What is S-Lon, Superlon, C-Lon?
S-Lon, Superlon, and C-Lon are brand names for the same product, a plied and bonded nylon string that is very popular for use in kumihimo and other jewelry braiding. S-Lon and Superlon are the brand names used by The Beadsmith/Helby bead distributors, and C-Lon is the brand name used by Caravan Beads bead distributors. Both companies supply bead stores around the world, so your local bead store probably buys from one or the other and that determines which brand they stock. The product is made at the same factory, on the same equipment, and to the same specifications; the only difference is that C-Lon is a taller spool than S-Lon/Superlon and C-Lon has more yardage on each spool. Other uses for this material are in upholstery and fabric trims like top-stitching on shoes and purses. In the photo below are a spool of the same size S-Lon/Superlon and C-Lon in the same color, and as you can see there is no difference in the cord itself. Feel free to mix and match brands based on what is available to you.
One name, six products
The photo above shows the six sizes of S-Lon/Superlon and C-Lon. The Tex 70 is shown in a C-Lon spool, all the other are S-Lon/Superlon
From left to right:
Tex 33 Size AA beading thread. Similar to the Nymo beading thread of the same name, size AA is thin waxy thread designed for beadweaving. Its small size is ideal for making two or three passes through a size 15/0 seed bead making it too thin for braiding.
Tex 45 Size D beading thread. A thicker version of the size AA above, this thread is also designed for beadweaving and is too thin for braiding. Similar in diameter to 4 lb test Fireline.
Tex 70 Micro is the thinnest of the beading cords. It has a diameter of 0.12 mm and is good for braiding with size 15/0 seed beads.
Tex 135 Fine is the next size up in cord, with a diameter of 0.4 mm. It is good for braiding with size 11/0 seed beads, smaller shaped seed beads, freshwater pearls, and other beads with smaller than average holes.
Tex 210 Bead or Regular has a diameter of 0.5 mm and it is probably the most common of the C-Lon/S-Lon/Superlon cords. If you see a reference to this cord with no number or size reference, it's probably this size that is being referred to. It is good for working with size 8/0 seed beads, most of the shaped seed beads, gemstone beads, glass pearls, crystals and more.
Tex 400 Heavy is the only size that is regularly referred to by its Tex number in marketing, making some people erroneously think it's the only size that Tex applies to. It is also called Heavy or macramé cord, and has a diameter of 0.9mm. It's good for 6/0 seed beads or anything else with big holes. It is the thickest size in the line of this material, if you need something thicker look for Chinese knotting cord or micro paracord.
Working with S-Lon/Superlon/C-Lon cord in kumihimo
Above is a photo of all four sizes of cord braided. Each braid is a kongo gumi/round braid and was started with 8 12-inch lengths of the marked size cord which were then braided on a 4 inch round Beadsmith kumihimo disk until I ran out of cord. Many people use C-Lon/S-Lon/Superlon strictly as a bead carrier, but it makes a lovely and strong braid in its own right as well. Below is information on each size of cord and the braid it created.
As its common name implies, Tex 70/Micro cord makes a very delicate braid. It is 1.5 mm in diameter and 4 3/4 inches (12 cm) long.
This size is becoming my favorite as it retains the thin and silky look of the Tex 70 without being too thin and it's not as ropy-looking when braided as Tex 210 or Tex 400 can be. Diameter is just under 2 mm, length 4.5 inches (11.5 cm).
This is probably the most versatile size of this cord as it comes in the widest range of colors and can fit the largest variety of beads. It also makes a braid that is fine enough for jewelry but can also show a lot of detail in the braid structure itself. The sample is about 3 mm in diameter and 4 3/8 inches (11 cm) long.
Great for men's jewelry, Tex 400 really shows off the rope structure of this material. Diameter is 4 mm, length 4 3/16 inches (10.75 cm).
Materials frequently compared to S-Lon/Superlon/C-Lon
Mastex is a plied, bonded nylon cord that was once beloved in the craft world. Most popular in size 18/0.5 mm, it's been discontinued for close to a decade as of this writing (2014). Its factory designation number of #18 has been adopted by sellers of C-Lon/S-Lon/Superlon, even though the manufacturer of that product doesn't use #18 in their numbering sequence. Above is a spool of Mastex #18 compared with a spool of C-Lon Tex 210 and as you can see the material is nearly identical. My research has lead me to understand the only real difference is in the way the bonding process is achieved, the process for Mastex resulting in a slightly softer and less waxy finish and feel. The two materials can be braided together with no difference in results.
However, the number 18 is not the key to happiness! There is a great twisted nylon that is marketed for crochet which has many brand names, Omega, Artiste, Red Heart Sizzle, Hilo, and more, that has a #18 that is much thicker than Mastex's #18 and the unofficial #18 used by some to describe Tex 210 0.5 mm C-Lon/S-Lon/Superlon. At 1.7 mm in diameter it is about three times bigger than Tex 210 so be careful when shopping to not get fooled by that magic #18!
A better match from the Omega line is size #2, which is about 0.6 mm in diameter and will accept size 8/0 and 6/0 seed beads with ease (and a needle). It's also a fabulous material for a standalone braid, and unlike S-Lon/Superlon/C-Lon, it comes in variegated colors so you can really play with it as a visual element.
One last comparison shot of these alternatives to S-lon/Superlon/C-Lon. Note how the two Omega cords fray at the cut point, this happens immediately after they are cut and you will need to use a thread burner or a lighter to stop it. Luckily, like S-Lon/Superlon/C-Lon, Omega will melt instead of burn when heated so you can control the fray.