How To Plait or Braid A Four Strand Round
By Cary Kenney III
Used With Permission
As you notice there are 15 figures imaged above this text to help you learn the four plait round starting right to left first row and so on. The four plait round was shown to me by my grandfather, Cary Kennedy Sr., from Memphis, Tenn in the early sixties and he utilized it in the manufacture of mule whips that were commonly used on the farm during his days as a boy in north middle Tennessee. My grandfather was a career fireman, known as a fire fighter today, and got his first training during the horse and fire wagon days prior to WWI. My grandfather took great pride in his fire wagon and claimed to be the best driver and had the fastest rig to any fire in Memphis. The stations competed fiercely for the honor of arriving at the fire first. The fire wagon in full flight down a city street must have been a sight to see and the absolute need to get out of the way! Fires were common and devastating the early part of this century on the rough waterfront where all the commerce and action took place. My grandfather finished out his days as a fireman as a federal employee, working, at the military station south Memphis (the name escapes me) until the late 50's.
He passed down the joy of building and cracking a mule whip and I now pass it to you online. Okay, here is a little text to help you with the above figures.
Figure 1. Arrange your two strands, preferably of different shades or color, through a loop or whatever you intend to attach the plait to. This will yield four strands to plait--two of the same color.
Figure 2. Mentally number your strands (thongs) 1,2,3,4 as a point of reference to the figures above.
Figure 3. Carry thong 2 over thong 3 and separate the thongs into pairs 1-3 and 2-4. Notice that this step brings a color separation as shown in Fig. 3. This color arrangement with both black thongs on the left and both white thongs on the right will be maintained as a guide and basis of reference in building up the 4 round plait. This will yield the characteristic diamond design.
Grasp the crossed thongs in Fig. 3 with the left hand as shown in Fig. 4 shown above. Reach thru between the white thongs and grasp the black thong as shown in Fig. 5.
Bring the black thong around behind the crossed pair up between the white thongs, see Fig. 6, and carry it over the lover white thong as shown in Fig. 7.
Remove the left thumb, Fig. 8, from its position shown in Fig 7 and grasp both black thongs as shown in Fig 9.
The procedure from here on is identical, but the manipulation changes from the left to the right hand, as indicated in Fig. 10 thru 15. Remember to tension the thongs as they are plaited
Your skill will progress rapidly with a little practice - Good Luck.
In specific regard to a traditional farming mule whip, the best material is tapered strips of raw hide approximately four thongs around 7 ft. long. Best to top plait an inner round core for the first 4-5 feet to give the whip some density and mass near the handle. If you want a little more help with a farm whip and the construction, just email me with your question.