I made some tablets for weaving back in August, vaguely after the Oseberg finds. They were fairly easy to make, and I spent a chunk of September putting them to good use. Been working out great.
One part of what makes the Oseberg ship burial finds so notable are the hints into textile production, like the well-known intact tablet weaving setup. Obviously the fairly intact ship is notable, and having seen it in person, it is very cool. But back to the textiles! Here’s a famous photo from the original archaeological report (I scanned it from Collingwood):
I made a replica of the Oseberg loom (which I’ll post about eventually, once I get it the way I want it) and I wanted the wooden tablets to go with it. Up until last month, I had only woven using cardboard tablets, and was curious about using tablets that were a) slightly thicker like the carded ones are, and b) as small as the period finds. I learned with large-ish tablets, about 3 inches wide, and the idea of a smaller shed seemed strange.
Because I didn’t want to start with a plank of wood, I started with strips of basswood and marked out 2.5 cm squares, for a total of 48 tablets. Someday I will chop down a tree, but this is not that year.
Then I cut them out with my Dremel. Let’s just say that I love my Dremel and all of its many attachments. I spend a fair amount of time at work building contraptions for experiments, and the Dremel comes in handy.
I used a grinding tip to round off the corners, and a coarse-grained sanding tip to bevel the edges a bit.
Lots of instructions online call for clamping the tablets together and drilling the holes into all the cards at once. I didn’t want that, because I wanted a more hand-made look. So I went the slower route- marking each hole on each tablet with a template, then drilling each hole individually. I used a very small bit to avoid cracking the wood, the a pointed grinder tip to make the holes a bit bigger. My attempts at beveling the holes didn’t work out very well until Master Ivan pulled out a couple of countersink bits that I used as hand tools.
Finally I sanded then, then sanded them more, then sanded them more. Then waxed them with beeswax. I briefly tried using the bumblebee wax I had collected from my colonies at work, but decided to stick with what I already had cleaned on hand. All in all, a leisurely 3 evening project.
They work great in practice. The small size is much easier to turn all the cards at once. The size also worked great for flipping between Z- and S-twist for the 3/1 twill I’ve been dealing with. The thickness was handy for spacing out the warp at a pretty perfect amount. Very happy with how they turned out.
A few handy references:
- Brøgger, A. W. and Schetelig, H. Osebergfundet (Oslo. 1917).
- Collingwood, P. 1982. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving,Watson-Guptill, New York.
- Mistress Bronwyn Elgars of An Tir has lovely A&S documentation on her tablets, wherein she wrote to the Viking Ship Museum folks to obtain accurate measurements and information on how the original tablets would have been made.