Introduction: 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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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