How to Make a Jumbo Leather Monkey Fist(2", 6 Passes)




About: I am a maker. As founder of MakerBlog, I enjoy sharing my creations with others.

The monkey knot originated in Europe in the marine environment and is still used in some parts of Germany. Its main purpose for European sailors was a way to pass heavy lines between ships by casting a lighter cord weighted with a monkey knot and then dragging the heavier cord across to the other ship. Although, nowadays it is not as popular for that use, the monkey fist knot remains an intricate eye-catching creation, the use of which is limited only by your creativity. In this Instructable, you will learn how to make your own jumbo monkey fist out of leather. To begin, you will need:

  1. 12-14 feet of leather lacing in the color of your choice. The length of the cord will depend on how long you want your lanyard to be (assuming you want a lanyard). If you don't want a lanyard, you can always trim off the excess when you're finished. I will be doing 6 passes on each side, but depending on the thickness of your lacing, you may have to modify the number of passes you do in order to cover up the center ball.
  2. A metal bearing, marble, or ball that is 1" in diameter. This will be the center of the monkey fist.
  3. 5 thick pieces of cardboard.
  4. 2 pairs of chopsticks or dowels
  5. Clear masking tape
  6. Leather threading needle

Because this can sometimes be a challenging knot to make, you will need plenty of patience, but the completed knot is worth the effort! Enjoy!

Step 1: Making the Monkey Fist Maker Machine

First, take your five pieces of cardboard and liberally tape them together. It will help in the assembly of the knot if you make sure that this tool is sturdy.

Secondly, mark a 1"x1" square in the middle of the cardboard piece.

Lastly, use your chopsticks to puncture four holes (as in the picture). The key is to make sure that the chopsticks are not extremely wobbly. Nevertheless, it is okay if they wiggle a little.

If you plan on making many of these, you may want to invest more time and effort into this step and even make a wooden tool, rather than a cardboard one.

Step 2: The Base Loops

To begin, wrap the leather lacing around the chopsticks six times. Whether you decide to use the skinny or the thick sides, it is up to you. However, I prefer to use the thicker side to protect against the knot slipping off while I'm making it. After you've wrapped it six times, insert your center ball inside the loops and scoot all the loops up so you have room to loop the leather vertically. When you come to the last loop, make sure to wrap the lace clockwise around the chopstick(see last picture). It is important to make sure you wrap the last loop on the same chopstick that you started on, otherwise your monkey fist will not end up with a uniform 6 sides.

Step 3: The Vertical Loops

Next, wrap the leather lacing six times vertically. After you've wrapped the last loop, instead of wrapping clockwise, wrap the loop counterclockwise in between the two right chopsticks (see last picture).

Step 4: The Last 6 Loops

This last step can be a little bit tricky with thicker lacing, so you might find it helpful to use a leather needle. If you look straight down at the knot, you can see the two gaps that still need to be filled. Thread the six loops through those gaps going down and under the knot, back up through the second gap, and repeat (see first picture). Finally, carefully slide the knot off the chopsticks without messing up any of your hard work.

Step 5: Tightening the Knot

This is the one step that doesn't have much to explain. Patiently work out the loose leather lacing around the ball until it is nice and snug. After you have finished tightening the ball, check each side to make sure you have six passes on each side.

Step 6: Finished!

Congratulations! Now you can show off you leather monkey fist knot to your friends, let it sit on your shelf as a cool trinket, or trim the cords and use it as a fancy paper weight.

If you liked this Instructable, please vote for me in the Leather Contest!

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Participated in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Participated in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016



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    4 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I have always wrapped around my fingers to tie this knot. I will have to try making one of these jigs.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Great! And when you're done, you should post an "I made it" comment with a picture!


    2 years ago

    I tried various places/sites where I might be able to find instructions on how to wrap, tie or make the "Monkey Fist", But didn't have any luck for this type, (The kind I wanted); so I was very pleased when I found this one on how to make it, especially since this is exactly the one, or type and method I had been looking for. Thanks; and have a great day!! - - - Ed


    2 years ago

    Cool! Good instructable - Thanks!