Introduction: Rope Dart From a Rail Road Spike -- Video From Expert

Picture of Rope Dart From a Rail Road Spike  --  Video From Expert

A ropedart is swung and thrown, using the principles of mechanical advantage, to attain tremendous velocity and kinetic energy. It is a steel dart 13-23 cm long weighing somewhere around 0.3kg attatched to a length of cord about twice as long as the user is tall. This is how to make one from a rail road spike (which can be found along any rail road track).
WATCH FOR EXAMPLE - This will give you an idea of what can be done. (I disagree with the ropedart being called a 'little brother' - it is designed for penetration, not blunt force trauma as is the meteor hammer.)
~There are stories of these passing through solid oak doors.
~The blunt side can be swung with enough power to crack skulls.
~The cord can be used to entangle and bind.
~With skill, the dart can change directions mid-flight, appearing eratic to the opponent.
~It is easily concealed.
~It is stunning to see one in use.

"As folklore goes, this weapon was first used by Du Mu, a general in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24). Once, when he fought with another general named Cheng Peng, he used his free dart five times but was taken by the opponent. Then he used the rope dart instead and knocked Cheng Peng off the horse to the ground."- Soft Weapons Li Keqin Li Xingdong

This is not necessarily the traditional method (which varies greatly in and of itself) of formng a rope dart (there are four sides, and no metal rings are used to link the dart to the cord, etc.) but it is absolutely able to get the job done. This was basically a feasability test, my next will look nice as well. Check out the images, as some are tagged.

Check out my site, Funditor for more :)
Please comment on and/or rate this instructable.

Step 1: From So Humble a Beginning

Picture of From So Humble a Beginning

Take a trip to some RR tracks and go for a walk. Pick up spikes which are laying loose on the ground. This may be illegal, so be warned. I take no responsibility for your actions. Try to select the straightest, least corroded, spikes. They can also be bought from the internet.
Don't worry about rust, it will come off...

Step 2: Lop Off the Head

Picture of Lop Off the Head

Take a hacksaw / sawzall / laser / oxy-acetylene torch / or -my personal favorite - angle grinder w/ cutting disc out. Cut off the head of the spike to the first point at which the thickness is uniform.

Step 3: Remove Rust and Begin Shaping

Picture of Remove Rust and Begin Shaping

Take up an angle grinder, sander, belt grinder, bench grinder, sand paper, or file. Remove the oxide coat on the spike. Beware, it may be thick.
At this point, round off the corners of the side if you so choose or implement any other sort of design you like.

Step 4: Drill Hole

Picture of Drill Hole

Drill a hole at the back of the dart (where you just cut off the top of the spike). Use a drill bit large enough to accomodate paracord, climbing accessory line, or a heavy-duty metal split ring. We are drilling this hole first because in case it is off, we can re-center as we shape the dart.

If you are annoyed by my lack of numbers and measurements, think of this: I don't know optimum numbers. Look at the pictures to have an idea of what I did, then guess and improve as you like. I taught this to myself, so my way is not the 'right way'; your guess is as good as mine. If you are desperate for a measurement, just comment, and I'll let you know.

Step 5: Shape the Spike

Picture of Shape the Spike

Now the fun part!
Using a grinder or file, begin to shape the dart. The front should taper to a (sharp) point. It can have any number of sides greater than three (as you approach infinity, the shape becomes conical). Mine has four. Experiment and see what you like.
You can taper the dart along its length one way or another if you like, and add in any sort of design which pleases you.
At the back of the dart, I put in angled cuts to prevent the dart from catching on the cord as it pivots.

BE CREATIVE!! My design is UGLY and UTILITARIAN because it was a TEST (will make a nice one, eventually). This can be your test too, so make it look nice.
Here's some food for though: Engrave or Etch :)

Step 6: Round Off Hole

This is quite important. With a dremel or chainsaw file, smooth off the inside and edges of the hole drilled in step 4. If you use a cord to attatch the spike to the rope (as I did) this is necessary to minimize chaffing. You do not want 1/2 lb. of pointy steel flying off at over 100 mph because a burr sliced the cord.

