materials, equaling higher quality products. Their facilities are run 24/7, with employees working around the clock to ensure that timelines are met and orders are fulfilled, with excellence being key. (These people just don’t sleep!)

Their products can be found around the globe in industries such as marine/boating, fishing, hunting, defense, military, apparel, camping, pet/equine, police and aerospace. The materials that they use in their products are incredibly diverse. Their fibers include Nylon, Polyester, Poly Propylene, Kevlar, Spectra, Dyneema, Vectra, Technora, Teflon, and few other secrets in their stash.

E.L. Wood also has a great selection of patterns,
with new patterns coming out every few months!
They manufacture twine, over braiding, double braids, solid braids, diamond braids, flat braids, Kernmantle braids, shock cord, 325 Nylon Paraline, 650 Nylon Paraline, accessory cord, Mil-C-5040 Type III 550 Military-Spec Paracord, Type III 550 Commercial-Spec “Survival” Paracord, or any other braid that you could possibly request. The braid diameters can range between products, all being packaged in various lengths and forms.

Not only does E.L. Wood make REAL Type III 550 Commercial Paracord, they are the largest supplier in the United States! They have over 150 colors and patterns, with an ever growing list thanks to their development team and customers’ custom requests. They're kind of a big deal. You can find a bunch of their colors here, including reflective and glow-in-the-dark!

To be quite honest, out of all of the brands that I have worked with, touched and seen, I have a bit of a crush on E.L. Wood. The quality of their 550 Paracord is unmatched when it comes to consistency and vividness. Whatever color they may dye their cord, all of their colors have the same texture, flexibility, and brightness as the last batch that they made a month or eight months ago. They seem to have a certain zeal for matching their dyes from batch to batch, which makes me wonder if they have a factory full of Oompa-Loompas each assigned to their own color. They’d be like the Willy Wonka of Paracord (the Gene Wilder one, not the creepy Johnny Depp one).

Even if they don’t employ cute little singing carrot men, E.L. Wood’s 550 Paracord is great for all sorts of applications. I’m fairly confident that the list goes beyond a bazillion uses. The most popular use as of late seems to be “Survival Bracelets”, followed by several other crafts. In regards to E.L. Wood’s performance, they stand out among the rest based on the softness and flexibility of their cord. When working the cord into a bracelet or lanyard (or anything else for that matter), the pliability aids in the progress and final look of the product. The softness results in a less abrasive feel against the skin. Like a baby’s bottom, only not.

So, in conclusion, E.L. Wood is like Willy Wonka.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Welcome to Paracord Blog - What is Paracord?

With this blog, I hope to introduce you guys to the amazing world of Paracord.

For those who do not know, Paracord is a staple item when it comes to outdoor survival and general preparedness. Think of it as duct tape for the outdoorsman. It's about the thickness of a shoe lace, but can support up to 550 lbs of static weight!

History

550 Paracord was originally used in rigging parachutes during World War II. The paratroopers that used it found it useful for other tasks. The military quickly adopted it as an all-purpose cordage. When veterans came back from the war, they brought with them the desire to use that same multi-purpose cordage in civilian applications, thus the availability of Paracord.

Composition

Type III Paracord has 7 internal strands and a colored outer sheath.
Paracord has a specific composition, and that's what gives it its strength.

Paracord in and of itself is a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope. It has an inner core (kern) and an exterior sheath (mantle) woven over it. There are many types of Paracord available, varying by the amount of internal strands and their sheath structure. The composition of a given type of paracord changes its strength and diameter, which allows you to choose which cordage is more useful for a given task.

The chart below shows the specifics behind the most commonly available types of paracord.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachute_cord
The most commonly available cordage is Type III, although Type I and Type II are growing in popularity.

Here is the tensile strength breakdown of Type III Paracord:
Outside Sheath - 305 lbs
Inner Strand - 35 lbs each x 7 strands
 ---------------------------------
Total Strength - 550 lbs

The 550 lb. strength of Type III Paracord is why it is commonly called 550 Paracord or 550 Cord.

