Saturday, October 1, 2011

Free Mini Tute: Saving Money On Leather and Rubber Cord

 Update:  If you like this cord, see this blog post for more.

I think I have alluded once or twice to the cord I use instead of leather or rubber, both of which I like a lot. Both can get expensive and they both have their drawbacks. Rubber can leave marks on your clothes and so can leather. Rubber can get sticky or tacky. Leather dries, fades and stretches.

I use decoy cord which is made from extruded pvc. According to Greenhead, a leading seller of decoy cord, it "does not tangle, freeze, crack or rot while offering superior stretch as well as abrasion resistant durability". Sounds great, right? Well, it is and I love it. There isn't much variety but I love the true, non fade black. I also like the diameter that it comes in for necklaces. It'll hold the heaviest necklaces. Small things won't be quite heavy enough for it, but why would you want to hang a tiny pendant on a heavy cord anyway?

I like to make earrings with decoy cord, too. If I made bracelets, I'd use it for that, too. :) It melts easily with a pin to make holes for wires.

Some people use decoy cord in place of Buna cord. Buna is nitrile. I have never used it, but must assume that being nitrile, it stretches a lot. The decoy cord has very little stretch. It will stretch if you try to stretch it, but it has a lot of memory and will not stretch out. It just snaps back to length.

You can buy decoy cord in most larger sports departments or stores. I got some at Dick's and at Bass Pro Shops. I think the Greenhead brand is best. I got 200 feet for under 10.00. It's best to get it in the Fall during hunting season.

When you cut it off the roll, it will have some memory of being spooled, as in the picture above. I cut this piece off to demonstrate that although at first it would seem useless to use for jewelry, all you need to do is drop it in some boiling water and watch it relax and uncoil like a snake. Turn off the stove before you drop it in, though. :) Lift it out of the water with a fork and it will cool immediately to a soft and relaxed length.

When your finished piece is lying about in cold weather, it can get a little stiff, but your body temperature will warm it up again to its former suppleness. The same holds true for pieces stored in a bag or squished into a small space. Your body heat is all it needs to relax again.

To make a necklace with decoy cord, treat it as you would cord, leather or rubber. I never use glue, though. I just follow the steps below.

First measure the cord. As far as I know there is only one thickness- 2.5mm.

Find a mandrel about 1mm thicker or slightly less. I used a piece of brass tube that my husband picks up at his craft store (the man shop- funny, it's called the hobby shop, not the craft store LOL!).
Make a loop with your round nose pliers as close to the size of the mandrel as you can. If it it too small, just push the loop down your round nose to make it larger.

Make about 10 tight wraps around the mandrel with 18g soft copper or silver. Remember to flush cut the ends in the correct direction. (I noticed after my pictures were taken that I cut one side wrong!) You want the flush cut on the working side. If your first loop was good and tight then your coils shouldn't lean in one direction.

Cut the top and bottom, preferably on the same side- it looks neater. Make a mark on the opposite side of your cut, as in the picture.

Use a thin bladed knife or similar tool to lift one end. Just slide the blade under and pry up to a little past the mark.

Take your flatnose and grab the lifted loop straight across, slightly outside of the mark (see the following pictures). Turn this half loop section up while pushing it down. You should have something like the picture when you are done. You want it to be straight across the middle. Check out the following pictures.

After you have a neat coil with an end turned up, you will need to attach it to the cord. Slide it on. Make sure the cord comes to the top of the coil, but not in the empty space where your jumpring will be. Take a thin flatnose or the tips of your chainnose and gently squeeze the third ring up from the bottom. Do the same for the next coil down and then the next. You are progressively making the last section of coil smaller to squeeze it down onto the cord. Keep working the coils down a little at a time and in that order until you get a nice fit at the bottom. If you do it evenly, the cord will stay centered in your coils.

The decoy cord takes a nice bite of the wire end without tearing or ripping. You should get a very secure fit very easily. I can tug this quite hard and it won't budge.

Finish off the opposite end. Don't forget to slide on your pendant first, if it won't fit over your clasp ends. Attach any form of clasp you'd like. If you like, you can use liver of sulfur with the clasp on. I've done it with no troubles.

Example with a man's pendant.

Example using three cords.

This is how I finished the three cord bundle with 16g 1/2 round. The ends of the wire have a slight inward bend that bites the cord. I used a razor to thin and taper the end of the loop to fit it neatly into the bundle. A clasp can be attached directly to the loop ends before binding or you can use a ball end to go through the eye or even a toggle.

And, here's a piece I made with the decoy cord used as and with wire for a frame for this unakite.

I'm sure most of you have made coiled end caps before, but I hope you found this useful in some way and that will think about trying decoy cord. You can find it in smaller amounts, too, if you just want to try it without a 200 foot investment.


  1. Tela, thank you so much for this mini tut, especially for the tip about using decoy cord. I dislike rubber and, here in the desert, leather disintegrates faster than most places. Next time I am in Cabela's I will pick up some.

    Thanks again.

  2. You're welcome, Susan. I don't remember where I heard about this stuff. I've been using it a very long time and have never had any issues it- my necklaces look the same as when I made them. :)

  3. Tela, This is outstanding! Thank you so much for creating this well written tutorial and giving it as a gift. I dislike rubber and as a vegetarian don't like leather or its drawbacks. This sounds perfect to use for many applications. Not only did you give well written directions and photos, you also gave great examples of how to utilize this amazing cord. I will definately search online for some!
    Thank you, my friend!

  4. Hi Christine :) You're welcome! Thank you so much for the feedback and for pointing out the drawback for leather with vegetarians. Makes sense.

    I hope you do give this a try. I get pretty excited about sharing things that I find and I hope that people have the same response to them as I do. I have always wondered why this cord is not more popular than it is.

  5. That's great! I'm going to buy some. Thanks for the tute and the boiling water lessons was very cool:)

  6. Thanks for posting this, Tela! Really neat!

  7. You're welcome :) Hope y'all enjoy trying some new things with it.

  8. That is neat Tela, You sure have some cool ideas... Thank you for sharing.. Lynn

  9. Thanks Tela!! Such a great idea.

    Couple of questions: 1) Does it come in any other colours? ie white?

    2) How easily can it be cut? Will the sharp wire ends or bits cut into it eventually?


  10. You're welcome, Lynn :)

    D- As far as I know, it only comes in black.
    I cut it with my wire cutters, you can also use scissors or a blade.
    When making the end caps, I don't puncture the cord. I have had no problems with the end caps.
    I have put wires through it for earrings and they all are wearing nicely.
    If you had a cut end actually digging straight into the cord and there was a lot of strain and movement in that area, I think it would probably wear through, but I can't think of anything that would call for that.

  11. I think this is an awesome tute, and I love the information about finishing the ends / making the claps. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  12. Thank you, Jill! I'm glad you like it. :)

  13. Tela, this is great info! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  14. You're welcome, Arya. Thanks for letting me know what you think :)


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