Varpa - can and how it be rebuilt?

 A 120cm Varpa loom, only the feet are damaged, the owner is ready to scrap it and I am wondering if I can salvage parts or all of it.  Any suggestions? I would hate to see this hit the refuse pile.




Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 14:06

What exactly is wrong with the feet?   The picture is pretty small, but from what I can see, they are just a little beat up.

I'd hate to see someone scrap a whole loom just because of the feet!


Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 14:21

Sally, thanks for looking, above is a link to my blog with 2 clearer photos.  Owner not clear on cause of damage, I'm assuming water.  The damage is close to the mortise/tenon joint, not sure if cleanly cutting away damage and adding a new clean block via peg/dowel and glue would work.



Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 16:29

Yes, it looks like water damage.   I certinally wouldn't through a whole loom away because of this!

There are two option, (1) repair or (2) replace.

(1) Repair.   If the wood is "mushy" you can soak each foot in turn in a dish of wood hardner.   After that, if it's still soft, you'll have to cut it off.   But if it's  hard, I'd suggest cutting a small piece of 3/4" hardwood plywood and add it to the bottom of each leg with a couple of countersunk deck screws.  Since some of the wood is gone, part of the screws might show.  That is ok, because you also want to glue these pieces on with structural epoxy.   Lay the pieces flat on the floor and wrap masking tape around the joint, and put enough epoxy there to fill in for where the wood is missing and to incorporate any pieces of the screws that show.   The tape will keep it from leaking out of the joint before it has a chance to set up.  After that you might also want to add a piece of plywood over the joint where the wood is missing.   This will make it stronger.   Just be careful to not let the nails or screws hit the other screws.  And of course the added wood has to be built in a way that doesn't interfere with the joints.

(2) Replace.  If you think you need to replace the legs, just cut off the bad parts and replace with a piece of hard wood the appropriate size and shape.   To attach, get some oak dowel.  Clamp the replacement pieces on to the leg and drill at least two dowel sized holes through the replacement wood and into the legs.   Now glue the whole thing together (where the wood joins and throughout the dowel holes) with structural two part epoxy.  One final note about the replacement pieces.   I'd cut those replacement pieces with the grain running parallel to the floor.   If you cut it with the grain running vertically with respect to the floor, it will weaken the joints because the holes for the dowels are in line with where it would naturally split.   Remember that people drag looms across the floor!

Replacing will be stronger in the long run than repairing, from what I can tell looking at the pictures.  It will look better too.

Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 16:55

Thanks Sally, I think replacing the 3 bad legs will be best in the long run.  Do you think dowels & epoxy will be sufficient or also a countersunk screw?


Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 17:24

Must have been in a wet basement I rekon. Another method to restore it to solid wood is to remove those upright pieces that make the legs and have new wood with new mortises made. You could cut above and below the old tenon joints, straight across the damaged member and just chisel away the old mortise wood following the grain of the old cut mortise member. If you ever sold it later, it would become more desireable than patch work. Assuming it's hardwood, use quality wood from 'Select' or better grade. Kilned, undressed (not planed) hard maple runs around $3.50 a board foot. Not running foot like Lowes might sell, but that might be an option to as the wood would be all dressed. But it will be costly at Lowes.  It all depends on how fond you or the owner are of this loom. The thing about wood, is it's not rare or hard to come by. Talk to an actual wood worker and he/she knows where to get good lumber.

Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 17:34

Thanks Reed Guy, I need another loom like a hole in the head but I refuse to send it to trash.  I have a local carpenter - I bartered teaching two short classes for the loom, so even a couple $$$$ for carpentry may be worth it.  The wood is kiln dried birch so I am not sure what the closest wood match would be.


Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 17:38

If you use dowels and a good glue, you don't need screws also.  But make sure the dowels aren't just pine.  You need oak dowels.

If you have a carpenter to do this, he / she might have other suggestions.  But it's really not that big a deal to repiair.

Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 17:55

Birch is one of the most abundant woods on the continent. :) You can't tell the wood grain from one species of our native birches to the other. However, yellow birch and black birch are the hardest and heaviest NA birches. Hard maple would be a very close match to birch. But yellow birch should not be hard to get. It grows mostly in the northern tier states, New England, Appalachia and south eastern Canada. Where I live it's a major hardwood forest component, second to maple species. I live way up north here in New Brunswick for instance. It's funny, a few years ago I collected the catkins and had a nursery grow the seedlings for me. I planted the back yard in yellow birch and some on the woodlot. The wildlife ate the woodlot seedlings. :/ LOL

Posted on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 18:04

I'll take the parts to the cabinetmaker and have him give me an estimate.  Worst case I'll take them to a lumber yard and get closest match for new "prosthetic feet"

Thanks all


Posted on Mon, 08/26/2013 - 22:43

Before you do any cutting, or go to a carpenter, look here:

This is the link to System Three's Rot Fix.  I have used this to rebuild rotten windows, Loom beaters very badly damaged by boring  beatles, lots of other stuff.  It can strengthen and stabilize punky wood, or replace wood that isn't there any more (boring beatles).  Living in the frozen North, I had no idea how badly Southern boring beatles can damage wood.  The beater was about 20% gone.  System Three epoxy putty and Rot Fix fixed it.  

Posted on Tue, 08/27/2013 - 00:47

I hesitate to comment, since I'm not a woodworker, but from what I can discern from the suggestions above I'm surprised that one would use epoxy to attach new wood to replace the bad bits. I have been told by those in the know, and from what I've seen of standard joinery, that dowels combined with a good wood glue (the yellow kind?) is the best way to go. 


Posted on Tue, 08/27/2013 - 00:51

Hi Matt, I think that they are 2 separate techniques - either cut and add new wood with glue and dowels or fill with the epoxy.  The epoxy looks interesting and if I don't use it for the loom I will use it for my old victorian porch!





Posted on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 20:43

There's more than one approach I suppose, but I would still replace the bad wood and restore the piece to near original. I don't like patch work. ;) A couple pieces of good birch, in these parts at least, is not all that expensive. Lowe's type stores is fine for those in a hurry, but they are very pricey. I go into Kent building supplies and just laugh at oak prices. They must think it's precious as gold. :)

Posted on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 22:59

Epoxy technology for wood repair and construction is different from traditional joinery, and it can do things that traditional joinery can't.  Can it make wood that you can poke your finger through stable and load bearing? No.  Can it make a poorly fitting joint strong? Yes, with the correct application of fillers. Can it make damaged wood that could not support a load fit for duty?  Yes.  If your loom feet are damaged but not complete, falling apart by themselves rotten, you can use the low viscosity Rot Fix to stabilize the wood, and the putty to replace wood that is missing or too badly damaged to be stabilized.  The epoxy-wood composite will be stronger than the origninal wood, and stronger than a glued-doweled patch.  There is often a clash between traditional methods and new technology (that new fangled stuff).  Epoxy is a useful tool that has been used to make wooden boats  in place of and to suplement traditional joinery for decades. 

Posted on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 23:08

Yes, I have seen it used to repair joints in sleigh runners or fill voids in slab tables and burls. That being said, the loom was not in the environment intended for it's use. It got water damaged. It is not the same as repairing that sleigh runner, knowing it will be going back in a harsh environment. That's the way I see things. :) Even carpenter's wood glue is stronger than the bond between wood cells.

Posted on Thu, 08/29/2013 - 06:32

Hi Dawn...there is a product by Abatron...a wood restoration kit...that works great.  Saw the pix and it's not that bad.  This product restores to structural soundness....just google Highland Woodworking for this kit.  Good luck.

Posted on Thu, 08/29/2013 - 11:09

Thanks all, looks like only one foot is "soft" - haven't decided which way to proceed, I will probably not pick up the loom until September.  Thank you for all the advice.


Posted on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 01:11

One thing that is misunderstood about epoxy is that is not a glue.  It is a plastic that can be designed to penetrate wood fiber and form a hard, stable cellulose/epoxy composite.   If you treat two pieces of wood with epoxy, you can then use epoxy to bind the two peices into one.  So, joining two pieces of wood with epoxy starts with saturating the pieces with low viscosity epoxy to form the composite.  Then an epoxy (with fillers if needed) can be used to join them.  The West System website has lots of projects from everything to deck repair to race cars.  I do traditional joinery and epoxy.  I use traditional joinery (glue and dowels) where I may want to take it apart in the future.  I use epoxy where I want extra strength, and am sure I don't want to take it apart.

