Peggy’s Weaving Tips > Warping drum

A warping drum is optional equipment and not at all necessary to put a well-tensioned warp on a loom. It is another item from the European workshops for production weaving. Many weavers have never heard of this useful, but space-taking tool.The warping drum’s main function is to hold the warp perfectly on tension while you beam by yourself.It is also a secure way to store the warp between measuring and beaming. The drum is mounted on its side like a marching band’s bass drum, and as you beam on, the drum provides mechanical, perfectly consistent tension from start to finish-its muscles never tire! Although commercially made warping drums are available, homemade ones are not difficult to make.

There are two steps to using a warping drum: first you wind the warp onto the drum as it comes off the warping reel. Then after loading the warp into the raddle or warp comb (drawing-in comb), you wind the warp from the drum onto the warp beam.

Making a Warping Drum

A warping drum is a wooden drum 1 to 2 feet in diameter and about 18″ to 20″ long that turns on an axle supported in a sturdy wooden frame. A homemade drum could be made of wood-sanded smooth so yarns won’t snag–or an oil or paint drum.

For plain beaming only, the larger diameter is better because you won’t have as much sagging to deal with (read about sags below). The smaller diameter drum can be used when combining sectional and plain beaming, but a large diameter drum would work too. The figure above shows a 17″ diameter drum, large enough for plain beaming. The axle is a 3/4″ pipe and is about 27″ above the floor. A rope about the thickness of a clothesline is attached to the back of the frame, carried 1 and 1/2 times around the drum, and has a bucket or can for weights attached to its free end. The can of weights is on the front side of the drum like in the illustration. Another thinner but sturdy cord about 35 feet long is fastened securely to the center of the drum and wound around it. The cord should be able to hold 100 pounds and have a loop in the free end. Its winding direction depends upon the intended use. For regular beaming on a plain beam, the cord goes in the same direction as the rope with the weights as in the illustration. For combining plain and sectional beaming, the cord winds around in the direction opposite from the rope with the weights.

A warping drum takes real estate in your studio. It needs to stand about 30 feet behind the loom (or wall-mounted beam winder) during beaming. The greater the width of the warp, the more distance that is required. A 60″ wide warp may need double that amount. The distance can be around 15 feet for narrow warps. If the drum is too close, the warp forms too steep a triangle, which makes the center threads more slack than the edge threads, just as if you were holding the warp yourself too close to the loom.

Winding the warp from the warping reel onto the drum

Start with the threading-lease end of the warp
If you have a commercial reel with a heck block, disengage it from the stops on the cord now so it can’t move when the reel turns.

With the drum’s tension rope disengaged and the reel’s brake engaged, take the threading lease and end loop off the reel. Remove a peg or the whole board of pegs, if necessary. Attach the threading-lease end of the warp to the drum cord. (A commercial drum has its own device for doing this.) On my homemade drum, I have a loop at the end of the long cord. I slip this through the warp’s end loops and then make a lark’s head knot by pulling a bit of the drum cord through the drum cord loop. Then I put a small length of dowel or a yarn tube in the pulled-up loop to hold the lark’s head to make the connection.

Twist the warp into a “rope”
to eliminate sags

Stand behind the drum and begin to pull the warp off the reel by turning the drum (like a ferris wheel). Soon you’ll see sags form in the warp. To eliminate them, twist the warp lightly in the direction that keeps it in a firm, rope-like mass as you turn the drum. This is to take up the slack as it forms. Notice when you turn the warp as in the figure, the twist in the warp is in one direction on the right side of your hands and is in the opposite direction on the left side. The twists are held in place as the warp is wound onto the drum. When the warp comes off the drum, all the twists come undone; so you don’t need to worry how many or how few twists you’re putting in.

Load the raddle as usual

Anchor the drum

Move the drum as far away as you can-at least 15 to 30 feet from the loom’s warp beam (or wall-mounted beam winder). Anchor it firmly so that it is perfectly immobile and can withstand the high tension during beaming. Use eye-bolts mounted on the drum to tie it to matching bolts mounted into wall studs, or rope it to a strong bar that spans across a window or door frame, or any other method that is strong. Anchor the loom in an equally solid way. The center of the drum must be perfectly on centerwith the loom (or wall-mounted beam winder).

Tie the end stick to the apron

Engage the drum’s tension mechanism

Beam on

Use packing paper or flanges. Wind the warp on with a lot of tension as usual. As you reach the end of the warp where it is tied to the warping drum, you must make some adjustments to prevent a steep “V” shape-which would create tight edge threads and slack center threads-from ruining the evenness of the last few yards.

Do this first step while the warp is still connected to the drum and is on tension. Stop and make sure the warp beam can’t turn. Insert lease sticks into the threading lease and tie them an inch apart as usual. Then slip a stout stick, such as a broom handle, into the warp’s end loops. Undo the original lease and end loop ties. Center the warp on the broom handle.

Keep the warp slightly taut by holding the center of the broom handle with one hand while you remove the end of the warp from the drum cord for a few seconds. Spread out the warp threads on the broom handle and separate them a few inches at the approximate center of the warp. Then reattach the drum’s cord to the middle of the broom handle in the space at the center of the warp. Attaching at the center holds the broom handle steady. Spread out the warp to its approximate width on the broom handle and lease sticks. As you finish beaming on the final few yards, the broom handle holds the spread-out warps and prevents the steep “V” from forming.

If you have a commercially made drum, you need to make a loop with a cord to attach the broom handle to the tie-on bar of the drum. With strong cord or rope, make a loop about two feet long. Attach the loop to the tie-on bar with a lark’s head knot. Make another lark’s head knot in the other end of the loop onto the broom handle. Use an empty spool to secure the lark’s head like in the figure below. Thread the heddles and continue just like in plain beaming.

See Chapter 11, “The Warping Drum” in Book 2, Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps.

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