My first commission

One thing which has been consistent among the projects I’ve worked on since starting my journey as a maker, is they’ve all been chosen by me. That changed two weeks ago when I got my first commission.

After sharing my last blog post with a group of my friends and family, one of my oldest friends, Emma, piped up with: “Awesome… I’d like an 8ft x 2ft adjustable frame pin loom and an inkle loom please! X”

The rest of the conversation consisted of comparing Budweiser to tap water

I’d never heard of either of these things before, so set about doing some research, and ultimately settled on building the inkle loom – partly because the pin loom she wanted was huge and would require far more precision than I think I’m currently capable of, and partly because I found a tutorial on how to build the inkle loom, which would be simple enough to complete quickly across a couple sessions at The Building Block.

Lap Joints

The first challenge was cutting the lap joints to secure the two uprights. In theory, cutting lap joints using a mitre saw is simple enough, but it’s clearly something which requires practice and patience to get right – neither of which I was afforded as a queue of people waiting to use the single mitre saw quickly formed behind me.

My attempt during the session resulted in cuts which were too wide and too deep, but nothing a little (or a lot) of glue and some brad nails couldn’t fix.

I tried again using some scraps the following weekend using my own mitre saw, and feel that I was more successful as I had more time to concentrate, but still had less that desirable results, partly because there’s too much give in the stop block built into my mitre saw, meaning it was too easy to press down a bit too hard, and go deeper than you had intended.

This is a technique that I’m keen on perfecting, as I can see myself using it a lot, but think I’d have more success using a table saw instead, and plan on practicing that particular technique as soon as I’m able to.

Tension rod

Next up was cutting a slot for the tension rod to fit into. There were multiple techniques I could have used for this, such as drilling two holes at either end of the slot, and using a jigsaw to join them together, but the instructor suggested using a plunge router with a guard fitted to guide it along the correct path.

Although I have a plunge router (which I purchased from Aldi a couple of years ago), I’d only ever used it the once, and even then only to round over some edges, meaning I’d never taken advantage of the plunge functionality to start a cut in the middle of the wood.

The key to this was to take several passes, each of which going no deeper than about 5mm beyond the previous level. This meant it took something like ten passes to get all the way though the wood, but I was somewhat pleased with the outcome.

A solid seven out of ten

Affixing the dowels

Lastly I needed to use a spade bit to cut holes for the dowels using a hand drill. This was relatively easy, making sure to use a scrap of waste wood underneath to (try) avoid splinters.

Some were more successful than others

The next time I need a large hole, I think I think I’ll try using a forstner bit, preferably with a drill press.

The assembly

All that remained was to glue everything together, making sure the joints held tightly with the liberal use of brad nails while the glue dried. I love the speed of the brad nailer, but from an aesthetics point of view I don’t think you can top the look of screws.

Mind you, depending on the application of a project, it may be preferable to hide all fasteners of this nature – but as this is just a functional tool, and the first time I’ve ever built something of this nature, I’m sure I’ll be forgiven some visible brads.

Still to do

Just about the only thing currently missing from the build is the tension rod which goes into the slot. I have a suitable piece of wood for this, and Emma is going to bring some bolts, washers, and wing nuts with her, so a quick hole in the end of the wood to accept the head of the bolt, affixed with some gorilla glue, should work nicely.

See update below.

Conclusion

All in all, I think this is the shoddiest thing I’ve ever built. This is partly because I’ve never used a lot of these techniques before, but also because there’s only so much you can do within a two hour window once a week, and as Emma is coming to collect it en route to Wales tomorrow, it was more important to get it finished.

Throughout this post I’ve mentioned things that I’d do differently. In addition to these, I think I’d scale everything down slightly, so the functional size of the devise is the same, but made from thinner pieces of wood, with thinner dowels – although that will largely depend on the feedback I get from Emma as she leans to weave using it.

That’s right, she’s never used an inkle loom before – so I’m not sure if her learning experience on my build is the best introduction – but there you go.

In any case, I plan on practicing the techniques learned during the built, taking her feedback into account, and making a second, far nicer one, at some point within the next year or so.

In the meantime, Emma has promised some photos of the loom in action, so while we wait for them, I’m going to enjoy drinking the craft ale she’s promised me 😉

Update

Emma has been and gone, collecting the loom and leaving me with a box of nuts and bolts, with which I have since completed the tension rod.

I drilled a hole in the end of my dowel using a forstner bit, and using masking tape as a makeshift clamp, glued the bolt into position with some Gorilla glue. 24 hours later, upon the removal of the masking tape, I found what looked like a cheerio where the glue had expanded.

Looks good enough to eat

My Dremel made short work of this expansion, but this left a cavity around the base of the bolt, which I wasn’t entirely confident would be strong enough. To resolve this issue I decided to use some epoxy resin to fill the cavity and seal off the end with one of the washers.

I’d not used epoxy before, so was quite taken aback by the smell, but 60 seconds of stirring the two parts together, followed by another 60-odd seconds of gingerly trying to dribble resin into the cavity before sliding the washer down the bolt, resulted in something that didn’t look half bad.

Another solid seven out of ten

Although I’ve been unable to test this, it should be possible to simply slide the bolt though the slot, and use another washer in conjunction with a wing nut to tighten it into position.

So while she waits for this final component to arrive in the mail, I’ll be sure and enjoy my reward:

Who am I kidding, I’ve already drunk them all

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