In the last post we left off with the description of a loom “frame. ” This is agreed to be the parts of a loom that are missing the harnesses, heddles, treadles, lamms ( if there are any ) and the tie-ups. We commonly refer to it as an ” incomplete ” loom, but in reality it isn’t a loom until all the parts are present. It can become a loom, once those missing elements are in place but without all the necessary parts, it’s really only a frame. The foundation for a working loom.
Barn looms are always of mortise and tenon construction, always. Any nails, screws or other fasteners are later repairs or additions done sometime after the loom was made. With the years and wear that comes from constant hard use, not to mention the abuse of being stored away in an unsuitable environment, damage can occur that needs fixing and most people just used what was at hand to accomplish the fix.
Depending on how the loom was made, the mortise and tenon joints are secured by either wedges or pegs. The addition of these eliminates any lateral or forward/ backward rocking through the weaving process that would add unwanted stress to the joints.
The joints themselves can serve to provide information on the looms heritage as different ethnic groups routinely used certain styles of mortise and tenon joinery and this points to possible Dutch, English, German and Scandinavian influences.
Here is a link to a useful article, while not specific to looms,that gives a brief view of some of the types of mortise and tenon styles used in loom construction of the 18th and 19th century.
According to Susan ” Rabbit ” Goody in her article on professional weaver’s looms ( ARS TEXTRINA 1988 Vol 9 page 128 para. 2 )
Vol. 9 1988 : Finding the thread; Restoration of a Professional Weaver’s Loom
” Regional style seems to play a more important role in frame construction than function. For example, Dutch and Palatinate Germans settling in the Mohawk Valley of N.Y. used a timber framing style for their barns which is perfectly mimicked in loom frames from the area. “
In a personal conversation, Rabbit shared with me that one only need to look at the old barns in a particular area to determine the ethnic style of the joints, then look at the looms that turn up in that area for same style joints. They are likely to be the same.
Of course, looms migrate too. A loom made in Wisconsin can turn up here in N.Y. and unless the history of the loom is known, pinpointing where it was made would be difficult, but narrowing down the ethnic style would be relatively easy.
Personally, I’d like to see more research done on looms from a specific region, with the intention of beginning to document known characteristics for purposes of identifying New Hampshire looms from Vermont looms, from N.Y. looms for example. This work is somewhat hindered by the lack of known examples. Still, sharing among those of us who love and study these tools could help make the task a bit easier.
In the end, for those of us who love and rescue 18th and 19th century looms, what matters most is , ” will it work? ” If I take this pile of sticks home, can it become a working loom? Knowing it’s style and history is just frosting on the cake.
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