Intro: Let's Make a Paracord Acoustic Guitar Strap
I have and play acoustic guitars more than electrics, and some don’t have the fun little buttons that allow me to attach a strap so I can play while standing up. While deployed my EWO buddy Jeff (being a crusty old retired Navy guy) re-introduced me to knot tying, and then introduced me (internetically speaking) to a guy named Stormdrane (http://stormdrane.blogspot.com and numerous ‘ibles on this domain). If you haven’t been introduced, Stormdrane is a wealth of tying knowledge; he and JD (from Tying It All Together) have given me a LOT to think about and plan with.
One such was a guitar strap Stormdrane talked about (http://stormdrane.blogspot.com/2006/08/braided-paracord-guitar-strap.html), but never went into real detail on. Someone posted a reply referring to a Dutch website (http://www.hobbydoos.nl/knopen/macrame.asp). Having a look, it didn’t seem too difficult, but I didn’t want something that wide, since I wanted a neck-style (classical) strap vs an over-the-shoulder (ROCK AND ROLL!!!!) strap. I made a few modifications to the knottings, which I’ll make sure are evident in the pics and descriptions.
I really like the strap. It’s got a little bit of spring to it, which makes it more comfortable carrying my (relatively heavy) steel twelve-string. It’s adjustable, so I can move it between guitars if I want. I won’t, cuz I’ve already made a strap for my nylon six-string (using a five-string flat braid—a possible follow-on ‘ible), and the colors of this one aren’t right for my acoustic bass (another project!). I also used this pattern to make a non-adjustable shoulder sling for my crossbow (pics at the end) which works very well due to the springy action. A future project will be to figure out how to make an adjustable rifle sling using this pattern…
But for now, ON TO ADVENTURE!
Step 1: Supplies and Tools
For the finished product I used three (3) times 40 feet each of two different colors of paracord. For the example, I used three colors (and much shorter lengths), just to make it easier to see how the colors combine to make the patterns—and to make the explanations easier to follow. I recommend you build the strap so it starts and stops at or just above your belly button, which on me ended up being about four (4) feet total length. You will also need a three (3) foot piece of cord that will become the adjustable part.
Something to cut the cord (and really, isn’t it time to cut the cord?).
Something to “melt ‘n’ mash” the cord.
I used a paracord needle to give structure to the initial lark’s head ties (a pen, a chopstick, a screwdriver, etc. will work).
Wire clothes hanger or other stiff wire (and I do mean stiff—so to speak)
Stout pliers (lineman’s work very well here, but any will do)
Step 2: The Setup
Since I wanted a narrower strap than the one Stormdrane built, I decided to go with only three (3) “columns” rather than four (4) as in his design, and then decided which colors I wanted where. I diverged from the usual path of making three (3) lark’s heads next to each other because I wanted my colors to interact differently than that ends up doing. So instead, I “overlapped” my lark’s heads. That is, I set the first one by middling it and tying it (orange), built the second one in the same way but straddling the first (white), then the third straddling the first two, also middled (tan). This allows for more color interweaving when using more than two colors. Also, I alternated which side of the knot the crossbar part of the lark’s head ends up on so as to avoid too much bulk on one side. I made these around my structure device (needle, chopstick, etc.) and the three (3) foot piece of cord. You can tie a knot in the 3ft piece or not, just make sure it doesn’t somehow get pulled out during the build.
Step 3: The Beginning
In the beginning, all is formless (well, kinda). If you’ve been following along, you have your structure piece and your future adjuster, with three (3) middled and overlapped lark’s heads, for a total of six (6) lines coming off your structure piece, right? If not, please re-read/re-accomplish Step 2.
From here, it’s off to the tying. I recommend picking a side and sticking with it—I start with the outsides over first. What you’re doing is the same square knot used in the Solomon Bar: outside over the center and under the inside, then the inside under the center and over the outside, then reverse it. If numbers help (counting from the left): line1 (tan) goes over line2 (white) and under line3 (orange), then line3 goes under line2 and over line1. Pull that tight up against the top, then reverse the process (keeping the same numbers)—line1 over line2 and under line3, then line3 under line2 and over line1 and pull it up tight to the top. This is a basic square or reef knot, and the basis of this whole project.
Do the same thing with lines4-6, that is: line6 (tan) over line5 (white) and under line4 (orange), line4 under line5 and over line6, tighten, then line6 over line5 and under line4, and line4 under line5 and over line6, tighten.
Two-thirds of the first cycle complete! Feeling good? Good! Decision time again. Because we’re only using six (6) lines we’re short two (2) lines for the symmetrical look that Stormdrane’s pattern provides. That means we end up with only half of the Solomon Bar knot in the center, with the crossbar on the same side all the time. Or not. That’s the decision you’ll have to make here. What I did was alternate how the crossbars of the center knots line up, and I like the way it turned out (I’m a sucker for symmetry). The intent here is to take line2 (white) over lines3-4 (orange) and under line5 (white), and then line5 under lines3-4 and over line2, pull it tight, then reverse direction just like with the first two (2) steps of the cycle. I don’t know that it makes a difference if lines3-4 get crossed inside the knot, but I recommend keeping them uncrossed.
Step 4: The Middle Ages
OK! A full cycle complete! Feels good, yeah? Now, before we move on, let’s assess. You should have one full cycle of outsides and insides tied and pulled up tight against the top, right? Good! Next, take your structure piece in one hand and your working ends in the other and pull. The intent here is to stretch the knots and get those loops on the outside of the strap that you see in the finished product. That’s where the spring action comes from. It might not be too obvious on the first cycle, but it will become very obvious on the rest of ‘em.
