Bergdala Spinnhus

Reflections on counterbalance looms, part 2: "dräll" pulleys

This article will describe the most common Swedish multi-shaft counterbalance loom, with one many-level pulley each side.

There is also a part 1, which describes the most common Swedish 4-shaft counterbalance loom.

One solution to "shaft envy" it to use dräll pulleys to expand the number of shafts to (max) 10.
(It would be perfectly possible to have more levels, but the 5-level, 10-shaft pulley is the biggest that is readily available from loom makers.)

Take any traditional Swedish loom - take away the single pulley and mount the 5-level pulleys, get a few more shaft-bars, fashion some extra treadles and – ta-daa: a 10-shaft loom!

To use less shafts, it is not necesssary to reverse the process – the bottom pulley can do the same job as does the single pulley.

My loom came with two different models of many-level pulleys, but I have given them away. The pictures below are harvested from various 'net ads for used looms - unfortunately, they only show the pulleys used as single pulleys with horses.

traditional 5-level dräll pulleys
different styles of dräll pulleys

The idea with dräll pulleys is to allow for 10 shafts with an easy counterbalance action: each shaft is connected to its opposite shaft: the outermost shafts (#1 and #10, whichever way you number the shafts) are connected over the highest pulleys, # 2 and 9 go over the next level down and so on.
This picture has only four shafts mounted, over the lowest pulley for the middle-most (is that a word?) shafts, second level up for the numbers 1 and 4 (in this configuration).

To use the dräll pulleys as they are meant to, no horses are used – in this meaning, it is a purer counterbalance action than is the usual 4-shaft configuration.
But: that also means restrictions – the two connected shafts (always two, one from the front, one from the back) must work on opposites: what goes down on one end, must come up on the other.

The usual Swedish practice is, as always: do not mount more shafts than you are to use. For a four-shaft weave, hang 4 – for an eight-shaft weave, hang 8. Shafts should all be level (use a shaft-holder to keep them level during the tying up of the treadles).

dräll pulleys with 4 shafts mounted
Here are two more pictures: to the left another old model, to the right a modern variant, as sold today.
old type of 5-level pulley
modern 5-level pulley

Back to the most important part: the tie-ups must be on opposites.

Using just two levels, we can mount four shafts.
Because of the mechanics, there are only four combinations available: 2 down, 2 up (and the opposite 2 up, 2 down) and 1 down, 1 up, 1 down, 1 up (and the opposite 1 up, 1 down, 1 up, 1 down).
This means it is impossible to weave an even twill on a straight threading.
It is possible to change the threading to accommodate the "opposite" movement - 1-2-4-3 will work with a tieup of 1-2, 1-3, 3-4, 2-4.

2 levels give 4 possible combinations
Using 3 levels (for 6 shafts) we get 8 combinations.

As the traditional homewoven *) Swedish dräll is a two-block weave in turned twill or satin, with 6 shafts and dräll pulleys we can start to weave "true dräll": two blocks of 3-shafts twill, 2/1 versus 1/2.

*) Using "homewoven" instead of "handwoven" on purpose: professional handweavers were early to adopt countermarche looms for more complex patterns. People weaving for their home tended to have counterbalance looms.
3 levels give 8 combinations
converting to tie-up
Starting with the second combination above, converting it to a traditional tie-up (left):
by "cycling" the combinations we can do a traditional 6-shaft dräll like the one on the right.

- probably most drälls were on ten shafts, woven as turned satin. The important point here is that the tie-up must be done on opposites.


It might be possible to construct other than 2-block turned structures, but we (Swedes) tend to think of the multi-level pulleys as useful for the traditional dräll weaves. Therefore we don't "miss" the possibilities of making complicated 10-shaft weaves.

To end: below is an example of a 10-shaft dräll - note the selvages: there are four narrow blocks both warpwise and weftwise. This is to minimize the tendency for curling edges.

traditional satin dräll

  © Kerstin Fröberg 2016