Like I said, I hated tying that damn turks head knot, so I was pretty hesitant to try anything braided. Now, I know how to braid hair in the normal 3 strand fashion, and I can even fake my way through a French braid (though it does not look pretty), but it seems that most of the braiding done in falconry starts at 4 strands.
Something to keep in mind - I had a cast on my right (dominate) hand for most of this...
One thing I learned right away is that EVERYONE has their opinion on what make the 'best' falconry equipment. For leather it was pretty straightforward, everyone said kangaroo... for braided synthetics, however, the crowd is quite mixed in opinion. Lots of people are using magibraid, spectra, nylon, dacron, paracord innards (the stuff you take out when making other paracord things), fishing line, kite line, mason line... the list goes on. Once you start doing a little research it turns out that a lot of those things are the same. I think people find something that works and stick with that thing... so even if you tell them that they can get braided dacron cheaper than their kite line, and it's the EXACT same thing, you'll never get them to agree to change.
|Fl. = fluorescent!!! Totally my kinda thing :)|
I went with some 130 pound rated braided dacron planer board tow line from a fishing retailer on Amazon. It comes in two super bright colors and didn't cause me to invest a small fortune in my braiding adventure.
The first braid I attempted was the 4 strand round braid. I doubled up each strand so I was really working with 8, that way I could separate into two strands of 4 when I needed to make loops in the leash/jess/extender. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, but I was never able to keep the tension as tight as the leashes I had ordered (which were also 4 strand round braids). Eventually I gave up on the round braid because my fingers were hurting and they weren't looking very pretty.
Next up, 4 strand flat braid!! Again, I used 8 strands so I could divide for loops in the equipment. This braid looks very nice (similar to the normal 3 strand braid), and it's faster to do, but it's MUCH looser for me than the round braid, so it was also checked off the list...
I did put braiding aside for a couple of weeks while I still had my cast on, and in that time I was able to visit my sponsor and saw that he had braided some leashes of his own. His were much, much more tightly braided than mine, which led to me to blaming the cast and lack of function in my right hand - I am, as we know, THAT competitive.
When I finally got the cast off I decided to give braiding another shot. I started with the round braid again, and still hated how it came out; loose and ugly. I went on to the flat braid and was able to make a leash that was 100 times better than my original attempt, but I still wasn't convinced that it was tight enough to trust around a raptor's talons. I don't want anything attempting to tangle up on a talon because I'd like to avoid untangling those feet of death as much as possible... and I already know there will be times that it can't be avoided.
After searching the internets to see what everyone else was doing - cuz hey... if they're doing it, and selling their products, they must be doing something right! I stumbled upon a poster that mentioned how he ONLY used the 8 strand braid in his equipment because it is the "finest braid that can be used in falconry equipment today."
Finest braid you say??? ... but ... 8 strands you say? Hmm.
After wasting some time sulking on Facebook, and then some more time wasted searching for other possible solutions, I finally returned to my favorite braiding tutorial website. Now, normally for things like this I prefer videos, but the explanations on this particular site just jive with me. Also, once you realize what kind of slings he's braiding (the kind meant for throwing rocks at the head of giants), the site makes a LOT more sense.
My 8 strand square braid attempts went quickly, and to my surprise, they were really easy!!! I still have to be cautious when I set down a project, but I've learned that a simple slip knot can really save the day when it comes to pausing.
So that's it. I've made a few things with the 8 strand braid (using the 4 strand flat braid when I have to separate), and I'm really happy with how it's going. Here are a couple of photos - forgive the crappy cell phone pictures... also, fluorescent is pretty difficult to photograph!!!
As you can see, my transition from 4 strand braid back to 8 strand isn't that smooth... yet... still working on that!