Step 7: The Rope and Link

Picture of The Rope and Link

Get a rope about 3/8" in diameter and ten to twenty feet long. The thicker the rope, the slower your dart will be; the thinner it is, the more it will cut into your hand.
Get a short piece of narrow, strong cord (like climbing accessory cord) which will fit through the hole you drilled. Alternatively, you could use a metal ring, several, or some sort of chain. (I'll be using a type of chain for my next.)
Again, be creative.

I used the Zeppelin Bend to form a loop from the spike, then a bowline to secure the rope to the loop. At this step you could attatch a brightly colored bandana or other sort of tail. This would help you track the dart as it moves at very high speed, looks nice, and confuses opponents.

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license.

Step 8: Wrist Loop

Picture of Wrist Loop

How tall are you? Multiply by two. This is how long your rope and dart should be once all of the knots are done. This is a very general guideline, which should be altered according to your preferences through experimentation. My rope is currently 12 feet long.
Tie a prusik knot or taut-line hitch at the end of the rope to form a loop. This loop can now be slid to adjust to the size of your wrist.

Step 9: How to Use

Picture of How to Use

I take no responsibility for anything/anybody destroyed with this by accident or otherwise.

This is a VERY BASIC outline of what to do:
Slide wrist loop over your non-dominant wrist (right wrist if left handed), then wrap rope once or twice across that hand. Hold rope with other hand (leaving several feet between hands) and start twirling the dart around. Release. Repeat. There are many advanced techniques (such as rebounding the spike with your foot) which you'll learn as you go.

If you don't want to kill anyone, replace the dart with a ball of kevlar, soak in gasoline, light on fire, go to a beach, and impress crowds.

Whether you love this instructable or hate it, let your proverbial voice echo through cyberspace by clicking the + or - in the top right corner :)

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triumphman (author)2013-06-11

The hero in Assasin's Creed used something like this. When he dropped it onto an unsuspecting enemy from above , it hooked into them somehow and then he dropped by the same rope from a tree above and the enemy was up in the tree, dead! The other enemy soldiers hear nothing! Pretty unbelievable. You can see it in one of the Asassin's Creed Trailers.
That's the spike weapon I want to make. Any info. ?

nic.bryan.73 (author)triumphman2015-12-01

That sounds more like a spring-grapnel (basically has 2-4 spikes sunken into the body of the dart on a spring. A snug-fit band holds them in until it goes through the target, where the band is stopped and pushed off. Then the spring opens the spikes)

BurtG1 (author)2015-11-26

Soak your railroad spike (s) in white vinegar overnight. The rust and oxidation will practically hose off. Clean them thoroughly with water and dry immediately.

Cheezpaper (author)2011-02-12

Haha I just tie a monkeys fist of the end instead when I do this.

bcavaciuti (author)Cheezpaper2013-07-10

do you mean a real one(kinda grim kinda cool) or some kind of weapon/implement?

bcavaciuti (author)2013-07-10

that looks like a grinding disk? possibly why the shower of sparks was so big

triumphman (author)2013-06-17

I just made one! Nice, but on my first attempt to throw it whipped against my ear. Scary! Be careful these things can hurt you! I was lucky, no injury. Watch the you tube chinese guys. They are awesome. Years of training!

triumphman (author)2013-06-13

Searched everywhere , no spiked rope darts anywhere! So how does Connor (Assassin's Creed) lift his victims up into the tree tops with a smooth shaped dart ? Seems impossible ! There must be a way to hook the enemy! I just don't see it ! Anyone know how this is possible ?

boone1585 (author)2011-11-26

The RR Spike is just as easy to get as the rope. look on Ebay, or online. you can buy them bulk. I am going to have to try this one tomorrow when I get a chance to hit the forge

Thelemic_Potter (author)2011-01-04

I've been teaching myself rope dart for a little over six months and can not for the life of me imagine attempting to swing one of these things! This is a HIGHLY LETHAL WEAPON TO THE USER!!!!

