Introduction: Fish Bone - Knotless Gear Tie

Picture of Fish Bone - Knotless Gear Tie
If it’s worth tying it’s worth tying with paracord. Only thing is, untying knots in paracord can take superhero strength. My contribution is this little guy, “Fish Bone”. It’s a no knots cord tightener without serrated edges. You can use it where you would normally tie a knot. This Instructable documents how I designed it from thought to reality to include how it went from low tech graph paper to high tech finite elemental analysis.

I took this instructable to Kickstarter where it was well received. You can check it out here. Thank you everyone for your support. Brent


Step 1: Idea & Proof of Concept

Picture of Idea & Proof of Concept

I wanted to design this specifically for paracord. For starters I went to Sketchbook and doodled some ideas. I settled on a rod encircled by a spiral. I wasn’t even sure this was going to work but all I had to loose was a coat hanger.

Once I had my sketch made up from wire I began to figure out how it would work. After looking at it for a while I realized it looked like a fish. From here on my design was geared around a fish bone. 

For anyone who’d like to try, the next couple steps show how the wire fish bone is made.

Step 2: Prototype, Basic Shape

Picture of Prototype, Basic Shape

Start by taking a coat hanger and cutting out the long bottom section. Bend it about 1/3rd of the way down over a the shaft of a screwdriver. Bend the longer end at 90 degrees. With the short end against the shaft, wrap the long end around both. See the pictures. Cut it to length so that 5 coils are left. File any sharp edges.

Step 3: Prototype, Key Features

Picture of Prototype, Key Features

The wire fish must be bent in two areas for it to work. The first is where the coil was cut. Use plies to reduce the diameter of the last coil. This helps hold the paracord in place and prevents the wire end from catching onto your gear when your pulling the tie tight.

The other important bend is at the head of the fish. The upper most coil must be bent toward the top. This gives the back of the head a hook shape for the paracord to tie around. See the pictures.

The tail is bent to complete the fish look. It also gives another place to tie off.

Step 4: Test Run

Picture of Test Run

Take a section of paracord and point the free end toward the tail. Make sure it’s aligned along the spine as you wrap the cord around a few times. The more you pull the tighter it holds. To secure it to the head you wrap it around once. The cord's own pressure will hold it in place.

Step 5: Pencil and Paper

Picture of Pencil and Paper

So now I know this thing works. Time to get to making it look legitimate. I placed the wire prototype on graph paper and sketched up a model. Here’s where I decided it was too long. It ended up as ½” x 2”. I also put in an eye and changed the tale. Though I had to figure this out by making a paper model.

Another idea was to incorporate a bottle opener but for now I’m sticking with the original purpose.

Step 6: Metal Model

Picture of Metal Model

The final model is made from aluminum flat bar. I traced the paper silhouette on and used an engraver to mark where to cut. Using various drill bits and a scroll saw I cut out the rough shape. I refined it with hobby files and my drill press as a makeshift grinder. Finally I polished it on a buffing wheel.

Step 7: Fish Bone in Use

Picture of Fish Bone in Use

Using the aluminum Fish is just like the wire version. Take a section of paracord and point the free end toward the tail. Make sure it’s aligned along the spine as you wrap the cord around a couple times. To secure it to the head wrap it around once. For a more secure hold run the free end through the eye.

Step 8: Going High Tech

Picture of Going High Tech

To take this project to the next level I met with a professional mechanical engineer. Being able to pin point every curve with the knowledge of how forces travel through a structure really improved the design. I included a  couple screen shots from our meeting.

He took the 3D image and broke it down on a molecular level based on the material. In this case 6061 T-6 aluminum. It then went through finite elemental analysis. Basically it means this. After runnign it through a super zoomy program it shows a heat map of where the stress is greatest while in use. It also determines the failure point in the structure and at how much force. How cool is modern technology! According to the results the design will strain at 75LBS and fail at 135LBS. I think that’s respectable given this little guy is smaller than 2 quarters placed side by side. Next step is production.

