Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meet Rick and Learn about the Air System

Last week I was over at Macomber's and guess who I got to pose for a great photo? Meet Rick Hart! Many of you have spoken to Rick on the phone, as his family has owned and operated the business since the 1930s when his Uncle designed the original loom. I promise that in another post I will share more of Macomber Loom's history.

Today I want to give you a VERY brief introduction to the Air Dobby system. I have used this system for at least ten years ( I am embarrassed to say I cannot recall the exact date...note to self..ask Rick) and I have to say that it has been a true life saver (translate to mean back saver, more about that later).

The Air Dobby system will fit on any Macomber Loom and is basically used to raise the harnesses in a specified sequence. The raising of the harnesses is accomplished by the use of pressurized air delivered by hoses to the air cylinders. Each harness is linked to one treadle which is linked to an air cylinder.

To weave, you create a draft using weaving software complete with treadling tie-up and sequence. This weave-draft information is sent electronically to the Air Dobby power supply which tells the air cylinders whether to engage or not. The weft pick sequence is advanced by pressing a small button on the castle of my loom.

This is a VERY simple explanation of the Air Dobby system. Basically what the system does is the heavy lifting. On a 56" Macomber the harnesses are solid steel, so for a 16 harness weave construction, this is a hefty proposition!

The photos here are of the air cylinders, the air pressure gauge, the air compressor (in the garage) and the power supply. I hope this helps you understand the general idea of how the Air Dobby works. Let me know what you have questions about and I will gladly elaborate!


  1. Thanks for the info on the air-assist!!! Of course, I have questions.....

    Does it only fit Macomber looms or have people used it on other types of jack looms?

    How loud is it?

    Was it hard to get set up?

    Thanks for all of the Macomber info!!!


  2. Sue:

    Thanks for your enthusiasm!! Here are some answers to your questions:

    ~No it is not loud. The air compressor which is the loudest part, lives in my garage and has a hose that runs through the wall to my loom. The air cylinders make a whooshing noise, but it isn't really loud.
    ~No, it is not particularly difficult to set up. You will need to drill a few holes to secure the set of air cylinders in place. All you need are a few simple tools and a bit of elbow grease. I did not find it any more complex than other loom adaptations that I have made, i.e. harness add-ons.
    ~I imagine that it could be added to other brand looms, but will have to ask the guys about that one. I know that they have made parts for an AVL. My guess is that as long as the treadles are the similar that it could work. I will get back to you on that!

  3. Here's a note from Barbara Herbster in MA who has just installed an Air Dobby system to her loom:
    "Love my dobby attachment and am impressed with it's simplicity by comparison with
    others I have seen! The transition has been seamless as they say. I started with tabby, progressed to supplementary warp, have designed a double weave with more threads on the top layer than on an elasticized cotton lower layer and have just completed a project for NEWS exhibit. I' m lovin' it!" Barbara H.

  4. I just adopted a 16 harness Macomber and was wondering about the dobby for it. Do they have a mechanical dobby? If you have your air compressor in the garage then it does make significant noise? I would have to have it in the house. So it retrofits onto older Macombers?

    I'm thrilled to find your site as there is not a lot out there on Macombers ... except that people love them. ;)

  5. Astrid:
    Yes, the Air Dobby system will retrofit any Macomber, even those made in the 30's. Pretty amazing. I guess you don't mess with a good design!

    The Air Dobby is not a dobby like the old mill ones with the two treadles and dobby chain (like the one I used at RISD). It is specifically designed to fit the Macomber loom.

    As far as the air compressor...I am not an expert on those. I know that a few years back Rick designed a sound proof box to house one. I will ask him about that and post soon.