How to wrap handles.
Various types of cord can be used to wrap knife and sword handles, including paracord, nylon cord, cotton cord, shoelaces, satin cord, etc. In these examples I will be using paracord, satin cord, and nylon braided cord. After I do my wrapping I then seal the handle with resin to keep it from ever unwrapping.
There are many ways to do wrapping, and I will just be listing some of the more common ones used in the custom knife industry. If you wish to learn more ornate wraps I suggest you get a book on knot tying or crocheting. You can get some pretty cool effects using mariner knots and crocheting.
There are no industry standard names for the various types of wrapping so I just label them as I call them in my shop...other makers may use the same wrapping method with a different name.
The first stage will be doing the underwrap. In this example I use thin black nylon cord.
The first step is to lay the end of the cord parallel to the handle, then wrap it around the tang and over itself, and pull tightly. This keeps the cord end from unraveling whilst wrapping. If you are real concerned about it coming undone you can put a small spot of superglue at where the cord crosses.
Next we simply keep wrapping the cord around the tang. Make sure to keep adequate tension on the cord and every few passes use your fingernail to push the cord closer to the last passes. This keeps gaps from showing the tang underneath.
Here the underwrap is nearly done. I have cut the cord off a few inches longer and I will be slipping the end through the hole and typing a simple knot to keep it from unwrapping.
Here the cord has a knot tied to keep it from unwrapping. It can also be helpful to put a dab of superglue on the knot to keep it from loosening.
Here are two blades with the underwrap done. The top knife will be used as our example for doing the Double Wrap, the bottom knife will be used as an example for doing a Turkshead Knot elsewhere on this page.
The "underwrap" method just shown can also be used on a knife all by itself without doing an additional overwrap. This is most useful on small knives that you want to keep a thin handle profile on.
Next we cut the overwrap cord to length...in this case about 6ft long. The paracord has some inner strands that can either be left in for extra bulk to the handle, or removed so the cord lays flat. In this example the innerstrands will be removed. I typically always remove the inner strands and if I want extra bulk to the handle I will use thicker paracord. I feel the paracord looks better when it lays flat, but this is only my opinion.
Once I have removed the inner cord I then use a lighter to melt the ends to keep them from fraying whilst working. Then you find the middle of the cord and cut it in half. This creates two 3ft pieces. Melt the freshly cut ends to keep them from fraying.
Now it is time to start the Double Wrap. First you take the two pieces of cord and line them up so the ends meet. You then find the middle of the cords and lay them across the tang where you want the wrapping to start. Push them flat with your thumbs and pull on the ends of the cord to remove any slack.
Next you roll the knife over, keeping tension on the cord to make sure it doesn't move or loosen. I tend to do this by keeping pressure on the cord on the sides of the tang using my index finger and thumb. Next choose which side of the cord you wish to start with...I always use the right hand side. It doesn't matter which side you start with but make sure to ALWAYS start with the same side throughout the wrapping process. If you start with the other side halfway through then the wrapping does not turn out uniform.
In this example I am using the right side. You grab the top piece and lay it across the tang. By "top piece" I mean the piece furthest from the blade.
Next you grab the bottom piece and cross it overtop of the previusly placed piece.
Next grab the top piece on the left side and cross it over top of the previous pieces.
Next grab the lower piece on the left side and cross it overtop of all the previous pieces.
Pull the cords tight, removing all slack. This is important to do to keep the wrapping from looking sloppy. And thats all there is to it! Simply roll the knife over and repeat the process over again...and keep repeating until the wrapping is to the end of the handle.
Next we will be tucking the cord through the hole and pulling it tight. This keeps the cord from sliding off the tapered tang.
Keep repeating this until all of the tang is covered.
Cut the excess cord off and.....
Melt the ends of the cord so you don't have stray strands.
And thats it. I recommend that you then seal the wrapping with resin. If you decide not to use resin then instead of cutting off the cord flush, you tie a knot to keep the ends from slipping through.
A single wrap is a very basic wrap that shows diamond sections through the wrap, to reveal an underwrap or the tang underneath. It adds half as much to the thickness of the handle as doing a Double Wrap.
After doing the underwrap (which is shown how to do in the "double wrap" section of this page) with a blue satin cord, we then cut enough electric blue paracord to do the overwrap...which in this case is about 5ft. After cutting it to length you then have the option to remove the inner cord so the cord will lay flatter, which we did in this example. You then find the middle of the length of paracord and place that at the spot you wish the wrapping to start...as shown in the following pic.
You then pick which end of the cord you wish to start with....it doesn't matter which end you choose, but make sure you always start with this same side when doing the wrap or your results will not be consistent! With this example and every knife I do, I start with the cord on my right hand side. I always start with this side so my body gets used to it and I won't get confused and accidently start with the left side cord halfway through a knife. Once you determine which end of the cord you want to use (I am using the the end on my right side, which is actually on the left in this photo....sorry about the confusion) you lay it across the handle as shown in the next pic.
Next you grab the other end of the cord and lay it across the handle, going over the original piece.
Now you pull it tight so the cord lays flat with no slack.
