Drilling the AVL

Last night I was up at 2 a.m. drilling holes in my AVL.  I finished the modifications to the fly-shuttle assembly to turn it from a pull-down mechanism to a side-to-side throw.  The pull-down mechanism the loom came with made my shoulder hurt after about a half-hour of weaving, so Laura and Doug Fry (aka the loom mechanics) came and helped me prototype changing it over.  They left me with a shopping list and instructions for building the final version and now…I’ve finished it.  There may be a bit of tweaking to the length of the Texsolv on either side of the handle, but other than that, it’s done.

Modified AVL Loom

There was one bad moment while drilling the maple.  It’s very hard wood, and my drill bit started to smoke.  I’m perched on a 24-inch bench, drilling at the top of my loom, in my PJs and bathrobe at 2 a.m., with the rest of the family asleep.  Smoke is curling up towards the smoke detector.  And I’m thinking: “how much smoke can one generate before it goes off?”  I started blowing and waving to disperse the smoke and slowed down with the drilling and was able to finish without sirens erupting.  Whew!

I inserted a stainless-steel bolt with an loop end into the newly drilled hole and fastened the other end with a washer and locking nut.

the drilled hole


Then I ran Texsolv from the upright, to a central loop that hold the cord up and out of the way of the warp.

central ring

Looking at this now, I realize that I’ve done something a bit whack.  In a traditional fly-shuttle the cord runs through the metal loop.  I don’t need the connector at the bottom.  What the heck was I thinking?

I started to take it apart, then realized that system put together this way has a nice smooth feel. I think I’ll  play with it this way first, then switch it over to the traditional method and see which I like best.

From the loop, the cord spreads out to the handle at the center of the loom, and the flyshuttle box at the side of the loom.

fishing swivel

The black connectors are 140-lb ball-bearing snap swivels from a fishing supply store.  They’re super strong and pivot so no twist builds up as the system works.  They’re also easy to replace should one fail.  Plus it makes it easy to detatch the fly-shuttle cords should you want to hand-throw a shuttle instead.

The white cord is Texsolv, which I like because it’s strong and is easy to adjust in length because it’s got little loops all along its length.  I used those loops and some tricks I learned from assembling rigid heddle looms to attach all the texsolv without having to tie any knots.  It felt like solving one of those rope-and-post puzzles my family gives out at Christmas.  I’m delighted with the results, very strong and clean-looking.

The handle is a simple hickory hammer handle from a hardware store.  The upside to hickory is that it’s dense and strong, the downside is that it’s a bugger to drill into.  I may add some padding to it as some point.  I’m thinking wool felt or leather might be nice.

Why did finishing this project take me so long?  One reason is drilling holes in the beautiful rock maple of my vintage AVL takes a bit of an emotional run-up.  There’s another mod I want to do, to make the front beam easier to take out, but it involves cutting into curly maple, so it may be a while before I build up the gumption to tackle that.

The other change I made was to take out the built-in bench.  One of the things that bugs me about my vintage AVL is that you have to take the loom apart to thread it, so, with Laura’s encouragement…I’m fixing that, tweaking the loom to make it work better for me.  The seat I have in there now is not perfect, the front edge is too sharp and cuts into my legs when I treadle.  What I eventually want is a hand-woven Walt Turpening seat, but  there’s a months-long waiting list for those, and a hefty deposit.  In the meantime, I’ll either live with this as-is, pull out a sander and fix the edge, or find a better 24-inch-high seat to use.

There was one bench upright that I wasn’t able to get out last night.  I ran out of steam around 3 a.m. and decided that since it looked like I might have to take more of the loom apart, and/or flip a 500-pound loom over on its back, it should wait until I’d had a bit of sleep.
bench upright
Today I hope to get a good whack of weaving time in on the fly shuttle, both because I want to flush any bugs out of the new system, and because I need to get the current cloth off the loom so I can get started an important project that’s been waiting in warp chains too long…

Please share your thoughts: I enjoy your comments and feedback!