A Primer on Lanyards

May 2004

I've seen a lot of info bouncing around about the use of lanyards on knives lately, and there seem to be a lot of different opinions.  Are they of value, or are they dangerous?   Well, like most things, they have utility if used properly.

I did some research, asked some questions, and came up with some great ideas.  This weekend, a friend and I spent some time trying to capture some of the info in pictures.

If you read this, and see something I've missed, please let me know...  It is a work in progress.

The uses of lanyards differ depending on the knife used, the purpose of the lanyard, and the location or conditions under which you might be using your knife.

Big Knives:

Big choppers are dangerous.  When you get a pound of sharp steel swinging around, the potential for injury is huge, and that is especially dangerous in a survival situation.

You might have cold or wet hands, catch the knife on a branch, have the blade skip off of a knot...  The possibility of the knife flying out of your hand increases the more you use the knife, through either fatigue or complacency. 

One way is to slip your wrist through the lanyard, and twist enough to close the loop so that if you drop the knife, you can catch it before it hits you or someone else close by.

Sometimes you might be in treacherous footing; loose rocks, steep hillside, wet or muddy ground, snow or ice.  If you worry about falling while using the knife, you might want to be able to dump it quickly, but still have some control should it slip from your hand while using.  

Try twisting the lanyard, and slip it over the thumb instead of the wrist.

Since my initial post of this article to the Hoodlums, a couple of friends reminded me of a superior way to do this.  If you run the lanyard over the BACK of the hand, then over top to the thumb, you accomplish several things.  One, the twisted cord serves as a stop to keep the knife moving forward out of your hand.  Two, you can move your hand rearward on the handle, snug up against the cord, and extend the chopping ability of the blade.  Three, and most important to me, is that if the knife does go flying out of your hand, it tends to swing OUTWARD from your body, instead of inward.  Try it, you'll like it.

Thanks Guys!

Another innovative use of the lanyard is when you have a big knife, but need a small knife...  Skinning, drilling a hole, etc.

Slip your arm into the loop, and grasp the blade up near the tip.  A well sharpened tanto point, like this TOPS Anaconda, works well with this technique.

Of course, you should also have a small knife, but small things do get lost in emergency situations.  Or break...

Medium Knives:

The lanyard performs many of the same uses with this class of knife, but has a few new wrinkles.

Say you are carving or skinning, and do not wish to lay the knife down frequently, due to conditions like deep snow, working over water, etc. and do not want to re-sheath it constantly.  A wrist lanyard allows the knife to dangle from the wrist.  Always being conscious of the danger of a sharp, free-swinging blade, of course.

Placed over the thumb also keeps the hand from slipping onto the blade during thrusting movements.
If you have a small knife, and you need a bigger knife for chopping, some extension of the blade can be achieved by twisting the loop tight, and holding the knife at the end of the handle.  The lanyard effectively acts as an extension of the handle.
This 5" blade turned into a reasonably effective 8" chopper.
Small Knives:

Here, you have "Fobs" and "Dummy Chords", as well as lanyards.

Fobs help withdrawing the knife from a sheath, pouch or pocket.

Dummy Chords serve to attach the knife to you or your gear.  Think of the "idiot mittens" when you were a kid.  ;-)

A small lanyard on a small knife can be slipped over the pinky finger to give the same retention as with the bigger knives.

And finally, the long lanyard can be attached to a belt loop, belt, or some other location to prevent the loss of the knife when working over water, in deep snow or in a steep environment.  Anywhere you might lose the knife if you drop it.

The extended lanyard, if brightly colored, can also be used to find a knife, should it be dropped in the weeds, etc.

Even here, it is tough to see...  Imagine looking for your knife somewhere back along the trail, where it slipped out of your pocket when you sat down to rest.

Well, that is about the extent of it.  I hope this little effort is of some value to you.  Once again, let me know if there is something I can add.


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Copyright 2004 by William Hay.




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