That’s it! Continue this cycle ad nauseum, until you reach your target length or you go so cross-eyed you need to take a break (seriously, take a break every now and then; the eyes you save might be your own). Did you measure how much length you want (from belly button, around neck, back to belly button)? If not, you can do so now or just keep tying and checking. The only thing to remember at this point is to alternate that middle knot (remember, symmetry!). An easy way to remember (or figure out when you lose track—and you will) which side starts over and which under on this middle knot is to look at the crossbar of the previous middle knot. If the crossbar is on the left, then start this knot with the right side (line5) going over and the left side (line2) going under.
Just for a sense of scope, I had about six (6) hours total in this build during three (3) sittings—mainly because I kept getting distracted and having to go back and undo/redo knots.
Step 5: The Present
Once you reach your desired length it’s time to finish it off. First, you’re going to pull out the structure piece. Yes, it’s time. This part is a little tricky because your lark’s heads are going to try to fall apart. I ended up doubling back the 3ft piece of cord to soak up some of the slack in that outer lark’s head, then tied a knot in it so it wouldn’t pull through. I recommend a clove hitch around itself, or a constrictor knot if you’re really feeling froggy. Carefully pull that 3ft piece of cord until one end is about 6in from being pulled through. Take the short end and go once around the long side so that it comes back up on the right side of itself. Cross over itself and loop around the long side again, so that it comes up on the left side of itself, tuck it under the crossing, and pull tight. That’s a clove hitch! And, since you tied it this way, it’s a sliding clove hitch! That means, as you put weight on the long end (like hanging a guitar from it) it’ll just get tighter! Ain’t life grand?! To be double extra sure that clove hitch stays where you put it you can melt ‘n’ mash that stub end (cut as required).
I laid the strap flat around my neck and overlapped the ends so that both legs lay flat against my chest/stomach (so to speak—and no twists, this isn’t a Shyamalan production!) with the working ends on top of the structure piece end. I took the working end of line1 and put it through the slot between lines5-6, and did the same for line6 between lines1-2 (remember, they’re reversed since it wrapped around), so that the ends stick out the back side of the strap—away from the guitar and toward your belly. I did the same for the rest of the ends, spacing them evenly amongst the available slots. I tied a square knot in lines1&3 and another in lines4&6—all behind the strap and away from the guitar (gotta protect that finish!). Lines2&5 I just cut and melted ‘n’ mashed in the middle of the 1-3 and 4-6 knots. Once you’re sure you’re where you want to be, it’s time to cut, melt, and mash. There’s plenty of other ‘ibles that tell you how to do it, so I won’t belabor it here. Remember, once you cut you’re committed. Make sure! And be careful with that liquid hot magma—I mean nylon!
Step 6: The Connection
So now you’re sitting there thinking, “Swell. I have this neato buncha paracord all tied up into a pretty cool looking thing. What do I do with it?” I’m glad you asked.
This is the most exacting part, the clip. It ain’t rocket scientry, but some finesse is required to make sure you don’t wreck your guitar. The clip fits over the edge of the sound hole and secures the strap to the guitar. The lineman’s pliers helped because they gave me the scale I was looking for, but as stated earlier, any pliers will work. I started with a straight piece of wire clothes hanger, measured down two (2) plier-widths (~1in) from one end and made a 90 degree bend. I moved down that second leg two (2) more plier-widths and made another 90 degree bend in plane with and pointed away from the first leg. I moved down the third leg for one (1) plier-width (~1/2in) and made a third 90 degree bend in plane with the others and back toward the first leg. I made a fourth and final 90 degree bend two plier-widths down that fourth leg, and in line with the first leg, and then cut it off two plier-widths down the fifth leg. What you should end up with is a big, squared off U with handlebars (apehangers for you Harley types). Take that third leg and bend it toward the handlebars (meaning the bends are actually about at the middle of legs 2 and 4) so that you have a hook, leaving enough room in the bend for the guitar’s soundboard to fit comfortably but not loosely. Gut a piece of paracord long enough to cover in a matching/contrasting/coordinating color and slide it onto your brand spankin’ new hook and melt ‘n’ mash the ends to keep it on. It doesn’t matter if those ends look a little funky; they’ll be resting comfortably inside your guitar, and keeping the guitar stable on your hook.
Step 7: Listo, Finito, Doneso
“OK, so now what?” you ask? The easiest part. Take the end of your adjuster line and slip it through the same slot as your middle lines from the overlap. Don’t tie it yet, this is the adjuster part. Make a lark’s head knot in the middle of the loop you just created and slip it onto the crossbar part of the hook you just made. Slip the hook onto the edge of the sound hole with the handlebars inside the guitar and the lark’s head pointed down, with the adjuster part in the lower saddle and running under and behind the guitar. Loop the strap over your noggin and around your neck. Does the guitar sit where you want? If yes, sweet! Tie it off there; another clove hitch around both lines of the adjuster using the end you pulled through the slot and wrapped around to the front is a good choice. If no, adjust the length of the loop until it does, and THEN tie it off. You will, of course, have to work the adjuster line around the lark’s head to make it sit even (again with the symmetry!). However, once it’s set it should never change, unless you let someone else play your beloved instrument (so to speak). Should you need to change it, simply undo that second clove hitch and adjust as required. If you decide you’ll never adjust it again, you could easily snazz up the adjuster with a simple Solomon Bar—or similar—from the bottom of the strap to the hook, with the (now non-) adjuster as the core.
As for the extra length of the loop, you can cut it off (with the appropriate melt ‘n’ mash) or keep it for those potential adjustments and use a decorative knot to suck up the length (so to speak). I find a hangman’s noose gives just the right touch…
Step 8: Wooops...
Almost forgot that I promised pics of the crossbow sling. See how the third color gets mixed in better this way? And three "columns" fit just right on 1.25in quick-d swivels.