Week 7 Group A Lab Data: Woodworking Part 2

As we have all remarked in our lab journals, we spent the week seven lab inside woodworking rather than firing the loom weights due to poor weather.

We refined the pieces of our loom (smoothing beams, chiseling) and fashioned several new heddles. In all, we have now spent about eight hours working on the loom between last week and this week. This does not neatly equate to eight hours times twelve-fourteen people, though, because not all people could be actively working on a given piece at any one time. It was probably more like three to four beginner woodworkers working for eight hours than twelve.

As we split this work between two sessions, the wood also changed quality in the week we left it to dry in the archaeology lab. There were marked cracks in the beams near areas of faster drying; ie, near the drill holes and cut marks. It was also more difficult to work at this stage, since it had dried out and flaked and broke more easily. In the image to the left, you can see some of the cracks between the drill holes as we worked to remove more bark from one of our upright beams.

We also worked the upright beams to be more smooth. Since they may come into contact with threads/strings (such as the warp and weft) or the fabric itself, we didn’t want there to be many rough patches or places that things could catch on. This was also more difficult than when the wood was green for the shavers, but it was easier to file the drier wood than the green wood.

We shaped some extra heddles for the loom from some of the leftover timber as well. This wood hadn’t dried out as much as the pieces we had shaved before, so it was still relatively easy to work. Without Sam, though, we had to saw off any particularly troublesome knots rather than having him knock them off with the axe (though I’m not sure using the axe in the lab would have been a great plan).

Our strategy for shaving and cutting the heddles was also a bit haphazard; we clamped them to a sawhorse which we then weighed down with our bodies. It worked okay, but certainly not as well as the shave horses did.

We also tried out a new tool in this lab: the billhook. Its main use in woodworking is splitting off small twigs from a larger branch in a downward direction, and it’s quite enjoyable to use. The blade part is on the inner part of the hook, thus allowing for the aforementioned downward cutting motion. I suppose we also technically tried using kitchen paring knives as whittling knives, but, to no one’s surprise, they were not particularly effective and were quickly abandoned.

Finally, we put the loom together and leaned it up against a wall! It was a good chance to see how everything fit together (and confirm that it held). I hadn’t realized that the peg in the top beam also served the purpose of stopping it from spinning when that wasn’t desirable. Our loom isn’t quite straight, but it certainly holds together and will serve its purpose well.

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