Conclusion: We are in a truly revolutionary time for makers. I began to doodle this idea on December 29th 2012 and posted this instructable three days later. One week after I began the crowdfunding campaign. Since then I’ve received an amazing amount of support and crossed paths with some amazing people. I have this site to thank. Being a member of Instructables has really had an impact on how I design and create. I call it my degree from Instructables University.  It’s been a whirlwind. Thanks for reading. Brent


Mannyboi made it! (author)2016-11-07

made mine out of steel.. its a fun little build

TheGrayWolf81 made it! (author)2016-07-30

I made on out of steel :) This an amazing design, and I hope you're successful with your business!

mtai4 (author)2016-03-02

Is it possible to get the cad files for this?

DanielleS53 (author)2016-01-10

Has anyone tried this with bone?

codybeeson (author)2015-07-04

If the aluminum strains at 75lbs and fails at 135lbs... what does the titanium do? and stainless? Thank you.

Tesseract 4D2 (author)2015-06-02

I'm trying to make my own small run of similar tying tools (they're hooks that attach to I-beams, but have the bottom of a figure nine tensioner, for creating anchor points on bulkheads of ships.) I was wondering what process you use to get your edges smooth. I'm water jetting mine, and the edges are gritty. I imagine you aren't using a machining process. Are you tumbling?

Mrballeng (author)Tesseract 4D22015-06-04

Yes, tumbling with ceramic media.

r0b0t14 (author)2015-05-13

i want one!!

lol great idea!

ClementH (author)2015-04-12

could you make a template with measurements please?

great idea btw

Toadster777 (author)2015-02-21

Hey dude pls email me where i can get this im in SA at

Mrballeng (author)Toadster7772015-02-21 Thanks

Skwurlito (author)2015-02-20

Boyscout instructor everywhere are should fear for the positions because of this.

SamuraiSpirit (author)2014-03-05

Your design inspired me to make I own gear tie tool. Since I needed a new pendant, I decided to integrate the two. Here I have my "Bird of Prey" gear tie/tag.

Mrballeng (author)SamuraiSpirit2014-03-05

This is awesome. I really like how the tie resembles a cross knot. Good work.

Schmidty16 (author)2013-07-25

Hey i thought of this idea maby u could show it off and make it for me how about u make ur knotless gear tie out of an old key that way u could reuse the keys and i think it would still work reply back to me what you think of my idea

AR10NZ (author)2013-07-04

Interesting Tool ! Well thought out. I have worked in the metalworking sector for most of my adult life, aircraft industry, dairy industry, general sheetmetal work. I have an affinity for stainless steel,Titanium, and ali. I think that 6061-T6 ali would be ideal for your product, a lot easier to work & finish, can be color anodised.

Reiff (author)2013-06-17

So you are the one who came up with this idea that just about every Instructables member knows about? That is really cool.

Mrballeng (author)Reiff2013-06-18

That's me. It all started with the pocket size contest. I would have never though of it if that contest wasn't up. So my advice is participate in the contests even if it's just for the sake of participating. You never know what you might come up with.

Reiff (author)2013-06-17

You know what I'd really like is a whole Instructables one the different ways to use paracord one the fish bone.

jgarcia87 (author)2013-06-11

Where can we buy these

Mrballeng (author)jgarcia872013-06-11

jgarcia87 (author)2013-06-11

This is a great idea!!!

shotgunshane (author)2013-06-02

Have these been mass produced because they are prizes in the great outdoors contest?

Mrballeng (author)shotgunshane2013-06-02

Yes. So far we have had more than 20,000 manufactured.

rimar2000 (author)2013-05-20

Very interesting, I will do my own. I discovered the usefulness of hooks when I did my rack for car.

Using these "fingers" you can load or unload the trunk in seconds, without threading the hank of rope over and over.

strooom (author)2013-02-25

I was so bold to take one of your pictures, run through photoshop and make this pdf out of it.
It yields a 100 mm / 4" long FishBone.
When printing pdf, you can easily scale to get whatever size you would like.
I am making a 133mm, 100mm, 70mm and 50 mm version, just to find out what more purposes this little neat magic thing has.

3366carlos (author)strooom2013-04-28

awesome dude, I don't have many tools but I will do the best I can to cut one. Your pdf will make it a lot easier

3366carlos (author)strooom2013-04-28

awesome dude, I don't have many tools but I will do the best I can to cut one. Your pdf will make it a lot easier

Printy (author)2013-03-04

Have you thought of selling this to Lee Valley? They would be totally into this. They sell primarily tools and equipment and love quality items like this. They have a magazine too which has a loyal subscriber base.

