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Antique Tablet Weaving Loom

If you have any information about this loom, or simply conjectures,
please email me at john@malarkycrafts.com.

This was hiding in a shed out in Vandalia IL. My good weaving friends, the Harts, were asked if they might know what it was. They knew it was probably a loom of some kind, but had no idea what kind. Asking if there was anything else which went with it, the owner brought out some dirty bent and deteriorating cards, still warped, and they then knew exactly what kind of loom it was, and grabbed it with me in mind. I can't thank them enough. This is such a wonderful find! I have no idea what year it was made, whether it was manufactured, or handmade, or what many of the posts and hooks are even used for.

Portable as well.

It opens and lays flat. The dimensions are 5 feet long, by 7 3/4 inches wide. It is 10 inches tall at the beams. There are no marks from an artist. No plaques or model numbers. The Ratchet/Pawl setup looks like saw blades. I'm pretty certain that the near side is the warp beam, and the far side is the cloth beam.

Open Loom

This is the Warp beam end. There is the warp beam which opens up, a reed or warp spreader and lots of pegs. Some of these pegs have very obvious purposes, but others I have no idea. If you have an idea, let me know (email at top).

Warp End

This is the detail of the warp beam section. There is a rod with four pulleys. I think these are used to help thread the cards. You could put a thread for each hole through each pulley and the threads wouldn't tangle.

There is a very rusty reed used to spread the warp. That's why I think this is probably the warp beam and not the cloth beam.

Then there is a removable piece that spans from side to side with four strange hooks. After staring and playing with this for some time, the only thing I can think this would be used for is a short warp that you don't want to beam. If you want to do a short band that is only the length of the loom, you could use this to anchor the warp at this end. You could remove it if you wanted a longer warp that you would wind onto the beam.

The beam is really interesting. It has a flap that opens where I believe you tie the warp ends. There are only two eye hooks in the cavity, so it looks like there is something missing here. The cloth beam opens as well, but there is more in that cavity. When the flap is closed, there is a gap where the threads can come out.

Warp Beam Detail

Threaded card holder

Holder of card to thread.

Okay, the function of the four posts in the middle were immediately obvious to me. What amazed me more was that the cards I most recently purchased fit exactly! I guess not much has changed over time. Near the warp beam is a post with a split down the center. Not sure what this is for. Also the two short posts on the outside I can find no immediate purpose for. They are only about 1 inch tall. Any ideas anybody?

Just down from that group of posts are more posts. This half of the loom seems dedicated to assisting in threading the cards. Again, the purpose of the center posts was immediately apparent, and again I was amazed that the card fit so well. But there are two rather tall posts I have no idea what to do with, and another short post as well as a knob on the side. The tall posts are not hole width apart. They almost look like posts for a warp cross, but tablet weavers don't generally need a warp cross. Again, not a clue what these are used for.

This is the cloth beam end. Not nearly as many interesting protrusions.

Cloth Beam End

Cloth Beam Closed

Cloth Beam Open
This is the cloth beam (I think). The warp would come over the back bar, and then hook onto these funky hooks. The flap would close, and again there is a gap which allows the thread to come out uncrimped. As weaving progresses, the band would wrap onto this beam.
Now this is a real mystery. I don't know what to do with this fork attachment. There is a screw that can tighten it to any height. Right now it is resting on a metal plate (I'll get back to the plate later). The two prongs spin freely. For what purpose, I know not.
Mystery Fork

On the back I discovered this cutout. It makes me think that there may be some piece missing. There are two screws sticking out that are a mystery as well.

Mystery Fork

This is a closeup of the Ratchet setup. The knob shown on the corner, there are four of, one at the bottom of each corner of the loom. As with other parts, I took the simple explanation. It looks like they can be used to tie the loom closed when it is folded in half.

Ratchet and knob
And that metal plate? I'm not sure what the original purpose was, but it makes one heck of a carrying handle.
Portable too.

I've cleaned it up with some wood oil, but I still need to make some minor repairs with some wood glue and clamps. As soon as I get it warped, I'll put some more pictures here. Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to offer.