Getting the 40-Shaft Dobby Working

Getting the 40-shaft mechanical dobby going. Jim Ahrens built this loom in the 40’s. Beside the dobby shafts are 4 more made for a ground weave. You can see a small practice warp ready to see that the dobby mechanism works after replacing all the cords. A big project.

Here are the dobby bars I pegged for a design some years ago next to the mechanism. There is a single wide treadle to activate the dobby which is what makes the sheds. Next week we should see if all the adjustments and knots work like they should.

Here is a close up of the bars and pegs. Each bar represents one shed or row of weaving. The pegs tell the dooby which shafts to lift and lower to make the sheds.

The big pedal operates the dobby. The 4 regular pedals are meant to operate a ground weave which we aren’t using for our trial. Each press of the big pedal changes the shed (dobby bar with pegs).

For the trial only 4 shafts will be used.

Here are the completed 4 shafts with their individual weights at the bottom of each shaft. The cords for the remainder of the shafts are bunched up out of the way.

10 thoughts on “Getting the 40-Shaft Dobby Working”

  1. Phew! Yet another reason I never became a weaver. This is way too complicated for my brain… and patience.
    I continue to be in awe of you.

  2. Very Intriguing and fascinating. It looks like an early wooden computer punch card. Good for you Peggy to photograph and catalog the operation and workings of this loom. There are probably very few people who know how to operate it. A beautiful contraption. Thanks for sending the photos. Marlie

  3. What are the shaft weights (in the last picture) made of? I have some of them on my old Ahrens loom and I’ve always wondered what their original purpose was. Did Jim Ahrens have them made especially for his looms or did they once have some other purpose?

    • I have no idea. We thought we were short two and wondered what we could find. then they appeared and we dropped it. Peggy

      • Someone suggested they might me weights used on fishing nets for ocean fishing. We were missing 8 of the Ahrens’ original weights, so we bought a solid metal rod (?) of the same weight as the original weights and cut to the same length, had a hole drilled through the end, threaded a cord through, and use them to complete the shaft weights. FYI, in case anyone else needs to replace them. Do you know when he stopped using these weights? I’m still trying to get a sense of the age of this loom.

  4. Peggy, that is a very beautiful piece of soon to be functioning again industrial art with amazing capabilities. I want to be able to produce a special weave with a ground weave. Instead I’m side tracked on a zillion projects here. BTW if you visit Philippines again I sure would like to meet you and would be very happy to host you and your friend(s). Best regards, Mike and Glenn

  5. dear peggy, please bare with me…… delighted to see your 40-dobby. quite an unusual blending of art and’s awsome……lots of love veronica 828


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