Mil-Spec 550 vs. Commercial-Spec 550

Mil-Spec Paracord is generally limited to basic colors.
Now, if this wasn't confusing enough, there is also a difference between Mil-Spec Paracord (aka MIL-C-5040) and Commercial-Spec paracord. The difference is mainly in the quality control and type of internal yarns used. Mil-Spec cord uses 1050 denier, 3-ply nylon yarn and there are 7 of these yarns/strands in each strand of 550 Paracord. There is also a piece of ID cord in each strand of Mil-Spec Paracord to identify which manufacturer the cordage came from. Mil-Spec Paracord must go through rigorous testing, from raw materials to the final product, in order for it to be certified for U.S. Military use.

Commercial-Spec cord, can use a single-ply, double-ply, or 3-ply, internal nylon strand. There are usually 7 of these yarns/strands in each strand of Commercial-Spec 550 Paracord. There may or may not be an ID tag in Commercial-Spec Paracord.

If you're wondering what denier means, it is a measure of the thickness and weight (linear mass density) of the strand of fiber that you're measuring. The denier formula is: 9000/(denier value) = Meters of yarn equal to one gram

Commercial-Spec Paracord has a larger variety of colors.
8.57 meters of 1050 denier nylon equals one gram. As a reference, a single strand of silk is 1 denier, meaning that it takes 9 kilometers of silk to equal 1 gram! This might be a bit too much detail than you really wanted, but this is the Paracord Blog after all! :) We're here to give you information that you'd be hard-pressed to find in other places.

Mil-Spec Type III Paracord, along with Commercial Type III Paracord are both rated to 550 lbs. The difference is that Military Paracord is rated to be used in parachutes and other military applications, where your life may depend on the quality of the cordage, while commercial is meant to be used in less life-critical application. For all civilian intents and purposes, Commercial-Spec cord is every bit as good as Mil-Spec cord. As long as you're not jumping out of airplanes, you won't notice a functional difference.

There are many advantages to using Commercial-Spec cordage in applications other than parachute rigging. Possibly the biggest advantage to commercial cordage is the price. Commercial-Spec cordage costs about half as much for basically the same performance. The color selection on commercial cord is also much greater than on Mil-Spec cord. Mil-Spec comes in a handful of select colors: Black, White, Olive Drab (Camo Green), Foliage Green, Coyote Brown, Tan 499, Red (Medic Red/Drab Red), Solar Orange (Safety Orange/Drab Orange), and only a few other basic colors. However, Commercial-Spec cord can come in literally hundreds of colors and patterns.

Reputable Manufacturers

Not all Paracord is made the same, irrespective of the difference between Mil-Spec and Commercial-Spec, there are differences between the quality of cordage produced from various manufacturers. To start off, you need to make sure that your Paracord is U.S. Made. We should support U.S. companies whenever possible and U.S. made cordage is of higher quality. Some top-quality U.S. manufacturers include E.L. Wood and Gladding. I'll make sure to show you guys the quality of E.L. Wood and Gladding in future blog posts. I am also going to be testing out paracord made by Franklin Braid soon.

As far as vendors, a vendor that I have had good experience with is Survival-Pax. They can be found at www.survival-pax.com.

Common Uses

Like I mentioned at the beginning, Paracord is like duct tape. There are so many uses. The fact that it is so strong and relatively inexpensive makes it a commonly available piece of gear that many people use when out in the woods or even around the home. You can use it in most applications where you'd use cordage.

If you're looking to increase the amount of usable cord available to you, you can "gut" your paracord, meaning you can remove the internal strands, essentially increasing the amount of cordage that you have by eight. You can still use the outer sheath, which is rated at 305 lbs strength and use each inner strand (rated at 35 lbs.) for tasks that require a thinner cordage. The inner strands would work great for sewing thread, fishing line or even dental floss.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but if you ever do cut the cordage, BE SURE TO MELT THE ENDS! Paracord is a synthetic cordage made out of nylon. If you cut it and do not melt the ends, it will unravel over time, which will make your cord useless, or at the very least frustrating. A cigarette lighter, a match, or even a glowing coal, is enough to singe the cord end to keep it from unraveling.

Conclusion

And that's it, a somewhat brief introduction into the wondering world of Paracord. Let me know what uses you've found for Paracord in the comments below.