Homemade Warping Board

We finished the warping board three weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.  I was waiting to blog about it so that I could have a picture of warp measuring in progress, but it looks like it’ll be another week before I get to measuring out the warp, so I decided to go ahead and blog the process of making the warping board!


Designing the Warping Board

At the beginning of March, I went to a beginning weaving class at the home of one of the Guild members.  Part of the materials for the class included written instructions on how to use a warping board (we got a demo also).  When the instructor learned that my husband was going to build me a warping board, she gave me an extra sheet on how to build one.  Those instructions were for a 14-yard warping board that you would hang on the wall or put on an easel or otherwise prop up in order to use.  I knew that wasn’t what I wanted, but that sheet provided my starting point.  I used it mostly to determine the size and placement of the dowels.    When I designed my warping board, I knew I wanted:

  • The ability to make long warps
  • To easily disassemble the board for storage and reassemble it for use
  • Built in support while it was in use (no hanging on doors or walls)
  • The warping board to be at the height that was most comfortable for me to use — I’m only 5’2″, and I didn’t want to have to raise my arms so high that I was quickly fatigued while wrapping long and wide warps.
  • The cross formed on the vertical posts, not the horizontal posts
    • According to the instructor at the beginning weaving class, it is more comfortable to use the warping board in this orientation, and it is easier to see if you make a mistake.
    • Provides greater flexibility in the length of warp the board can accomodate.

While contemplating these characteristics, I remembered the blocking frame my husband built me for my birthday several years ago.  This is a large frame, with nails driven in every inch or so.  You use it by wrapping cotton yarn around the nails and through the perimeter of your lace, adjusting tension before tying off.

Sorry about the kind of crappy picture -- it was taken at least 5 years ago, with my old flip phone!  The beautiful shawl on the blocker was crocheted by my friend Stacy.
Sorry about the kind of crappy picture — it was taken at least 5 years ago, with my old flip phone! The beautiful shawl on the blocker was crocheted by my friend Stacy.

This frame is huge, and I considered using it as a warping board.  Since it wasn’t intended as a warping board, it has some features that make it difficult to use it for that purpose.  The length isn’t measured out for warping, the nails are too short and have a head on them that will make it difficult to get a warp off, and there’s no measured area for a cross.  It does however, come apart for storage, and it has feet.  The feet have slots in them and the vertical post slide into those slots for when the blocker is in use and out of the slots for storage.

The vertical piece in the back part of the slot is the support leg for the warping board. There’s a shim in front of it to make sure that it is tight and won’t wobble back and forth when in use. It is tricky to make a wood piece that fits snugly but is still easy to take out!

As long as the vertical posts of the warping board were the same dimensions as the vertical posts on the blocker, we could use the feet interchangeably.  Coincidentally, the size of the frame on the warping board instructions I was given, was exactly the same as the size of the vertical posts on the blocker.  Voila!  Support problem solved.

To determine the overall height of the warping board, I pretended I was holding a strand of yarn and held my arm at the lowest level I could comfortably reach.  I measured the distance from the floor to my hand.  I then reached up as high as I could comfortably reach and measured the distance from the floor to my hand.  The difference between the two was more than the 36″ distance that I wanted between the top and bottom of the warping board.  I decided to use the bottom as the starting point rather than the top, just in case my ability to reach up is ever impaired.  Once I had those two measurements, I was able to combine that information with the information in the instructions I was given, and provide my husband with a drawing of the warping board.

There was more than one false start, though only one is pictured here!  The note on the very bottom of the page -- 28" x 14" x 2" refers to the dimensions of my lease sticks, and has nothing to do with the warping board.
There was more than one false start, though only one is pictured here! The note on the very bottom of the page — 28″ x 1/4″ x 2″ refers to the dimensions of my lease sticks, and has nothing to do with the warping board.

It’s not a work of art, but it was sufficient for the purpose!  I didn’t realize until it was finished that I forgot to account for the height of the feet when determining the length of the vertical supports.  As a result, the finished warping board is 2″ taller than I expected.  This is easy enough to fix, if it turns out to be a problem.  I want to use the warping board once before I decide to trim 2″ off the bottom of the vertical posts.

