Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hand Made Boat Shuttles for Weaving

I think it's time I admitted I've become a collector of weaving shuttles -- So many woods, so many shapes and each one serves a purpose.  Some work better than others on the looms I have.  But you don't know until you try them out.  ;-)

One of the things I greatly enjoy about weaving is that you can make some of your own tools--which I have done at times.

My friend Lynda let me borrow a boat shuttle made from a dogwood tree on her father's property.  The shuttle is special to Lynda because she made it with her Dad, and it fits perfectly in her hands.  Dogwood has traditionally been used to make weaving shuttles because it's hard -- it literally takes a beating and develops a fine polish just by passing through the shed created by the open warp strings to weave a line.

Since I've had it in my possession, I've been studying it ---  Trying to figure out how I could make one myself.  It looks simple enough -- hollow out the middle, cut out/shape the ends, sand it down and finish it off.   I've been making stick buttons simply enough, getting comfortable with the table saw and the drill press, and the chosen finishes.  I took measurements, drew it out, looked for other shuttles online -- nothing is quite like this one in shape or width.  Looked for hardwoods I might want to work with ...   Mmmmmh!  There is some gorgeous wood out there!  Even the blanks are expensive, though.  There are other designs too, where you'd glue different types of wood together for a layered effect.

There are the competing ideas of using a piece of exotic hardwood from some far off rain forest, and using something from my own yard, or my Dad's woods (like Lynda did with the dogwood).

This would require getting a band saw ($400), and learning to use it.  Learning to use a router; working up multiple practice pieces before I get it right; Working out a pattern.  Lots of wasted time and wood, and frustration.  (Here I go back to that poor little misshapen birdhouse I made in shop class in junior high -- Ugh!)  I'd need a better way to do the sanding, too.  And I could easily get carried away buying beautiful wood blanks to have yet another stash of raw materials I never get around to using.  And the finishing is always messy.

Another Option : I could also contract with a wood worker (local or via the internet ) and commission exactly what I'm looking for.  

I finally concluded that:
  • Dogwood is hard to come by these days.  You can't really purchase it online.  You pretty much have to know someone who has a dogwood tree that's dying, and is willing to give you a chunk before they burn it up for firewood.
  • There are many artisan woodworkers out there making BEAUTIFUL weaving shuttles, like these :
Padauk Boat Shuttle by Maximum Warp
Padauk Boat Shuttle by Maximum Warp - back view
Padauk Boat Shuttle by Maximum Warp - side view
    • George Jagger at Maximum Warp in Ottawa, Canada, made this beautiful boat shuttle out of this red Padauk wood from South Africa.  I have a special place in my heart for Padauk, that's why I ordered this one in particular. 

    • HandWoven Design 

    • Bluster Bay Woodworks 
    • I bought this Bluster Bay mustasche profile boat shuttle at Wool Gatherers in Fond du Lac.  It was something I wanted to feel in my hands before investing the $$.  Obviously I decided it's worth it, since I brought it home with me!  It has a wonderful finish and a nice weight to it.  This one is Black Cherry.  I really like the feel of it -- and of course the beauty of the wood.
    • Jim Hockett
    • HandyWoman     Janet Fox makes nice entry-level and practical shuttles for weaving.  She seems to cater to the rigid heddle crowd -- the looms that suck in the knitters who have a big yarn stash.   I have a few Handy Woman shuttles already!   The red one is Brazilian Rosewood and the wider one is oak, designed for rigid heddle looms that may have a narrow shed opening.  These shuttles have a rougher finish, not quite so smooth, but they are certainly functional!  Handy Woman offers a wide variety of wood choices and shuttle styles.  Keep looking back at her website, as her stock and styles turn over quite rapidly.  She is very reasonably priced, too.
  • These woodworkers have already mastered their craft.  Why not support them?  
  • It would be cheaper in the long run to purchase a handmade beautifully-crafted boat shuttle (or several), than to tool-up, learn the skills, and make my own.
  • Unless I want to start a new hobby ...   
  • Vintage 1980s SHUTTLE
  • I picked up this like new "vintage" shuttle on eBay.  Funny to think about anything from the 1980s being vintage, as that's when I was a teenager.  I guess that makes me vintage, too!
  • And this beauty!  Antique hardwood weaving shuttle from the 1800s--another eBay find.  It's been well-used through the years, but is still in good shape.  It's got a nice patina on it.  I'm pretty sure this one is dogwood.    I am certainly planning to use this one myself!
    After I cleaned it up, and gave it a restorative coat of revitalizing oil, I discovered these little stars on the handles, and some indents for thumbs.  Very nice detail!  Not sure if the thumb prints were built in, or put there with constant use?  
    • This is the one that came with my current floor loom.  It's about 2 inches wide, and feels good in my hand.  It's big enough that it stays straight and true when I throw it through the shed.  I'm not sure of the brand, but Lynda assured me it was a top-of-the-line hardwood shuttle.  It looks like there was a label inside the bobbin case, but it has fallen off through years of good use.  Who knows : I might already own a dogwood shuttle!  Anyone recognize this one by brand?
    I might still be motivated to make one of my very own weaving shuttles some day.  Let my Dad and Unca Ray pick a good specimen from the woods (Cherry or Maple or Apple or even Pear).   But now I won't be paralyzed with ruining an expensive piece of exotic wood with my amateur attempts to learn the craft and get it right.  There are parts of woodworking I love -- the smell of fresh cut sawdust; seeing the wood come alive with the right finish.   There are parts I hate : Sanding, finishing.

    And still-- there are many designs floating around in my head ...  This might not be the end it! 

    And still -- I'd rather be weaving!  Actually -- that's the trouble.  I'm still waiting for the new 12-dent reed to come.  It's currently on back order at who now says it won't be back in stock until July!   Since I've already been waiting 3 weeks for it, I cancelled that order, and ordered it from The Woolery instead.  They mailed it out on the very same day.  They have excellent customer service!

    So instead of twiddling my thumbs, I've been surfing the web for gorgeous weaving implements.  
    I think I'm done for a while, though!

    This reminds me of the scene from Detectorists were Lance is telling the story about the guy who started collecting cacti, and soon had to move out of his place into a bigger house -- just for his growing cacti collection.  

    1 comment:

    The Idaho Beauty said...

    You're killing me here with talk of things from the 80's being vintage! Nothing past the 50's is considered vintage in my book yet. :-) And I'd left my teens by by the 70's - maybe that's why I resist even more than you.

    And you are just as bad as I am about getting sucked beyond the basic info and supplies one needs for a "new" hobby. Right now I am being pulled down the rabbit hole of fountain pens and inks, watching videos, learning how they work and how to clean them, the differences in inks and what the difference is between a $5 pen and a $105 one. Lord help me if I start looking on e-bay and follow the trail of vintage fountain pens. I've just bought a nicer one than the two inexpensive ones gifted to me and have dug out two Sheaffers I've had around for years (possibly vintage as well, now that I think back to when I first used them) and haven't used for awhile. It's a disease, getting interested in a subject that leads to collecting!

    I agree with you on the shuttles - if you're not already a wood worker with the tools, it makes little sense for you to dive into that too when there are those producing such beauties ready to buy. And what a find that antique one is. Wouldn't you love to know the story behind those stars?