Draper Looms in Pennsylvania

    Pete and Laurie Eaton of Lancaster, Pennsylvania have purchased two Draper looms and restored one of them to operating condition. The text
    below, taken mainly from emails, gives a bit of an idea of the challenge they took on and the steps they took to get it working.

    December 16, 2008

    My wife and I recently purchased two Draper Northrop Looms, Order No 5490.  They appear to be, or were at one time, identical  to the Draper
    Loom pictured on the home page of the Little Red Shop website.  I have attached pictures of the one loom we are working toward getting into
    service. (See photos below.)

    We really need help!

    The looms were substantially altered over time, and we want to return them to a functional level of operation.  Do you know of or have a parts
    source for your museum pieces?  We are in need of correct change gears, shedding mechanism, dobby, manual, bobbin battery, heddles,
    harnesses, picks, etc.

    Any help you could offer will be much appreciated.

    Thanks very much,

    Peter Eaton

                                                                                                             <><><><><><><><><><>

    I suggested that the Eatons might try contacting the Lowell National Park, since they have a good number of operating Draper looms. I also put
    them in contact with Peter Metzke of Melbourne, Australia, who turned out to be quite helpful.

    The photos and text below will help to explain what was done to get one of the looms into operating condition.

.

    As you read the messages below, I hope you won't be confused by the names. Peter is Peter Metzke of Melbourne, Australia, who has
    offered advice, as you can see in some of the messages below. Pete is Pete Eaton of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the person looking for advice
    in restoring the looms. To make this a little easier to follow, Pete Eaton's messages are in black and Peter Metzke's are in blue. My
    comments are in italics.

                                                                                                                             *****
    December 17, 2008

    Dan,

    Thank you for posting my letter!  I firmly believe in six degrees of separation, so something will turn up.

    The NCSU material will be very helpful.  I exchanged emails with the resource librarian and he will gladly allow me to view all material they have.  A
    road trip to NC sounds like a great spring idea.

    I am anxious to get in contact with Lowell.  I have seen brief videos of the weaving room--impressive to say the very least.

    Thanks again...we'll keep you posted with our progress.

    Pete

    The next message was sent by Peter Metzke.

    The frame looks to be a model D or E ???

    Mac Whatley used to be the man to contact in respect to machinery at  Lowell, although I think he has been given a higher post. Not at all sure if he
    is still with them but his email address in  June 2007 was - macwhat@triad.rr.com

    Another person to put this through is Katherine Barry ( again, if she  is still with them ) although I am sure Katherine would know Mac Whatley's
    email address if he has changed it. Again, going back  to June 2007 her email address is - kathybarrync@gmail.com

    The change gears are easy as they will be spur gears so for each its  Diameter x number of teeth - except when its an odd number refer  below...
    http://shopswarf.orconhosting.net.nz/spur.html

    The rest except the manual (which can easily be copied ) are a problem as if nothing can be found each one will have to be copied from an original.

    I did have a list of large orders placed against the specific mill, but I cannot find this data as I am interested where Order No. 5490 went to in the
    first instance although going back to this low order no I feel maybe Fall River or New Bedford.

    Looking at those photos there are some interesting modifications carried out plus more by the looks of it as I see a portable mig welder also in the
    photos- looks like someone has fashioned a new shuttle  race not long ago.

    Regards,
    Peter

    And here's a reply from Pete Eaton, sent on December 23, 2008.

    We did a test weave, and are pleased with the initial result.  As well, Pete from Australia was a tremendous help re the change gears.  We are
    fortunate here in Lancaster, PA, in that the area used to be a hub of machine and tool manufacturing.   The area still has many smaller foundries
    and manufacturing firms that require parts and service.  One such supply house willingly shares their expertise and has an exceptional supply of
    parts, including gearing.  I took the lone change gear over that we have, described the issue, and they are going to rebush the stock gear and shaft
    on which the change gear mounts to accept any size stock change gear from 20 to 128 teeth. That way, we are not limited in the least relative to
    take-up.  One problem down!  The stock gears are expensive, but in the long run, well worth it in the absence of frustration.

