When I picked up this Leclerc Nilart the owner was very quick to point out a repair that had been made to a damaged keyhole slot in the castle top. Hauled home in pieces I set this piece aside and got to it yesterday. Upon applying a slight pressure to the repaired piece it readily popped apart. It appear that someone tried to use wood glue to hold it in place. I am glad that someone did this as it at least kept the piece together with the loom until I could repair it more solidly today.
The first thing that needs to be noticed is the deep check made all the way through the top. I am much more inclined to believe that the drying out of the wood in this spot aided in the breaking of this piece rather than vice versa. In fact I would be certain of it. There is another check in the wood that runs through the other keyhole on the same side of the castle top as well. Taking away wood from a spot this close to the end of a wet board caused this to happen and the piece to be popped loose.
A repair like this requires more force in order to both reattach the piece as well as to stop the check from spreading. I could remove the wood in total and add a replacement, stabilized piece, but that would look odd. I could also drill, countersink a nail, and fill the nail hole in order to add mechanical strength to the top, but I really think that most of the instability has already happened. I think that a good epoxy will: fill the crack, stop further checking, and reattach this broken piece. This is the simplest repair that I believe will best serve this loom.
Mixing epoxy I allowed it to harden into a thick paste before applying. Using my finger I forced it into the crack until it was filled. I then applied it to both the broken piece and where it reattaches…enough that when I pressed the piece back into place that extra epoxy was squeezed out. It is very important to wipe off as much excess epoxy as possible at this point. When dry epoxy becomes as hard as steel and requires a lot of effort to sand off. Since the under side of the top is not well finished it will take considerably less effort to sand it and make it blend in than on the top where a varnish was used and the repair is much more likely to stand out. Time to let it set up, then to sand and oil tomorrow…
Domestic Textile Production in Colonial Quebec, 1608-1840
David- Thiery Ruddel
National Museum of Science and Technology
In the early twentieth century, ethnographers and economic historians showed an interest in a variety of themes including gender roles and the early evolution of textile production. Most work since then has been ethnographically and museologically based, drawing on historical sources, such as household inventories and marriage contracts but also on artifacts, a largely unknown phenomenon to most historians. While museum curators and specialists in Quebec ethnography have emphasized the material remains of household cloth and the various steps in its fabrication, most economic historians have been primarily interested in agricultural and industrial productivity. Colonial historians, for example, use information about wool, flax and hemp in their arguments concerning self-sufficiency and commercial agriculture and rarely explore the ways in which households were organized to meet their daily needs. These historians have, therefore, neglected the role of female labour in the countryside, as well as women’s participation in the rural marketplace. Although woman’s work and clothing are also within the sphere of social history, the lack of sources and the fact that these subjects are usually treated within larger contexts has meant that cloth making and use have yet to receive the attention they deserve. After surveying the historiography related to home-made textiles, the author discusses the role of the domestic production of fabric in Quebec, as well as the subject of gender in the making of household cloth.
Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada
Beautiful full-colour photographs reveal the story of spinning and weaving in Canada.
Every spring in early Canada, fluffy sheep dotted the countryside, and in summer, blue flax flowers waved in the wind. By the fall harvest, they provided raw materials for the production of wool and linen, the focus of Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada.
This engaging social history explores the methods, tools, and patterns used by early immigrants to create their homemade textiles. The Acadians, Quebecois, Scots, English, American Loyalists, and German Mennonites all brought with them traditions that were reflected in their beautiful handiwork. The process was laborious — it took a full day to spin a pound of wool — but also social and creative. As settlements prospered, spinningwheel makers opened shops and commercial weavers set up operations — until industrial mills moved the whole process out of the home.
Lavishly illustrated with colour photographs, this book explains all the stages in making fabric and offers striking examples of clothing, quilts, and coverlets. The photography highlights the work of historical interpreters at prominent sites, including Black Creek Pioneer Village, Upper Canada Village, Kings Landing, Lang Pioneer Village, Highland Village Museum of Nova Scotia, and Joseph Schneider Haus. Fashioning Fabric will appeal to any reader interested in the “fabric” of everyday nineteenth-century life.