Posted on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 03:00

And to add to what big white sofa dog just wrote - not all epoxys are created equal either.   There are structural epoxys that are specially designed for wood and used by professionals.   In fact, given the fact that most all of the old growth forests are gone and you can no longer get the very large sizes of wood, a lot of the wood in these large sizes is created by piecing together smaller sizes and using this structural epoxy to make the "join."   And those joins can be as strong or stronger than single pieces.  It's all a matter of using the right product for the job.


Posted on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 10:26

Pure expoy without fillers is thin and clear.  One almost always has to use epoxy mixed with fillers to use epoxy as a glue in order to maximize the surface areas.  Wood (even smooth to the touch) cannot adhere without fillers because it is too pourous.  Maybe one could glue 2 pieces of glass without using fillers - you get the idea.  My father restored an antique airplane in the 1960's using epoxy.  He used epoxy and thin strips of wood to laminate new frames.  The wooden doorframes were incredibly rotted and and he knew it would be extremely difficult to replicate the shaping in new wood so he brushed on many very thin coats of pure epoxy that soaked in until the doorframes were pretty much "fossilized."  I agree that the West System by the Gougeon Brothers - - is a best starting point for getting into epoxy. Remember also that, like most chemicals, proper ventilation is important for safety.

Posted on Tue, 12/24/2013 - 14:41

Ok, loom is now in my grubby hands, 8 treadles, 12 shafts and 12 sets of upper jacks and most of it in excellent condition.  One of the front support pieces has the wood split away (not rotted) so I will use dowel and epoxy to rebuild that.  That piece is 1 3/4 depth of wood to be rebuilt but no structural load.  3 of the 4 feet are rotted out to a depth of up to 2.5 inches but the wood is dry.  The loom was never used, both beams still wrapped in corrugated board, the reed still in its plastic (however a litte rusted so will try Naval jelly on that).  I will probably make 4 more treadles if I can locate the right size lumber.  The loom even has the Varpa bench.  I like the warp beam release on the Varpa looms as you can advance the warp whilst seated.  Even DH didn't mind this freebie!  Wish me luck.



Posted on Tue, 12/24/2013 - 15:51

Dawn check portable millers that kiln hardwood in the area if there is no furniture grade lumber broker/wholesaler around. But be sure the portable guy grades and not just mill run. Lowes and them outfits will want way too much for hardwood lumber. You'd almost think it was rare from the horn of Africa or something. Most outfits will have stock up to 8/4 thick (that's 2" + about 3/8" for planing after it's kilned). Hardwood grading is different than softwood as well as dimensions. Hard maple is around $3.50/bf (not running foot) 1' x 1' x 1" thick.

Posted on Tue, 12/31/2013 - 05:40

I took in a cranbrook. Loom with wet feet. They dried out just find and she has been working for ten years. They are shriveled ,but even and strong.

Posted on Thu, 01/02/2014 - 09:56

A couple other products for rust removal are water based and non-toxic. They can be used over and over until effectiveness is lost.

One is a USA product called Evapo-Rust

The other is Restore: Rust Remover, made in England, which comes as a concentrate or a gel.

You can look them up at  item #'s 56Z80.61   and  56Z80.83  or  56Z80.85

Posted on Thu, 01/02/2014 - 15:50

Just throwing this out there for anyone that may be looking for something extra. Another place to check in the CT area is the folks at Logrite. It's a small family run business that have recently acquired another small business in MI that make the Blue Creaper (formerly Rust Reaper) brand of penetrating oil and cleaners. I have met these people and I have bought their tools and penetrating oil. For unsticking rusted parts and bolts, and preventing rust, nothing can touch Blue Creaper.

Posted on Mon, 08/01/2016 - 12:55

I am about to start repairing this loom - decided to amputate at same level on all 3 feet, add new sections with glue and countersunk screw bolts.  I will then wrap the feet with new wood - almost so it looks like a thin plinth. The back piece that is broken I will chisel out and add a new piece, finishing with some wood hardner and epoxy on other areas, have to replace the beater legs (already have from another loom).  Now I need to figure out a new pawl and crank for the cloth beam.  I'll make 4 new treadles - 12 treadle 12 shaft 48 " loom - frankenloom!