    Your friend is perceptive.  I do have a mig welder, and find it indispensable in the repairing all sorts of things.  I can't claim the cam block shedding
    apparatus as my brain child, but I do appreciate the simplicity and reliability. As I mentioned, my wife is a hand weaver.  The character of the work
    she produces is just beautiful. Our goal, with the helpful nature of you, Pete, and others will allow us to craft machine loomed textiles that don't
    compromise the painstaking care on which my wife is building her niche.

    I'll keep you posted.

    Pete                                                               

    Again, from Peter Metzke

    I have been in touch with Pete out of interest just to see how he is coming along with the Draper loom and also to send some links to supply
    houses which I often spot old looms for sale, although going by his reply he has found the right people and contacts to help him along the path to
    success.
    Below, a copy of his reply.

    Peter,

    Thanks for the helpful link. One never knows what may be found in an obscure, back-room location of a supply house.

    A former Draper employee referred us to Ron Brown, 50 years with Draper. He owns all the engineering drawings of any Draper machine ever
    built, part numbers included. He has contacts, as well. We are scheduled to visit Lowell NHS in January and are meeting with the weave room
    supervisor.

    Followed your advice with the change gears. We had a splined bushing milled to slide over the existing change gear shaft. It accommodates off-
    the-shelf change gears with teeth ranging from 20 to 128. We did our test weave with a 42 tooth gear...it worked well. We will proceed from there.

    Thanks, once again for you interest. Hopefully, we will be able to locate the coveted dobby, shedding mechanism, and correct harnesses to return
    our Draper into the machine that it once was.

    Pete Eaton

    It looks like Pete is well on the way and in fact will make a little history for his efforts - Well Done and I wish him all he deserves in bringing back a
    machine from yesterday's era.

    Regards,
    Peter

    The message below, from Peter Eaton, was received January 27, 2009.

    Dan,

    Just a quick update here from Willow Street, PA.

    The trip to Lowell was excellent; Rick Randall was a tremendous help.   We are heading back up to  Maine/Mass on Feb 6.  Hopefully will get back
    up to the mill where we acquired our looms here very soon.  We purchased a four station cone winder from the mill owner, and hope to get that
    unit installed at our location soon.  Also, a thorough going over of the mill is essential for us to find any parts that might be laying around.

    We have back off of the idea of a more complex shedding mechanism for our loom.  The current two harness set-up is a workhorse, little-can-fail
    kind of thing.  It weaves as we want, so we'll leave it be.

    We are waiting for a large order of fiber from our supplier.  The weft portion of the order is complete, we're just waiting on the the warp portion.  
    Once we have that, Laurie will dye larger quantities of color for warp and weft, and then the tedious process of warping the loom.

    Two things I want to share with you...what I am finding is that people who weave on these older looms, as a source of income, are very, very
    protective of info, almost as if they perceive it as proprietary.  In this industry, there is nothing new under the sun, just forgotten, or temporarily lost.  I
    had one gentleman, who was very anxious to share information with me, at first, now won't even return my calls.  I suspect since I had nothing of
    value to share, he wasn't willing to reciprocate.   I have looked into other looms to purchase, but the prices on them are as if the economy was
    going full bore rather than in the midst of a serious economic downturn.  It is disheartening, at some level, because the "Ebay mentality" is
    pervasive in so many areas, especially with items that are perceived as having antique value.  That's my soapbox speech...

    Secondly, the people that see these looms for what they truly are, as a link to our past manufacturing greatness, something of which to be proud,
    are so willing to help Laurie and me out, that I can't thank these folks enough.  Had not you, Peter, Rick, William Carter, Ron Brown, and many
    others been interested in our project of resurrecting our Model D looms, we'd be stuck.

    Thanks so much!