Materials & Cost

1 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′ board.  If you want to make feet like I have, you’ll need a second 2×4 (US$2.50 each)

7 – 5/8″ x 4′ dowels. (US$2.50 each)

scrap piece of 1″ x 8″ board.  Our scrap piece was about 18″ long (free, since it was just hanging out in our garage, leftover from another project)

8 – 5/16″ 18 thread brass wood insert nuts (idk if these come in various lengths; the ones we used were about 1/2″ long) (US$0.24 each)

8 – 5/16″ 18 thread 2″ long hex bolts (US$0.22 each plus tax = $1.89 total).

8 – 5/16″ washers (approximately US$0.90; we bought a box of 50 for US$5.58, so about US$0.11 / washer)

NOTE: Using regular bolts, like we did, means that the warping board will be assembled and disassembled with a wrench.  The big box hardware stores did not have any handles or knobs attached to an appropriately sized bolt.  However, such things do exist and can be found at specialty woodworking supply shops, or maybe online.  Our local woodworking supply is 1/2 hour away and we weren’t heading that direction for any other reason.  We decided to use regular bolts now, but I will probably switch those out for a knob or handle next time we are at the woodworking shop.  Then I will be able to assemble and disassemble the warping board with just my hand!

NOTE 2: Since the feet were made as part of another project, this  blog post does not include instructions on how to make them or include the materials on the list.  If you plan to make the feet, you will need another 2 x 4 and a few screws.  You can use the pictures and dimensions above to figure out how to make them.

Total cost was about US$20; another 2 x 4 and screws for the feet will cost you another US$5 or less.

Building the Warping Board

The frame of the warping board is made with 1″ x 2″ lumber, so the first thing Chris did was rip the 2″ x 4″ into four 1″ x 2″ x 8′ pieces.


One 2″ x 4″ was exactly the right size; we were left with one long wood shaving!


Each 1″ x 2″ piece was then cut to the appropriate length.  The leg pieces are each 67″ long and the horizontal pieces are each 63″ long.  Before cutting the holes for the pegs, Chris had to figure out the placement of the screws and bolts that hold the warping board together.  Unfortunately, I do not have good pictures of this part of the process.  Since I wanted to be able to disassemble the warping board for storage, we couldn’t just screw the horizontal and vertical pieces together.  Instead, we used triangular supports in the corners.  These triangular supports were cut from the scrap piece of 1″ x 8″ wood that is listed in the materials section.


The supports are permanently screwed into the horizontal pieces, but bolted to the vertical pieces.  Chris had to determine the placement of the screws and pegs before cutting the holes for the pegs because we didn’t want to cut a peg hole at the spot where the screw or bolt goes into the board.  He drilled the holes for the screws, but did not actually screw the triangular support piece onto the horizontal board until later.  While he was at it, he drilled the holes for the bolts.  The bolts go all the way through the vertical support and screw into the brass wood insert nuts, which are in the triangular support piece.  To get the brass wood insert nuts into the triangular support piece, Chris drilled holes slightly smaller than the nuts and then screwed the nuts into the hole.  There’s different styles of insert nuts.  Some are hammered in rather than screwing, but Chris says he prefers the kind that screw in because they seem stronger.

Pre-drilling the holes for the screws.
Pre-drilling the holes for the screws.

Once he got it all marked, Chris used the drill press to cut the holes for the pegs.  These holes are not cut all the way through the board; they are about 1/2″ deep.  While this process could be done with a hand drill rather than a drill press, the drill press has settings to assure that each hole is the same depth.  On the horizontal pieces, the pegs are placed on 3″ centers (measuring from the center of one peg to the center of the adjacent peg is 3″).  On the vertical pieces, there’s only 3 pegs, placed on 6″ centers, so that you can do a cross on either side if you wish.  On each side, one peg is placed so that it is halfway (18″) between the two horizontal rows of pegs.  On one side the other two pegs are placed upwards from the central peg; on the other side, the two pegs are placed downwards from the central peg.


While Chris was drilling the peg holes, I sanded the dowel rods that we used for the pegs.  I sanded them all by hand.  I think it’s easier to sand the dowel rods before you cut them into pegs because you can get a better grip on the 48″ dowel rod than on the 6″ peg!  After the peg holes were drilled, I sanded the boards smooth.  I sanded both sides of the boards — no random roughness around the yarn!


