How To Keep Your Bobbins (Tama) Smooth…

by Shirley Berlin

Bobbins should be as “smooth as a baby’s bottom”. If you ever want to work with fine strands of silk, 80 or so to the bobbin, you will need bobbins without snags or flaws. Diehard braiders want bobbins to be silky smooth! Occasionally you may need to smooth out your bobbins, or you may have “found” bobbins at a sales table at a Guild meeting, or been given bobbins from an unknown braider or have some handmade bobbins made by someone working from a photo. Whatever – you want to give your bobbins some love!

What you need:        

  • Sandpaper and sanding pads, various grades from 150/200 to 400 or 600. Soft sanding pads (they look a bit like pot scrubbers, but aren’t) bend nicely around the waists of the bobbins. Cut the sandpaper sheets into four so that you can bend them more easily to reach all surfaces of the bobbin.
  • Paste wax, in a tin. We use clear Briwax, but there are others.
  • Steel wool 00000 grade, very, very fine. Cut off a strip and fold it to make a pad.
  • Useful for polishing – a fluffy cover over the round “mushroom” disc on an electric drill which can be held in a vice. That disc can also be held in a drill press, should you have one. (Or invent something …)
  • Gloves: One of Pair 1 to guard your fingers from the sandpaper and, later, Pair 2 to protect them from the paste wax
  • Old tea towel, terry cloth or clean rag for final polishing
  • Elbow grease
  • Radio, music device (optional)

Make yourself a working area because this is a slightly messy task with dust from the sanding and from the steel wool. Wear an apron or an old very long shirt. 

  1. Take a good look at your first bobbin. It has 5 potential troublesome areas to sand – the top, the top flange, waist, bottom flange and bottom. Is it just slightly rough or really scruffy?  Choose a grade of sandpaper appropriate to the task. Glove the hand you will hold the bobbin in and start sanding, working up in numbers to finish with 400 or 600 grade sandpaper.
  2. I prepare the bobbins in groups of four for waxing. Put on your waxing gloves. Dab the steel wool gently into the wax to impregnate it. I start waxing with the waist, then the top and bottom, making sure that the bobbin is thinly covered – no gobs, no excess.
  3. Take the 4 bobbins to the immobilized drill and buff each one – top, bottom and waist. Hold on tight, being very careful that the whirling disc doesn’t grab the bobbin and fling it across the room. (If it does, you may have to go back to Step 1!)
  4. Polish with your tea towel and observe the magic. Also hope that your fingers don’t find any more imperfections. 
  5. Admire your rejuvenated bobbins.