A Word About Linseed Oil

Not everyone weaves equally well.  And in fact, the whole notion of weaving well is in and of itself nebulous.  Does weaving well mean producing a bolt of cloth that is indistinguishable in its technical perfection from that which can be woven on a machine?  Does weaving well mean to be able to choose patterns and colour combinations that elicit?  But what should these elicit?  Colours and patterns rarely draw the same same response from any two people.  And when they do, what does that mean?  Two people agreeing that some certain colour combination is superior may show nothing more than an agreed upon form of xenophobia, genocide, classism, oppression, or psychosis/psychopathy!  Does weaving well refer to the weaver’s physical dexterity…the manner in which their body interacts with the loom?  Are those who better-articulate what they do when they weave by nature better weavers because they can structure the weaving process in their minds in a more orderly fashion than those who do less well at this?

Howard Gardner‘s work, Frames of Mind was published in 1983.  It proposed that rather than possessing one overarching intelligence, humans have multiple intelligences.  At the time he proposed eight: musical–rhythmic, visual-spatial, venal-linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.  Each of these expresses itself in one way or another when we weave.  Everyone, says Gardner, has all of these intelligences, but in varying degrees, and no two people have these to the same degrees.  When it comes to weaving, most of us know people to whom we turn when we have a specific question regarding a specific aspect of weaving – design, colour, pattern, verbal explanations, how to situate your body, etc..

When it comes to the loom itself as a tool, weavers need some understanding of this aspect of their loom in order to be able to weave at all.  This understanding would involve a combination of these: visual-spatial, venal-linguistic, logical–mathematical, and bodily–kinaesthetic intelligences.  When looking to understand how best to restore the finish on the Leclerc Jano loom upon which I will work today I turn to an expert in primitive wood finishing, Donald Newell.  Newell’s book on finishing wood is classic, although not in the area of looms, his expertise is in pre-synthetic preservatives as applied to gun stocks.  But in spite of his book being about another tool, his insights into the nature of wood preservatives – and in this case linseed oils – is timeless.  I print it here for the interest of anyone working to restore an older loom and who wants to apply a natural finish and steer clear of vanishes and lacquers.

[*Gunstock Finishing And Care: A Textbook, covering the various Means and Methods by which modern Protective and Decorative Coatings may be applied in the correct and suitable Finishing of Guns and Rifle Stocks.  For Amateur and Professional Use, Donald A. Newell, 1949]

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