Saturday, 13 December 2008

Boat Shuttles and End Feed Shuttles

I have both end feed shuttles (2 makes) and boat shuttles (2 makes). I am going to write here about my Crossley (no longer made, were also sold in the U.S. as AVL) and Schacht 38 cm end feed shuttles and my Schacht boat shuttles.

I also have an Ashford shuttle, for some reason this one likes to dive down and vanish to the floor through the middle of my warp threads. Instead of weaving with this shuttle I use it when tying on my warp to the apron rods (!) I'm keeping it for this use and because I'd like to give it a try with a jack loom someday. As Ashford make jack looms I expect it is designed for them.

Thoughts on using a boat shuttle compared to an end feed shuttle.

  • Boat shuttles weigh less (Schacht boat shuttle, 159g, Schacht end feed 188g)
  • When I throw a boat shuttle, if I'm using a plastic bobbin, the bobbin rattles as the thread unwinds. This indicates uneven rate and feed of thread.
  • End feed shuttles are silent. Nothing rattles. Thread release is smooth and even.
  • As above, the thread unwinds smoothly from the end feed, but not from the boat. The first difference I notice when I recently used a boat shuttle for the first time was that when I had tucked the end of my thread in the warp before the first shuttle throw, the shuttle pulled it out. It was pulling on the thread already laid. This does not happen with the end feed. One conclusion from this is that an end feed shuttle is better for fine and delicate threads.
  • For bulky threads and novelty threads, I believe the boat is better because the tension device on the end feed shuttle is designed for a certain range of yarn diameter. I first used my boat shuttle when I had a chenille weft.
Shuttle type and good selvedges.
What about selvedges, you may ask?

Everyone says to use a well tensioned end feed shuttle for good selvedges.

I had been weaving about 2 1/2 years with end feed shuttles before I first used a boat shuttle. When I used a boat shuttle for the first time I was surprised to discover I had no problem with selvedges, I expected problems because everyone had said this was why the end-feed shuttles are better.

However, I have learnt that when my bad shoulder & arm are playing up (I have problems with the nerve that runs from neck to finger tips tightening up) I can't get good selvedges with any shuttle. This should be no surprise, as it also messes up my piano playing and my typing - I'm normally a 70 wpm touch typist but when the arm is bad then it is slow and the left hand works faster and leaves it behind. The only answer to bad selvedges is to leave the loom alone for a couple of days and do all my physio. exercises and stretches.

Now let's look closely at my shuttles:
Here's a photo of my Schacht end feed shuttle and one of my Crossley shuttles. The Schacht shuttle is maple, 38 cm long, has a plastic pirn and weighs 159g. The Crossley is made of Persimon wood - hard and dense - weighs 331g and has a Honex double tensioner. I have two other Crossley shuttles, both single tensioner, another in Persimon wood weighing 341g and one in a very dense light-coloured wood weighing 398.5 g.

So, some basic differences between the Schacht and the Crossley are weight. Also the tension system, and the means of retaining the pirn.

One of my Crossley shuttles needs a crochet hook to pull the thread through, the other two don't. This is down to how the tension device fits in the shuttle. Tension is adjusted on the Crossley shuttles by using a small screwdriver to turn a screw.

Curiously, all my Crossley shuttles have different Honex thread tensioners. This reflects the fact that I bought the last 2 when they were closing down the business and clearing out their building in June 2006. When I phoned with my order they had to look around to find what they had left before ringing back to take my order.

The Schacht end feed shuttle needs a little allen key to change the tension, and is very easy to thread by wrapping the thread through a slot in the shuttle and lifting over a pin.

This (below) is what the underneath of the shuttles look like, the Schacht shuttle is shown in the middle of two Crossley shuttles. The thing to note here is that the Crossley shuttles are semi- closed, but the Schacht has same opening around the pirn either way up. This makes the Crossley shuttles bottom - heavy. I find that bottom - heavy shuttles tend to be easier to control, not sure why, curiously I have found as a motorcyclist that low centre of gravity makes a motorcycle more stable. I'm sure there's some relationship between these findings.

That hole near the front of the Crossley shuttles gives access to a screw for unfastening the tensioner. This reflects the fact that Crossley handweaver's shuttles are based on industrial fly shuttles, but without the metal tips.

The Crossley shuttles are very well finished and smooth - see the shine on the wood in the above photo. The Schacht shuttle is adequately smooth, but without the polished feel of the Crossley shuttles.

I paid £49.50 plus VAT each (£58.06) for the Crossley shuttles, £85 for the Schacht.

Another difference is how the pirn is retained in the shuttle. Both have steel shafts to take the pirn, split and sprung open. The Schacht pirns fit tightly on the shaft, and need gentle twisting to ease them off.

The Crossley shuttle has one extra feature. See above, and below. There is a short bar accross the shuttle, under the shaft, that retains a collar at the top of the pirn, clipping it in place.

Both systems work, however, the Crossley shuttles are clearly the product of the development of industrial shuttle design. They are especially beautiful.

Which do I prefer to use?

The Crossley shuttle is lovely to hold and works perfectly. They are my favourites.
The Schacht shuttles are lighter weight, so there is less hand and arm fatigue when using the Schacht.

I wish I had one of the Bluster Bay end feed shuttles, and a Leclerc end feed shuttle so I could see how they compare.

Looking at the Schacht boat shuttle

I've got two sizes of these shuttles, and for the larger one I have both cardboard and Schacht plastic bobbins. I prefer to use the cardboard bobbins. Why? Because the plastic bobbins poke out above the top of the shuttle by a few millimetres, and this sometimes catches a warp thread. I e-mailed Schacht about this, and they kindly replied. This is not a mistake. It is designed like this, and is no problem on a jack loom because the angle of lifted threads is such that there is clearance for the bobbin.

I prefer the larger shuttle size as the end of the shuttle fits neatly and effortlessly in my hand to throw & catch. The other is a little too small and so I have to concentrate harder.

Pirn winding

I used to wind my pirns with an adaptation to my spinning wheel.

Now I use a bobbin winder. The hole in the pirn is much wider than the shaft of the bobbin winder. However, with a cardboard bobbin on the bobbin winder and a piece of folded paper as a wedge I can wind pirns too.

How many shuttles and pirns/bobbins does a weaver need?

This was a question I could find no answer to when I started weaving. I especially found it was no use asking the advice of the people selling them! Now I can safely say there is no single answer to this question.

My opinion of my own requirements is:

I need end feed shuttles for smooth delivery of delicate yarns and because they are lovely to use.
I need boat shuttles for yarn that won't go in end feed shuttles.
I need as many different shuttles for each type of weaving as I might use colours in a short repeat.
Ideally, I need as many pirns / bobbins as I am using colours in a piece of weaving.
I need rug shuttles for rug yarn, minimum 3 for different colours.

Other bits and pieces:
On a shelf near my weaving bench, next to the bobbin winder is this little wooden box. It has three trays, the top one is open here. In the top tray are all the little bits and pieces that I need to hand when I'm weaving.

Here is the most recent "gadget" to go in the box. I found it at a dressmakers shop. It's a little ruler with inches and centimetres marked and a sliding guide. Useful for measuring hem allowances when sewing, or inches woven on the loom.

Just to finish, here's a different gadget, made of cotton string and a fir cone. This is invaluable for distracting Annie cat when she decides to help out with the weaving by cutting dangling threads and chewing on Texsolv!


Geodyne said...

This is a fabulous post Dot, thankyou for sharing!

Interestingly, I use a different approach to end feed and boat shuttles to yours - I use finer threads in my boat shuttles and chunkier thread for wider projects on end feed shuttles, although I think that's mostly a function of shuttle size.

Frida said...

So much information, I didn't know there was so much to know about shuttles. Thanks for writing about it!

Dorothy said...

Geodyne, if you pass this way again, I'd like to know what make of end feed shuttle you use your chunkier threads in? Certainly my Crossley shuttles wouldn't take a chunky thread, I suppose the Schacht might. I'd love to know about the shuttles other people use.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Though you will probably find them too heavy, I love my Bluster Bay end feed shuttles. They are beautiful to look at and to hold, and I like their tensioning system much better than Schacht's. It involves winding the weft yarn around a series of hooks---how many depends on how much tension you want, and you can also play with the order of the hooks you wind on to. Consequently you can use any size of thread at all from the finest to the thickest. As for number of shuttles and pirns. I can't have too many pirns. And if you weave with multiple shuttles at a time, multiple shuttles are necessary! Thank you for another carefully crafted piece.

Leigh said...

Love that distraction gadget! *lol

Very interesting post! I too, wish you had a Bluster Bay and LeClerc end feed shuttle to review. I would love to hear what you thought about those.

This is very helpful as I consider getting my first end-feed shuttle. I too had heard about the selvedge difference, but you hearten me with what you say.

