Beams and Winding on

There are two types of Jim Ahrens built: two-beam, and three-beam looms.

Two-beam looms have no breast beam or back beam, the warp flows directly from the warp beam through the heddles and beater to the cloth beam.

Two beam, open

Two beam, Folded

This loom also folds for storage or threading. Folded, it can go through a normal door frame without disassembling.

The second type has three beams: a breast beam and a cloth beam in the front, and just a warp beam in the back.

Three beam side

Three beam front

The different beams have different constructions.


The breast beam attaches to the front legs by a winged nut, which should be facing away from the beater when assembled so that it doesn’t get hit by the beater while weaving.

Front Beam screw

The cloth beam is attached to the frame without any bolts, but a wooden axle slips into a hole in  the frame.

The picture below shows the right end of the breast beam and the ratchet  on the cloth beam. We’ll talk more about the ratchet and the brake on the page on tension and brakes.

Front and cloth beam ends

On the warp beam, one end has a ratchet and the other end a large disc for the automatic warp tension system. We’ll explain brakes in more detail in Tension and Brakes.

Warp beam ratchet brake  Friction brake assembly

The beater

The height of the beater can be adjusted so that the level of the warp rests on the shuttle race. The two images below show the warp lying flat on the shuttle race both when the shed is open and closed. If the warp floats over the shuttle race, then you can’t rest the shuttle on the shuttle race when throwing it into the shed.

front and cloth beam warp on beater and closed shed front and cloth beam beater and shed

In the starting position, the leg of the beater fits over the metal rod shown attached to the bottom of the frame. The beater can be raised by inserting a small dowel (a pencil if you have no dowel on hand) in the groove, which lifts the beater off of the metal rod.

Removing beater 1 Removing beater 2

Aprons and grooved beams

Ahrens looms do not come with an apron. You have to make a temporary aprons when you need one on the warp beam or cloth beam. Using a temporary apron on the warp beam allows you to weave the warp until the end reaches the back heddles. Otherwise there will be a lot of loom waste at the end of the warp.

Old European looms did not use aprons like we know today on either the cloth or the warp beams. Instead there is a slot in the beam. Today, new looms like AVL looms, that are adapted from the old looms have a groove, too. On historic Ahrens looms, both the warp and the cloth beams have grooves that sticks can fit into and hold the end of the warp or the stick for temporary aprons.

Here, the end stick with the warp is in the groove of the warp beam.

Grooved Beam with warp

A groove in the beam makes the best-wound warps

The very flattest and hardest warps are wound using neither aprons nor cords on the warp beam, but wound tightly against the smooth cylindrical wooden beam without much paper or packing sticks. This ideal situation requires a groove, or “beam slot” in the warp beam to accept an end stick. You don’t use an apron with a beam
slot, because with the end stick in the groove, the beam itself is the base as you tightly beam on your warp—a much better, firmer base than with a canvas apron. In order to use every possible inch of warp, it’s easy to pop a temporary apron into the groove when approaching the end of the weaving.

To make warp like this, prepare a warp for warping back-to-front. (For a detailed description on how to warp back-to-front and why we think it’s the most efficient way of warping, see the page Efficient Warping. – (coming soon.)) Before winding on and without cutting the end of the warp, insert the end stick directly into the end loops of the warp and pop it into the groove. Tie a string in the holes on both ends of the end stick, this will keep the warp loops from sliding off the stick.

Fig 040_011

As you wind on, the warp itself will keep the stick in place.

Grooved Beam with warp

In the photo above you can see the ratchet disengaged, because once warp is is wound, the automatic warp tension system can be used for tensioning while weaving.

At the end of the warp when the stick is about to pop out of the slot, it’s time to put in the temporary apron at the back of the loom.

Fig 038_147 Fig 041_013

Remove the end stick with  the warp on it from the slot and tie the cord loops you made onto the end stick between the warps about two inches apart. I use a crochet hook to pull the cord loops between the warps and use lark’s head knots to attach the cords to the end stick hold the warp. Tie the center loop first to stabilize the ends stick and the apron stick. Then slip one of the apron sticks into all the cord loops and drop that stick into the beam groove. wind up the cords and warp on the beam until you have warp tension again. Now you can continue to weave off the rest of the warp until the end stick reaches the heddles without any change int he fabric where you put int the apron.

Making a temporary apron for the cloth beam before tying on the warp

On the front, start with the stick out of the groove.

Using Grooved beam1

Then you need an odd number of loops of thin cord that will slip easily int the groove with the stick. The number depends on the width of your warp, about one every two inches. Insert the stick into one end of the loops and drop it into the groove.

Using Grooved beam2

Hold it in place with one hand while you start turning the beam with the other.

Using Grooved beam3

Wind it at least one full revolution so it holds the stick in place.

Using Grooved beam4

When you have wound up the loops, insert the other stick about mid way between the beam and the heddles.

Using Grooved beam5 apron rod

When you’re tying on a narrow warp, a stick with loops along the entire length might bend.

Fig 093_012 A

To avoid this, make just enough loops on the temporary apron to accommodate the actual width of  your warp.

An Alternative Beam Crank

Ahrens looms have no cranks.  You can use a sturdy rod or stick and a loop of cord like in the illustration. If you don’t want to drill a hole through the beam for the turning stick you can anchor one end of the cord loop on a sturdy nail in the beam. Put the other end of the loop on the turning stick for the leverage you need.

Alternative Beam crank