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Make Your Own Kumihimo Loom And Weighted Tama

Ryan N.

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Ok, I’m ready to update on a topic I started on needing a source for cord, and I thought it would make more sense to post here since it involves a DIY project.


I finally got and read Stephen Myhre’s book, and I corresponded with some well-known carvers to get some input (thanks to Ian Thorne and Louie the Fish).


As Janel suspected, and Stephen notes in his book, this braiding technique is very much like Japanese Kumihimo. In particular, the four-strand braid I was looking for is the yotsu gumi (part of beautiful piece shown in the link). Essentially, it requires four bobbins and a counter-clockwise-then-clockwise pattern on the loom.


Looking at Stephen’s book, I fashioned my own loom, and doing some searches for homemade bobbins (tama), I constructed this whole setup (loom and tama) for under $15!


Here’s how to make your own kumihimo loom and weighted tama (which can be around $25 for a set of four) (mine are exactly 100 grams each):


I bought six wooden spools at Jo Ann’s for $6. Each already had a 3/8” hole drilled through. I also bought a 3/8” dowel and a 5” round wooded plaque there for the loom. It was $1.50 and already round!


At Lowes, I bought eight 3/8 x 1 bolts, one 3/8 x 3 ½” bolt, 14 washers (3/8”, though I was looking more for their overall diameter, not their inner diameter), and I bought a small brass hook for my counterweight.


To get each bobbin to 100 grams, it worked out (and I admit to bringing a scale to Lowes!), I put one washer on each end of the spool, set a 1” bolt in one end, then dropped one small 2 g. lead fishing weight down the center before putting another bolt at the other end of the spool. I used a bit of multi-purpose cement to glue the washers, lead weight and bolts in place (though I pretty much lightly screwed the bolts in place since the hole was the right size.


For the counterweight, which needs to be half the combined weight of the four bobbins (i.e. 200 grams), I used the one long bolt through one spool, put six washers over the exposed end of the bolt, screwed the other spool on (dropped in a couple lead fishing weights to bring the weight up), and then this is different: I pushed the wood dowel into the other end as far as it would go and cut it off flush so I would have something to set my brass hook into.


For the loom, I drilled a center hole and carved out four notches (Stephen’s isn’t like this) for my string to stay in place when hanging. I attached the wood round to a stick and attached the stick to a table (or bookshelf, as in my case) with a strong clamp. That way it’s portable!


It still takes some practice to get the braid right, but that will come. Already it’s a simpler process than braiding “by hand”, as the video in my original thread shows.


Additional Resources:

-Ian Thorne uses black 1mm or 1.2mm waxed polyester, or for a “flax” color (like mine) he uses Speedy Stitcher thread (both coarse and fine grades).


-I’m using this beige waxed cord from Kit Kraft.


P.S. I realize that this setup does not have the versatility of a true kumihimo loom, nor is the counterweight adjustable for adding/taking away bobbins, but for a singular purpose it should suffice well.




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Ryan, that is great! Good going! I like the four notches.


A couple of nights ago, I needed to pull together a quick set up and cut from white foam core a circular end with the rest of the long rectangle shape intact. I wedge the rectangle end into a drawer at the side of my work bench. Not having the patience to wait for another day and a drive to town, I found some little 1" square wooden blocks and a piece of something else for the counter weight. Not a pretty set up at all, but it got the first and second jobs done. Now on my mind is how I can use the lathe and make the handsome loom from wood.


I looked up kumihimo on Youtube and saw many videos of folks using a hand-held circular card with up to 32 or more notches (numbered) for people who follow things by the number. I would prefer to be able to use both hands simultaneously when shifting the cords.


Thank you for the good descriptions/plans for making this loom! I appreciate that you did some real homework to figure it out. And thank you for bringing up the subject of making cords on TCP. You gave me the nudge that I needed.



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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the info on tama, I have been using fishing wts hung on spools, but this allows them to hang horizontal, which works much better. RE: the marudai itself, you might find that a freestanding marudai is easier to work with, especially on 8 cord braids. I use an octagonal top with four dowels to mount to a square base plate as shown here: http://www.satincord.com/KMH-MRDK-001-p-kumihimo_braiding_supplies_cord_kits.html. My husband made me one in about an hour. Waxed maple is traditional, but anything works. The normal opening is 1.5 inches, I think. It is much easier to move the cords around 360 degrees if it is not clamped on one side, which blocks 360 degree movement, and the motion of moving the cords is much faster.


There is a good pattern generator at http://lythastudios.com/123bead/kumiplanner.html for eight cords where you choose the colors and can see what the braid will look like. There are really nice patterns for 16 and 32 cords also, and other pattern makers online too.


Thanks again for the tama suggestion!

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  • 11 months later...

As sometimes happens (and after years of working with various woodworkers to create braiding equipment) sometimes information can be misleading, not thru intent, but because of a lack of background other times in an effort to use a word that might be more easily understood.


In fact it is "in search of" woodworkers interested in making the Bobbins/Tama (so happy to see the correct term used btw) that I found the forum.


Kumihimo, "the art of Japanese braiding" is a rather vast subject, but there are some basic braids many might find useful - there is evidence of its existence back several thousand years.


It appears that there is or was an interest in this group for some basic braiding informaton and as I have been a braider, primarily using a braiding stand (not loom) called a Marudai and the disk/card/foamie is rather new to the tradition (late 1990's-early 2000's) thought I might be of help


in the interest of full disclosure, I also see various braiding books and equipment, and have currently been developing a forum for those who enjoy using "string".


More than anything, I love braiding, from the simplest to some of the more complex and firmly believe in sharing basic information that enables you to further your skills.


because what is most important is that you


Enjoy The Making





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Hi Wheat,


Thank you for introducing yourself and for posting the various links. I enjoyed browsing the information when you registered, and am glad to be reminded of it now.


I hope that all is going well for you.



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Sorry to take so long to get back to post, between the current braid-a-long and getting ready for the study group based on the latest Jacqui Carey group, not had much "personal" free time.


Now that one of the major and best MaruDai makers has partially retired, the hunt for wood workers "continues"

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