Choosing a warping mill

I am seeking your comments on the pros and cons of the sizes and styles of warping mills on the market.  What features make the best tool in mills?  What has worked and not worked for the ones you own or have made use of?  What makes them a better choice than the warping board?


Posted on Wed, 11/13/2013 - 11:50

I got a Harrisville Designs warping mill because it has a brake and it came unfinished. Seeing the brake in person, I think you could add a similar assembly to any warping mill. Warping mills are much faster than a warping board. I can wind long warps without having to turn corners around pegs. I usually disassemble mine after I've finished winding a warp so it is easy to store when not in use.

Posted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 12:58

Initially, I got my warping mill to wind longer warps (I can do 33 yds at a time on my Toika).  I find that when I now use a warping board and I am moving quickly, I tend to knock my fingers on the pegs, which hurts.  That doesn't happen with the warping mill.  Some mills are more wobbly than others and you can't spin them so fast.  The toika doesn't have a brake, which I would love, and it doesn't fold up, but it is incredibly stable and it is on ball bearings so it spins fast.   I can wind a 33yd scarf warp (170 threads) with frequent color changes in about a half hour.  Since I am used to being able to push it hard, if I am not careful when using other types, it is easy to accidentally push them over.  I don't think most weavers have that problem.

Posted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 14:17

I bought a pre-owned louet horizontal mill, and only then discovered it was an early model which does not fold.  It has two pegs to the cross instead of three, which took a little getting used to.  I also didn't think about metric versus English measures.  So all my warps work out to be x.5 yards.  I remember wanting the Louet instead of the Schacht because the Louet has a handle.  You know what?  I never use the handle.  I'd have to bend down to reach it.  I just turn with my hand on one of the blades.  I still use my board for greater precision (I can set the length more exactly) and short, narrow warps, but prefer the mill for wider warps. But then, 32" is my max. width and a 9 yard warp is long for me. 

Laura Fry has a youtube video on warping (with a board) where she demonstrates switching hands and shifting side-to-side in a movement that is almost like Tai Chi.  Can't do that with a mill.

Posted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 14:52

As Dena said, a mill is much faster than a board.   I think it's easier on you arms too.   My (home made) table top mill is a horizontal mill.   Horizontal mills probably don't handle as long a warp as the vertical mills, but I find them easier to use because I can drop the thread at any point (to answer the phone, for example) and the warp stays put.  Maybe I just didn't understand how to use the vertial mill, but when I tried that on a vertical, my warp fell off!   Maybe you can only stop at certain points??

My horizontal mill has a handle on the side.   The handle turns the mill and also acts as a break, which means I can totally control the speed and the direciton of the turn.  In addition, it has a disk brake on the side that I can screw down with a wing nut.   I use that when I'm tieing the cross, etc. Here is a picture:

I never use a warping board any more.

Posted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 18:18

Sturdy, well balanced, and as large as your home/studio allows. I use a Toika 4m mill at home and an Oxaback 4m mill at the studio - both are big and turn easily - both have the ability to make 2 crosses (nice when making a chain twice as long to preserve odd striping). Both are vertical (take up less floor space).

With a bit of practice, a brake is not necessary.

Posted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 20:44

I have used warping reels (mills) since I first started teaching in l971 and there was one in the weaving room.  More recently I sell weaving kits with the warps wound.   I have wound and sold about 1,000 of these kits, so I have a lot of experience winding warps.  Most have about 450-500 ends and I can wind them in about 10 or 15 minutes.  The ones with 13 different colored stripes take nearly 1/2 hour.  Sara is right, you don't need a brake.  And I also agree with Sara, get the largest one you can get.  This is mainly so that it is larger around, which means that you don't have to reach up and down to wind an ordinary warp.  And I sold the horizontal reel I had.  I only use a vertical reel, for comfort and for speed.


Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 01:01

I appreciate your thoughts on the warping reels you have used.  I want to make good decisions about equipment, since it is a real pleasure to own good tools.


Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 08:34

I also use a vertical mill, no brake needed in my limited experience. One more thing that doesn't need to be fiddled with.

Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 11:46

Just want to add that I don't totally disassemble my reel. I used to leave it folded sitting near a corner. Then one morning, pre-dawn, I was walking near the folded reel and grazed the base with my bare foot. It has suction cups on the bottom so it doesn't move one bit on a hardwood floor. My toe needed to move. I promptly removed the verical upright as one piece and leaned it against the wall, then removed the center post and placed it in my box with my warping sticks, then leaned the base against the wall. Any time spent taking it apart and putting it back together is far better than time spent wondering if I should go get an x-ray.

While deciding which brand to get, I ran across an article by Peter Collingwood describing a simple rope mechanism on a reel that brakes it. I can't find the reference online, and don't want to spend any time looking for the print reference. I assume it is Collingwoods idea that HD uses for their brake. I like having a brake for long warps, but usually don't bother using it for shorter ones.

I prefer the design of Glimakra and Toika reels, but I'm happy enough with the one I have. 

Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 12:59

I sold the Cadillac of reels that I owned, the AVL heck-block horizontal reel. It was huge with a 50 yard capacity (and I did make a warp that length on it). AVL does not make it anymore. I understand that the original question was what is available now but I am providing some perspectives on what makes a good reel. The AVL loom was very easy to spin. It had an adjustable brake but you didn't need it. The heck-block system controlled the placement on the reel of each bout of yarn so they never overlapped. Yes you can do this on any reel by being careful. What this reel did do for you is make a threading cross and a raddle cross "automatically" with the same heddle frame system that is in the AVL tension box. Do you need two crosses? It depends on what you are weaving. The reel could organize up to 20 yarn packages. The heck-block design is shown in Luther Hooper's "Hand Loom Weaving: Plain and Ornamental" and how to make a vertical heck block reel is shown in "How to Weave Fine Cloth" by James D. Scarlett, the tartan guy. I made lots of warps to weave later with my reel. I would have a warping reel marathon session and then bag and label the warp for later.

Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 15:22

Decided, after a frustrating search on the net and my disappointment with the prices I make my own horizontal reel.   Did mock-ups with cardboard....purchased the materials..including the wood and all hardware for about $26 and salvaged the end pieces from my warping board [the short pieces that have the cross pegs]....I too...had issues with my shoulders with a board....have some cutting and holes to drill....wish me luck!




with the prices

Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 16:44

jj50 said:  I prefer the design of Glimakra and Toika reels,

I like the design of the Glimakra cross bar.  The ends are cut at an angle, so that the bar fits inside the frame.  So, there is no end sticking out to get in the way of your winding.  And the dowels are removable, so you have some flexibility to remove dowels you are not using, as they could be in your way.


Posted on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 22:41

Joanne, the crossbars that are flush with the frame is exactly why I prefer Glimakra. I think Toika has the same design. I can remove my HD dowels.

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 00:51

I like your comment about the "warping reel marathon session".  When the mood strikes, it is good to have the equipment and material to prepare for future weaving.  I also like you comments on what makes a good reel.  I thought the second cross was useful for making what Peggy Osterkamp encourages the weaver to make: raddle cross.  This cross creates groups for raddle placement and back to front beaming accuracy.  

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 00:56

Sara, the two terms "sturdy and balanced" are important, and will clearly guide me as I research the right warping reel.  I first thought that I would limit myself to the 2 meter reel. But now am interested in the 3 meter model.  I have a hard time imagining what possible long warps I might wind, as I am not, and do not expect to be in production.  Can you comment?  Also, do these mills break down, as I am space challenged.  

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 01:50

When you have a large reel, you can wind a long warp without using the top and bottom of the reel.  This makes it more comfortable to wind the warp.  Also, for my towel kits, which are four yard warps, I wind them 8 yards long.  If you have a symmetrical stripe pattern or just one color, you can wind a double length warp with a cross at each end and then cut in the middle when finished.  The winding is faster and easier.  This is the most common use of two cross bars.

