Introduction: How to Make a Rosary Out of Paracord

The Rosary is a method of prayer used primarily by Catholics.  It utilizes beads on a string or chain that are used to keep track of which prayer you are saying while you are meditating on the mysteries of the Gospels.  To learn more about the rosary check out  I learned how to make rosaries out of twine a couple of years ago from these folks, and when I deployed I decided to try and make one out of paracord.  Some of my fellow soldiers really liked the idea of a Rosary that was a little more masculine than the traditional Rosary.  This makes a great gift for service members or to donate to a nearby military installation.

For your first attempt you will need about 40 feet of paracord.  As you get better you will need less because your knots will be tighter.  You will also need scissors or a knife, and a lighter.  A crucifix or cross can be attached if you like but I will show you how to make a cross from the paracord.

Step 1: Layout

If you are familiar with the Rosary and its layout you can skip this step.  The Rosary consists of a tail and a loop of five sets of ten beads/knots called a decade.  The ten knots of the decade are for praying the Hail Mary, between each decade is a knot for praying the Our Father.  The tail consists of a knot to join the loop together, an Our Father knot, three Hail Mary's, another Our Father and finally a cross or crucifix.  We will start in the middle of the loop and work our way down to the crucifix/cross.

Step 2: Hail Mary Knot

Begin by finding the center of your paracord, this is where we will begin.  The first knot is the Hail Mary knot which is the most common knot in the Rosary.  First, lay the cord along the length of your index finger.  Then, wrap the cord loosely around your finger three (3) times.  It doesn't matter which way you wrap as long as you are consistent throughout.  Next, pass the cord through the three loops you just made.  Finally tighten the knot slowly, using your fingers to ease the cord around itself and keep the loops together.  At this point you can reposition the knot by pulling the one of the two center strings to make it slide along, you will have to re-wind the loops but this is easier than starting over. If you only need to make a minor adjustment grab the knot on the side opposite of the direction you want it to move and with your other hand pull on the cord on the same side as you are grabbing. 

Step 3: Start the Decade

The knot you just formed is the final knot of the third decade.  You will need to repeat the process 9 more times to get your first decade.  After forming the knot on the second Hail Mary I reposition it against the first and the slide it away as I tighten. This allows for consistent spacing and keeps them from getting too spread out and using more cord than necessary.

Step 4: Our Father Knot

After you have tied ten Hail Mary knots you will need an Our Father knot.  The Our Father knot is the same as the Hail Mary knot only with five loops instead of three.  You will want to space this one a little more than the Hail Mary knots.  This can be achieved by using the method mentioned earlier of sliding it next to the last knot and then tightening away.

Step 5: Finishing the Loop

You should now have one decade and one Our Father knot you will need to continue in the same direction with two more decades separated by one more Our Father.  Then go back to the first Hail Mary knot and go the other direction starting with an Our Father followed by a decade, another Our Father, and a fifth and final decade.  The Our Father knot for the two decades closest to the tail is on the tail and pulls double duty for both decades. 

Step 6: Creating the Loop

Up to now you have just had a long string of knots.  You will now create the loop by tying a knot to join them together.  This knot is not used to pray on and merely serves to bring everything together.  For the joiner knot you will need to line up the last two Hail Mary knots and place the two strings along your finger just like for every other knot.  Now wrap both cords around your finger twice for a total of four loops.  Then pass both cords through the loops together and tighten.  You should now have two tails one longer and one shorter. 

Step 7: The Tail

The tail consists of an Our Father, three Hail Mary's, another Our Father and a Crucifix/Cross.  Since you have two tails and would like only one you will have to remove the short one.  The cleanest way to do this is to hide the end in the next Our Father knot.  Set both tails on your finger like you did for the joiner knot but this time wrap the long tail around your finger five times.  Send the long tail through the loops and position the knot against the joiner for proper spacing, then tighten just a little bit but not all the way.  Cut the short tail and singe the end just short of the end of the knot.  When you tighten the knot the rest of the way the tail will disappear into the center of the knot.  You can now tie the last three Hail Mary knots.  The next step will depend on whether you have a crucifix or are making a cross from paracord.

Step 8: The Final Our Father

If you are making the cross from paracord make the final Our Father knot as usual and proceed to the next step.  If you are going to add a crucifix or cross that you already have or have bought you will need to start the Our Father as usual but before you tighten at all you will feed the cord through the eyelet for the Crucifix and then back through the Our Father knot so that a loop is formed.  This knot will look like the Our Father knot you just tied.  You will remove the excess tail as before by clipping it short of the knot and then tightening it so that the tail disappears.

Step 9: The Cross

The Cross is made out of the same type of knots we have been using.  I prefer to keep the arms and top half the length of the lower half  using four and eight.  You can change it based on your preference.  First make a knot with four loops, do not tighten it too much yet.  Then form a knot with eight loops.  Tighten these two knots so that they are right up against each other.  About five inches from the end of the eight loop knot tie another four loop this will be one of the arms.  Get this knot as tight as you wish and then tie a simple overhand knot around the upright between the upper and lower portions.  With the first arm snug against the upright you can form the final arm of a four looped knot and tighten it against the upright.  At this point cut off the excess cord and use a lighter to singe the ends.  One method that keeps the ends clean is to use a lighter and hold it next to the end until it starts to melt and then press the molten nylon against an ice cube.  This creates a flat end that will not slip out of the knot.

Step 10: Variations

A variation if you only have six feet of paracord is to make a single decade Rosary consisting of ten Hail Mary's and then joined with a Cross.  The regular joiner knot can be used for the top of the cross and the short tail hidden in the bottom of the Cross.  This can be worn like a bracelet if you size it right.

Step 11: Finished

You now have a Rosary that you can use in any environment or give to a Service Member.  Please remember to pray for our troops. 

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