Sunday, August 14, 2011

Just exactly how strong is Paracord?

Has that thought ever crossed your mind?  Have you ever wondered how strong Paracord actually is?  Have you ever considered that if you were out in the woods and had to lower yourself down a cliff, would the Paracord actually hold your weight?  Have you ever wanted to pick up something really heavy with Paracord just to see if it would break?  I certainly have.  I am curious by nature and many times I have done something just to see what would happen.  Sometimes something good happens, other times what happens is not quite so good.  But I am still curious and will continue to do experiments just to see what will happen.

Paracord is supposed to have a breaking strength of 550 pounds.  Did I happen to have a 550 pound weight lying around?  Or even a 551 pound weight lying around?  As some of you may be, I am a bit deprived at the moment and do not have one of these weights presently available.  But, as some of you may also have, I did in fact have in my possession a 1974 model Chevrolet 350 small block engine.  It's a complete engine, missing only the carburetor and distributor.  It has the pulleys and the air conditioner still on it.  Supposedly a Chevy small block weighs between 550 and 600 pounds, depending on who you ask.  Suppose, just suppose someone cut a piece of Paracord, tied it on to the engine and tried to lift it up.  What might happen?

Several things might happen.  The Paracord might instantly snap when you put tension on it to lift the engine, never even getting it off the ground.  The engine might be lifted off the ground a little bit and then the Paracord could snap, perhaps sending the end of it flying into someone's eye.  The engine could be lifted fully off the ground and then lowered again just as easy as pie.  Or the engine could be lifted 6 feet into the air, and a pair of rabid squirrels suddenly attack the tractor driver, causing him to take violent and evasive actions which may or may not result in the engine being safely lowered to the ground once again.

I decided to find out.  We procured a 6 foot long piece of desert Camo Paracord, fastened it securely around a bolt sticking out the front of the engine and around the flywheel in the back.  Then we used a chain hoist that was hanging from the front end loader of a tractor to lift it.

Would it hold?  Would it snap?  Would any angry squirrels make an appearance?

Here are a couple of pictures.  I think the results will speak for themselves.

It's lifted off the ground in this photo but with the shadow you might think that one end of it is still on the ground.

 Here you can clearly see that it is a foot or so off of the ground.

And here you can see the front of the engine with the only thing holding it up being the piece of Paracord.

So, what have we learned from this experiment, what sort of knowledge may we take away from this?  Well, for starters, Paracord is strong stuff.  We know for certain that it will hold the weight of a small block Chevy.  What about a big block Chevy, or a Dodge Viper V10 or a Cadillac V12?  I don't have one of those lying around right at this moment so I cannot say for certain.  But if you try that let me know the results.  Can you rely on Paracord for any reasonable task you might put it to?  I would certainly think so.  Can I go rapelling using my EL cheapo, least expensive I could find, closest available, Chinese no name brand Paracord?  I would think that there would be much better options usually available and I would make use of them if I had a chance.  But if I were lost in the woods and had to go down a cliff, could I do it using Paracord?  Judging from the results of my experiment, I would say that yes, the Paracord supporting your weight would not be a problem.  The main problem would be holding onto the the thin line with your hands.  But what if I weigh more than a small block Chevy, you may be asking?  If you happen to weigh more than a small block Chevy and you need to repel down a cliff using Paracord to save your life, you would be much better off staying where you are, curling up in a ball and waiting for a hungry bear to come and finish you off.  It would be less painful.

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