The basic methods of plaiting or braiding can be learned pretty quickly, even by someone who’s never been exposed to the process. Becoming a good plaiter or braider will take some time, and many of the subtle intricacies & techniques used by the best plaiters of today are gained through years of practice. The experience of the plaiter/braider is usually indicated by the tightness of the braid, as well as the straightness & overall consistency in appearance. Following are some simple tips on developing tighter plaiting in whipmaking, with emphasis on working with nylon whips.
- Proper Core Diameter> Before any plaiting is even started, the diameter of the core or that which is being plaited over, will determine the number of strands that will cover it. With leather this isn’t an issue, as the strands in a leather whip are cut to whatever size they need to be cut. The paracord used in nylon whipmaking is a predetermined width. Many nylon whips have an eight plait first belly. If an eight plait belly is to be fashioned, then the diameter of the core must accept eight strands comfortably. The whipmaker must know how large the core’s diameter can be to accept those eight strands. If the diameter exceeds this size, gaps will form during the plaiting of the belly. This means more strands would need to be added to prevent gaps from forming.
- Pull With Consistent Force> It’s important to pull with consistent & even force with both hands while plaiting to achieve a straight & tight braid. If one hand pulls more than the other, the seams in the plaiting will migrate & twist, creating an undesirable appearance. In addition to twisting seams, gaps will form because of this inconsistent technique. The portion of the whip that’s facing the whipmaker, or the top side, should mirror the under side. With twisting seams, portions of the plaiting will appear tighter than others, resulting in discrepancies.
- Focus On 3 Inches At A Time> It’s easy to let the mind wander while plaiting. For experienced whipmakers, much of the time spent plaiting is mixed with thoughts of other things. This is fine when one’s technique has been honed over a long time, but when just starting out, a plaiter must stay focused & work at being consistent with his/her technique. Concentrate on a small section at a time, such as three inches. If the plaiting is uneven or doesn’t appear tight enough, go back & redo that section.
- Pull Core Now & Then> As one is plaiting, it helps from time to time to pull the core strands straight out as they’re being plaited over. This helps stretch the core a bit now & then, contributing to tighter plaiting.
- Envision How The Whip Should Look> Picturing in your mind how the whip will look when it’s finished helps keep one’s focus while plaiting. Envision the taper & shape, the evenness & tightness of the finished plaited project.
More is learned from the actual practice of plaiting than can be from word of mouth or reading from a book. It’s a tactile acquisition, a physical learning. The process & techniques can be described by one to another, but the learning is in the actual doing. Through mistakes technique is polished & through constant practice consistency is achieved. Strive to make a better product with each attempt.