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6th March 2012
Rebirth of an old Meccano loom

At the beginning of February an auction was held during the meeting of the Runnymede Meccano Guild (RMG) The auction was the usual collection of run-of-the-mill items such as modern sets and boxes of miscellaneous used parts etc. I made several bids on all sorts of stuff I did not really need (you know how it is) and lost all of them. Then, an interesting lot was heralded with the immortal words “This has been sitting in the loft for more years than I can remember” It was a very tired looking Loom. A small amount of interest soon died and all of a sudden I was the proud owner of a Meccano loom.

It works!
My loom, tatty but it is doing the job!

Sue does not come along to the RMG meetings so when I got home I showed her my proud purchase which looked even more dishevelled under the harsh illumination of the kitchen's florescent lighting. Well, the look on her face was a picture of disbelief. “You actually bought that?” she asked. At that moment I was beginning to wonder why myself. Being in the lucky position of being married to someone who also has moments of buying, shall we say ‘unusual’ Meccano items, I knew this was a genuine question and not a request to justify my actions. Besides at just £22.00 I could almost validate the outlay for the parts alone. Not understanding how it was supposed to work a bit of tinkering just made it look worse as threads became entangled with each other.

The feed end of the loom as made bythe late Bill roberts

Feeling a little disappointed with my purchase, now I was also looking at it in a harsh light, I removed the said model to the Meccano room where it sat on the side for about six weeks until a week or so ago when I picked it up with the view of dismantling it. Sue and I decided to have another go at seeing if we could understand how it was supposed to work and after a few false starts the method of weaving became clear. Low and behold it started to produce something that did not look too bad...

The picture of the loom sitting on our Meccano table was taken at this momentous occasion  (sorry it is not the best of photographs) showing what it has made - Amazing!

The loom has been languishing in Nick Rogers loft for many years and Nick tells me the Late Bill Roberts built it originally. The loom is obviously based on the instructions published in MM (September 1964 P29) although Bill seems to have added a spool feeder for the warp instead of using the beam shown in the instructions. It is early days yet but I think I can feel another model coming on and maybe a bit of a reconstruction/refurbishment of Bill’s original model.

First Meccano loom

In 1915/6 Meccano launched a worldwide Meccano building competition with a first prize of £50.00. That was a awful lot of money in those days being equivalent to over £3.500.00 Today (2012), according to a web money values calculator.

The competition generated thousands of entries and among them was a model of a loom built by J.Yoxall of Nelson, Lancashire. The model won joint first prize and featured on the front cover of the very first Meccano Magazine published in 1916. In 1922, Meccano announced the introduction of two new sets; 6A and 7. The 6A was, of course, the accessory set, which converted set 6 into the new set 7. Set 7 of 1922 was a huge set, larger than the New sets of the 1930s, including the infamous number 10. At the time this set sold for 370/- (£18.50) and was complete with clockwork and electric motors, an accumulator and the specialist parts required to build the loom.

The 1915/16 competition inspired the first Meccano loom nearly 100 years ago. Frank Hornby was a shrewd businessman and his text, reproduced below the illustration above, encourages boys to build the model. Full building instructions for this model (Special Meccano Model 319) can be found on page 125 in the 1916 Manual Book No.1 - it can be downloaded from HERE

The loom underwent several reincarnations over the years but most of the special loom parts, with the exception of the wooden roller and the healds were dropped, first from the sets and eventually from the range of spare parts. The reed hook and the shuttle are now very much sought after by collector’s commanding high prices in good condition. Replica shuttles are available but due to the relatively small demand are costly.

My Model

The loom I bought at auction was designed in the mid 1960s by which time the shuttle had been dropped from the range so a built up Meccano shuttle has been used. Meccan built shuttleAlthough not as sophisticated as the 1920s shuttle it does the job – for now…

It will soon be the 100th anniversary of the competition that gave birth to the first Meccano Loom and the concept of weaving miniature cloth on a machine built from strips of metal, gears, nuts and bolts is still just as appealing today as it was then – at least we think so!  



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How's that then? A little messing about and a few adjustments and it works! Ok there are some issues with the quality and the tread is all filthy but it is doing what it is supposed to do - weave!