Linseed oil is important enough that it qualifies to receive its own attention.
One of the first known drying oils, linseed oil is obtained from the seed of the flax plant – Linum usitatissium. Oil content varies from 32% – 43%, the quality and quantity depending on the variety of seed, where it is grown, and the climactic differences that vary year to year. The plant is mostly grown in Canada, Burma, India, Russia, Uruguay, Argentina, and the USA.
Its oil makes an excellent natural wood finish in both raw and refined states. Raw oil contains quantities of mucilaginous matter – waxes and grease. These will tend to remain active…the mucilaginous matter will never dry. Since raw linseed oil will remain wet for long periods of time it is never used by experienced wood workers other than for very specialized purposes.
Boiled linseed oil is not actually boiled, but is heat treated. It also contains added drying agents. Properly prepared boiled linseed oil gives more protection against moisture than raw oil. There is no other oil that imparts to wood such a beautiful finish as boiled linseed oil. It is known world-over as the finishing oil without peer. There is no contest that this item will give extremely fine finishes for indoor woods and should be seriously considered for fine wood work.
The case against using it is related to its relatively low moisture resistance. It does pass moisture freely. That makes it one of the reasons it is used both indoors (where the wood can swell and contract in response to internal humidity) and outdoors (where applications on new wood allow the wood to continue to freely expel moisture, instead of bubbling the finish).
Boiled linseed oil is superb as a weaving loom finish, intensifying the beauty and conditioning the wood all at the same time…easy to apply and dry in a couple of days. Apply light coats only with a paper towel. Yearly light applications will deepen the grain and further condition the wood. Always wear protective gloves. Dispose of towels outside only, preferably by burning or in an air-tight covered garbage container; saturated rags can spontaneously combust.
I spent the last three days reconditioning a 45″ Leclerc Nilart 12-harness weaving loom. Disassembled last Sunday I could have simply brought it home and set it up. Outside of some superficial scratches and dents it was in very good condition. However, this loom is 42 years old. In spite of it being the newest loom we own its age in-and-of-itself warrants full dismantling. And in spite of the tedious nature of disassembly, inspecting, cleaning, scouring, sanding, refinishing, oiling, lubricating, and reassembly, it is well worth it from several standpoints.
Here’s how to do it…
eralWarm, giving, flexible, shock absorbing, and economical, wood is an is a excellent medium to use in loom construction. However, wood also requires maintenance in two areas.
The first area of caring for wood lies in the fact that over time wood dries out. Wood itself is not stable. Over time it continues to shift. Some woods are less prone to instability. Sometimes this happens when wood is used that is not fully cured. Relative humidity and temperature also plays a role in a wood’s stability. Leclerc looms are built of maple. Maple is a more stable wood because it has a dense grain. They also use well-dried lumber. Yet even maple can warp and crack. This is a pic along the bottom of one of the upright temple panels. Over a period four decades this wood checked. It is small and minor and does not affect the function of this machine, but simply oiling it may have prevented it from occurring, adding some elasticity to the cell structure. Factory varnish may have helped to prevent this as well; I find that in many of Leclerc’s looms they lack finish on hidden/unexposed parts. I understand doing so on places such as joints/mortise-and-tenons. But it would be better if all surfaces were treated. So once the loom was fully assembled I lightly sanded and oiled all unfinished surfaces using boiled linseed oil. Here’s a before and after image of the harness guide rod blocks…dirty, unfinished before…then the wood given a drink…and reconditioned afterward…
The second area of caring for wood involves noting areas that are worn. Any wear indicates an area of friction. Friction is a sign of loom inefficiency, eating up precious energy that the loom operator exerts in weaving. It may not seem like a lot, but incremental inefficiency can add up to a lot of effort. That’s just not needed. Of course a hand loom requires effort. Part of the joy of weaving comes from its associated bodily-kenisthetic joy; weavers feel the movement of their bodies translating ultimately into cloth. Removing or smoothing these areas lessens these friction points. Of course the cause of this wear will also need to be remedied. But for now it is important to return the wood back to a better finish. Light sanding and fine steel wool are in order here.
The third area is repairing any functional damagedone over the years. Broken parts need to be firmly fixed; unprofessional repairs need to be put back together correctly.