    One last item...Rick Randall expressed concern about us running our looms at full speed.  You see, all of the safety features that made our looms
    safer to operate were stripped off many years ago.  As a result, I installed a speed controlling device called a variable frequency controller.  This
    device regulates the 3 phase power coming from the converter so that I can "dial back" the frequency of the current flow.  AC in the United States,
    as you know, for the most part, operates at 60 cycles per second.  This device allows me to reduce the cycles, so that the speed of the motor is
    reduced without losing voltage, amperage, or torque.  I am able to successfully operate the loom at any range of speed between 60 and 150 picks
    per minute!  This is wonderful especially since we will not employ a bobbin battery to fill the weft, but will exchange preloaded shuttles as bobbins
    are depleted.  Mass production is not the key here, but rather individuality of our product is.  This is the key to Laurie's hand weaving textiles, and
    will be an essential feature of the textiles produced on our Drapers.

    Hi Pete,

    An amazing project. Glad to hear you're making progress. I don't think I've mentioned Avi Chomsky to you. I had some contact with her a couple of
    years ago when she was writing a book titled Linked Labor Histories. In part, it told about Draper looms being used in Colombia. The were in
    common use there well after they were here, so when some US companies still using them were looking for workers familiar with them, they started
    hiring Colombians. I just emailed her to see if there might be anyone she met while doing the book who could be helpful to you. I'll let you know.

    Dan

    The next message was sent on April 20, 2009.

    We have made much progress over the past several months.

    Our trips to New England were more profitable than we could have imagined.  We came away with parts and a working knowledge on how to
    weave with a Draper.  The schematics I have downloaded and that have been sent to us via links, etc from the internet have been invaluable.

    The biggest problems with our loom were safety and weaving reliability.  It had none of the safety or stop features originally incorporated into the
    loom.  If the shuttle didn't box properly, the textile woven could be damaged, the machine could be damaged, or, worse yet, the operator maimed.  
    These looms, because of the velocity of movement and weight have a tremendous amount of kinetic energy.  The motion of the loom must be
    instantaneously stopped when a boxing error occurs.  The key to this feature is a correctly assembled boxing mechanism with a functioning
    dagger and frog.  First the shuttle box.  The key piece to the loom sensing whether or not a shuttle has seated it self properly in either box is the
    binder.  The binder is a piece of oak surfaced with a cushioning layer of leather, hinged on the far end, and is given tension with a piece of spring
    steel.  When the shuttle enters the box, the binder moves a lever that, when the shuttle is completely seated, allows the dagger to ride up over the
    top of the frog.  If the binder does not sense the shuttle, the dagger is not lifted and the frog, a cast iron piece that open and closes like a frog's
    mouth, catches the dagger.  When this occurs, the forward movement of the lay, (or beater bar in hand looms), stops abruptly.  As well, the clutch
    control lever connected to the dagger assembly automatically disengages the clutch, so all motion stops at the same time.

    Next weaving reliability.  Our loom, at one time was a dobby loom, and had a 24 harness weaving capacity.  The complexity of the patterns it could
    achieve numbered in the hundreds.  The dobby for our loom is essentially the Holy Grail of old Draper looms; they are virtually non-existent with the
    exception of the K model looms at Lowell and Hopedale.  Our loom had the dobby removed and only two harnesses are now used. The cam
    mechanism now used for our loom is ugly, but it works. As an aside, we have yet to definitively identify our loom model.  The general consensus  
    from the experts  is that we have a heavy duty D model that was produced at the very end of the Draper Northrop production run.  In the early
    1930's, Draper had ceased production of the Northrop Loom, and started the X line.  The X line ceased production in the 1970's with the X-3.  Our
    D model was a limited production unit, and that is why the parts are very rare.  It is much more substantial than the A, E, or K models.  So there's
    nothing we could really do with the harness motion.  We have a plain weave unit, end of story.  But the key feature to correctly producing a properly
    woven textile is the Draper Dutcher Temple.  The temple was Draper's initial contribution to production weaving, decades before the first Draper
    Loom was ever available for use.  The temple is a device that keeps lateral tension on the woven textile so that as the shuttle runs back and forth,
    the width of the textile remains constant.  Without a pair of temples to maintain width, the woven good would have irregular borders, and would
    dramatically shrink in width, or "draw in".

