First, I'd like to apologize for not posting in such a long time. Sometimes life just gets in the way of your hobbies! But I'm back now with a review of a new and controversial kumihimo product, the kumihimo handle.
Developed by a man hoping to help his arthritic wife, and sold by The Beadsmith bead supply company, the kumihimo handle is easy to use. It is inserted inside the center opening of the disk, and you hold it like an ice cream cone in one hand, and with the other your move your elements. In order to accommodate the handle, and also to make adding beads easier, the center hole in The Beadsmith's disks has been enlarged from about 1 inch/25 mm to about 1 3/8 inches/35 mm. The size of the hole makes no difference in the braiding technique, and the size of the disks remains the same. Below is a picture of an old style Beadsmith disk, a new style one, and the kumihimo handle. The second photo is a view of the point of braiding with the handle attached.
The handle itself is about 4 1/2 inches/11 cm long, and has an indent at the top where you attach the disk. The opening at the top is about 1 1/4 inch/32 mm across, and it stays that size for the first inch/25 mm or so, then narrows to 3/4 inch/19 mm. The wide throat is very nice for seeing your point of braiding and what you have just done, even without direct light, but it is deceptive and you won't be able to use large beads on your braid with the handle. The necklace I made to test the handle has a center section that has three elements of 10 mm Unicorne teardrop beads, and it just barely fit.
The other thing that didn't fit in the handle was my counterweight. I use a homemade one by putting a 1 ounce/30 gram fishing "lead" on an earring hook, and while it was fine in the handle as I started the braid, when I reached the point I would move the weight back to the point of braiding it didn't fit in the handle with my beaded braid. I understand that The Beadsmith has changed the counterweight they sell so that it fits in the handle, but again not with a braid in there as well. You will need to move your weight up at the base of the handle and this doesn't seem to be much trouble to adjust to or make much of a difference in the braid itself. I did braid a bit without a weight as well to test, but that didn't turn out well and I redid that section of the piece. I also wish it was made out of a transparent plastic so you could see the braid better as you work.
Braiding with the handle is very easy. When doing a kongo gumi/round braid, you move your cords then you spin the handle to the next pair of cords. For other braid structures it makes the braid work a little faster as you don't have the hand holding your disk in the way of any of the slots, making resets very fast. I braided for two hours solid and noticed no appreciable hand fatigue from holding the handle.
Overall, I really liked the handle and will continue to use it, which is a surprise to me as I was expecting to hate it. If you have any sort of flexibility or dexterity issues in your hands that have made kumihimo uncomfortable in the past you should give this a try, it could make a difference. Your local bead store should have this product available for you now or in the coming months, or try an online supplier. Two that have it now are www.itsalljuststring.com and www.whataknit.com Happy braiding!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary handle from a supplier in order to test it and provide this review. The opinions and results of this review are strictly my own and were not influenced by the supplier, distributor, or manufacturer of this product.