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Aglet Repair

I'm often asked about aglets, the plastic or metal sleeves at the ends of shoelaces, which stop the ends unravelling and assist with lacing. Mostly it's to answer a trivia question or to complete a crossword puzzle. Often it's about how to repair or replace them, either due to loss or damage or after shoelaces have been shortened.

Why Repair Aglets?

The first question is - why go to any trouble repairing aglets? Why not simply replace the shoelaces? Personally, I replace my aglets because I cut down all of my shoelaces to a comfortable length, but there's plenty of other possible reasons:

If any of these sounds like a good reason, and you're game to undertake a little fiddly work, this page contains several suggestions for creating aglets.

8 Different Ways To Create Aglets

Adhesive Tape Aglet

The simplest way to create an aglet is to wind two or three layers of adhesive tape around the end. Combine with glue for added security.

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Candle Wax / Resin Aglet

Dripping wax or resin onto the lace end, then rolling it between your fingers whilst still warm, creates a reasonable short-term aglet.

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Glue / Nail Polish Aglet

Soaking the lace end either with general purpose glue or with several coats of nail polish produces a more durable aglet.

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Thread & 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.

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Heatshrink Tubing Aglet

Normally used to insulate electrical joins, heatshrink tubing makes a snug, though flexible, aglet. It's my own preferred method when shortening laces.

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Metal Tubing Aglet

Small gauge metal tubing, which can be found at hobby suppliers, makes an extremely tough and durable aglet.

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Melted Shoelace Aglet

Some shoelaces are made from synthetic materials that can easily be melted over a match, lighter or candle to form a reasonable aglet.

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Knotted Shoelace Aglet

Failing all else, the shoelace end can simply be knotted tightly to at least stop it unravelling. This doesn't aid lacing, and in fact prevents re-lacing.

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Adhesive Tape Aglet

The simplest way to create an aglet is to wind two or three layers of adhesive tape around the end. Combine with glue for added security.

  1. It's pretty difficult to wrap adhesive tape around a flexible shoelace in mid-air! Instead, lay the tape sticky-side up on a flat surface, then lay the end of the shoelace partway across the tape.
  2. Start by folding a small overlap of tape across the lace end and sticking it back onto itself. This will compress the lace end, making it easier to then wrap it with tape.
  3. Roll two or three layers of tape very tightly around the end. For extra durability, a couple of dots of Super Glue under the edge of the tape will prevent it from peeling undone.
  4. Trim off the excess tape for a smooth finish. For maximum strength and security, squeeze some glue into the end of the tape "tube", then trim when the glue is dry.

Candle Wax / Resin Aglet

Dripping wax or resin onto the lace end, then rolling it between your fingers whilst still warm, creates a reasonable short-term aglet. It's an ideal emergency measure, as most households (and even many camp sites) have a candle handy.

This shows the end result after the wax has been molded to a smooth finish. Although candle wax is fairly soft, it impregnates the fibres of the shoelace, making the finished aglet quite firm.

Other Materials:

A more durable "melt-on" solution is to use either soldering resin (translucent, but brittle) or sealing wax, such as is used to make seals for official letters or documents. Because both of these are tougher, they generally require more heat to melt, so they may be painful to roll between your fingers.

WARNING: Don't be tempted to heat the lace end once it has wax on it; the chances of setting fire to it are dangerously high! Instead, warm a flat knife and use that to mold the wax.

Glue / Nail Polish Aglet

Soaking the lace end either with general purpose glue or with several coats of nail polish produces a more durable aglet.

  1. Simply squish a small amount of either glue or nail polish into the end of the shoelace. Whilst drying, squeeze and twist the end to both reduce the thickness of the tip and to aid glue penetration.
  2. When completely dry, trim any rough ends, then add another coating of either glue or nail polish for a smoother, longer lasting finish.

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, whilst PVA glues are milky white and smell mildly acetic.

NOTE: Glue manufacturers have health warnings against "prolonged skin exposure" to the above solvent 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.

Thread & 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.

  1. Hold the end of the lace in a vise or locking pliers so that it can be pulled taut.
  2. Place a piece of strong thread alongside the shoelace and fold it back on itself.
  3. Bind one end of the thread tightly around the shoelace for about 15mm, working back to the right (towards the vise or locking pliers).
  4. Feed the loose end of thread through the protruding loop of thread on the right hand side, then pull it tight.
  5. Whilst 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.
  6. 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, stopping about mid-way.
  7. Using a sharp knife or scissors, carefully snip off the protruding ends. The excess shoelace can also be trimmed to length.
  8. 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, whilst PVA glues are milky white and smell mildly acetic.

NOTE: Glue manufacturers have health warnings against "prolonged skin exposure" to the above solvent 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.

Heatshrink Tubing Aglet

Normally used to insulate electrical joins, heatshrink tubing makes a snug, though flexible, aglet. It's my own preferred method when shortening laces. It comes in a range of colours and is available from electronic or electrical suppliers (eg. places that supply electricians with switches, wires, circuit boards, components, etc) or from automotive repair stores.