I practice with a monkey's fist knot, a few ounces of rope hitting you in the face, groin, gut, leg, it hurts, it hurts a good deal, I still give my self bruises. I got to swing a metal weapon dart (5.5ounces) and it was scary!

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE THIS, until you have successfully gotten a handle on controlling one which will not crack your skull if you mess up! These weapons are erratic as all hell, it takes very little for one to suddenly be slamming into you at great speed. A dart like this can very easily send you to the hospital, it could cause permanent damage.

I am not saying this lightly, I hit the back of my head in practice last night and I don't even want to imagine what this dart would have done to me, especially with sharp edges as is being mentioned in the comments.

Go learn rope dart with something safe, you'll get hurt plenty! You'll get hurt hard enough you won't be able to practice for a few days, but you won't go to the hospital. Rope dart is fricken amazing! I rarely leave the house with out one of my practice darts, it's really that much fun. But not a fircken railroad spike!!!

In the mean time, go hit your finger with a hammer, then attach that hammer to a 10 foot board, and slam it into the ground. Think about the difference in force, now put it on a piece of rope and have it getting wrapped around you.

You must not be very good if you're hitting yourself hard enough that you can't practice for a few days. I'v been doing it for over a year now and have never hit myself that hard.

ilpug (author)2011-02-17

DONT TRY THIS AT HOME UNLESS YOU ARE IRON MAN. very dangerous. use a beanbag instead.

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)ilpug2011-05-28

with propper training it is extremely safe, you might as well say "don't touch a gun unless you are bulletproof"

ilpug (author)Zaphod Beeblebrox2011-05-28

good point. i stand corrected. i was more pointing my warning towards little kids who think they are invincible.

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)ilpug2011-05-29

ok, cool

alterecho7 (author)2009-10-09

how did you get the spike?????

ilpug (author)alterecho72011-05-28

you can find them in junk shops, junkyards, and along old railroad tracks. if all else fails, go pry one out of one of the railroad ties that are always piled along railroad tracks.

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)2011-05-28

I, personally train with the Manriki Gusari, and i know some guys who are very skilled with the rope dart.

X3R0117 (author)2010-02-10

Yay, i have a rr right behing my house, i've been wondering what to do with this little collection. think i can shape a blade? like, knife instead of dart?

Lokisgodhi (author)X3R01172010-02-23

There's actually a company that makes knives out of railroad spikes. They heat it up in a forge and twist the spike to make a handle. Then the tip is hammered into a blade and sharpened. 

joeyay (author)Lokisgodhi2010-10-10

Its not a company it's every blacksmith in the world, including me

An Villain (author)2009-10-03

that "butterfly knot" is also known as a single crochet. but i like butterfly knot better, sounds more, "manly."

Yunt (author)An Villain2010-06-17

I know this one as a Monkey Chain. In the UK it's a single crochet but in the US the same stitch is a chain stitch. Butterfly knot is new by me.

An Villain (author)Yunt2010-06-17


l96470fps (author)2009-10-08

awsome!! if you can weld or braze you should add a barb for hunting

An Villain (author)2009-10-03

it problably takes hours to get through it, but i will build.

An Villain (author)2009-10-03

my dad used to work at columbia lighting in the spokane industrial park and we would get literally tons of them.

polyparadigm (author)2007-07-04

A word that may help explain your shaping of the drilled hole and the back end is "chamfer". People who've done machine work will know what you mean when you say "put about 1/4 inch of chamfer on it", and people who are getting started in metal work should probably learn the term, anyway. Nice work!

