Introduction: Quick, Sturdy Wooden Marudai (for Japanese Kumihimo Cord Braiding)

Picture of Quick, Sturdy Wooden Marudai (for Japanese Kumihimo Cord Braiding)

Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding art which can produce very strong, regular patterned cords useful as laces, ties, rope, and decoration. The technique has become popular in the West recently, and the popularity has brought with it a number of modern conveniences and changes. Chief among them is the "kumihimo disk", which is a handheld marudai analogue.

Especially where these disks are used, its origin as a Japanese art can be obscured, and the disk may simply be referred to as a "braiding wheel". It's important to me to keep sight of the origins of any art I practice, though, and kumihimo is no exception. For this reason, after making my first short braid with a disk cut out of corrugated cardboard, I made my own traditional kumihimo frame, a marudai. It's a simple project (I completed it and made a 22" cord in an evening), and the only special tools you'll need are a set of Forstner bits. You can pick up all the materials at your local hobby shop (I purchased everything at Michael's).

You'll need:
* A round wooden clock base the diameter you wish for the kagami (top surface)
* A square wooden clock base a couple inches larger than the kagami
* 5/8" dowling long enough for four legs (I used two 36" dowels for four 18" legs)
* Wood glue
* Forstner bit the diameter of the central hole in the kagami (I used 1")
* Forstner bit the diameter of the legs (in my case, 5/8")
* 8 or 16 (depending on the patterns you want to create) wooden spools with center holes
* Steel baling wire or safety wire

Step 1: Mark Leg Socket Positions on Kagami

Picture of Mark Leg Socket Positions on Kagami

With a ruler, mark centers for leg holes in the bottom of the kagami. To be really precise, you'll want to draw a diameter through the center and use a square to draw another diameter perpendicular to it. I used a ruler and a piece of paper, and it turned out fine.

Leg spacing is not fussy, but you'll probably want about an inch or so clearance from the edges for stability. Look at proportions in commercial marudais and do what feels right. I spaced my leg sockets 90 degrees apart, 2-1/2" from the center.

(As an aside, this is probably the point you want to sand all the edges smooth to avoid thread damage when you're actually braiding.)

Step 2: Mark Leg Socket Positions on Base

Picture of Mark Leg Socket Positions on Base

Step 3: Drill Leg Sockets and Kagami Central Well

Picture of Drill Leg Sockets and Kagami Central Well

Drill the leg sockets a bit deeper than half-way through each piece of wood. If you have a drill press, you've got this sorted. If, like me, you only have a hand drill, just be careful and eyeball it.

Then drill the center of the kagami (I used the reverse surface of the base as a backstop). Best of luck to you.

Incidentally, the existence of a central hole is the only reason I used a clock face. If you can get a wood round the size you want, and are comfortable with center-finding jigs, you can use one of those instead. Since I was not using a drill press, the lack of wood for the center point of the 1" Forstner bit to bit into made the drilling of the central hole difficult, and in the end, off-center. An undrilled round, a cardboard center finder, and five minutes would've made this quite a bit more precise. So there, learn from my mistake.

Step 4: Assemble and Glue the Marudai

Picture of Assemble and Glue the Marudai

Put a generous dollop of wood glue in each socket in the kagami, and hold the legs in place until the glue sets up enough to make them fairly stable (about three or four minutes, usually). When the remaining glue won't drip out all over the place, put glue in the base sockets, and holding on to the legs, upend the kagami ver the base. Fit the legs in place and wiggle them a bit to ensure good glue coverage, then hold it for a few minutes until it's not wobbly. Now leave it alone and make some tamas (or don't, and just use bits of cardboard for bobbins, but having some weighted bobbins will be nice).

Step 5: Make Tamas (optional)

Picture of Make Tamas (optional)

I'll put together an Instructable just for these, but until then, here's what you do. You'll need a bag of wooden spools from a hobby store large enough to hold enough yarn for the projects you plan to do. They'll need pre-drilled center holes to hold the steel wire we'll use for weight.

1. Curl over the end of a piece of steel wire.
2. Put it through the center hole of the spool in question to measure its length, and bend it 90 degrees.
3. Complete the bend with your fingers (or pliers, depending on the wire gauge).
4. Crimp the bend to a tight hairpin with pliers.
5. Start the next bend with pliers next to the "curl", and complete it by hand or with pliers.
6. Crimp that bend to a hairpin as well.
7. Continue to fold as many plies as will tightly fit into the spool's center.
8. Break off the last ply from the rest of the wire's length by working it back and forth with pliers.
9. Curl end over as in step one.
10. Using pliers, force the bundle into the spool as far as possible, and finish by hammering it into place.

Of course, using lead will be better, and if you have a drill press, you can enlarge the holes to hold more wire, but these still make nice tamas for small projects.

Step 6: Exclaim "Woot!"

Picture of Exclaim "Woot!"

It's up to you what to do with it, but if you decide to take over the world, (a) I disclaim all responsibility, and (b) can I have Australia?

And lastly, some links.

Ee0r's Kumihimo Marudais and Braids
CraftDesignOnline Kumihimo Braid Designers (lots of braids to choose from)
Kumiplanner (8-strand kongoh-gumi only)


DavidD613 (author)2017-07-22

Hope you like this Marudai for 3D print

lisa.dukes.391 made it! (author)2016-12-09

Very nice instructable! One
of the additions I might suggest be added is the “well” or “hakomi” in the
center of the mirror. It will make it closer to the Japanese original, and also
produce nicer braids. The well is a convex area (like a shallow bowl) about 5
inches in diameter around the opening in the mirror. It allows the strands you
are braiding to hang freely and not snag on the wood as they are entering the
opening. I have attached a couple of photos. This may make the mirror a little
more challenging to create, but I think it is very important to the final
product and the results you get. You would probably need to use a hand sander. There
is a nice link discussing it here:

To go along with a marudai,
it is easy to make tama (the bobbins or weights) from ¾” PVC pipe cut in 2.5”
lengths capped on both ends with short caps. You can put pennies inside to
adjust the weight as needed. Mine took 12 pennies to get to 70 gram tama, which
is a pretty standard weight. I am told that 100 gram tama take 19 pennies. I
have also used wooden spools, but the weight is difficult to add and adjust
(but you can weight them by threading a bolt through the center. I have
attached a photo of my PVC tama made over the weekend – I plan on painting them
but it’s certainly not necessary. The cost for 16 tama (a 10’ length of pipe
and 3 x 10 packs of caps) was about $14 (not including the pennies). For the
center weight (that pulls down the completed cord and counterweights the tama,
I use a small sock filled with pennies.

mrsmerwin (author)lisa.dukes.3912017-01-17

I would never have thought of using plc. Good idea.

twdodd (author)2013-12-05

Nice and simple build of a handy tool, but, um, now that it's built could you do an 'ible on how to do the braiding.

sehrgut (author)twdodd2014-01-08

Thanks! I'm still learning, but I have been taking process pictures for that purpose. Don't hold your breath, because I jump from hobby to hobby quite a bit, but I'm hoping to put one up soon. :-)

HrdWodFlor (author)2013-12-05

Such fun
Very eazy

scottshd (author)2013-12-05


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