Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Auto-advance Mechanism

It's like Christmas in the studio right now with all these gifts arriving in the mail. Well, except that I had to pay for them.

This time it's the new auto-advance mechanism for the second loom, which I can now call production-ready. This one part is critical to weaving my cloth at a production scale. There are so many things to keep track of on the loom that consistent advancing of the cloth is one that is better left to the machine itself.

I'll describe it for those who aren't familiar with such a device... The AVL looms have a ratcheted rotating sandpaper breast beam to which the cloth grips as it passes over. This separates warp tension from finished cloth tension. After cloth is cranked over the beam, it can be cut from the loom without affecting the warp tension.

The sandpaper beam also paves the way for the auto-advance mechanism. This device advances the cloth a tiny amount with each beat of the cloth so the threads are spaced evenly and the fell line stays constant. All that the weaver needs to do is beat against the bumpers and the thread magically lands right where it needs to.

...and here's how it actually works. When the weaver pulls the beater forward to beat the cloth, this arm rotates forward, too. (On a hanging beater, these arms connect to a steel rod to stabilize the beater and help keep the reed parallel to the fell line.) When the arm swings, it pushes that metal rod forward.

The metal rod is connected to the arm of the auto-advance mechanism. This arm moves forward, rotating the one-way ratcheting axle.

On the other end of the axle is a small gear that turns a big gear that rotates the breast beam itself, advancing the cloth.

The amount that the cloth advances can be adjusted by the combination of attachment points, to the beater arm and to the auto-advance arm. You just move the connectors up and down in the holes on either arm to increase and decrease the amount that the cloth is advanced. It's a little tricky to get set up right, but I keep notes on my setups so that I can replicate them without all the adjusting and testing.

Ordering and receiving this item was a breeze. You'll notice that I don't write about negative experiences very much, especially in the heat of emotion. Ordering the auto-advance last year was trying. I had just finished my weaving contract and was getting started on my own. I needed that part ASAP. It took AVL over two months to get it to me, though, leaving me dead in the water and waiting. Just to be clear, this hasn't been my usual experience. AVL is expensive, but their equipment is top-notch and their service is usually better than that.

This time was fantastic. I ordered it, reiterating that I needed it quickly, and received assurance that they had the parts in stock. It shipped a few days later and was in my hands a few days after that. The timing is perfect since the grey cloth is taking longer than I expected to get off the main production loom. I will need to weave at least the first few sets of garments on the secondary loom in order to have blue garments for a show in mid-April.

And that fact explains my motive in spending all this money right now. Yeah, I'm always skating near broke. And the reason for this is that I spend money to increase my opportunities. Last year I bought this loom even though I don't strictly "need" it. It affords me the opportunity to wind a beam while another is being woven, reducing the time between cloth batches from two weeks to two hours. This latest expenditure gives me the opportunity to rush out a new color when I need to, leapfrogging the current batch of weaving for the sake of variety in my booth. I am finding that blue sells better than anything else. In analyzing my stellar sales of green and purple, I'm finding that the garments with lots of blue in the weft account for most of those sales, too. Customers want blue. By increasing the variety of blue cloth in the booth for the next show, I'm very likely increasing my sales to the point that they will offset the expenditure in a single show's income. And, even after that first show has paid for the expense, the part will live in my studio and increase my opportunities for years to come.

It's actually foolish to NOT spend that money, in my opinion. Maybe not foolish, but certainly short-sighted. So I spent it and now it's time to get to work making the cloth that this new part lets me make.

The studio move is now scheduled:
Monday-Tuesday: Teardown
Wednesday: Truck Packing, Old House Cleaning
Thursday: Moving and Unpacking
Friday-Sunday: New Studio Setup

That leaves four days to finish winding the blue beam, including working around a terrible problem that I'll explain better in another post.

No comments: