Monday, 27 October 2008

How to use an autodenter

With my recent spending splurge, I had the opportunity to pick up an autodenter at a discount. I've always been curious about how these worked, so I decided to try it. Wow. What an ingenious piece of equipment. Truly a labour-saving device. The point of an autodenter is that you never need take the denter out of the reed, meaning it becomes much, much harder to miss a dent when sleying the reed. I learned a few things in teaching myself how to use this, so I thought I'd share the tips.

In this example, I'm sleying a 10-dent reed, 2 ends per dent, with 10/2 cotton which is in a straight threading. In addition to this, I always sley in both directions from the centre of the reed. This is for two reasons - the shafts on my loom have threads in the centre which stop the hedlles from moving past them so I have to thread that way, and it also saves me from having to figure out where in the reed to start.

I've found it's best to have the reed as far forward from the heddles as you can get it. You're less likely to get yourself in a tangle if you give yourself plenty of space to work. In addition, I've found that it's best to work with the autodenter in the top half of the reed, while keeping the threads at the bottom of the reed for the same reason.

You can see in the above photo that the autodenter is bent at the top. The autodenter will be composed of a (probably wooden) handle, and three pieces of metal - two are pressed together like a pair of closed tweezers, and they hold the third piece extending beyond them. If you look closely, you'll see that the two lower pieces of metal are slightly curved to one side where they hold the long piece.

Insert the autodenter into the first dent, with the metal flap at the top pointing away from the direction in which you are sleying - in this example, I'm sleying from right to left so the flap is pointing right. If you're still not sure you have the correct orientation, take a look at the lower pieces of metal - the little curve should be in the direction you plan to move, because it's these that will pick up the dents. You can see this clearly in some of the lower photos (particularly the one with my hand in it) if you click to enlarge them.

Untie one group of ends at a time, and carefully seperate them out, laying them on top of the heddles in groups in order that they are to be sleyed through the reed. In this case, I had groups of 8 ends, which were divided into four groups of two ends each:

Select the threads you want to pull through that dent, and wp them around the hook.

Pull the hook part of the autodenter back through the reed. The 'tooth' of the autodenter should pick up the steel seperator, so that the steel of the reed runs through between the right-hand (in this case) and the main hook part of the autodenter. As the reed passes the place where the pain hook part is held, you'll hear a click. You can see, in the photo below, the metal pieces seperating to allow the dent to pass through. (Apologies for the fuzziness of the photo, it's hard to do this one-handed and take photos at the same time).

By this stage, the hook should have come through the reed, bringing the thread with it. The metal flap at the top prevents the autodenter from coming all the way through, unless you twist it to allow it to do so.

With the hand not holding the autodenter, take the thread from the hook and lay it at the bottom of the dent, below the autodenter.

Now slide the autodenter forward. The left-hand tooth should engage the metal divider this time, so that it slides between the left-hand tooth and the central hook piece of the autodenter. You shouldn't need to put too much pressure on it to accomplish this, but you may have to wiggle the autodenter slightly to ensure the dent divider goes through. Then you're in the next dent and can grab the thread as before.

If the autodenter bends like in the image below, you're putting too much pressure on it:

If you put a lot of lateral pressure on the autodenter, you risk opening the lower two metal pieces, and allowing the long, central hook to be pulled out. If this happens, just use a thin metal instrument like a reed hook to prise the lower metal pieces apart and reinsert the central piece.

If, for any reason, you have to stop sleying the reed while using the autodenter, it's simple to balance the autodenter in the top of the dent, as in the top image. If you have to remove the autodenter and start sleying at a later stage, insert he autodenter in the same dent as the previous set of threads, because pulling the autodenter backwards is what moves you on. Double-check that the threads are in the correct dents before moving on.


  1. I had just been thinking that I bought one of those years ago, tried it once, and gave up. Now that I'm using skinner yarns, I thought might take it out, except usually I'm weaving 3 to 6 ends per dent, so... maybe EBay time for me.

  2. One of my next projects will be in 60/2 silk, Meg, so I'm certainly going to find out how it works with the finer stuff!

    Having said that, I have a 20dpi reed for the finer stuff, so even using 60/2s, I'll still only be sleying at 3 ends per dent.

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