While I was sanding, Chris cut the dowel rods into 6″ lengths.  The dowel rods are 48″ long, but you only get 7 pegs from one rod, not 8.  This is because cutting transforms a portion of the dowel rod into sawdust, leaving the 8th peg too short.  I neglected to account for this, and assumed that we would get 8 pegs from each dowel rod.  We ended up having to run back to Home Depot to get another one!


The cut ends of the dowel rods get a little splintery, so I hand sanded one end of each peg after they were cut.  It’s not necessary to do both ends, since one end will be glued into a hole and have no contact with the yarn.

Splinters and yarn do not go together!

Chris assembled the frame while I was sanding the ends of the pegs.  It’s looking good!


We needed to lay the warping board flat in order to glue the pegs into the holes, so we brought it inside and laid it on our well-protected living room floor.


I glued all the pegs into the holes.  Put just enough wood glue in to cover the bottom surface of the hole.  Insert the peg and push down to make sure it is all the way in the hole.  Most of the time, I had excess glue that pushed up and I wiped it away with a damp paper towel.  Wood glue starts to set quickly.  You can’t lay down glue along the entire row then go back and put in the pegs.  You might be able to put glue in two or three holes at a time, depending on how fast you are!  When I was putting in the pegs, we discovered that about half of them were too wide to get into the hole.  I had to sand down the ends a little bit. At first I did this by hand, but I ended up using the belt sander to finish them because it was taking too long by hand.

I used the paintbrush to spread glue evenly across the bottom of the hole and up the sides of each peg. I used a paintbrush that wasn’t in great shape in case I had to toss it after this, but I was able to wash the glue out with plain water, immediately upon finishing the gluing while the glue was still wet in the brush.

And that was it!  A finished warping board!


We did not apply any finish to the warping board.  You have to be careful about finishing.  Do not use a varnish, which will quickly develop grooves when yarn is held under tension against it.  Some people choose to finish warping boards with oil, like you would with a spinning wheel.  This seemed to me like more work than it was worth, and I elected to leave the warping board unfinished.

I can’t wait to finally measure my first warp!

Homemade Raddle

I have not yet used the floor loom that I bought last month.  I did not plan to use the loom until I move it out of the dining room and into its permanent location in my home office.  In order to do that, I have to rearrange my office, including emptying two file cabinets.  Progress on that project completely stalled when we had a houseguest for three weeks.  The loom needs a little TLC to get it into weaving trim and I’ve been slowly working on that.  I also needed a few tools, especially a raddle and warping board.  The raddle was a fairly quick and easy project, which my husband and I finished up last night.

Before You Start

A raddle consists of two components: a long piece of wood with either nails or dowels stuck into it.  Here’s pictures of a couple of commercially available raddles.

The raddle sold by Leclerc. This picture, showing the raddle in use, is taken from their web catalog (see http://www.leclerclooms.com/cat2014a.htm).  Though it is difficult to see the detail in this picture, the upright portion of the raddle is made with nails.
This raddle, from Gilmore looms (see http://www.gilmorelooms.com/Equipment.html#RaddlesBoth) is made with dowels rather than nails.

The raddle is used to keep the warp threads in order while you wind the warp onto the warp beam.  The raddle can be clamped to your front beam or back beam or can sit in the rail on your beater, in the spot you would normally put a reed.  Before you make a raddle, you have to think about how you plan to attach it to your loom while you use it.  If you want to slip the raddle into your loom’s rail, the piece of wood at the base of the raddle has to be narrow enough to sit in that groove.  If you plan to clamp the raddle onto a beam, the base wood can be a little wider.  This choice also limits your options for the upright portion of the raddle.  At least on my loom, a piece of wood that was thin enough to fit into the rail was not wide enough to accommodate dowels.  I had to use nails.

Keep in mind that a raddle isn’t exactly a precision tool.  You just need it to hold a clump of warp threads (either one inch worth or half an inch worth depending on your preference) straight while you wind on the warp.  As long as your warp threads can’t escape on you, the raddle is doing its job.