For bulkier yarns I'm really sold on using a ski shuttle. Mostly because it holds so much more yarn than a bobbin or pirn.

I think too, I should switch to cardboard bobbins for now, because I have a Schact boat and a Gilmore boat. The problem with the Gilmore boat is that the 6 inch bobbins barely fit, required a bend paper clip to get them out.

Dave Daniels said...

Thank you for all the detailed information. I enjoy reading about the comparisons and personal thoughts, it gives such insight that you don't often find.

Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

Thanks for the great post! I just got my Bluster Bay end feed shuttle, but it turned out of all my odd pirns, none fit it (sigh). It takes a shorter one than the Schacht. Lovely, though, and promises to do good things. I do that same thing, use a quill to fit the pirn on my bobbin winder -- works great.

My end-feed selvedges are easier than my boat-shuttle selvedges, I have noticed I do alot of hand-manipulating of the edges to get a nice selvedge with my boat shuttles. With the end-feed shuttle, it works right all by itself (so far).

My all-time favorite boat shuttle is my Bosworth -- its slightly curved nose seems to avoid heading down on the warp, and it has the nicest feel in my hand. Also, I tend to use quills rather than bobbins as I still suffer from the knitter's problem of not wanting to cut threads anymore than I have to.

Great post -- thanks for all the details and pictures! very handy to this relatively new weaver.

Lynnette said...

I have only used Schacht end feed shuttles and Leclerc boat shuttles, so loved reading your post. I really enjoyed reading what you paid for your shuttles. In British Columbia I paid $99.00 CDN plus GST and PST for my Schacht shuttles, so they are pricy no matter what country you live in.

Gillian from Toowoomba Australia said...

Hello there - I am not a weaver, but found this blog when chasing information on my old and worn pair of shuttles. They came from Bottomley's Woollen Mills in West Yorkshire, and have Honex tensioners. One of the pair is marked Honex 602 B/R and the other 602 B/L which I assumed meant left and right. There are no bobbins with them, but both have sheep's wool (on the hide) glued on the inside where a bobbin would sit. I assumed this was to catch lint but now I've read some of your comments I'm not sure. Can anyone tell me more about my shuttles? Thanks so much, Gillian

Anonymous said...

Hi Dot - Thanks much for all of the shuttle info. I recently acquired two Crossley shuttles made around 1990. There were not any instructions for them - did you get instructions with yours and was there any care information that I should know about? Thanks,

Dorothy said...

Hi Jon,

All that came with my shuttles was the invoice and some pirns!

Are your shuttles in good condition? If you have any particular questions I might be able to help. You can find a few other Crossley shuttle owners in the Yahoo Group "WeaveTech" as they were supplied with AVL looms as "AVL shuttles".

Mine seem to be best for medium-fine yarns and work especially well with the 2/12 cotton I have used. For linen I marginally prefered the Schacht end feed shuttle, but maybe it's a matter of getting the tension just right.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dot,
Thanks for your info! I'll pass your use info on to my wife who is the weaver. The Crossley shuttles came to us in very good shape, although the ends had normal wear and needed cleaning up. Most of the lacquer finish had also been worn off the ends. I decided to completely refinish them on the outside to protect the wood, so I resanded them through 10 grades of sandpaper, ending with 2000-grit paper (and being careful to preserve the original shape and "Crossleys" emblem printed on the bottoms). I finished them with 6 coats of polyurethane/oil, followed by 3 of carnuba wax. I also cleaned up the cast brass tensioners and pirn holders. I have a fine-woodworking / furniture restoration background as a hobby. If you are interested, I could send you photos of what they look like (before & after).
It's too bad that the company folded after all those years given the quality of what they were producing. Do yours have the "Crossleys" emblem on the bottom? Ours also have "England", a serial number, and month/year printed in green. I'm curious about their relationship with AVL. The tensioners on ours are not stamped with "Honex". They are solid brass, each cast in two pieces. They used persimmon wood to make them.

I also found your comment about the Schacht boat shuttle interesting with regard to Schacht saying that it's ok to have the bobbin rim above the top of the shuttle surface - we disagree if the shed is narrow. In my semi-retirement, I spent a couple of months interviewing Weaver's Guild members here about what they consider to be the best design for boat shuttles, and then after a lot of setup (jigs, templates, etc.) started to produce them in my shop using native woods, polished stainless steel for the rods, and much contouring and finishing. They are technical devices, but a pleasure to make. Thanks again for your response -