It's that easy. Now all you have to do is roll the knife over, making sure to keep tension on the cord, and repeat the process, Do this for the entire length of the handle, making sure to keep tension. Once you reach the end of the handle you can then wrap the cord through the hole to secure it (as shown in our "double wrap" section on this page.
This wrap is done with a single piece of cord for the overwrap. Since the paracord is twisted it provides extra bulk to the design compared to a "Single Wrap".
After doing the underwrap and the Turkshead knot (both methods are shown elsewhere on this page) we will then start the Diamond Wrap. First you cut a cord to the proper length, in this case 6-7ft. Then you remove all the inner cords in the paracord so the cord will lay flat. Alternatively you can use a type of cord that is naturally flat shaped like wide shoelace cord. Find the middle of the length of cord and place that spot right under the Turkshead knot and pull it tight to the tang.
Flip the knife over and it should appear like this.
(ALWAYS do your wrapping with the piece of cord on the same side as you chose in this step. For example if you start with the cord on your right side always start each step with the cord on your right side) . Next take one side of the cord and lay it over the tang.
Next twist that cord either 1 full turn or 1/2 turn. In this case I used 1/2 turn for the cord layer that is underneath. Pull it tight.
Next take the other cord and lay it across the previous piece and give it either 1/2 or 1 full twist. The following pic shows it twisted 1/2.
This picture shows it twisted 1 full turn and pulled tight. For this knife I used 1 full turn for the outer layer of the wrap....I think it looks better but some people use a half turn. After completing this step simply turn the knife over and repeat it on the other side. Then keep flipping the knife and repeating until the knife is done.
This pic shows the handle halfway done. I decided to use some silver dragon menuki on this handle.
After the handle is wrapped to the end then simply tuck the cord through the hole until the tang is covered then cut it off and melt the ends prior to sealing the handle with resin (steps shown in the "Double Wrap" section) If you decide not to seal the handle then I suggest using a knot to keep the cord from unwrapping....but unsealed handles are prone to stretching and coming loose with use.
The following pic shows the completed wrapping prior to sealing with resin.
Cut a piece of cord the the length you need....in this case I used a 3ft long piece of red paracord. You can remove the inner strands of the paracord so it lays flatter, or leave them in for added bulk. I left them in for this example.
Next lay the cord over top of the tang and take the top end of the cord and wrap it around the back side of the knife so it ends up looking like the following pic
Next take the end of the cord you just wrapped around the back of the knife (this will be the "working end" of the cord and will be used for all the steps while the other end stays stationary) and bring it up and overtop of the last pass, creating an X. The working end should end up pointing down, and between the 2 legs of the X.
Next take the working end and place it OVER top of the bottom right leg of the X and bring it UNDER the top right leg of the X. If done correctly it should look like the following pic. My thumb is resting on the working piece and the end of it is at the top facing upward,
Make sure you did the previous step right and everything looks exactly like the above photo then roll the knife over. The backside of the knife should appear as below.
Next take the loop on the left side and pass it OVER top of the left loop. It should appear as below.
Next pass the working end OVER top of the top loop at the bottom of the pic....then UNDER the bottom loop....then back OVER the top loop. Make sure it looks like the pic below.
Next turn the knife slightly (not always needed depending on the knot/knife) so you can see the same angle as below. We will be taking the working end and slipping it UNDER the near loop.
It should look like this if done correctly.
Next we roll the knife back over to the original side. Now what we see at the bottom was what was on the top in the last pic. The working end is the piece off to the right.
Next slip the working end OVER top of the bottom left loop....then UNDER the loop going alongside of the other end of the cord. If done correctly it should appear as below. Believe it or not the basic knot is done! At this point the knot only has one pass and Turskhead knots tend to look better with multiple passes. 2-3 Passes is the most common for knives but if you use thin cord you can use even more passes.
The below pic is the knot before it is neatened up and with only 1 pass. To do multiple passes you simply take the working end and follow the non working ends path through the entire knot.
Here is the same knot but with the second pass started. As I said simply use the working end and following the non working end through the same spaces. If you did the original knot right this stage is simple.
With more passes through the knot might lose some of its slack and start to tighten up. I use a small screwdriver/awl to help push the cord through the tight spots,
At this point we have a complete Turkshead Knot with 2 full passes.
Since I am only doing 2 passes for this knot it is time to tighten the knot up and nudge everything in place so it looks uniform. Simply grab any part of the knot that looks loose and pull the slack out, then slowly work the slack to the end of the cord.
As you work the slack around the knot you will pick up more and more slack and the loop will get bigger and bigger. This is the same pass around the knot shown in the previous pics but closer to being to the end of the cord. Notice how it is much larger now from all the slack taken up.
Once the slack is out the knot should be much tighter to the tang and the knot should appear uniform.
I then cut the cord short enough to not get in the way while I'm wrapping the handle, but not short enough to allow the ends to slip through the knot and untie itself.
After doing the handle wrap (in this case I did a "Double Wrap") I then pull the ends tight and cut them off as close as possible to the knot.
Next you simply tuck the ends down into the knot and seal the whole handle with resin. Make sure when tucking the ends down you are careful not to push too deep and loosen/untie the knot.