Introduction: VHS Rope

Picture of VHS Rope

Here is my first instructable. How to make rope/cord from a VHS Tape.

(back story) I saved a bunch of recordable VHS tapes from the dumpster. I, like most people, consider VHS to be out-dated and poor quality. So in-turn I wanted to repurpose these tapes. One of my ideas was to make rope / cord from the magnetic tape inside. I was amazed to find no one else has done this (or maybe I didn't look hard enough). Thus starts the instructable.

Supplies used:

  • 1/8" metal rod (could probably use coat hangers)
  • Couple pieces of scrap wood
  • VHS tape (of course)

Tools used:

  • Drill
  • Drill bits (size of your metal rod)
  • Screwdriver (to open the VHS tape)
  • Razorblade or scissors
  • Gloves (important as always)
  • Pliers (I used linesman pliers)

Step 1: Open Your VHS Tape

This step can vary depending on the way you want to open it up. You can unscrew the screws holding it together and it should come right apart (depending on stickers covering where it separates).

Technically you could just try to smash it open if you don't have a screwdriver. However I found these VHS tapes are rather tough to break.

So it is now open and you have the tape. Hopefully the tape is completely on one spool [Be Kind Please Rewind]. If it is not, manually wind it on to one spool. And cut to separate from the other spool.

Step 2: Stretch the Tape

Picture of Stretch the Tape

Here is the part that takes some practice.

First put your gloves on so you don't get a friction burn (I got one before I put my gloves on)

Now take one end of the tape in one hand and the other end in your other hand (about 12"-16") and stretch it so it thins down to a "string". Don't pull too hard or it will snap. It always eventually snaps ::Note:: You can tie two snapped ends together. If you do you'll just end up with a tiny bump in your rope.

After it is stretched, grab another 12"16", stretch that and keep moving up the tape.

I just let mine fall on the floor and wound it up after I got 20-30 feet.

Ounce you get the hang of the stretching, it goes very quick.

I did about 100 feet in about 5-8 minutes.

Step 3: Wind Your "String"

Picture of Wind Your "String"

Wind up your stretched "string" I used the other blank spool that was in the cassette.

As you see in the one picture I barely went through the tape and already have a lot of "string"

Step 4: Build a Rope Making Jig

Picture of Build a Rope Making Jig

Here you need to make a "rope jig".

Hopefully the pictures show the jig I made in detail enough to "copy it".

  • Drill three holes in a line in one piece of wood.
  • Bend your metal rod into a hook shap and put it through the hole.
  • Bend the rod down.
  • Guesstimate or measure an amount before the next hole and bend 90 degrees.

Repeat this process for the other two "hook cranks"

  • Measure or guess the spacing for your hole on the other piece of wood.
  • Mark your spots and drill your three holes.
  • Push the second drilled piece of wood onto the 90 degree bent rods.

That is half of the rope making jig.

Second half is making one "hook crank" on another piece of wood.

Step 5: Create a Spacer

Picture of Create a Spacer

You will also need to make a spacer that keeps the three "strands" apart from each other while winding.

  • I cut out a circle from wood
  • Drilled three holes near the edges
  • Cut at an angle towards the drilled hole from the outside of the circle.
  • then sanded each "line holder" smooth
  • Also sanded all other edges to round

Step 6: Secure Your Jig

Picture of Secure Your Jig

Now you need to secure your jig to something.

I only made a 5 foot rope here for testing purposes.

However you could set up your jig outside for 20,30,100 feet. How ever long you want your rope to be.

Step 7: Load Your Jig

Picture of Load Your Jig
  • Start by tying one end (of VHS string) to one of the hooks on the three hook jig.
  • Now lace it over to where (however far away) you put your other half of the jig.
  • Lace it back around to the same hook you tied on.
  • Do this as many times as you want for a stronger rope (I had six on each hook.)
  • Tie off that string to the hook when you have the amount of strings you want.

Repeat the this same process for the other two hooks.

Step 8: Operate Jig

Picture of Operate Jig

Now you have your jig loaded and are ready to use it.

Moving the "handle" piece of wood up and down will turn the "hook cranks" which will be twisting your multiple strings together.

