Making a 20″ table loom

    I just finished a new loom!


Its a 20″ four-harness table loom with lever operated harnesses.

I had just finished my first spinning wheel, which I’ll get to posting about soon enough… and felt a bit let down at the completion of so much work and study. So I thought I’d hop right on to a new challenge to let my mind percolate on design improvements for my next wheel. I’ve had  Hjert/Von Rosenstiel’s “Loom Construction” on my shelf for a good number of year, but was always disappointed with the quality of the plans in the book. They’re certainly fully functional looms, just…ugly. I’ve had a chance over the past couple weeks to get into Lambspun of Fort Collins, Co to study the looms they carry, all by Schacht. This led to a desire for me to combine elements of fine furniture joinery with some design variations of Schacht and Von Rosenstiel into a loom all my own.

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Here you can see the dovetail securing the breast beam to the corner stile, and the through moritice and tenon for the side rail to the corner stile. The main frame elements use old growth Douglas Fir reclaimed from some decking that was older than I am. I’m happy to give this wood new life, you’d have a hard time finding lumber of this quality in Colorado.

The other photo is the beater bar joinery in cherry with iron wood wedges. I used a pegged slip joint for the bottom rail which is permanent, and a dovetail for the top with a through wedge securing the top bar to the sides, which has to be removable. I morticed the slot for the wedge before cutting the cheeks of the pin on the sides.


Cutting the ratchets for the warp and cloth beams was very time consuming. I considered making them out of wood, but questioned the durability (I’m wanting the loom to last longer than me). I would have made these out of brass, but its expensive and I didn’t have any on hand. I do however have plenty of 1/4″ and 5/16″ steel plate. Layout was done with some layout dye and a carbide scratch awl with ruler and compass. I made waste cuts around the outside diameter with a cut-off disc on a die grinder. From there a hacksaw was used, cutting as close to the line as I dared. I took particular care to make sure my cuts were perpendicular to the work piece and level at the bottom. I cleaned up to the line with a flat bastard file and triangular mill file.


It took about eight hours to make these parts, including the latches for the ratchets, which were secured to the loom with 3/16″ brass rod that I peened a head onto.


By far the hardest element for me was figuring out how the harness and heddle dimensions relate to the frame elements. On Schacht table looms it looks like the weight of the rigid harness frames is enough to return them to their lowered positions. Because I decided to go with harness bars as opposed to frames, I needed a tensioning device to keep the heddles rigid and in line with each other. Small bamboo bows riding on a dowel hold the harness bars taught, an excellent idea I can’t claim credit for.


At the end of all this work there is a fair amount still needing adjustment. I made a few temporary heddles from 30lb test monofilament fishing line, and the holes that the warp pass through are far too large at one inch. It makes my shed very narrow as I lose about an inch from the take-up of the heddles.  From what I’ve learned, its also preferable for the warp to ride the bottom of the reed in a jack loom and not be in the middle. The levers for the harness should give me a throw of about 2 -1/4″, but I’m considering increasing that as well if new heddles don’t improve the shed. The beater bar also has a flaw, in that there is nothing to stop it from hitting the harness bars when its let back at rest.

Now I’m just excited to have a working loom. Have you seen how much these things sell for? And for screwed and bolted construction? Lets make things worth passing on to our grandkids again.  I know that there is precious little information of quality on putting one of these together, so feel free to comment if you have any questions about the construction of a loom like this.