Also, the larger reel is more stable and you can wind much faster, as it will not wobble or move if you ask it to spin faster.  The additional weight of the reel is a great advantage. 

If I had a smaller reel, (mine is 3 meters around) I probably would not wind warps to sell.  It is efficient to do this only if you have a large reel.


Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 02:04

Thanks Joanne, that ease of use is one thing I try to consider.  I want to be limited by my imagination, not by my equipment.  This is a considerable investment as weaving tools go.  Since I rarely see used reels on the market, I assume that people are reluctant to let them go, once they become accustomed to their features.


Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 08:48

I used Ed Worst's plans, and his design is also such that nothing protrudes. The ends are flush with the uprights. And the turn dowels can be removed. Some dowels you won't need to remove, they can be made permanent with glue. But if you have a warp measured, you will find out the first time, that a removable turn dowel is very much to your advantage. His mill is 3 yards. :)

Posted on Wed, 07/07/2021 - 19:05

<p>Good afternoon,</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Can you tell me where I can find Ed&#39;s warping mill plans.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Thank you,</p><p>Rhonda</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 10:51

MaryMartha wrote (above) about the possible differences in metric and imperial sized mills.

Mine (a 3 metre Glinåkra) measures 3 metres if measured *horizontally* - that is, even the slightest spiral will add a bit to each turn. To make a warp the length I want (say 4,5 metres) I use a measuring string and try different elevation angles until I find the optimal place to put my turning peg. (I don't use 2 crosses - but if I did, I could put the upper cross-maker in the right place)

Below is an attempt at a schematic drawing, not to scale. The point I'm trying to make is that the red and the green lines can be approximately the same length, just because of the different angles.

(The very few times I have used a board, I have done the same...)

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 11:03

Good demonstration of the warp measurement when using the reel.  Do you use the same material, or a non stretchy alternate to provide the path for your warp?

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 11:07

I would like to see pictures of the finished reels that people have had the courage to build from plans.  I lack the tools and confidence to try this.  Also, I believe in the value of ball bearings.  Is this something that is built into yours?


Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 12:26

Joanne makes a good point about how large of a reel is best for you depending on how you wind your warp. My HD is 20 yards, but since I wind double as Joanne described, my warp length is reduced to 10 yards. I have wound 14 yards comfortably by making 4 chains instead of the usual 2 for 22 inch wide towels.

I use a non-stretchy guide string of contrasting color.

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 12:28

Eileen...I think that ball bearings make a big difference.  The Leclerc and Harrisville reels don't have them and they don't feel stable when pushing them hard.  While I like the Glimakras, I think that the Toikas are more stable.  One more thing...I have this eight percent rule...when you are getting equipment, consider how you are going to use it eighty percent of the time and get something that suits that need best...not the, eventually, I'd like to do so and so.  While having a great reel is important, it sounds to me like you rarely do long warps and you don't do production, so speed isn't as big of a concern.  The wobbling factor is a function of speed as much as anything so you may be able to get a reel that works really well for you, but for a production weaver, it would wobble or be too small.  Space does sound like an issue for you and it might not make sense to sacrifice valuable studio space for something that is big when that isn't what you need.  My Toika reel is 3m and it takes up the same space as a medium sized loom.

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 23:05

I have a really big horizontal reel, it's 6' long and 1.5 yds between the bars.  I usually use warps that are 20-30 yards long.  I can do about 300 ends of cotton rug warp 22 yards long in one bout.  It doesn't have bearings, which I don't miss.  It does have a brake, two pieces of wood that clamp down on the axle with wing nuts.  I would miss not having a brake.  I agree that is much faster, easier and less work than a board.  I bought mine from a guy in Washington.  It's made of fir instead of hardwood, and has a linseed oil finish instead of laquer, but it works very well and  cost $150.

Posted on Thu, 10/31/2013 - 23:09

Yes, I also use the 'guide string' to measure the path for my warp to be wound. I followed this from 'The Big Book of Weaving', which is by Swede authors. ;) Mine is just some nylon twine.