When the strings are twisted tight it is time to insert your "spacer" down at the other end where the "single hook crank" is.

Unfortunately this step needs another person to tun the single crank while you guide the "spacer back down the rope being formed. ::Note:: You do not need to pull the spacer. the tension being built up should be pushing it backwards. You are making sure it stays on, and not getting stuck.

Step 9: Whipping the Ends

Picture of Whipping the Ends

Whip it... Whip it good!

Ha... Anyway tying up the ends is called whipping the end.

When your spacer is at the end (near the three "hook cranks") you need to whip the end. Or in other words. You have to tie the end so it doesn't unravel. Do this before you remove the "spacer"

After you whip both ends...[[ Important BOTH Ends ]] You can remove it from your jig by cutting after your whipped end.

Hopefully this picture helps with how to whip it.

Step 10: Your Done...Thank You

Picture of Your Done...Thank You

Ok. You should now have an amazingly strong cord / rope made from a VHS tape.

Possible uses of your new rope:

  • Add it to your pack for backpacking (it's very light)
  • Tie down your tent
  • hang up a bird feeder
  • Make a leash for your dog (how thick did you make your rope)
  • Use in one of your next DIY projects!!! :)


DianaA42 (author)2016-05-25

SAFETY ALERT: VHS tapes are covered in a very thin layer of heavy metals, which makes them TOXIC to touch. The metals can absorb through your skin. The metals allow them to be magnetized. This is why they are not recyclable. THEY SHOULD NEVER BE HANDLED WITH BARE HANDS FOR ANY REASON. Making a usable item such as a rope by hand is (unfortunately) a terrible idea.

Schtaunkton (author)DianaA422017-03-23

Thank you for your "Safety Alert". (knowing my response may cause other
responses, here we go) Yes VHS tapes have a layer of metals on the Mylar
tape. Like (If you are old enough to remember) 8-Tracks and audio
cassette tapes. Every day we touch "acceptable level toxic items" Our
drinking water has "Heavy metals" in it. Some of which our bodies
actually need. There is more of a toxicity "safety alert" for changing
the toner in your laser jet printer. Thank you your attention to a
possible issue (if not wearing gloves)(and don't eat the rope).
"Terrible ideas" are how inventions are made......(Random quote ) "We
are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams"

Carmelite (author)2014-06-17

FYI, VHS tape is usually made of mylar, which is why it's so strong.

However as plastic without UV protection it will probably break down in the sun over time.

imark77 (author)Carmelite2015-06-21

tell that to all the cassettes and videotape's I've seen stranded on the side of the street.

psharp20 (author)2015-04-02

Great idea :)

LaGripe (author)2014-06-19

Do you know the breaking strength of your rope?

Schtaunkton (author)LaGripe2014-06-29

The rope I made (18 strings) held at 150 pounds.

LaGripe (author)Schtaunkton2014-07-03


lindarose92 (author)2014-06-19

So cool! I made a crochet bracelet a while ago, using VHS tape

I must try to make this rope too, it's definitely much more useful than a bracelet :D

Schtaunkton (author)lindarose922014-06-29

Thank you. I like your bracelet. I have also made chainmaille bracelets that are similar in design.

lindarose92 (author)Schtaunkton2014-06-30

Thank you, I'm glad you like it :)

cerberustugowar (author)2014-06-29

the jig could likely work for cut up shopping bag loops as well. Great idea for the VHS tape!

newbeatle (author)2014-06-20

SO INTERESTING and usefull tip to recycle that, why dont you upload a video showing how much weight have yoou charged with it? seem so good to know how strong is that rope . also, a single vhs tape how much meters yields of rope ?

congratulations and regards from mexico

Schtaunkton (author)newbeatle2014-06-29

I got about 200 meters of "string" and didn't use the whole tape. So a guess, per tape, would be anywhere from 300-450 meters.

fixfireleo (author)2014-06-17

great idea! i will try that for my next victim! lol. j/k

Schtaunkton (author)fixfireleo2014-06-29

Whenever your in a "bind"....muwuha ha ha ;)

funnydan (author)2014-06-18

I like the rope making jig better than the actual VHS rope!

