Woodworking Lab (pt. 2): Group B Data

Group B: Madeline, Becca, Jacob, Sally

We were supposed to be firing for this week’s lab, but due to inclement weather we instead worked in the archaeology lab to finish up some of the wood working and refining that we didn’t get to last week. We were set up in three general stations: using a draw knife to debark extra heddle rods, using block planes to smooth out what we debarked last week, and using a hammer and chisel to improve the fit of the loom’s top beam. Most of our data this week is qualitative, especially comparing this week’s experience to last week.

Our group began at the station set up with block planes. We had the shed rod and one of the uprights clamped to two sawhorses, and our goal was to get them both as smooth as possible, especially the shed rod as it will be in direct contact with the warp and ideally won’t snag at all. Of the two block planes we had, the smaller and sharper one was much easier to use. Out main difficulty with the block planes was that they had a very flat base, and we were trying to use them on rods that were very curved; but the smaller one, having a much shorter flat base, worked pretty well. Meanwhile the larger block plane had too long of a base to be very useful, rarely taking any material off, and it was also really heavy and therefore unwieldy in a way that the smaller tool wasn’t. We ended up having the most success using the small one on the shed rod and the larger one on the upright, which had more surface area. We also noticed a difference between working with partially dry wood this week and the green wood last week, in that the rods themselves weighed a little less and the surface material lifted a little more easily than it had with the green wood. Finally, we found that a lot of Sam’s tips about his blades from last week held true at this station––for instance, angling the blade a little bit so it wasn’t perpendicular to the grain made it much easier to remove material.

From there we moved on to the chiseling station, which I think we all agreed was the most difficult task of the three. The purpose of this station was to take a lot of material off quickly, so that we could kind of carve a divot all the way around the rod on either side where it would sit in the forks of the uprights, to ensure a better fit. Using the score marks cut into the wood last week as a guide, we used the chisels to take off smaller pieces until we could lift up larger amounts of wood at the right depth. We had the best results when one of use pinned the rod down in the middle using most of our weight, and the other two worked on either end; this wasn’t a perfect system, though, and we still ended up with a lot of wobbling due to the irregular shape of the rod. We also struggled with getting the angle right to take off enough material to make a difference without biting off more than could reasonably be taken off in one go. Another thing we had trouble with was getting leverage and enough force, since we were working on the floor. We also experienced some fatigue, especially in out forearms, and determined that we probably weren’t being as efficient as we could be with our hammer swings (though, again, we could only do so much being on the floor).

Finally we moved onto the debarking station, which we found pretty much the same as last week’s drawknife debarking experience. The drawknife wasn’t quite as sharp as Sam’s, but it did the job well enough and we cleared the whole rod. Most of our trouble came from not having a shaving horse to work with––the chair we used had wheels, which undercut some of our leverage, and the sawhorse thing we were using to clamp the rod was not very stable, but as long as we used our own weight to keep it stable it was fine.

The tail end of lab was a little all over the place, since we were just sort of tying up loose ends, but one of the last things we did as a group was use files from the Makerspace to get the shed rod and heddle rod as smooth as possible. This was especially effective, and we also found it to be a lot faster and more uniform than trying to smooth the rods with shavers and block planes.

We finished up this lab by assembling the loom, which seems to really have come together. It was a little bit of a strange day, since it was all kind of impromptu work, but it was very interesting to use different kinds of tools to finish up our woodwork, and seeing how the material had changed a week into the drying process was also useful.

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