Posted on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 22:38

 I am impressed with the looks of your reel.  you should get a lot of satisfaction from using it.  Is stability an issue?  What yardage is possible?  Perhaps you should sell the plans!


Posted on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 22:42

Eileen, missed your post as notifications didn't seem to be working for awhile. My mill is in the forum group, 'Home Built Equipment' I didn't use bearing, none needed and no squeek either. Just a little wax was applied.

Just as easy to phost a picture I guess.

Posted on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 22:50's very stable and I'm not exactly sure of the max length...must depend on the angle of the yarn on the revolution [straight around] is 2 yds.  The overall height is 48" and 36" width.  I will gladly give anyone my materials list and 'distructions'.

Posted on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 23:07

I can see that you have skills that must translate well to weaving.  Thanks for the inspiration for the future warping mill builders out there.  

I just ordered a 2meter Toika, after reading all of the comments, and finally running a tape measure on the available floor space...the lowest common denominator.

Posted on Tue, 11/12/2013 - 11:30

I incorporated the idea of the warp cross pieces installed under the reel cross members. Just used all the ideas that I thought were really useful. As reed guy mentioned, I also used wax on the central axel for smooth rotation.

Posted on Tue, 11/12/2013 - 14:53

Thanks, Kerstin.  Your comments always help.  I do use a guide string and do play the angles to find the right path.  I am more successful on a board than on the horizontal reel.  When I turned your drawing on its side, it made me realize I am biased towards spacing warp turns equidistantly on a given arm of the reel (circumference is 58" so even short warps make 3-4 turns around).  I also keep the dowels on opposite, not adjacent, arms.  So it might be the weaver, not the tool, that is lacking flexibility.

Posted on Sat, 12/21/2013 - 19:16

jlread I would love a copy of the materials and plans of how you made your reel. It looks incredible. I have been looking at the prices of these and they are very expensive. I am not sure how this all works but I need to post my email or something let me know. thanks

Posted on Mon, 12/23/2013 - 15:18

Anyone one out there wanting/willing to construct a horizontal warping reel...send me your e-mail address via a PM and I'll send the plans...I though it was relatively easy and all the materials came from Lowes [except the re-purposed short ends from my old warping board]

Posted on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 00:22

My version of "Sally and her husband's" warping reelWhen asked by a friend ten days ago to build her a warping reel I did not know what she was talking about, but thanks to forums like this one I was quickly up to date. In the wayback machine I found a materials list and a rough building plan, provided by "Sally and her husband" ( which I decided to use, except we decided to build it on the wheelbase of an abandoned office chair. The product is now assembled and ready, not yet tested, but positvely commented on by my sister-in-law, who did some weaving earlier on in her life.

Thanks, Weavolution, for the inspiration. It was an interesting project to work on.




Posted on Sun, 08/16/2020 - 13:16


I have reread this thread a few times as I've been thinking about getting either a Toika or Glimakra mill. Leaning towards the Toika.

I've had a break from weaving but am back again, and wondering, seven years on from Eileen Crawford's original post how she and others are finding their Toika vertical models. 

I am now contemplating the 2m version as although I found Joanne Hall's comments helpful re only using the central section of a larger 3 or 4m model for longer warps to eliminate bending down (I am tall), I can neither afford nor have space for one.

The Toika 2m is 120cm high which seems a bit low for me, but I could presumably clamp it to a low table or purpose built stand.

Has anyone else done this?


Posted on Sun, 08/16/2020 - 14:27

Mills are a lot more expensive than boards or pegs.  If you commonly weave long warps, they are immensly moe efficient, and give more even tension.  They are larger (kind of the whole point) and not something you clamp to a chair, like a swift.  Most can be broken down for storage.  I have a smaller, tabletop one that I use for 15 yard towel warps, and a really large horizontal one.  I havn't used that recently because I got a warping wheel and do sectional warps on my bigger looms  I can do a 15 yard warp in 8/2 cotton on the table top vertical mill in one bout.

Be sure to get one with a brake, or you will need to rig something as a brake.  Otherwise, it tends to spin too fast when you unwind it.