Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Making a good loom a great one (I hope)

Here's my Ruthie loom... I've talked about her before.  No, I didn't name her "Ruthie"--that was the name of this loom style when made by the Crisp Woodworking Company years ago.  I bought her from someone else a few years back, brought her home from Virginia in the back of my station wagon.  Yes, this 60" wide loom went into my wagon, as well as the loom bench in front of it.  Of course, as you'll have figured out, it was all in parts and pieces.  The currently made Fireside Traditional tapestry loom is very much of this design--in fact, from what I've heard, was based on the Crisp Ruthie, with some modifications.  

I was SO very glad to get this loom and it's been a good workhorse for me since I've had it.  I've woven only four large (for me) tapestries on it since it's lived here but each of those have been on the loom for some months.  So it hasn't been idle for long.  However, one of the issues with this loom has been the difficulty of advancing the warp.  With tension on the warp, it was very hard for me pull back enough on the lever attached to the cloth beam to release the pawl from the ratchet so that I could then release the pawl at the warp beam.   I have a smaller Fireside loom with a worm gear on the cloth beam that has been easy to use, and soon after getting the Ruthie I'd talked to Michelle at Fireside Looms about retrofitting it with a worm gear.  After cutting off the big feathers piece a few weeks ago, I called Michelle up to talk about the worm gear.  After some discussion back and forth via email, it was determined it was possible and I placed my order.

The worm gear assembly came on Monday and Jeff, my friend and guy-who-can-do-anything, came yesterday afternoon to begin the installation.  Several problems were encountered along the way -- like starting with Jeff not having the right size allen wrench in his collection of dozens to fit the bolt holding the bracket to which the beam was attached to the loom.  Easy solution--trip to the hardware store.

Next problem... when Jeff & I measured the axle of the beam to send diameter to Larry, at Fireside Looms, so he could machine the hole in the gear we mis-measured by a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of an inch.  So when the assembly arrived we had a gear with a 1" diameter hole to fit onto an axle that was about 1.06 in diameter. Solution?  Here's Jeff with an oscillating sander reaming out the hole to make it a tiny bit larger:

The new gear was a fraction of a fraction of a fraction wider than the old gear on the beam.  So the beam had to be cut.  First, Jeff did this by hand using a skil saw and a hand saw:

Jeff's work is amazingly accurate--but there was a fraction of a fraction of a fraction difference in the width of the cut from the beam (and the slice that came off was only about 1/8" wide).  Even so, that amount of difference caused the gear, when mounted onto the beam, to be slightly at a tilt.  And that slight bit of tilt made turning the worm in the gear very, very hard.  Solution?  Off came the beam again and Jeff took the whole thing to his house to use a different saw to get the cut level.

Here are the last few installation shots... Jeff works so quickly that getting anything with him in it that's not blurred is almost impossible!

And, finally... the beauty shot:

Whee!  Ready to Roll! New warp, here I come.


  1. Everyone should have a Jeff in their life. What a gem.

  2. I came to 'comments' to leave the same thought that jaciew had!
    Jeff's last name is probably Blessing.

  3. I'll pass the good thoughts on to Jeff! Yes, he has indeed been a blessing in our lives. He can quite literally do anything. He's one of the most intelligent people I've ever known and an incredible craftsman. And, persistent? He won't rest until he figures out how to do something and if it stumps him at first, that just makes him even more determined. I have asked him to do so many seemingly weird things around my studio and yet he always takes them on with gusto.