Up until now, I have used tama made from film cannisters and similar size medicine pots. As anyone with a takadai will know, you can use a lot more tama making a braid on this compared with a marudai, so I have suddenly gone from having plenty of tama to running out of tama, particularly if I want to make a large braid on my marudai while my takadai is still strung up. The weight in my pots has been 1p and 2p coins, and for the marudai, 10p gives me a 40g tama. This has worked well for me with the embroidery thread I have been using. Recommended weights for takadai tama are 75-100g, and I am now running out of copper coins for the pots too. My 3rd problem with my current tama is keeping the threads in place. An elastic band around the bottom, and the ridge at the top help, but it is very easy for the slipping hitch round the tama to not sit snug and let the pot fall through. Depending on which way it falls, I sometimes end up with a knot
that can get pulled quite tight from the weight of the tama.
Proper wooden tama are available by mail order, but I am not aware of anywhere in the UK, so shipping considerably adds to the cost of buying them.
My husband has made a some wooden tama using his lathe, but it is quite time consuming. At the moment, these tama are (deliberately) different sizes and unweighted as we have used them to make latex moulds rather than as tama. The plan? Plaster of paris tama.
Research on the internet suggested that plaster of paris should have the right density to make 85g tama from the smaller mould, but they are much lighter than this – 35-40g each. With careful trimming and sanding they should make a set of 35g each, and then I will paint them to reduce the risk of damage to the tama (the surface is smooth, the threads I use seem fine). Early use suggests they are robust and work as well as, if not better than, my pots on the marudai.
We then made the larger mould hoping for 70g tama, and this has worked out right, but the extra size is causing other problems with the current gap between the rails on the takadai. We only have one at the moment, so I haven’t tested how well they hang together or whether they are too large for this too.
Our next attempt to get heavier tama is a cement/sand mix. Our first tama was made with old cement, didn’t set properly, so was never used. The sand seems to have separated out in areas of the second, so the tama surface isn’t smooth, but we got a weight of around 75g in the small mould. Several wooden blanks later, we settled on tama of 45g for the marudai and 90g for the takadai. If a tama is a little light, we add a bit more cement to the end, and if it is too heavy we grind it down. Two heavy tama rubbed together works better than sandpaper for this job, so it is easy to control the final weight. This is also the best way we have found to smooth the shape of the cement top-up.
I now have a set of 64 tama for my marudai – painted green with several coats of acrylic – and an almost complete set of 128 tama for the takadai – nicknamed smurfs for their blue colour. The surface of the tama does not feel totally smooth, but since Rodrick Owen suggests putting masking tape around plastic pots to prevent the thread slipping, I don’t think this is something I need to worry about.
Initial braiding with these on marudai and takadai felt good, the tama hang much better than the pots, and I think I am getting less tangling.