    The two major problems have been solved with correctly installed temples, and a workin binder/frog and dagger system.  We were not able to
    acquire a bobbin battery, essential for weaving speed,  but have learned how to disengage the loom at the correct time to change the bobbin when
    it is depleted.

    Next was how do we, in our limited "mill" space, warp the loom.  We converted the warp beam to a sectional beam, and built a very useful creel
    and tension box set-up.  The pictures pretty much tell the story there.  Our goal is to add more ends to the creel as time goes along.  Some of the
    material that we buy is on very large cones (packages) or skeins, (hanks).  We bought and repaired a Leesona 50 cone winder, and adapted it to
    our belted drive unit.  It is an essential piece of equipment.  Another recovered piece of equipment is our bobbin winder.  I have not, outside of
    patent search engines, seen any info on our unit and believe it to be very rare.  It is completely automatic.  The picture shows how we are currently
    winding mohair weft from three large
    cones onto a single bobbin.

    Lastly, we are waiting for a new reed from Palmetto Reed in Greenville, SC.  We have had trouble with warp breakage, directly related to damaged
    areas on the reeds that we have.  We are thankful that Palmetto is still around to service the textile industry.  We have a sizable warp on the loom
    ready to weave, and should be back up weaving by the weekend.

    The throws pictured are some of the first projects off the loom.  The weave consistency is precise, and the textiles are simply beautiful.  We are
    very close to achieving our goal of providing modestly priced, narrow loom blankets!  Check out our newly redesigned website.  We are very
    pleased with the result.

    With kind regards,

    Pete and Laurie Eaton

    Around the time the message above was sent, Pete sent me a DVD of an old Draper movie, probably made in the 50s or so, showing about 30
    steps in adjusting and caring for Draper looms. It can be seen at the Little Red Shop Museum.

    Message below from Peter Eaton on February 10, 2010.

    Hello,

    Since each of you were of tremendous assistance, I thought you might like to see the completed modification of our Draper Loom.

    After weaving plain weave over the Spring, Summer, and Fall 2009, I embarked on a major modification project--to weave more complex patterns
    with our Draper.  After researching a number of patents through FreePatentsonline.com, and studying a copy of /Labor Saving Looms,/ I
    came up with the idea of fabricating control arms that are activated by cams.  Since the bell crank mechanism from the original dobby worked
    well, an overhead mechanism attached to the castle was the best approach.  Using the two additional harnesses and the castle parts from
    the spare loom we have,  the wire guide wheels that I scavenged from the mill in where we recovered the looms, and pieces fabricated by a local
    machine shop, I assembled the cam mechanism you see in the pictures. The return spring mechanism is a copy of a patent I found.  The cam
    followers were the suggestion of the Brown Transmission and Bearing, (the same folks that helped us with the pick gears).  Since one pair of
    the harnesses we had were of a much lighter duty, I fabricated two new harnesses from oak to match the heavier harnesses we had.  The
    harnesses were 48 inches wide; I cut them down to 41 inches--a width that matches the warping beam.   I used aircraft cable in all applications
    seen in the pictures

    Another important improvement that was needed to keep the harnesses aligned and free from chaffing one another, was the guide wheel and rail
    system that I installed.  I purchased an off the shelf "v" rail and matching bearing system from Pacific Bearing of Chicago, and mounted
    them as you see with brackets fabricated from aluminum bar stock.  The alignment is excellent and the bearing action is flawless.

    The cams each control the movement of  harnesses 1,3 and 2,4 respectively.  Depending on how we thread the heddles, we can still do
    plain weave, but can now do any four harness, two treadle pattern available.  A modified twill will probably be our first weave with the new setup.

    Lastly, a major source of frustration with the old setup was the amount of warp breakage we had because of excessive shed.  As you may recall,
    the shedding was controlled by the two oak cam blocks, attached to a shaft, activated by the bell crank.  The total amount of movement was
    approx. 14 inches--7 up and 7 down.  I was able to dramatically reduce that by having total shed of 6 inches--from a neutral, low point even
    with the shuttle race to the top of the shed.  The timing of the warp movement vis a vis the shuttle motion appears to be right on.

