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Is Speedweaving European 4 in 1 a Myth?
Article © MAIL User: Drax

Is Speedweaving Euro4n1 a Myth?

A couple of weeks ago, talk of speedweaving the European 4 in 1 weave came up once again on the M.A.I.L. forum. Many people advocated the method of making ribbons (via the 5-let method) and stitching those onto the weave, while others preferred the one-ring open/one-ring closed method. The agreement of the two groups was that these methods, using pre-closed rings, were certainly faster than the archaic one-ring-at-a-time method. I personally had settled on doing the one-open/one-closed method, but I though I'd set about seeing which way was truly faster.

Boy was I surprised. Go to the end of the article if you're interested in the numbers. I need to set up the background first to be thorough.

The weave: European 4-1, the mailling standard. For these tests, I used .064" mild steel wire coiled on a 1/4" mandrel. Since I will eventually make a hauberk out of this material, I decided to construct one ribbon of the weave, made of 33 5-lets (the proper length for the front of my hauberk). Since there are two ways to construct ribbons, I have a picture to show which orientation I'm using:

Image: dab_ribbon.jpg

The methods:

Ribbon method. This method constructs a long ribbon (like in the above picture) and stitches it onto the current working piece. It needs 33 5-lets (165 rings, 33 open and 132 closed), 32 rings to connect the 5-lets into the ribbon, and then 65 rings to stitch the ribbon onto the piece. In total, it uses 262 rings, 132 closed and 130 open.

[note: there is another ribbon method that attached the 5-lets in the "other" direction. i did not test this method. gross assumptions would put it close to this ribbon method in speed.]

One-open/One-close method. (OOOC method for short). This method (aside from the slight difference at the very beginning) works by stringing one open ring through 3 rings in the piece (two on the previous row and one on the new row) and then adding one closed ring before closing the open ring. For the weave I've chosen, one "pass" will use 131 rings (66 closed, 65 open). Note that it takes TWO passes to equal one cycle of the ribbon method.

One-ring-at-a-time method. (ORAAT method). This method uses no pre-closed rings, only open rings. It simply hooks one open ring through two of the weave and then closes it. One pass will use either 65 or 66 rings, depending on the position in the weave. Note that it takes FOUR passes to equal one cycle of the ribbon method.

Most people consider the choices a no-brainer, but let's take a brief look at the pros and cons:

The ribbon and OOOC method both use pre-closed rings. Most people see this as a benefit since you can get going quite fast on closing one ring after another. The ribbon method suffers during stitching, when open rings must be passed through 4 rings. The OOOC method only requires an open ring to be added through 3 (though addition of the 4th ring, the closed one, still makes closing difficult at times because of room issues). The ORAAT only requires an open ring to go through 2 rings. The ribbon method also requires that some rings be touched multiple times -- up to four times (once to close, once to put onto a 5-let, once to connect the 5-lets, and once to stitch the ribbon onto the piece). The OOOC method at most has rings that are touched twice (once to close, once to put in the piece). The ORAAT method touches all rings only once. Finally, the ribbon method gets a huge psychological advantage because attaching the ribbon appears to dramatically increase the size of the weave. The other methods appear to go at a much slower pace, because as previous mentioned, it takes 2 cycles of the OOOC method to equal one ribbon cycle, and a horrifying 4 cycles of the ORAAT method for the same.

To keep the comparisons as fair as possible, I attempted all weaving at speeds that I would personally put at "slightly above average". I went at a pace that I would be comfortable doing for many hours at a time. That is, I didn't simply go blow-out speed -- although such a thing might be good for Guinness, it's not a fair account of how the methods compare when done for days upon end. Thus, these numbers aren't meant to be personal bests, so don't laugh at my speed (;

Also, to get a truer idea of the rates of weaving, I performed all the weaving multiple times (at least 6 times) to get a proper average. I've even included error bars at the 95% confidence level, for those of you interested in statistics.

So finally,

The numbers:

Ring closing (I did 132 rings at a time):

10m 33s
10m 04s
10m 09s
9m 46s
9m 48s
9m 58s
Average is 788.6 rings per hour. At 95% confidence, 789+/-25.

The ribbon method (262 rings in one cycle):
[I actually timed the 3 stages separately -- 5-lets, 5-lets into ribbon, ribbon onto piece -- but I'll only report the combined times]

34m 01s
33m 47s
33m 59s
35m 38s
33m 05s
35m 39s
Average is 459.2 rings per hour. At 95% confidence, 459+/-14.

The OOOC method (131 rings in one cycle):

17m 12s
16m 47s
16m 08s
15m 15s
16m 20s
16m 05s
Average is 483.0 rings per hour. At 95% confidence, 483+/-23.

The ORAAT method (65/66 rings in one cycle):

11m 57s
11m 42s
12m 10s
11m 04s
11m 54s
11m 30s
10m 45s
11m 58s
Average is 338.6 rings per hour. At 95% confidence, 339+/-14.

So you say, the OOOC method wins! Not quite, because you have to include the time it took to pre-close all those ring. Most people forget this tiny (but very crucial) detail.

How do you figure out the correct rate? You have to use this equation:

(1/x) + (1/y) = (1/z)

Where x and y are the rates of two processes that depend on each other, and z is their total rate. Remember, you can't use the rings to weave if you haven't closed them yet, so this equation equalizes the rates to find out their combined effort. The ribbon method and OOOC method need to be recalculated, but the ORAAT rate is fine as it is. Also, thanks to Cshakenbake for pointing this out: since you only have to close half of the rings for the ribbon and OOOC method, you need to half that value once more (e.g. for the ribbon method, (1/789)/2 + 1/459 = 1/z, z is 355).

Final rates
Ribbon: 355 +/- 29
OOOC : 370 +/- 34
ORAAT : 339 +/- 14

Oho... surprised? Within the error bars, the methods are all quite close to one another. Even the seemingly slow ORAAT method doesn't go that much slower from the other methods. Of course the benefit to the methods that use pre-closed rings is that one can pre-close rings almost anywhere, especially places one couldn't normally take an entire piece. This benefit is more of an efficient use of time, as opposed to physically weaving more quickly.

The ONE benefit that the ribbon and OOOC method can provide over the ORAAT method is the ability for two people to work in concert. If one person were to pre-close rings while the other wove (a slight problem at the beginning, but we'll give a slight head-start), and once the person finished pre-closing 15,000 rings (for a 30k hauberk) did join his or her companion in weaving, it would take them:

Ribbon: 42 hours
OOOC : 41 hours
ORAAT : 44 hours

Which still appears to more or less equalize all the methods.

I encourage you to test the matter for yourself if you don't believe my numbers. Remember to try to set a standard pace for yourself -- you can't work frantically at the method you prefer and then go ho-hum on the one you don't like (I was worried that I would go deathly slow on the ORAAT method, and yet it still turned out to be faster for me).

One final note -- there was one instance in the ribbon method where I accidentally looped through 5 rings (thus causing a contraction/expansion), which I only saw a couple of rings later. I had to go back and remove it and continue on. I did not count the time to correct the mistake, but it is decidedly more easy (for me, at least) to make a mistake using the ribbon method than with the others.

Addendum -- I still need to test the "raw rings" method. An early test showed it to be around 350 rings per hour, but I still need to repeat it multiple times to be sure.

In the meantime, when the topic comes up again, perhaps it would be best to tell the person to grab a cup of coffee and head to M.A.I.L. to read an obscenely long and tedious article! (:
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