Reported literature values of the tensile properties of natural silk cover a wide range. While much of this inconsistency is the result of variability that is intrinsic to silk, some is also a consequence of differences in the way that silk is prepared for tensile tests. Here we explore how measured mechanical properties of Bombyx mori cocoon silk are affected by two intrinsic factors (the location from which the silk is collected within the cocoon, and the color of the silk), and two extrinsic factors (the storage conditions prior to testing, and different styles of reeling the fiber). We find that extrinsic and therefore controllable factors can affect the properties more than the intrinsic ones studied. Our results suggest that enhanced inter-laboratory collaborations, that lead to standardized sample collection, handling, and storage protocols prior to mechanical testing, would help to decrease unnecessary (and complicating) variation in reported tensile properties. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 97: 397–407, 2012.