Bamboo is great natural material. It's strong, lightweight, and very versatile. When thinking about making a paracord jig, bamboo seemed the perfect choice. My goal was to design a paracord jig which was light and portable, included storage for cord, tools & hardware, and one which could handle a variety of projects. This instructable will show you how to turn a piece of bamboo into a lightweight paracord jig.
Step 1: Materials You'll Need
Here's a list of the materials I used in building the jig. Some items, such as carbon fiber, are optional or can be substituted if you have other materials. I would not go below a 2" diameter culm as storage will be reduced and this seems a nice size for handling. Alternatively you could make this jig out of PVC pipe or a cardboard tube with a few modifications.
2"+ diameter bamboo culm around 48" long
Propane torch, bandsaw, drill, scissors, tape measure, sharpie, knife, bic lighter, sandpaper, drill press, 5/16" & 3/16" brad point drill bits, 1/4" drill bit, painter's tape, 2 1/4" hole saw
6 feet paracord and 2 barrel locks
Carbon fiber +/- to reinforce bamboo
Epoxy resin and/or casting resin - cups and scale for mixing
Vaseline or other mold release agent
Two 5/16" x 3" all thread or completely threaded bolts
Two 5/16" eye screws x 3" long
Four 1/4" x 6" hex bolts
One 1/4" x 8" eye bolt
One 5/16" hex nut
Two 1/4" fender washers
Five 1/4" x 2 1/2" hex bolts
One 5/16" fender washer, 1/4" x 1 1/2" carriage bolt, 1/4" washer and wing nut.
Scrap wood - I used 1/4" fiber board and 3/4" plywood pieces
Scrap piece of rubber matting
Spar urethane varnish
Step 2: Laying Out the Jig
The first thing you'll need to do is establish where to drill the 5/16" holes for the bolts in the bamboo. These holes need to be close to the bamboo joint so casting resin can be poured into the bottom. In essence, pouring the resin later will be similar to filling the bottom of a cup with water. The resin will create threads around the bolt allowing you to screw in eye bolts at different lengths. I drilled about 3/4-1" above the joint. The sections on my bamboo were about 14" in length so my holes where spaces at 0", 14", 28" & 42". When drilling bamboo I have found brad point bits to drill the cleanest hole. They also have a center point which keeps the bit from wandering. You can use a regular twist bit if that's what you have as they work also.
Now is a good time to lay out where you'd like the compartment "doors" to be located and mark them as well. With 14" sections, I made the openings around 4-5" long and centered between the joints. There are 3 storage sections in this jig and so I marked all three doors.
There are also 2 additional open sections on each end of the bamboo - one for the monkey fist jig and one for tool storage. So in addition to the three 14" mid-sections, there is a 3" deep open segment at one end and a 7" open segment on the other.
Step 3: Heat Treating the Bamboo
Do not heat treat bamboo until you have drilled holes in each section. As the air inside the bamboo sections expands it is possible for sections to explode and harm you. The holes allow the hot air to escape so make sure you drill first!
Bamboo becomes harder and stronger if it is heat treated with a torch. I use a plumber's propane torch. For this project it's not really necessary to heat treat, but I love the brown coloration and pattern so I decided to do it. At a minimum, it's a good idea to clean the wax off the outside by heating until it looks wet and wiping the wax and dirt off. In the first picture, you can see how wet and shiny the wax becomes as you heat it. If you chose to heat treat, you will just need to continue heating after wax removal as the bamboo slowly changes color. Keep your torch moving over an area of around 4" square to prevent burning. Add color to your heart's desire.
Note: If using fresh green bamboo, you will see a lot of water pouring out of the drilled holes. It also has a smell that gets to you after a while so outdoor flame throwing is a good idea.
