Saturday, June 30, 2012

Loom Comparison, Part 1: Warp Beam Location

This is the first part in a series of blog posts talking about the differences between two AVL production dobby looms. I'm showing what the different mechanisms look like and talking about how these differences affect production weaving work. If you're interested in weaving for a living, you might like to stay tuned and learn what you'll want to know when choosing a production loom.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember that last Summer I bought a second production weaving loom to use as a warping station for the main loom. The goal was to remove the two weeks' downtime from the main loom while I prepared the next warp.

Then, this Winter I bought an auto-advance mechanism for that loom so that I could put it into production. Well, the time has come. I have a really tight production schedule to prepare for three big shows back-to-back. The main loom (Betty) is warped with black, and the second loom (Abigail) is warped with red. In case there isn't time to finish weaving all of the cloth in time to get it to the seamstress a week before I leave, I want variety in the booth. That means starting on the red before the black is finished.

A few weeks ago I had some apprentices in the studio. It was interesting to watch them and remember how hard this work was when I first got started. Well, this week I've gotten a good dose of that beginner feeling by weaving on a completely different kind of loom. As if the loom differences weren't enough, I also decided to start evening out my muscle use by switching hands on this loom. I now throw with the right and beat with the left.

Today I'll focus on the first big difference that I noticed: the mounting of the warp beam.

For various reasons, it's sometimes necessary in a production studio to remove a loaded beam from a loom. Often this is done with the threaded harnesses and the reed attached, making one sensitive and obstreperous bundle.

On Betty, the mounting of a loaded beam is extremely difficult. The 100 pound beam needs to be passed diagonally through the back opening of the loom to the interior before the ends are inserted, simultaneously, into the mounting slots and locked. During the operation of passing the beam to the interior, we need to be extra careful not to let it rest on the black roller right below it. This part cannot be removed without loosening the whole frame and is not designed to hold the weight of a beam.

The mounting operation requires at least two hardy people and is harrowing to the one who put all the time and money into preparing the beam. And, don't forget that during this operation, the harnesses and reed are usually attached, meaning that some warp needs to be unwound from the beam at the same time as the passing operation.

On Abigail, it's simple enough that I can do it alone: just lift the beam, set it into the mounting slots and lock. If the harnesses and reed are attached, they just sit on the floor while I do this.

You can see in this image how strange it is to have the beam mounted in this location. You'll also notice that there is a lot of other stuff in the way of the mounting operation: weights and the tension arm. This stuff is all removed when loading a beam.

Another thing to consider is how much space is left in the interior of the loom when the beam is mounted. A beam mounted on the back of the loom leaves an extra four inches. This is just enough so that I can sit beside the beam on a real chair for a couple of days while I tie the next warp onto the previous one. It's much more comfortable than sitting on a milking stool with the beam above my shoulder.

So, if you have a choice in your production loom, make sure that the warp beam mounts on the back of the loom.

Stay tuned for the next installment, which is going to be epic: the overhead beater vs. the bottom swing beater... (Epic? I might be a nerd.)


Laura Fry said...

Made a 'notch' in the back of the loom frame on Betty. That's what we did so that exchanging beams was easier....

Blossom Merz said...

Hi, Laura!

Yeah, maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist. I don't want to do that until I have access to the equipment to do it right. I will do it eventually, but I just can't bear the thought of a shoddy permanent modification to such a beautiful machine.

But, now that there is a second production loom, I could stand a few days of downtime while I disassemble that loom and haul the uprights to a real woodworker.

Thanks for the nudge!

Desirée said...

I'm a nerd! I will read it all.