New Loom Information & Care
Wood – it grows on trees
There’s a lot to this subject so I’ll try and keep it concise.
Where’s it from?
We only use Yorkshire (preferably) or British hardwoods. All our Ash, Beech, Elm and Oak is from an old style, traditional, North Yorkshire sawmill where the timber is air dried for several years. Occasionally they have other timbers available in small quantities. We sometimes use other British suppliers further afield, Walnut from Hampshire, Maple from the Lake District etc.
Specifically we do not use pine for looms as it's essentially a non durable softwood which was most likely grown anywhere from Northern or Eastern Europe to Canada. It’s cheap and can be bought from any DIY store or builder’s merchants. Basically, it lacks character.
We do however use softwood 6 & 9mm pegs and for a good reason. A pine peg will adjust to the loom, whereas a pine loom will more likely adjust to the peg. Softwood pegs may also be refreshed (expanded), whereas hardwood pegs can't. Pegs are cheap and easy to replace, looms cost more.
Moisture in wood
Most growing trees consist of about 1/3rd (33%+) wood and 2/3rds water.
There are 2 ways of reducing moisture content once the timber is cut into planks.
Air drying outside in a wood yard will over time reduce this to 15-25% water content dependent or storage conditions. We then have to rack it up and store it indoors for several months (depending on thickness) to reduce the moisture even further. Only then can it be worked properly.
Commercial timbers such as pine are Kiln dried, many tons at a time, to rapidly reduce the moisture content. This uses a lot of energy and stresses the timber reducing its' strength. For a commercial environment intent on cost saving, this makes sense.
Air drying allows for the natural stresses in the timber to slowly adjust, ultimately producing a better product. If you're in doubt about whether kiln drying produces better wood, visit an antique dealer. None of their wood was ever kiln dried.
Wood will always seek to establish an equilibrium. If very dry it will reabsorb some moisture, but only if allowed to. Likewise if you inherit a piece of antique furniture you may note shrinkage of panels and looseness of it's joints within a few years because it has been relocated to a dryer atmosphere than it was previously used to.
Movement in wood
Given a chance, wood can twist, bow or cup, expand or contract to greater or lesser degrees for several reasons. Wood needs to be cared for.
A loom may be used almost anywhere, but when it comes to longer term storage
* Avoid storing your loom in potentially damper environments such as conservatories, cellars, lofts and outdoor buildings.
* Avoid proximity to localized heat sources such as radiators, open fires or log burners, Conservatories in Summer or leave in full sun for prolonged periods.
* Store your loom flat (not leant against a wall), in a cooler room in the house. This will reduce its chances of moving excessively. Maybe place a weight on it to.
Being a natural product some movement is to be expected, you may not even notice it, but it can and will happen to a degree.
We work with the timber and seek to find the best in every piece. We don’t provide factory like mass produced loom clones.
If it’s irregular, has natural knots on the loom edge or face, an attractive waney edge or other features we’ll use them all. It’s character, every loom is different, every loom is special.
In making looms we first look for “features” and grain in every new plank. This then determines how the plank should be cut not only to minimise wastage but to share its best aspects between the looms it will produce.
Some modern tools are used to saw lengths and drill precise holes. The rest is done by hand. Some of the equipment we use is Victorian (the steel is so much better). Final sanding and oiling are done by hand.
The oil seals and feeds the timber and can transform a fairly ordinary looking piece into a real work of art revealing wonderful grain and tonal shading. Ours is always a voyage of discovery. Oil also minimises the further absorption of moisture. We use natural (not boiled) Linseed oil. Over time timber can look a little dry or dull. A gently wipe over with a little more oil is good. Leave to stand and dry for a few hours then rub down with kitchen roll or cloth to remove any excess. Beech Cherry and Elm absorb oil very quickly. Ash and Oak are slow drying. If the oil was applied with a cloth, dispose of it in an outside bin. Linseed left on a screwed up cloth can spontaneously combust.
A quick note on pegs
With a new loom don’t force the pegs right down into the holes, some will fit perfectly, others might be a little looser or tighter.
Time and use will ease all pegs.
9mm Wooden pegs: One or 2 may need gentle persuasion. Initially if tight, grip the peg firmly in the fist and rotate the base in the hole. It may just be a little bit of sawdust in the way. If that doesn't ease it enough then pegs can be shrunk by placing on top of a radiator overnight. You will then find most will now be a good fit. If a few are still slightly difficult only then would we suggest a very light sanding of the lower peg shaft.
With continued use pegs may become a little looser in the holes as the timber in the peg base will, over time, become compressed and polished. To revive any loose pegs, put 1” of water in a glass and stand the pegs in it, base down. After 20 minutes remove the pegs and dry off. Then leave them to air dry 12-24 hours. They should be like new as the wood will have expanded to its original diameter. This is not a permanent fix.
6mm wooden pegs For 6mm wooden pegs only it's best to turn them upside down use the top to free up the hole. Ours have a 2mm warp hold drilled through them. This reduces peg strength at that point by 33%!!! We supply 6mm nylon pegs with all our peg looms as standard for reason of long term durability. Overall we do not recommend 6mm wooden pegs.
6mm Nylon pegs not really a problem and last for ever. Not as aesthetically pleasing as wood, but infinitely more practical. We chamfer the ends of all pegs and just occasionally a nylon peg may have a little swarf / roughness to the top edge of the chamfer preventing it going in properly. A light touch with a fine sandpaper will smooth it.
We can produce up to 2000 pegs a week. With the best will in the world we can't check every peg but only do our best.
Timber is a natural product and subject to many influences such as natural internal stresses and external storage conditions. We can not guarantee any loom’s perfect stability once subjected to conditions out of our control.