Schtaunkton (author)funnydan2014-06-29

Thanks. I probably could have made two mini instructables. :)

gerflash (author)2014-06-19

I think one can at least approximate larger breaking point weights with a simple lever, e.g., your 150 lb test on the short side of a 1:2 lever would equate to 300 lb, assuming negligible friction at the fulcrum.

gerflash (author)2014-06-17

Any word on how well it weathers? Any tests on it's breaking strength for three strings? Six? More?

Schtaunkton (author)gerflash2014-06-18

Not as of yet. I need to come up with a more precise way of testing the breaking point. I can create a rig for smaller weight. However I am hung up on testing over 150 pounds. Any ideas? Without spending lots on equipment.

omikeo (author)2014-06-17

Yeah nice one, thanks, do you need any more tapes ?

Schtaunkton (author)omikeo2014-06-18

Thank you. I do not need any more tapes at this time. :-) I have about 60-100.

grapenut (author)2014-06-18

My favorite part of this instructable was the rope making jig. I never saw a simple one like that; just the complex ones for commercial use... The cord reminds me of a makeshift bowstring; I wonder if it could be strong enough for that in a pinch?

Schtaunkton (author)grapenut2014-06-18

Perhaps it could be used as a bowstring. Hunting in a survival situation, "in a pinch" I would like to see it done, or perhaps I will take it on at some point. As of now I have never made a bow. Thanks for the comment.

msmart (author)2014-06-17

Hi everyone.
I made a similar machine a while back to make rope with my cub pack and we tried allot of different materials cotton threads,wool,sash cord and plastic bags too if you want to make dog leads I suggest wool and one thicker coord like sash coord for added strength. I made a dog lead out of rope I made out of wool I took 6 seperate lengths of rope and braided them in a twin string flat plaite. I still use the lead to this day and it takes the full force of two Staffordshire bull terriers pulling me to the local field. Well done with the instrucable. Good to see people reusing rather than landfill.. :0)

billbillt (author)2014-06-17

great idea....double plus good.....

jkimball (author)2014-06-16

Perhaps if you put a tape spool on an axle, and a much larger spool on an axle, and ganged them together, you could automatically stretch the tape into string. The larger spool would force the tape to stretch as it revolved the same number of times as the tape dispenser.

Schtaunkton (author)jkimball2014-06-16

I have been thinking of ways to automatically stretch the tape. I found so far, the tape doesn't always stretch at the same point. I am assuming it is because they are used tapes. However it could be the way I am pulling(speed, force direction, variables,etc.) I am interested in your scenario. where would the tension come into play? Wouldn't the larger wheel just make the smaller wheel spin faster?

jkimball (author)Schtaunkton2014-06-17

Presumably, if they were linked together, they would turn at the same rate, but the tape would have to go further on the bigger spool, thus stretching it.

I expect that you could check out some articles about "plarn" and spindles for other ideas.

joshwelch9 (author)2014-06-16

Tom Hanks made this once ;-) Castaway

bergerab (author)2014-06-15

Very creative and well detailed process!

rimar2000 (author)2014-06-14

VERY INTERESTING. Surely that rope is very strong.

What if you put the spools in the hooks of the machine, instead of the ends of the strings? On the other end, you go spooling the finished rope. That way you can proceed an almost serie production, until the spools peter out.

nnygamer (author)2014-06-14

I was just thinking of doing something like this a few days ago. I have a bunch of old tapes that I had recorded shows on, now they all can be found online. The only time The only time I've ever seen vhs tapes use as cordage was in "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks. Your version looks much stronger then what he did in the movie.

Schtaunkton (author)nnygamer2014-06-14

Thanks for the post. I hope you make some rope. I just did an unoffical weight test. My weight machine only goes up to 150lbs...And it held it!! Take that Cast away :)

ilpug (author)2014-06-14

This is by far one of the coolest repurposing projects I've seen. How much does the rope hold?

Schtaunkton (author)ilpug2014-06-14

Thank you. I will post with my strength test reults soon.

About This Instructable




Bio: I work residential-commercial maintenance. My job makes me come up with solutions on my own, most of the time. The more things I know how ... More »
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