Allright, so I'm new here, but not new to dreadlocks. Well, my most recent set is pretty new (not even done fuzzing in the ends yet, only about 1/2 done), and I have figured out the g*dd*mn coolest trick to make new dreads not look shitty. And lock up way fast.
I'm a fiber artist (knitting, spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing, etc), and I was recently given a bunch of these felting needles - little gizmos a lot like sewing needles with barbs pointed the wrong way (tough in, easy out instead of easy in, tough out like a fishook or something). They are designed this way to pull strands of wool from the outside of a felted object through to the center, tightening the felted fabric as you stab it over and over (and over and over and over and over and over) again. When I started my dreads this time around (#4) - and for the record, shitty-looking whitepeople dreads are one of my large pet peeves, I despise the feeling of having crap (i.e. wax) in my hair, and backcombing has NEVER worked for my hair - I figured, why not skip the wax and all traditional ways of acquiring dreads for those of us with straight-as-Texas hair that actively UN-dreads itself while I sleep and try using these little felting needles? Human hair is kind of like wool, after all, and dreads are basically felt ropes made from one's own hair. Makes sense, right?
It works freakin' beautifully. Yes, it's time consuming, and the ends of my left thumb and forefinger feel like raw hamburger, but I'm almost halfway finished with tightening up the dreads I roughed in last night, and the finished ones look at least a year old. With no wax or any product of any kind. All I used was a crappy metal flea comb, a couple of 36-gauge felting needles, and 13 viewings of The Boondock Saints. And some climbing tape, once I realized that I could use it to tape the ends of my fingers, as well as the knuckles, and have a thimble of sorts. It definitely helps with the stabbing - but so does not trying to tighten teeny little ends with extremely sharp objects at 4am.
I think I may have gone a little overboard with needle felting my entire head o' dreads, but I'm happy with how they look now - I'm big on instant gratification (well, three days on the couch stabbing myself in the head isn't exactly instant, but it's more instant that 6 months of palmrolling). But this technique would work incredibly well for loose spots, or working in loose ends. It's also beautiful for straggly scraggly ends from backcombing, just fold the end up, wrap the tail around a few times, and stab it repeatedly until it's locked.
Felting needles should be available at your local fabric & craft shop. I got mine at the independent fabric store - surprisingly, the yarn shop didn't carry them. You can also order them online, I'm sure. They rarely cost more than $1 each, and you only need one.