CanDo (author)polyparadigm2007-07-06

Thanks! I hope, over the course of the summer, to become more familiar with such machining terms and techniques.

hotdiggidy (author)CanDo2009-09-19

Another thing you can do for the finish is to lap the surface with different grits of aluminum oxide sandpaper. This type of sandpaper is usually backed with cotton fabric instead of actual paper like you would find at Home Depot. First you need to find the flattest and smoothest piece of wood or metal you can find that needs to be longer than the dart and still small enough to be secured in a vice. Secure the sandpaper (which you can get in strips like a loose roll of tape or you can cut sheets to size) with double-sided tape or a dab of hot glue. For the finish you get from your belt sander you will probably want to start with 100 or 120 grit to begin the lapping process for a very smooth finish. Lapping with sandpaper begins when you rub the dart with even pressure and smooth strokes for the entire length of the sandpaper- the longer the piece you have the better...If your dart is already the size you want you will want to count the number of strokes you do on each side to make sure you do the same number. Once the finish looks the same on each side you move to the next finer grit of sandpaper or replace the piece you have if your current section of sandpaper wears out. once you are able to hide the gouges and pits in the metal the finish will continue until it is almost mirror smooth. It can be on the expensive side, and takes time and elbow grease, but the satisfaction you will have with ending up with a dart that looks like it was store-bought will outweigh the effort working on the it. Also, the smoother the finish on the metal, the more resistant to corrosion it will be i.e. not as many places for water to stay on the surface of the metal preventing oxidation.

Woglinde (author)2009-07-21

Cheers from (I'm "Donnerschlag" there, BTW.) I reeeally like this instructable! I just gotta find a way down to the railroad tracks.....

oldanvilyoungsmith (author)2009-06-05

Use a propane torch and heat this up, then take a hunk of beeswax and rub it in, let cool. this will help with rust if you leave it outside.

i think any long metal spike could work. It needs to be long enough though.

ninja-in-training666 (author)2009-05-18

Will the spikes they use for trolley tracks work?

jball13 (author)2009-05-11

i have 8 or 9 rr spikes

hg341 (author)2009-04-04

wow this was nice
i have always loved weps on rope
i saw this like 2 years ago but forgot to commentsry

blueboy57 (author)2009-02-09

do you have any instructions on how to tie the knot for the length of "chain"?

Aburame Shino (author)2009-01-17

Absolutely beautiful.Favorited.

randomguy96 (author)2008-11-19

There is an old unused railroad behind where my grandma used to live. found 10 of 'em back there.

red-king (author)randomguy962008-11-19

the only railroad spikes i could find are old and rusted...

RedneckAsian (author)red-king2009-01-02

uh read the instruction # 2-3

dealydoo (author)2008-12-25

kill the train with it then take their spikes

starwing123 (author)2008-11-09

you can find spikes for $2 at mines. I mean the type they allow you to visit. THey usually have some in the visitor's shop.

straw hat pirate (author)2008-09-24

a very nice weapon. the rr spike will be hard to get but it will be worth it

rocksalt2342 (author)2008-08-02

get over here!!! hehe... yeah.

zero4hero (author)rocksalt23422008-08-11


craig3 (author)zero4hero2008-09-06

i can see the random guy pop onscreen when i read that!

jdog003 (author)2008-07-30

a rope dart made out of a railroad spike thats a sweet idea

w00ty32 (author)2007-12-04

I was bored one day, and i made a sort of meteor hammer with a hockey puck, and about 3 feet of rope. I didn't realize that it was one, till i watched that vid =)

Oh, and i think this statment is funny
"Picked this tool up for free. Except for its tendency to catch on fire, it rocks!!"-talking about sander

Just look at that entance for a few seconds. It's kind of odd, isn't it?

m.idres (author)w00ty322008-02-09

ahaha, i made one too the other day, after i watched kill bill after seeing gogo using one i decided to make one myself, what i used is quite a comedy, lol, i used an elastic ball which i had intentionally made b/c i knew one day id need to which was the other day wen making it and for the rope part i used a Sherwani belt (they are normally cotton, if you google it u'll see asian men wearing them, they are in the trousers and is used to kepp the trousers up, just like a modern belt does) anyway i attched two togetaher and voila i made one, since then ive been watching gogo's part on kill bill to see how she does the moves, b/c i cant fynd any toher place that shows how to use one. ive masteres the swing, lol, the easy one but i cant seem to do the one where she swings it off her foot directionally, keeps hitting the back of my leg, lol.

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