When I bought my very first disk nearly 5 years ago it was one of the full sized ones. I took to it immediately and since then I have seen no reason to try the mini disk. However, my views have changed since appearing on Jewellery Maker as a guest designer. The only disk they currently supply is the mini disk, so it seemed appropriate to give it a go. To my surprise I really liked using it and found that it has some destinct advantages over the large disk in certain circumstances.
I should probably point out, first of all, that the size of the disk makes no difference at all to the size or shape of the braid. The disk has three main functions,
1. To maintain tension
2. To keep the cords away from the point of braiding and prevent tangling.
3. To supply a numbering system to help with more complex braid structures.
Both the large and the mini disk fully perform these functions.
What I found was that while the larger disk is very comfortable to hold for long periods, sometimes it is necessary to stretch the thumb across the disk to hold a bead in place and this movement may need to be made repeatedly for very round beads, which often slip out of position. For people with small hands or children they may not even be able to reach across to the hole. By contrast, it is a much easier movement with the small disk.
The second advantage is that cord wastage is minimised with the small disk. There is approximately a 2cm difference in size for each cord used. This may not be significant when only 8 reasonably priced cords are being used. However, when expensive materials such as silk are used, this will make a difference to the price of a braid. When using bundles of wire, where there may be 12 lengths of wire in each slot and you may be using 16 slots the difference in wire wastage will be significant.
The only possible disadvantage I can see with the small disk is that the cords are closer together and the risk of tangling is greater. I haven’t yet experienced any problems with this, but I can see that if large beads are being used there could be problems. When using long lengths of cord, which necessitate the larger bobbins, I think the larger disk would be much easier to use.
I certainly won’t be retiring my larger disks, but I will be making far greater use of my smaller ones. With something as repetitive as kumihimo I think it makes sense to allow your hands the variety of the different sizes to ensure that they are performing a variety of different moves. I am sure they will thank you for it!