My husband used to wear braided leather belts, but had trouble with them wearing out after only a few months. He tried a solid leather belt, but was unhappy with the rigidity. In searching for a solution for him, I came across Jake22's instructable for making paracord belts. Every other belt instructions I had found were either too complicated for me or used an odd buckle. Jake22's was perfect.
I made my husband a solid black belt with a tongue-type buckle and a blue and black belt with a buckle that was his grandfather's. After seeing his, everyone around me wanted one. I made one for my sister-in-law, my father-in-law, and a few for friends.
I only used the instructable on the first one, but after a year or so, needed a refresher before starting on more belts. Much to my dismay, Jake22 all but deleted his instructable. He removed all of the instructions and in their place simply put a single sentence. In spite of the outcry from fans, Jake22 has not reposted his instructable.
Working from my own memory and the frustratingly difficult to use internet archives, I have attempted to create an instructable here for making belts using Jake22's method. This instructable is entirely my own content, but I want everyone to know that I learned to make these from Jake22. I hope my instructions are at least half as clear as his were.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
These belts use a lot of paracord. I bought a 1000 foot spool of black military-grade 550 parachute cord from my favorite military-surplus supplier, The Sportsman's Guide. There are lots of places to buy it, but I have used this site for other purchases multiple times, and have always been treated well.
Amazon is a good source for colored paracord, but does cost more than the "standard" military colors of black, green, and beige.
Belt buckles can be as expensive as the moon, or you can do what I do and buy a belt from Goodwill. I spend an average of $3.00 on a belt, cut the buckle free, and get rid of the belt. Both the single-tongue pass-through type and the big flat buckles with the prong underneath work. If you use the flat one with the prong, though, you will need it to have a long prong. My husband has a lot of trouble keeping his fastened because the prong is too short.
Other things needed that bear less need for in-depth explanations:
heat for melting/sealing paracord ends
small needle-nosed pliers for pulling cord through tight spots
measuring device (ruler, tape measure, etc)
cutters (scissors, sharp diagonal cutters)
I also recommend either masking tape or rubber bands for making long lengths more manageable.
Step 2: Paracord Lengths
Any formula for figuring out how much paracord you need will be slightly wrong for some people. How tight you make the knots will affect the length. Working from trial and error, I have come up with a formula that works for me, but if your tension is different from mine, you may need more or less cord. The difference should be small, so you shouldn't need a lot more than an extra foot or two per piece, but you may want to experiment a bit on a small scale to figure out it if works for you.
The belt consists of five strands of paracord. There are two core strands, two working strands, and an extra strand for the loop the goes next to the buckle.
For the two core strands, you need to measure your waist, double the number, then add twenty-four inches. You need to cut two of these.
waist *2 + 24 = length of core strand
For the working strands, you need one foot of cord for every inch of your desired length of belt, plus an extra twenty-four inches. You will need two of these.
length of belt *12 +24 = length of working strand
The last piece should just be thirty-six inches long. I suggest taking the white strings out of the cord before sealing the ends on this one.
You have a 38 inch waist, and want a 43 inch belt.
38 *2 +24 = 100
You need two 100 inch (8 foot, 4 inch) pieces for the core strands.
43 *12 +24 = 540
You need two 540 inch (45 foot) pieces for the working strands.
You need one 36 inch (3 foot) piece with the white strings taken out for the catch loop.
Step 3: Hitch Knots
Belt buckles have a front and a back. The front is the part that is away from you when you wear the belt, the back is the part that is against you.
Fold a core strand in half, and, holding the buckle with the back facing you, pass the loop of the core strand through the buckle to one side of the tongue. Pull the ends of the core strand through the loop to make a cow hitch (lark's head, tag knot, ring hitch, whatever).
Do the same thing with the other core strand on the other side of the tongue.
Turn the buckle over and repeat the process with the working strands, placing them around the core strands.
Pull all of the strands so that the hitches are tight.
You may want to wind up the long ends of the working strands so that they don't get tangled. Both rubber bands and masking tape work well for this. I like to loop masking tape around the bundles with the sticky side out, then put another piece of tape over that sticky side in so that I can just slide the loop of tape off and on as I need more length.
Step 4: Cobra Knots
The cobra knot is little more than a series of square knots tied around a core strand. This belt is simply two of these running parallel and trading a working strand after every square knot.
Place the buckle on a table with the back facing up.
Pass the inner right working strand over the inner left working strand. Push the outer left working strand, the left core strands, and the inner right that is now the inner left working strand to the side a bit.
Pull the outer right working strand outward a bit, then pass the end in front of the right core strands perpendicular to their length.
Bring the now inner right working strand straight down across the outer right core strand, then behind the right core strands, and up out through the loop of the outer right core strand.
Pull the working strands tight.
Repeat the process in reverse with the same strands. This completes the first right square knot.
Push all of the right strands to the side so that you can work with the left strands.
Do the same thing on the left that you did on the right, but reverse the sides, so that you start by passing the outer left strand across the core strands to start.
Once you complete the first left square knot, pass the inner right working strand over the inner left working strand as you did before.
Repeat making square knots until you reach three inches less than the desired length of the belt.
Step 5: Tapering
Cut the inner two core strands (one from each side), and melt the ends.
Continue with the square knots and the exchange of the inner working strands in the same way as before until you have added three inches.
Tie the two outermost strands in a square knot around all of the other knots.
Cut all of the strands so that you have about an inch and a half long.
Using the pliers, Weave all of the strands backward through the stitches on the back of the belt.
Step 6: Catch Loop
Decide where you want your catch loop, and pull the 36 inch strand through the v-shapes stitch on the back of the belt at that point.
Placing the center of the strand under the v-shaped stitch, pull the ends through the side loops on either side of the v-shaped stitch.
Pull the strands directly across the front of the belt and through the side loops on the side opposite your starting point.
The loops across the front of the belt created this way need to be loose enough for the belt to pass through, with a little extra room since they will thicken in a moment.
Treating the loops across the front of the belt as the core strands and the loose ends of the strand as the working strand, crate a series of square knots that lead back to the place where you first inserted the strand into the belt.
The method here is identical to the one used to make the belt except that you are only doing one cobra knot instead of the two parallel.
After tying your last knot, trim the working ends, melt them, and weave them into the back of the belt.
Step 7: Two-Colored Belts
Two-colored belts made with the double cobra can be incredibly attractive, but they look quite silly if you just do the working strands on one side a different color from the working strands on the other side. To get a nice pattern with two colors, you just have to set up the working strands a bit differently.
Instead of making one working cow hitch over each core cow hitch, place one working cow hitch between the core cow hitches, and place the other over both core cow hitches and the centered working hitch.
Everything else after the hitches is exactly like making a single-color belt.
Step 8: Paracord and Emergencies
Paracord, if you are in fact using parachute cord, is for parachutes. That is what it is made for.
Paracord is not made for rappelling. The 550 pound test weight does not account for shear, knots, or rubbing.
Paracord is not made for getting out of a burning building. Heat plus paracord equals melty-melty.
Please don't put your life at risk by using paracord for things it was not designed to do.
Paracord is, however, pretty good in survival. The inner strands of paracord can be used as fishing line or mending thread. You can use the cord to lash together branches to make a lean-to.