Until now, most of my braiding has been done on a marudai, with some on the kumihimo disk or plate. I have looked at photos of braids made on a takadai, and also got Rodrick Owen’s book, Making Kumihimo, but not been sure about the space a takadai takes or the cost of getting one (particularly if you add on shipping to the UK).
Finally, my husband has agreed to make one for me. There are plans available for around $18, but husband has decided that “it looks easy enough” and is making it without. We have looked at photos, videos of people using a takadai, and most especially at the diagram on p.25 of Making Kumihimo. The agreement has been that we will make a basic prototype, and he will be willing to adjust it/remake parts if, after using it, I find some aspect of it doesn’t work quite right. I also occasionally remind him we could get some plans…..
This weekend, the first protoype was completed. The koma are made from short lengths of garden cane bamboo with short pieces of dowel (these were left overs from various put your furniture together kits sawn in half). I just have 1 pair of arms for now which are softwood from a DIY store left over from other projects. The plan is to put half bamboo slices along to make sure the threads don’t get caught on any rough edges. The arms were mounted on a frame of bamboo cane tied together with string.
Yesterday, we decided to try it out. My tama are film cannisters/medicine pots filled with money. I carefully put 40p of UK 1p and 2p coins in each one (I had misremembered that 10p weighed 22g when it actually weighs 35g so my 90g tama turned out to be 140g tama) and set up to make a plain weave braid from p.63 of Making Kumihimo.
While attaching bobbins to threads (I just used embroidery threads), disaster struck. I pulled a bit too hard and my roller cord broke and the takadai fell over. I am not sure whether the broken cord caused the topple, or the topple caused the broken cord, but I ended up with a tangle of threads, most, but not all attached to tama, and then some of the threads came out of the binding at the start.
Encouraged that the takadai still appeared to be intact, we decided to reattach the threads to the takadai, try and untangle everything, and see if we could get some braiding done. Once the threads were hanging over the koma instead of another bamboo cane acting as a raddle everything seemed more stable, but I still needed to make sure my legs were pushing the sides of the takadai out a bit.
Without a sword stick or sword pads, we started this as a 2 person job. I would make the shed, put the sword (aka a palette knife) in and then husband would hold it to keep the shed open for me to pass the end tama through. Once the thread was safely on the other side, I would take the sword to beat the braid and then go on to the next side. After a while, I discovered that I could hold the sword down myself and pass the tama through without help, but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t win many marks for speed, efficiency or consistency of braiding.
There’s a combined torii and roller bar, which had a tendency to unwind with the weight of tama pulling against it. My wonderful husband fixed this with a bit of string tied to the frame and wrapped around the roller bar several times. This automatically tightens around it as it tries to unwind and locks it in place, but still allows us to wind the braid on.
When I took a break from braiding, I felt rather trapped – I had to get help to hold the takadai up while I moved out, then put my chair in place to support it again!
Overall, I think this construction is a useful tool to get a feel for using a takadai, but certainly not a long term replacement for one. It has also allowed us to learn a lot about the process which will be put into use as we progress to an improved structure.