Additionally, the fourth area lies in the cosmetic repair of chips, dents, scratches, and dings. These can often be lightly sanded out and then refinished. But it is best to not try and do too much to character marks; it is, after all, a used loom and most will have experienced some unavoidable, unwitting, and unforeseen misfortunes. It is, after all, a tool, and tools get worn over time…just hopefully not too much through unwarranted abuse.
Smoothness of operation is also a big concern. These treadle spacers had not been smoothed on their ends. They were rough and would have required undue effort to perform. I lightly touched these to a sanding disc and they were instantly as smooth as glass,in spite of still bearing the marks of their initial roughness (you don’t want to sand these out since it would change the length of these spacers).
The last area involves evaluating the wear that has taken place on its joinery. Weaving is by nature violent. The clanking of treadles. The winding of the warp. The concussion of the beater. These add up to a lot of vibration over time. A well-built loom using well-dried hardwood will withstand a lot. Nevertheless, evaluate and shore up any loose joints. This can often be done with spacers and wedges. If the loom utilizes lag screws in its construction be mindful that if these loosen they may lose their purchase over time. I find that I have sometimes needed to increase the diametre of these screws. This is usually the easiest. Converting these to bolts, where practical is also a possibility, as are using lag inserts, or refilling holes with a very strong epoxy and redrilling when thoroughly dried.
2. Metal Fittings
This Nilart had been kept indoors its entire life. Nevertheless, its hardware needed a vigourous cleaning. Where its corrosion come from is anyone’s guess. Every major bolt was so-damaged. Leaving metal in this condition will eventually weaken the wood with which it is in contact. It will also wear on the part itself, causing it to loosen eventually, which will wear whichever joint is involved. It also creates a lot more friction, requiring greater and greater effort to weave.
Some used looms, you might guess, need their metal fittings fully replaced. My first loom had sat in an unheated garage for years. It had obviously also sat in another building where it had experienced some water damage as it had water marks on some of its wood along its lower parts. That it had not sat in water was equally clear since the wood had not swollen. It looked like someone had put it in a barn for a while where it was exposed to some snow? The joints were all tight. But many of its screws and bolts needed to be replaced because of being thoroughly rusted. In some cases the holes needed to be redrilled to fit the newer, larger fasteners.
This new loom also had an exceptionally ill-cast brake wheel. Why the original owner did not request a new one from the factory when it was first purchased is beyond me. I cannot imagine having worked with something like that for years and years. This mis-cast piece also gouged the wooden cradle in which it rests below the back beam. Everything was terribly coarse and would have required much more effort than it now does to turn since I have removed all excess material. Here’s some pics to show the initial, then half-filed, then fully filed, sanded and polished end. It works as smooth as glass now…
Polishing the front reel’s cast iron ratchet steel end made it turn much more freely as well…and made it truly beautiful. Steel wool was all that was required.
The heavy treadle connecting rod was fully corroded. After it was polished the treadles move with no resistance whatsoever. It required some very fine emory cloth to clean it back down to bare metal, and then fine steel wool to polish it.
All of the washers used as spacers required finishing on their unfinished side. Washers have a finished side with a rounded edge, and an unfinished, cut side. Virtually all of these had rough lips on the cut side. These were all sanded off, then that side of the washer was polished. Then now glide easily and do not cut the wood against which they rest. Here’s a before and after, showing the lip, how to flat sand, and the polished product. Nice…
I also cleaned the bars on which the heddles rest on each harness. I used 0000 Fine steel wool to do so. While these bars did not appear dirty, just think about the fine grime that settles over forty years. The difference before and after was incomprehensible. What appeared clean before became as slick as ice afterward. The heddles (inserted small eye) now move freely across the width of the shaft. Just imagine the added cumulative effort required to operate the lamms every time they move up and down if all of the heddles have even the slightest resistance to lateral movement on them!
Never, ever use a corroded reed.
The reeds on this newly-acquired Nilart were tarnished, but not corroded. The difference between a tarnished one and a polished one is night-and-day. And when you consider that each reed passes friction on to every yarn of the warp, you can imagine the cumulative effect.