  1. Choose a diameter that easily slips over the shoelace. If the tubing is scarcely larger than the shoelace, it won't be able to shrink as much, resulting in a flimsy aglet. Heatshrink tubing contracts inwards to about half its diameter, but doesn't contract lengthwise, so cut a short section the same length as the aglet you require (about 15 to 20mm).
  2. Slip the heatshrink tubing over the end of the shoelace; it may help to "twist" it on. If either end still has an existing aglet, it's easier to slip the tubing over that aglet before cutting it off.
  3. A heat gun is normally used to shrink the tubing, but you can also use a very hot hair dryer or you can hold it a little way above a flame, taking care not to burn the tubing. Heatshrink can also be wrapped in aluminium foil and then heated directly.

Although Red heatshrink was used above so that it would show up best in the photos, Clear heatshrink produces aglets that are almost identical to the factory-made originals. The main noticeable difference is that they are slightly flexible, which is actually a minor advantage because they won't split if they are stepped on.

Extra Security:

Heatshrink tubing is primarily meant for electrical insulation, and isn't really designed to hold securely under extreme forces. Pulling a shoelace out through a very tight eyelet can therefore pull off a loosely applied heatshrink aglet.

For extra security, I've found that heatshrink can be taken through two stages: In the first stage, applying heat will shrink the tubing to a smaller diameter just as it was designed. Carefully applying more heat will take it to a second stage where it just starts to melt.

It's tricky to apply just the right amount of heat, as too much will cause the heatshrink to either burn or split, and if the shoelace is synthetic it could melt or deteriorate as well. With clear heatshrink, the ideal moment is when the underlying whiteness of air gaps starts to disappear as the heatshrink and shoelace begin to bond together. Otherwise, watch for the surface of the heatshrink starting to turn shiny. Either way, immediately remove the heat if the end starts to curl or if there is any sign of smoke.

Maximum Security:

Another alternative is heatshrink tubing with a glue layer inside (often called "Dual Wall"). You can tell this apart by gently squashing the tubing and "hearing" the tacky interior as the sides separate. Besides bonding more securely, this is usually a little thicker walled, resulting in a firmer finished aglet. On the downside, the tacky interior makes it much more difficult to slide over the end of the shoelace. I've also only ever found it in Black.

Metal Tubing Aglet

Small gauge metal tubing, which can be found at hobby suppliers, makes an extremely tough and durable aglet. This is ideal if you're particularly hard on your aglets (eg. on football boots or skate shoes).

  1. Choose a size of tubing that will fit snugly over the existing aglet (usually 3 to 4mm). Cut a short piece the same length as your current aglet, using a very fine toothed hacksaw or a power tool like a Dremel with a metal cutting disc.
  2. Slip the tubing over the current aglet. Keeping the existing aglet underneath forms a more secure result, plus it's a lot easier than trying to force a thick shoelace into a thin tube!
  3. Hammer a small nail into the side of the tubing, then remove it, leaving a small indentation that will hold the tubing in place. For extra security, do this a couple of times. You could also use glue inside the tubing.

Crimp Method:

I've also had great success attaching metal tubing directly onto laces after making a crimping tool out of a cheap pair of pliers. I cut a rounded groove into one jaw, then attached a strong, thin piece of metal to the other jaw that pressed the length of the aglet into the groove.

What Sort of Tubing?

I've found tubing in Copper (pink), Brass (yellow) and Aluminium (silver). Note that Copper and Brass will both tarnish to nice shades of Brown. Brass is also the strongest. It's often sold in Imperial sizes such as 1/8" (3mm), 5/32" (4mm) or 3/16" (5mm).

Note that many ice rinks forbid the use of metal aglets for fear they might fall off onto the ice and become a danger to other skaters.

Melted Shoelace Aglet

Some shoelaces are made from synthetic materials that can easily be melted over a match, lighter or candle to form a reasonable aglet.

This picture shows the end result after the shoelace has been melted into a smooth, elongated aglet. You can also melt just enough to seal the end into a bead.

WARNING: Take care not to set fire to the shoelace, and don't touch the melted synthetic with your fingers as it can stick to your skin and burn!

Knotted Shoelace Aglet

Failing all else, the shoelace end can simply be knotted tightly to at least stop it unravelling. This doesn't aid lacing, and in fact prevents re-lacing.

This picture shows the end result after the shoelace end has been tied with a figure of eight knot. You may prefer to use either a simpler overhand knot or a more complex decorative knot.

Advantages & Disadvantages:

Although this method is cheap, easy, durable and quite effective at preventing the ends from fraying, the downsides are that it shortens the shoelaces and that it prevents re-lacing, as the knots generally won't fit through the eyelets.

Interestingly, the latter can be turned to an advantage when kids are learning to tie shoelaces, as it helps prevent those ends from being accidentally pulled through the knot (when tightening) or out of the eyelets (when loosening).

This page last updated: 04-May-2006. Copyright © 2005-2006 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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