Step 4: Reinforcing the Bamboo Ends
It's a good idea to reinforce the ends of the bamboo to prevent splitting and protect it from wear. I chose carbon fiber because I had leftover scraps, but you could use many things. Fiberglass, hemp fiber, leather, rope or even paracord;) On the ends I used woven carbon fiber and the middle wraps I used carbon fiber ribbon. Applying both is similar in that you mix your epoxy resin according to directions and then paint it on the bamboo with a foam brush. Position your carbon fiber over the wet epoxy and then wet it out by painting more epoxy on the fiber. When applying ribbon fiber I also wet it as I am wrapping it around. The epoxy will need to dry overnight. You'll notice in a lot of the following pictures that I sanded the epoxy to remove any sharp edges. When I finished the jig, I applied another coat of epoxy with a foam brush and let it dry overnight.
Step 5: Cutting the Storage Doors
Next it's time to cut the doors for the storage compartments which I cut using a bandsaw. I apologize for not having pictures as my hands were full at the time. You could also use a coping saw to make this cut or a scroll saw if using smaller bamboo. The deepest part of the cut is about 1/3 the diameter of the culm and approximately 4-5" long. Each door was cut in the middle of the section so that there is roughly 5" of enclosed storage to the left and right of each door.
Step 6: Casting the Bolts
Now that the doors have been cut it's time to cast the bolts with casting resin or epoxy resin. Either will work, but I chose casting resin as it cures in 10-15 minutes compared to hours for the epoxy. It's important the bolt is threaded it's entire length in case you want to bolt something to the bottom side or screw in something longer. I used long hook bolts, but obviously all thread or similar would work. Coat the bolts with a thin coat of vaseline or another releasing agent for easy removal after hardening. Mix the casting resin per directions and pour enough to cover the bolt with 1" of resin inside the tube. The end result is a roughly 2" thick block of resin at the bottom of the segment which has a threaded hole through its middle. Repeat for each bolt and storage segment which in my case was 3 bolts. The fourth bolt is included in the monkey fist jig which is next.
Step 7: Casting the Monkey Fist Jig
The 3" open end of the bamboo seems like a great place for a monkey fist jig so let's do that now. On scrap wood draw a circle the interior diameter of the bamboo with 2 perpendicular lines crossing in the middle. Draw four 1/4" circles on the perpendicular lines about 1/8" inside the circle and another 1/4" circle in the center. Drill out these 5 holes which will act as a template for bolts being cast in the resin. Ideally you should drill your holes on a drill press to keep the bolts as parallel as possible. Coat the long 5/16" bolt running across the bamboo as before and insert it through the holes at the bottom of the "cup". Again mix your resin as directed and pour it into the cup. Coat all 5 of the 1/4" bolts with vaseline and set them down into the resin inside the cup.
For the monkey fist pins take four 6" long 1/4" hex bolts and cut the hex head off. Use a grinder or file to sand down any resulting burs. When the resin has set simply back the bolts out and insert the long pins into the threaded holes whenever you are making a monkey fist knot.
Step 8: Make a Plug for the Tool Compartment
The opposite 7" open end is where you can store all your paracord tools, monkey fist pins, lighter, etc. For the diameter of my bamboo, I cut two 1/4" thick disks from fiber board using a 2 1/4" hole saw. Hole saw sizes are for the hole being cut and not the inside disk so a 2 1/4" hole saw leaves a disk that is just over 2" in diameter. Prefect for this size bamboo. My foam disk was cut from a scrap of floor mat and is slightly larger than the internal diameter of the culm. When assembled using a 1/4" x 1 1/2" carriage bolt, nut and washer it is possible to squeeze the foam as you tighten the wing nut. Since the foam has nowhere to expand but outward it pushes against the bamboo and holds tightly. A very simple but effective plug for keeping all your tools safe. To remove the plug simply loosen the wing nut and pull it out.