The effect of a corroded reed is not only to add even more friction to the beater bar, but carries with it the possibility of wearing or even breaking warp threads. Unless you like to retie broken warp threads from a rusted reed, then get a new reed.
A tarnished reed can be easily re-polished. The reed on this Nilart had to be cleaned first – I used a soft rag with ammonia water. Then I wiped it thoroughly and briskly. And at last I placed a new buffing wheel on a low-speed grinder and worked it carefully, gently, but firmly in between the reed bars. This brought the reed back to a lustre…and it is smooth! Before and after…
Reed bars also need to be carefully straightened. I find that a flat screwdriver with a wide blade works very well. Never use it as a prying tool.
4. Loom Finish
Leclerc makes a great loom. The finish on the outside of the temple cabinet and along the beams is that of fine furniture. However, on all four Leclerc looms we own the less-accessed parts often are left with a coarser finish. Some of that is from less-highly finished wood itself. But most of it is from less effort involved in applying the varnish with which these were initially produced. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a poor finish…just not that of a fine cherry table, for example. Since I was dismantling the entire loom I took the time I lightly sand all pieces that were found like this to a smooth finish and then applied boiled linseed in a light coat. The point of the light sanding was not to remove the original finish, but to smooth the rougher parts of the varnish itself out and then to reseal it with boiled linseed oil. The effect of this is overall less friction/chance of binding. Anything rough on a loom is an anomaly and counter-productive and should be looked after, at least here it is.
A loom is a tool, not a showcase. Anything that you can do to increase its comfort and ease of functioning should be done…within reason, of course. On the Jano loom that I restored I added pieces of plastic that I trimmed off of a plastic toboggan (Crazy Carpet). These pieces I screwed along the inside of the temple uprights near the top as the shafts were rubbing there. These were attached after I refinished these parts. They not only protect the wood, but add to the ease of operation as well since they are so slippery.
All of these have had a cumulative effect of not only making this loom beautiful, but functional and much easier to work. Obviously you know if you are capable of any of these repairs and refinements. For me this is second-hand. If it is not for you then hopefully you know someone who can do this for you.
Some people drive their car without ever checking the oil level! I feel much more secure in winding the first warp onto this loom with having done all of this first. And since it was disassembled for transport it was just one more step to doing it right…
On Saturday I was given a shuttle that is suitable for using with a hand-powered flying-shuttle box. I was thrilled. My mentor had no use for it any longer and gifted it to me over brunch. Distinguished primarily by its metal ends it is designed to be robust with the metal ends both adding weight as well as protecting the wood when it is both launched and lands. The metal ends were rough. Two days ago I decided to smooth them and polish the entire loom…
I spent the day hauling in various parts of our Nilart loom. I started with scouring the heddle support bars on the harnesses using 0000 super fine steel wool. The loom is in great shape. Nevertheless, these bars are steel and as such subject to corrosion. Dust and grime also accumulate…in this case 42 years worth. While it did not seem significant, once I did this, the heddles slid back-and-forth like they are now on ice skates! I also lightly sanded the wood on the harnesses and wiped on a light coating of boiled linseed oil…my favourite natural finish. While the finish on Leclerc looms is nice, it is far from being a fine-furniture grade. Some of the wood’s roughness is from an incomplete sanding on the wood, and some is from roughness on the part of the varnish application. Sanding with fine sandpaper and then rubbing with linseed oil makes for a smooth-as-glass finish.
The reed was likewise tarnished and grimy. Steel wool worked off the worst. Then with a new polishing wheel I worked in between the reeds. It came out incredibly smooth.
I went on to the larger pieces of the loom, sanding and finishing…
The canvas on the front take-up reel was dirty…
…and got washed; the rear one will be done tomorrow when I dismantle the rear beam apparatus. And then the metal parts were scoured…
It’s coming out quite nicely. There is no reason to not do this. First of all an evaluation of all parts should be made…better now than when I load up my first warp and find out that there is a problem, that’s for sure! But just the prospect of alleviating any unnecessary friction in a loom that works 12 shafts will surely prove to be a benefit in the end. Better now than later. Today the windchill was -35, so it seems to be a great time to do this.