Constructing a Warp-Weighted Loom
The warp weighted loom is a vertical loom with an upper beam, the warp held taunt by weights (hence the name) and the weft beaten up toward the beam. It was used by most early European cultures and even survived into modern times in northern Europe.
This article is concerned with construction only. Next issue will contain an article on warping the loom. If you get really ambitious and can't wait, get a copy of Marta Hoffman’s book (see Sources) and have at it.
The instructions are for a single heddle loom for tabby weave (over, under, over, under). For multiple heddles to weave twills, you will need more long dowels for shed rods and more short dowels to hold them in place on the uprights. Again, see Hoffman's book.
|(A) Beam||(B) Upright||(C) Crotch|
|(D) Heddle Rod||(E) Shed Rod||(F) Heddle Rod Support|
|(G) Loom Weights|
You will need:
This loom is for experimental purposes so the beam allows for a 36" wide weaving area. Extant looms run more on the order of 60-90" width fabric. The weaving width determines the length of the beam and how much of the 8' 4x4 you will use. For illustration purposes we are using the dimensions for my loom. If you want to do wider weaving, adjust accordingly.
The beam is the most complicated piece. I am giving two possible construction techniques: the first by carving the beam, the traditional method, and the second by joining beam sections with dowels.
2 each 8'2x4's
1 8' 4x4
1 8' 1x2
1 6' 1x½" dowel
1 30" 2x3
2 yards of canvas or heavy material
bolts, screws, glue
A. Measure off the 4x4 as shown in Figure 1 and saw to length.
Chisel and plane section C into a teardrop shape (do this by rounding off 3 of the four edges).
Make a saw cut 1 inch deep at points A and B on each of the four sides of the 4x4. Use a chisel or lathe, if you have one, to trim the section in between to a 2" cylinder. Leave the ends as is or round the edges.
Drill a hole thru the point of the teardrop every inch, 1/2" to 3/4" back from the edge, Figure 2.
That’s the beam.
B. Saw the 4x4 to get two 4" blocks and one
40" block, Figure 3.
Cut two 11" pieces of 1 & 1/2" dowel.
Drill a hole large enough to insert the dowel in the small
block 3" deep.
Drill a 3" deep hole in the side of the 40" block.
Glue the dowel into the hole and allow to dry. Repeat for
the other side. see Figure 4.
Cut a piece of lx2 40" long. With a chisel or router,
cut a channel in the middle of one side of the 40" 4x4. The width of the
channel should correspond with the width of the lx2 since we are going to glue
the lx2 into the channel. The channel should be about 3/4" deep.
Drill holes as above, and then glue the lx2 into the channel.
The length of the uprights depends on your height and the
angle you will lean them against the wall. I am 5'8" tall. My uprights are 8'.
You can always stand on a stool if they are too high, but
too low is a problem.
Saw the 2x4 to length. Round the tops and slightly angle the bottoms to lean against the wall.
If you don't want walls damaged by the pressure of the
uprights, pad the back of the top of the uprights with a couple layers of
Clamp the 2x4’s together, matching the ends.
Drill holes or use a chisel to make holes for the shed holder and bottom brace.
Make your holes about 10 inches apart, starting at the beam block, and the same size as the dowels or shed holder. Leave the bottom 24" without holes. Figure 7.
To make the blocks that hold the beam in place, Cut two 8" lengths of 4x4. Cut as shown in Figure 8. Round edges and finish as you wish.
Make sure the beam fits in the holder and then bolt or peg the blocks to the uprights as shown in Figure 8.
Heddle Rod Supports:
Cut the 2x3 into two 15" pieces. Cut out the supports
as shown in Figure 8A.
Cut a piece of lx2 48" long and bolt or peg to the uprights 20" from the bottom. Figure 9.
Cut a piece of dowel 52" long and round the ends slightly.
The last parts of the loom are the weights. If you have
access to a kiln you could make the authentic clay donuts of the proper weight.
Weights vary according to the warp thickness but average around a pound each.
Sometimes stones were used. They were drilled or grooved to
hold the warp. They were often marked with their weight so they wouldn’t have
to be weighed each time they were used.
I am using sand bags because: (a)they are easier to make than stones with holes or grooves, (b) not everyone has a kiln, and (c) you can vary the weight easily.
Make heavy canvas bags 4"x12" and fill with a pound of sand each. Tie off the top of the bag. You will tie the warp to it.
Weights are used in pairs, so make sure you have an even number. You will need approximately 12 pairs of bags for a 36 inch wide piece, but this may vary according to the weight of the warp.