Step 9: Drilling Holes for the Storage Doors
To attach the doors on the storage compartment you'll need to drill four 3/16" holes. Two holes in the door and two holes in the jig body on the side opposite the doors. A rubber band makes this easier as it holds the doors on and provides a line for keeping your marks in line. The holes in the lids are roughly an 1 1/8" apart and the holes in the bottom side are about 3/4" apart. Keeping the holes closer together in the body of the jig bites the paracord so you don't have to readjust it every time you close it.
Step 10: Tie an Ashley's Stopper Knot
A stopper knot on the door will anchor the loop which keeps the compartment closed. I chose an Ashley's Stopper Knot or Oysterman's Stopper Knot for it's size and triangular shape. You will need around 24" of paracord if you are using 2" bamboo. Use a lighter to close both ends of your paracord. Make 2 loops in your paracord with the free ends running over the crossing cord (make a pretzel). Push the left loop through the right loop. Run the free end on the right through the loop you pushed through and tighten. Trim the end of your paracord and melt the end. Pass the paracord through the 2 holes in the lid.
Step 11: Thread, Loop & Close
Pass the free paracord end through the 2 holes in the bottom and adjust the length. Ideally you want the cord length so the door springs open a little when not looped shut. Once you pull the paracord through the 2 bottom holes it won't slide as the holes bite the cord. Next you'll want to tie a loop on the other end of the cord. I chose a bowline knot because it won't move in either direction, i.e. the loop won't get larger or smaller.
To tie the knot make a loop with the free end passing in front and then pass the free end through the initial loop from the back side. Go around the standing end below the initial loop and back through that loop. To tighten, pull on the standing end and the 2 cords passing through the initial loop. I takes a bit of trial and error to get the length exactly right for a tight closure. Once you have the length you want then trim your line and melt the end of the paracord. This "hinge" and lock helps prevent losing or misplacing doors and also prevents having to figure out which door goes with which hole.
Step 12: Add Some Shine
To finish your jig you can add a couple coats of spar urethane to the bamboo or leave it unfinished. Over time I think the urethane will help prevent cracking from uneven drying and wear, but mostly I think it looks better with a little shine. I also painted another coat of epoxy resin on the carbon fiber since I had sanded it.
Step 13: Add a Little Length to Your Jig
If you think you'll need a longer jig, you can tack on another 8" by using a 1/4" x 8" eye bolt threaded into the center hole of the monkey jig. In order to use the 5/16" eye bolts, epoxy a 5/16" nut into the "eye" of the eye bolt. I used PC Epoxy Paste to anchor the nut in the eye. Using this arrangement you'll have 50" between centers for tying shoulder straps etc. Incidentally, I think that's my next paracord project….a strap for my bamboo jig.
Step 14: Use Your New Jig to Tie One On
Now that you've finished your paracord jig it's time to do some tying! In these pictures I demonstrated the various setups for the jig at 14", 28" and 42" lengths. One of the things I really like about this jig is how easy it is to hold and tie long projects. Simply put one end on a chair and rest the other end on a table while straddling the jig. This allows you to hold the jig with your legs and keep your hands free. As you work from one end to the other you can eventually sit and work as you finish your paracord tying.
When carrying the jig it's actually quite light and easy to hold and balance. By adding a strap (next project) it would be very easy to transport your jig, cord, hardware and tools anywhere you are going. A nice quiet spot in the woods sounds like a great place to me!
I hope you found this instructable useful and worth trying yourself. If so, please give me a vote!
Step 15: Update: Add a Strap
I have added a sling strap to the jig which is very handy for travel. It's 50" long when attached and I tied it using the screw-in extension. The weave is a double wide Soloman (cobra) pattern in black with a king cobra weave in desert camo over it. Videos below on tying these patterns. There's 100 feet of black paracord and 70 feet of camo cord in the sling. The strap is roughly 1 1/2" wide and very comfortable. Using the threaded holes on the backside of the bamboo, the strap is bolted to the jig with one inch bolts (1/4"-20). The strap really completes the jig and is well worth the time and cord. Make one!