    To say the least, we are very pleased, and are anxious to complete more complex production work once the weather turns.  We are in the middle of
    a blizzard, having had about 20 inches this storm, and just had 2 feet of snow over last weekend.  This winter's snowfall is an all time record
    for the area.  Needless to say, we are anxious for Spring!

    Thanks, again, for your assistance that has allowed us to proudly be a small part of the textile industry in our country.

    Pete and Laurie Eaton

    Scroll down to see two photos of the loom with modifications described above. Pete sent several other pictures, showing details of the modifications
    he described. I didn't think it was necessary to include all of them here, but if you're interesting in seeing them, email me (link on homepage) and
    I'll send them to you.

                           The Eatons' Site              Pete showing the loom in operation on YouTube                  Michael Masterston - Restoring a Draper X-3       

                                                                       
Red Shop Menu                                   Draper Menu                                      HOME    

    Here's an email from Pete Eaton, sent to Marcel Deshaies on January 3, 2011. Marcel has been working on several Draper looms recently.

    Sounds like we have the same manual--small notebook that has pages inserted depending on what machine/features were purchased.  I don't
    have the gauges, either.  Just made sure the loom was level, and used straight edges to align the lay with the boxing mechanism.  Anchored the
    loom to the floor with thick rubber machine pads at each foot.

    The loom will function at slower speeds, but not too slow, as the loom doesn't develop enough potential energy for the pickers to send the shuttle
    across the race and box it snugly.  The shuttle has to seat itself snug against the picker head, with the picker stick against the stop.  Misboxing
    means a misthrow of the shuttle.

    Besides watching the several youtube videos of the Draper Northrop Loom, typically A or E models, you could take a trip to Lowell and see them
    first hand, being correctly managed.  The Tecaupa Mill in SC also has Draper looms.  I don't know if its a working exhibit.

    Lastly, Diane, at Kedatech, is also a good resource.  She has that Draper X-3 model on EBay.  She sold one, and still has two.  She also sold a  
    XP broad loom that may be in use, as well.  The owner of the X-3's has "enough parts to keep you going for 10 years".  I spoke with him, but don't
    have the contact info.

    Sean Van Dak, or his mother sold another old Draper, many years ago.  
    One, that I was given the impression by his mother that had not been molested as had the D models.  Maybe that is in use someplace.


    Pete Eaton

    Here's a link to a video Pete put on YouTube in January 2011 showing the loom in operation.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB-1qQcsFSo

    Below are pictures the Eatons sent January 9, 2011.  Here's what they had to say about them:

    Pictured is 35 yards of warp on the beam.  We have found that any more than that, and there are significant issues with tension; bad tension is a
    weaving nightmare.

    The setup, to this point, has taken about twelve hours to achieve--warping the beam from the creel, threading the heddles with a pattern , and
    slaying the reed.  The textiles planned are mohair and wool throws and twin sized blankets.

    Pete and Laurie Eaton

    Here's more sent by Pete in January 2011.

    Sounds like we have the same manual--small notebook that has pages inserted depending on what machine/features were purchased.  I don't
    have the gauges, either.  Just made sure the loom was level, and used straight edges to align the lay with the boxing mechanism.  Anchored the
    loom to the floor with thick rubber machine pads at each foot.

    The loom will function at slower speeds, but not too slow, as the loom doesn't develop enough potential energy for the pickers to send the shuttle
    across the race and box it snugly.  The shuttle has to seat itself snug against the picker head, with the picker stick against the stop.  Misboxing
    means a misthrow of the shuttle.

    Besides watching the several youtube videos of the Draper Northrop Loom, typically A or E models, you could take a trip to Lowell and see them
    first hand, being correctly managed.  The Tecaupa Mill in SC also has Draper looms.  I don't know if its a working exhibit.

    Lastly, Diane, at Kedatech, is also a good resource.  She has that Draper X-3 model on EBay.  She sold one, and still has two.  She also sold a  
    XP broad loom that may be in use, as well.  The owner of the X-3's has "enough parts to keep you going for 10 years".  I spoke with him, but don't
    have the contact info.

