Thread and Glue Aglet
Binding the lace end with thread and glue produces a very strong aglet. It's a small version of “whipping”, which is used on larger ropes.
Hold the end of the lace in a vise or locking pliers so that it can be pulled taut. Place a piece of strong thread alongside the shoelace and fold it back on itself.
Bind the long end of the thread tightly around the shoelace for about 15 mm (1/2 inch), working back towards the vise or locking pliers. Make sure that part of the original loop is still protruding out the right side of the binding.
Feed the long end of the thread through the protruding loop. Don't pull it completely tight – leave a small amount of slack.
While holding the bound section firmly, pull the other loose end of thread, which is protruding out the left side. This will tighten the loop of thread around the loose end on the right side.
Here's where the “magic” occurs that hides the loose ends: Continue pulling the left end of thread until the right end is pulled underneath the coiled section. Stop when the right end is about mid-way through the coiled section.
Using a sharp knife or scissors, carefully snip off the protruding ends. The excess shoelace can also be trimmed to length.
Finish by coating the thread with one or two layers of general purpose glue or nail polish. Glue can also be used either before or during the binding for additional strength and security.
What Sort of Glue?
Preferably choose a glue with an acetone-based solvent, such as “Tarzan's Grip”, “Elmer's Clear Household Cement” or “Britfix Balsa Cement”, just to name a few. These will dry clear, hard and waterproof, as opposed to the PVA based glues such as “Aquadhere” or “Elmer's Glue-All”, which are not as hard and are only water resistant. You can tell the difference by their look and smell – acetone based glues are clear and have a strong petro-chemical smell, whereas PVA glues are milky white and smell mildly acetic.
NOTE: Glue manufacturers have health warnings against “prolonged skin exposure” to the above acetone-based glues, so wear gloves if this is of concern (or if you hate sticky fingers). Use acetone, thinners or nail polish remover to clean up afterwards.
You can also use a couple of drops of an “instant” cyanoacrylate glue, such as “Super Glue” or “Krazy Glue”. Note that the fibers of the shoelace provide a huge surface area, which can cause this type of glue to cure too quickly. Although rapid drying is normally an advantage, the disadvantage is that it can result in a finish that is whitish rather than clear. It can also give off some nasty fumes, so beware!
Clear nail polish is a perfect substitute for glue, while colored nail polish can be used to add either a complementary or contrasting color. Nail polish with glitter can be used to add some sparkle.
I realized I didn’t have a pair of locking pliers or vise so I improvised. I used a spring loaded paper clip (I have these laying around for various uses) and it worked very well. I sew and have a variety of threads and used button thread which is very strong. I finished it by giving several coats of clear nail polish on your recommendation. As you can see, the finished result is great!
Thank you for your help in salvaging a lace that ordinarily would have been trashed. Also for saving me $$$!
– Elaine, Missouri, USA, Dec-2018
When I attempted your thread and glue aglet, I ran into two problems: It was hard to get the first few turns tight, and when I tried to pull the free end underneath, the thread broke. I have some suggestions...
Instead of just laying the capture loop along the shoelace, start by tying a half-knot (#1202 in Ashley's Book of Knots) around the shoelace, leaving 2-3 inches free on one side to form the capture loop. (I actually used a half-knot with an extra turn. I suppose a Strangle Knot - Ashley #1239 - would be even better.) That gives you something to pull against when tightening the initial turns.
Instead of forming the capture loop right away, just lay the short end along the shoelace and wrap the first several turns over that single strand.
When you are about 2/3 the way along the wrapping, form the capture loop. Finish wrapping over the now doubled strand, feed the end through the loop, then pull the other loose end to draw it under the wrapped section. Since you're pulling the capture thread through a shorter wrapped section, there's less stress on it, and the thread is less likely to break. You also don't risk pulling the capture loop through all the wrapping by mistake, allowing the initial turns to unravel.
As an alternative to the original knot, one could lay the short end of the thread along the shoelace as above, make the first few wraps, then pull that short end to further tighten the initial turns. However, I prefer starting with a knot.
But you started me in the right direction, and the clear nail polish was an especially good suggestion. Thanks!
– Jim V.Z., USA, Jul-2018
I just fixed my son's Doc Marten laces using oboe reed thread and nail polish. The 14-hole laces are harder to find, plus I hate throwing out the laces just because the ends are wrecked, so I'm really happy with the solution. Thanks again!
– Kathy, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Mar-2016
On a side note, I coated the aglets with 3 coats of clear nail polish, and then proceed to coat the aglets with hot glue from a glue gun. I accomplished the latter by rolling the nail polish-covered aglets into a dime-sized globule of hot glue, and then cleaned off the excess with a toothpick. Worked like a charm.
– Jon M., Sep-2006
As a recreational fisherman and used to tying flies and replacing rod bindings and such things, binding the ends is a natural way for me to rectify such a problem. I would rate it a better alternative than tape, but it naturally requires a little more patience and dexterity. Good strong cotton thread along with a needle, something most homes would have, could be used instead of traditional the bindings I would use. Having chosen an appropriate coloured thread and performed the task, the binding is then sealed with clear or coloured cement or glue for a durable finish.
– Bill V., New Zealand, Apr-2004