3366carlos (author)Printy2013-04-28

awesome dude, I don't have many tools but I will do the best I can to cut one. Your pdf will make it a lot easier.

BMXCra5h (author)2013-04-17

I like the new Piranha Gear tie You made. Looks pretty cool.

ZaneEricB (author)2013-04-02

Still loving your design. Here it is integrated into my knife. How's kickstart coming?

kraven_kapow (author)2013-03-29

congrats, awesome design.

mastergabe (author)2013-02-21

this is great i'm defiantly making one but it would be good if you posted a blue print of the basic shape so people could trace it on to the aluminium flat bar.

strooom (author)mastergabe2013-02-22

Yes, you have many great pictures, but please add 1 drawing with 1:1 scale (flat, no perspective) so the DIY among us can make exact replicas of your final design.

skorpijon (author)2013-02-14

Hi, congratulations on your great project.
What do you think about injection molding? This is for mass production (above 500 parts/year), you will have low costs. The downsize of this is that you must pay for the injection molding tool around 10000EUR and your model will strain at 30LBS, but you can put in glass fibers and get to the 45LBS (this is my thought). Make a FEM simulation and you will see.
Have a great day

skorpijon (author)skorpijon2013-02-14

Oh yes, and the then when you sell it, you will have a lot more profit.

Biodynamic (author)2013-02-14

I love it. Any inspiration derived from a product called knot bone? Yours is much more creative and if they were side by side I would go with the fish bone. Great job and congrats.

Mr.Sanchez (author)2013-02-14

"THE SNAPPER" is made of aluminum too?

Mrballeng (author)Mr.Sanchez2013-02-14

It's stainless

Mr.Sanchez (author)2013-02-13

Congrats on win and the succesfull campaign on kickstarter its a real honor to reply your creations.Thnx for share and please keep hammering and creating.

doodlecraft (author)2013-02-12

Really cool and congrats on your win! I'd wear this as a necklace! :)

Honus (author)2013-02-06

Awesome job and congrats on the Kickstarter campaign! How are you going to mass produce them- waterjet?

Mrballeng (author)Honus2013-02-07

Thanks. We're still weighing the options between stamping, laser, and water jet. So many phone calls, but a great problem to have.

gecko_girl3 (author)2013-02-02

Once again, you've created something absolutely brilliant! Its useful, affordable, easy to construct (now that you've figured out the technicalities) and beautiful. It'd be awesome (& come in handy) attached to a parachord survival bracelet! It'd look decorative yet serve a very practical purpose. Its pretty unisex as far as jewelry design goes. I bet you'd turn a pretty nice profit if you attached them to survival bracelets and sold them as a set. I know I'd buy one for myself as well as a few extras to give as gifts.

Mrballeng (author)gecko_girl32013-02-02

Cool thanks. I've been trying to think up a design for a bracelet but it's still in the works. But while typing this I think I just got an idea. Thanks!

gecko_girl3 (author)Mrballeng2013-02-06

Please let me know when it comes to fruition. I'd love to purchase one (affixed to a survival bracelet). We do a lot of camping during the summer and these would most definitely come in handy (hanging a hammock, water jug, etc). It'd be especially handy if instructions were included so users could put it all back together should they use it. That way everything could go back to one neat little (stylish) bracelet.

I was also thinking a belt with several fish bones would be a great item for hardcore survivalists!

Mrballeng (author)gecko_girl32013-02-07

Good ideas! I'll be sure to let you know.

handprints (author)2013-02-02

I want to invest in your company! Creative. Practical. Simple designs. Great instructables always. and so prolific!! I will go to your site and give you support!

You have also solved my "what do I give for Christmas presents??" This is perfect!

I also like gecko_girl3's suggestion re jewelry. I think I'll be wearing mine around my neck!! I happen to like fish VERY much.

Thank you for posting on instructables. Keep going man!!!! You are awesome!!

askjerry (author)2013-02-02

That is a successful design... simple, elegant, and fully functional. I think you will do very well with this... I expect they will show up in camping stores all over the place. I also suspect every hacker in a 5,000 mile radius will be making wooden ones less than an hour after reading this!

As usual... great job!

About This Instructable




Bio: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.
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