Monday, May 25, 2009

More on the Boyce Weaver's Knotter

In comments on the post about the knotter, Shirley asked if eBay is the only source, and how much do the knotters cost, and Holly asked which of the 3 available sizes I got.

The knotter is available from the manufacturer (A.B. Carter Inc., who make tools and equipment for textile mills) for something in the $250 (USD) range. (This is second-hand information, I never got a quote from them myself.) Used knotters show up on eBay periodically. We paid about $35 plus about $10 shipping for the one that worked - twice that for the one that didn't :) .

The caveat, of course, is that most of the used knotters on auction sites were manufactured in the first half of the twentieth century, and they've seen a variable amount of wear and tear. It took us two tries to get one that worked. The first site we tried was an auction house that specializes in antiques - not necessarily the best source for working machinery!

As for size, mine looks just like an elderly version of the one at the top of this page. In my testing, it happily made knots using yarns in the range of 20/2 cotton and 60/2 silk, so it does what I think I need.

As for whether it is a huge boon for the hands, I can't be certain yet. The first time I tie on a warp and use the knotter, I'll post about it. It's gonna be a thumb-intensive operation - that's how you pull the trigger. However, this knotter has a fairly smooth, easy operation, and it can be used in either right or left hand so alternating hands would be a good idea, to distribute the load.

I think the knotter was designed for industrial use, to knot broken warp ends. Industry has lots of bigger tools for knotting, or currently more popular, splicing yarns; the Carter website lists a bunch of different kinds, some hand-held, some automatic. Tools like this have been around for well over a century. In a visit to a silk-mill-turned-museum that was in operation from the 1860s until 1980s, we saw a knotting machine that automatically tied a new warp onto an old warp, thousands of ends of 24-denier silk (frog hair!) for jacquard-woven fabric for gentlemen's neckties and fancy ladies' gowns. Before the machine came into use, the mill employed child laborers, as they had small enough hands and a delicate enough touch to accomplish the task. It took a child 3 or 4 days to knot the whole warp so it could be pulled through the jacquard heddles; the machine could do it in half a day.

I've written an article about that mill visit for the newsletter of the Complex Weavers Jacquard Study Group; now that the article has been made available for the study group, I have permission to put a copy (with pictures) on my website. When it's up I'll post about it here.


Holly said...

After reading your post, I emailed AB Carter and got a phone call the next morning...from a really nice lady. She said they had had quite a few inquiries lately (the power of the blog). The price was about $260 dollars. She said they were happy to sell to individuals. She also said the thing to watch for with used knotters is the blades...often the used ones are missing the blades. I haven't bought one ... yet! I have arthritis in my hands so I am really interested in how it works for you.

Blossom Merz said...

After reading your blog entry way back in May, I started scouring eBay. There's one that's probably the broken one you sent back, still up there with a message, "We were informed by a handworks operator that it has been taken apart and reassembled such that some parts which should move do not."

Today, however, I won the auction on another one after emailing the seller to make sure it works. It's the first one I've seen there in months.

I tie on a new 1200-thread warp every few weeks, so I can't wait to try this out as a time-saving device.

Thanks for your post. I might never have known about this device otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Neysa Boyce Corrigan e-mail Boyce Knotter so named for Dr. E. E. Boyce, my ancestor. I had two before moving to Allegro (ACLF). I will try to find these two for you and place them for sale. Thanks for input.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your site. I would like to inform you that I have a Boyce Weavers Knotter Serial number 49556, dated: February 8, 1925

Hence if there is a weaver interested in buying it, I shall gladly sell it.

My mail is

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness.

Lisa Disaia said...

I was wondering if anyone knows wher I can find information or instructions on how the Boyce weaver knitter works. Please any information will be helpful. Thanks

John Towner said...

I'm curious if this knotter can tie a tension knot, i.e. the two strings to be tied are under tension, such as would be the case if you were working on an air-jet loom and had to tie two ends together with enough tension to keep the drop wire up.