Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Make a WarpsBead Jig

When trying to figure out a way to improve my ability to set up and finish my weaving projects, I discarded dozens of options because of my lack of the materials and equipment they would have required. Fortunately for me, and for others with limited means, I was able to come up with a system that can be easily and economically duplicated. I’ve already made some variations to that basic system, and I hope others will do so as well (and, hopefully, share them with comments here).

Although I am confident the basic concept could be applied to a variety of other looms that provide tension adjustment, this document describes the setup I designed to fit a 16” wide Mirrix loom.

Keeping It Simple
The most important part of this system is also the simplest—a common #2 paper clip (10mm wide by 50mm long). I chose this size because the diameter of the wire in this size paper clip is almost exactly the width of a size 11/0 Delica bead. They are inexpensive, reusable, and able to hold up under all the tension you’ll ever need.

The ability to withstand tension was also a key consideration in the selection of a way to suspend the paper clips. At Lowe's I found a 1/8” by 3/4" aluminum bar that fits through the paper clips perfectly. I got a 3' piece for less than $5 and cut it into two 18” lengths.

This is the essence of this warping system—a series of paper clips strung on a metal bar. The clips serve as both hooks for the warp and as spacers between the hooks. As shown here for the bottom of the loom, hang one clip so that the double loop is up and the end of the wire is toward you—this is the hook. Hang the next clip so that the double loop is down—this is the spacer. For the top of the loom, reverse this so that the double loop is down for the hooks and up for the spacers.

The remainder of the system is simply a way to support one set of clips at the top of the loom and another at the bottom. Depending on your resources and ingenuity, you may well figure out either simpler or more involved ways to do this than the one I decided upon for the system described here.

My solution was to cut a bracket from 3/4” plywood. It is in the shape of a “C” and designed to slide snugly over the 1.25” square bars at the top and bottom of a Mirrix loom. Although I cut mine with a scroll saw I could have used a hand saw. The slot for the bar was made using a drill.

Since the only stress on this piece during use will be the tension on the warps, a snug fit on the Mirrix frame bars would probably be an adequate means of attachment. However, I chose to cut my brackets with an overhang and a set of “bumps” that snap over the bar to keep it from sliding off when there is no tension applied to the warp.

That’s it. Cut and drill four “C” brackets, string two aluminum bars with paper clips, slide the bars into the brackets and mount them on your loom.

Replace C's With F's For Short Projects
A big asset of this system is how it allows you to minimize the length of the warp loops that you have to pull through the piece to finish it most elegantly. To get the shortest warp loops you have to adjust the distance between the top and bottom of your loom so that your beadwork begins and ends very close to the paper clips that hold the warp. On short projects, this is limited by the minimum height of your loom.

With four “C” brackets on my Mirrix loom, and the loom at its shortest adjustment, the length of each warp is about 9.5 inches. This means that finishing a 7” bracelet, for example, would require pulling out 1.25” warp loops at both the top and bottom. By contrast, it is possible to get the loops as small as 1/8” or less if your beadwork goes right up to the paper clips.

One answer is to make a pair of F-shaped brackets for the top of the loom, while continuing to use C-shaped brackets for the bottom bar. The F-shaped bracket has two slots; one in the same location as on the “C” and the other one 4” down in the stem of the “F.” This is so the brackets can be used with the stem down for shorter projects and with the stems up to regain use of the full height of the loom on larger projects.

Click on this picture for more detailed specifications.

Article 01: Finishing School
Article 02: How to Make A WarpsBead Jig
Article 03: Warping the Loom


On A Thousand Hills said...

Jim, I have yet to do any loomwork, mostly because I have been intimidated by the process of tying in all those warp threads. I have recently become very interested in trying it anyway, and this method of yours seems so simple and straightforward. I think it's awesome that you are willing to share this with the beading world. Blessings, Cheryl

dharmadoodles said...

Jim.....I purchased several boxes of the large paper clips, got everything ready to go, but while I was stringing, the paper clips seemed to bend and I no longer had an even tension. I noticed you had "Gold" colored or "brass" paper clips....are these stronger? Where do I purchase "Non-Flimsy" paper clips?
Thank You