Making the Wood Base

When I decided to make a raddle, my only knowledge on how to warp a floor loom came from Janet Dawson’s Floor Loom Weaving Craftsy class (Affiliate Link), and she used the raddle in the rail.  I asked my husband if he had a spare bit of wood laying around that would fit in the rail on my loom, and he found one.  We cut it to length and sanded it.  Chris routed the bottom so that it would be curved.  This helped it fit into the rail better.

The measured, sanded, and routed wood base.
The measured, sanded, and routed wood base.
Note that it's not a perfect piece of wood.  It does need to be straight in order to fit the rail, but it does have imperfections.  All the knots are on the bottom of the raddle.  The top of the raddle should be smooth and flat so you have a consistent surface when nailing.
Note that it’s not a perfect piece of wood. It does need to be straight in order to fit the rail, but it does have imperfections. All the knots are on the bottom of the raddle. The top of the raddle should be smooth and flat so you have a consistent surface when nailing.

The finished dimensions of the wood are 0.5″ wide, 1.5″ tall, and 37″ long.  The width is the most important of these dimensions, because anything larger would not fit in the rail.  The height is the shortest height that allows enough wood for hammering in the nails.  If you have a spare bit of wood that’s the right width, but taller, it should be fine.  You don’t want your wood base to be too tall.  If the top of the beater bar is adjustable (mine is), you slide that down to the top of the raddle after you finish rough sleying it and before you start cranking on the warp.  This helps to keep the warp strands from escaping the raddle.  The total finished height of your raddle (wood base plus exposed portion of the nails) should allow for you to slide the beater bar down on top of the raddle.  Make sure your wood base is not so tall that you won’t be able to do this.  The length I chose was the longest length that could fit in my beater bar.  The weaving width of my loom is only 27″, so I could have made the raddle only 29 or 30 inches long.  I made it longer because I’m sure I’ll get another loom at some point and figured that making a longer raddle now meant I might be able to use it on my next loom too.

I am not finishing the wood on the raddle.  However, if you wanted to stain it or apply polyurethane to it, you could.  It’s probably easier to do that before you nail into it!

Selecting the Uprights

I spent a long time in my local Home Depot, considering the options for uprights.  I knew I needed something that was smooth so my yarn wouldn’t catch on it when I used the raddle.  I needed something that was consistent in diameter.  That meant that if I used nails, they shouldn’t have a broad head.  I needed something that was fairly straight and consistent from one individual to the next.  It also needed to be strong enough not to break when exposed to tension while the warp was wound onto the warp beam.

I walked up and down the aisle of nails and screws two or three times.  Nothing was exactly what I wanted.  I went and looked at the wooden dowels.  I quickly ruled them out.  Anything that was thin enough to fit into my base wood was way too flimsy.  The small-diameter wooden dowels weren’t straight, had lots of splintery bits on the side, and looked like they would snap if you looked at them wrong.  Definitely not the right choice, considering the tension the warp threads will be under as they flow through the raddle.  I tracked down a Home Depot employee, and explained to her what I was making.  I asked if she had any suggestions.  I specifically asked if she knew of a stainless steel dowel that might work.  Back to the nail and screw aisle we went.  In that aisle, they do sell steel dowels in various dimensions and lengths.  I considered these for a long time, but the process of cutting and inserting those into the wood base would make the project even more complicated.  I decided to go with my original plan and found some nails.


This box of nails only cost US$3.47.  It contained enough nails to make at least two, probably three, raddles in the size I made.  See that line on the box “Should not be used where surface rust is unacceptable?”  All the nails in the aisle had that note on them.  That’s what sent me over to the wooden dowels.  The last thing I want is rust on my raddle, because it will get onto my warp.  In the end I decided that this wasn’t something that I needed to worry about as much as I was.  The raddle is not going to be exposed to a lot of moisture.  It’s not going to be left outside to be rained on or used in a bathroom or kitchen sink.  Yes, I live in humid Florida, but our air conditioner keeps the humidity at about 45% in our house, so that shouldn’t bother the raddle either.  I should get lots of use out of this raddle before it ever gets rusty, and it’s so easy and inexpensive to make that we can always whip up another one if that should happen.  And any rust that would affect my warp should be visible before I try  to use the raddle.

One thing that I didn’t notice about these nails until I hammered them into the wood base is that they are greasy.  I thought that dull gray / black color was the natural color of the nail.  Nope.  It’s grease.  The natural color of the nails is a fairly shiny silver.  I discovered the problem only after I looked at my fingers after hammering all the nails into the wood base.


