This article is from the Model Rockets FAQ, by Wolfram von Kiparski with numerous contributions by others.
From: email@example.com (Tim Harincar)
Making your own parachutes is pretty easy. Start with the desired
material (usually mylar or a light plastic). Make a cutting pattern out
of cardboard by first drawing a circle that will be the maximum size
of the chute (i.e. 16"). Take a compass [or] something that will give
you an accurate radius of the circle. Pick a point anywhere on the
circle and using the radius as a length draw an arc that crosses the
circle. At the point where the arc crosses, reposition the compass on
that point and draw another arc. Keep doing that all the way around
the circle - you will end up with six points including the starting
point on the circle. Connect these points with a straight edge and
Presto! a hexagon. Cut out the hex from the cardboard (I use artists
matboard...) and this is your cutting template. Lay the template on
the material and using an EXTREMELY SHARP XACTO KNIFE cut along the
outside of the template. Make shrouds from a heavy gauge thread -
cut three equal lengths twice as long as the diameter of the chute and
connect the ends to corner points adjacent to each other.
I usually build 12-24 line round chutes out of Estes material (just cut
around the outside of the red and white circle and attach at the red
/white boundaries) because they look more like real parachutes. I use
embroidery floss for shroud lines and separate the 6 strands (for 12
lines - use two lengths for a 24 line). This makes a strong chute.
With out crossing the lines over the top of the canopy, I've only had
one failure of a 12 line chute (an EL that tipped off dramatically -
i.e. cruise missile) and never had a 24 line fail. In the 10 years
I've been back in the hobby and using this technique, my shroud lines
have always come out the same length (within a couple of percent
From: hal@HQ.Ileaf.COM (Hal Wadleigh)
1. Use fisherman's snap swivels for your attachments. It lets you
store 'chutes separate from rockets and helps prevent fouling due
to spin at deployment.[Note...modelers have always reported mixed
results with snap swivels; they have been known to fail...Buzz]
2. Use nylon coat thread for shroud lines on homemade 'chutes (and
plastic bread wrappers are the best cheap 'chute material).
3. Pay special attention to the security of the attachment points.
Those standard stickers often look secure, but are actually not
attached. A small knot in the part of the shroud line under the
sticker serves as a good anchor point (with the rest of that part
looped around the knot, as per standard practice).
4. Very small 'chutes should be crossform type. Cut about a 5" square,
then take out about 1.25" squares from each corner. Attach 4 lobes
of shroud across the flat ends and secure as above. Be careful to
use small stickers for the corner attachments. These make good
substitutes for streamers in .5" body tubes and can also be used as
drogues to help in the deployment of large 'chutes [A note from
firstname.lastname@example.org (C. D. Tavares): Either round off the inside
corner of that 1.25" square or reinforce the angle with something.
Otherwise, it's a really handy place for the parachute to rip
during a fast deployment.]
From: email@example.com (Greg Smith)
Nylon coat thread is very good for small, lightweight competition
parachutes, but it's not real strong and does have a tendency to melt if
it encounters a bit too much ejection charge heat. For sport and
payload models with 12" - 24" plastic 'chutes, I use 15 lb. *braided*
nylon fishing line. It's thicker than the coat thread, similar in
diameter to the Estes cotton stuff, but tremendously stronger. In the
last fifteen years, of the plastic parachutes I have built using this
line (and always crossed over the top of the 'chute for reinforcement),
I have had *zero* shroud line or attachment failures. The braided line
has a hard, smooth surface that doesn't encourage tangling, and it
doesn't unravel where cut.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rusty Whitman)
I've tried about everything to keep shroud lines from pulling off of
plastic or mylar parachutes. Those little tape disks are just about
worthless. Tying knots and cyano'ing the ends helps but you still
have problems. I don't know why I never thought of this before but I
ran across a roll of duct tape in my closet and knew immediately that
was the answer. I cut out some little squares of duct tape and
attached some lines to a parachute and they won't pull free without
ripping the plastic. I don't know who invented duct tape but they
deserve some kind of statue, its got more uses than a paper clip.
From: email@example.com (Bob Kaplow)
1. Make shroudlines from Kevalr thread. This won't burn through. Tie
a knot 1/2" from the end and fray the end. Attach that end to
2. Use the much stronger kite snap swivels instead of fishing swivels -
make sure they lock, and don't just clip like a safety pin.