    Sean Van Dak, or his mother sold another old Draper, many years ago.  
    One, that I was given the impression by his mother that had not been molested as had the D models.  Maybe that is in use someplace.

    Pete Eaton

    And this:

    Marcel,

    Ron Brown is the former Draper executive/owner of the reorganized Draper Corp that was purchased from Rockwell International.  I believe his
    total tenure with Draper was 53 years.  He is an exceptional resource; his email is: polyyarn@bellsouth.net

    An excellent parts resource for more recent Draper Looms is William Carter, the parts room supervisor, at Pittman Textiles.  Their contact info is:


    Pittman's Textile Machinery & Supply Co., Inc.

    Contact: Mitchell L. Pittman - President
    Address: 4912 White Horse Rd. PO Box 1507, Greenville, South Carolina 29611-4547, USA
    Phone: +1-(864)-269-5715  Fax: +1-(864)-295-7115

    Just started a weaving project this weekend.  Some basic things you have already figured out, I am sure, (but are worth mentioning anyway):

      1. The shuttle boxes have to be rebuilt.  Stock shuttle box parts from an E model will work, but are smaller than what would have been used on
    your looms.   William Carter may be able to help you out there with X model parts.
      2.  You need those parts to rebuild the frog and dagger system that shuts the loom down in the event of misboxing.  The frogs are still on your
    looms, but the daggers, connecting rod, and levers are gone.
      3.  You need to acquire a set of Draper Dutcher Temples.  You will not be able to weave without these.  The current setup of your looms with an
    altered lay/shuttle race/shuttle boxes, will not allow for temple installation.   To weave a textile different that the rag rugs will require their use.  
      4.  As you are now aware, the looms originally had dobbies activated by the bellcrank.  Original dobbies have been melted down, or thrown
    away.  A modern cam tappet system can be recreated/retrofitted to control the healds.   Or a cam box control mechanism driven off the crank from
    below could be employed as well.
      5.  The drop wire system was, of course, stripped off the loom.  Changing the shedding mechanism is essential because , with the current
    setup, the warp fibers are stretched excessively, causing repeated breakage, and problems with tension.  The drop wire system watched for
    breakage, and of course, shut the loom down when it sensed warp breakage.
      6.  Unless you have woven, you won't know this:  It is vital to maintain consistent tension on the warp fibers.  The only way to do that is to feed
    warp fiber into the loom perpendicular to the healds.  The warping beam allows for 42 inches of weaving capacity, that's it.  I have woven 18 inch
    textiles by moving the temples in to that position--not centered though, offset to the right.  If you attempt to angle warp fibers into the healds, you'll
    have a mess with tension.  
      7.  You most likely have access to a warping machine.  I don't have the room, so we sectional warp the beam.  Again, if you haven't had weaving
    experience, its the best way to go.  You could weave from a creel, and use that tension box setup that Sean's dad had at the mill in Coaldale.  It
    worked, but takes up a lot of space.  The ideal would be warping the beam properly with several thousand yards of fiber with tension precisely
    controlled during warping.  I would take one of your beams, sectionalize it, run small weaves until you find which fiber works for you, then send a
    beam out to be warped by people who do it all day long.  Then weave until the cloth beam fills up, cut the woven goods away, and put on a new
    cloth take up beam.  I suspect you'll need to scrap a loom for parts, and keep the cloth and warp beams as your spares.  I say that, especially
    since the cams that control picker motion are heavily worn, as are the cam followers.  The swords, (the large forged arms that control lay motion),
    are susceptible to breakage, and the picker shoes are very susceptible to damage.  Some of yours may have signs of brazed repair.

    Enough for now, write if you have additional questions.  I am confident that the two gentleman noted above, along with the contacts you have
    already made, will be able to give you all the direction you need.  We just have the practical experience of weaving on this particular model loom--
    even with all the issues, I really enjoy working and weaving on it.

    Pete Eaton