Fortunately, the grease wipes off with just a dry paper towel and some vigorous rubbing.  It probably would have been easier to do this before I hammered in the nails, but I was able to do it easily enough afterwards.  I paid careful attention to the base of the nails right above the wood, since this is the part of the nail the warp will touch most often.

Attaching the Uprights

Some raddles have the uprights 0.5″ apart and some have them 1″ apart.  I originally planned to make them 0.5″ apart, because that was the distance on the one in the Janet Dawson Craftsy video.  Then I went to a beginning weaver’s class hosted by one of the members of my local guild.  As part of that class, she demonstrated how to warp a loom and we talked about tools.  She said she preferred 1″ spacing on a raddle.  I thought about it and decided that made sense to me.  With 0.5″ spacing, you may have to finagle a little when you rough sley the raddle.  In the Craftsy video, the demonstration project has 10 ends per inch.  When you sley the raddle, you have to keep your warp ends in pairs because you haven’t cut the ends yet.  Since she couldn’t put 5 ends in each 0.5″ space, Janet Dawson alternated between putting 4 ends or 6 ends in a space.  This is another small detail to pay attention to in the warping process.  Since I’m new at this, I thought it would be better to get rid of an unnecessary detail.  I’m going to have to know how many ends per inch in any project I’m doing.  Why not make life a little easier for myself by putting that many ends in each slot of my raddle?

Once I decided how far apart each upright needed to be, it was time to attach them to the wood base.  Since the wood base was so narrow, Chris told me we should pre-drill holes into it before I hammered in the nails.  This helps to keep the wood from splitting.  He predrilled all the holes on a drill press, but you could also do this with a handheld drill.  If you use a handheld drill, be extra careful to keep the drill bit perpendicular to the wood while drilling.  You will probably need to clamp the wood base to a table to keep it steady.  This is where the drill press offers a real advantage over a handheld drill — it is always going to be at the exact same angle when you press it down!

First, Chris measured the diameter of the nail.  When pre-drilling, you use a bit that’s a little bit smaller than your nail.  If you use a bit that’s too big, there’s nothing left for the nail to hammer into, and it’ll just be loose.  For our nails, he used a  7/64″ bit.


Next, he made a little device to help him keep the holes equidistant apart.  Since the raddle does not have to be a precision tool, it doesn’t matter if the nails aren’t the exact distance apart.  But Chris likes things to be precise!  He took a scrap of wood and measured out an inch.  He placed it on the bed of the drill press and lined up the drill and the 1 inch mark.  Then he nailed a spare nail through the block of wood so the sharp end came through it.


He drilled the first hole in the middle of the wood base.


Then he put the nail on his homemade device into the newly drilled hole, lined the drill press up to the edge of the device, and drilled the next hole there.


He then moved the nail on the homemade device into that newly drilled hole and lined up the drill press at the edge of the device to drill the next hole.  He continued in this manner until all the holes were drilled.

If you don’t want to make a little device like this, you can measure the location for each hole.  First measure the center of your piece of wood.  You need to mark the center in both directions — length and width.  Once you mark the center, measure one inch increments along the length and make a pencil mark at each spot.  You also need to mark the center widthwise at each mark.  You could draw one center line down the length of your board if that’s easier for you.  Either way, you need to make sure that your uprights are centered widthwise so that the nail doesn’t come poking out the side or split the wood.  It will also make it easier to use the raddle in the rail of your beater.

When Chris was done drilling, I hammered in the nails, starting from the center.


We measured each nail with a square to make sure that the nails were about the same height above the board.  They aren’t perfect — and they don’t have to be — but you want to make sure that the top of the beater bar will cover the tops of all the nails, trapping your warp ends into their own little section while you wind on the warp.


And here it is in the loom, with the beater top loosely in place.


I’m not totally happy with the raddle right now because you can see that the top of the beater is not covering the tops of all the nails.  The righthand beater bar screw was not moving smoothly in its slot, so the top is not adjusted well in this picture.  I have to look at the screw and see if it needs replacing or if the loom has some other problem on that side.  Then I will try the raddle again, and see if I need to make any adjustments to the heights of the nails.