The Boyce Weaver’s Knotter, How It Works

Before I start this post, let me apologize for the number of pictures. This page is probably taking forever to load. I promise that they’re necessary and interesting…

In production weaving, it’s normal to settle on a threading pattern and avoid having to rethread every project. You tie one warp onto the next and pull it through the heddles and reed at once. This reduces threading errors and saves time. This warp join was tied by hand – 2400 threads, 1200 little knots.

In May, I was reading a post on Sandra Rude’s blog entitled More on the Boyce Weaver’s Knotter. It sounded like such a useful device that I decided to get one, especially if I could find it cheap.

I went to eBay and did a search for “weavers knotter”. I set up “My eBay” to notify me of any new listings that matched. If you’ve never done this, it’s like magic. When someone, somewhere in the world decides to sell the item on eBay, you get an email a few hours later. How cool is that!? Well, one showed up last week in Brooklyn. (The first one to appear in three months, I might add…) I was the only bidder and paid about $40 including shipping. It arrived in perfect working order, but with enough wear that I know it’s seen years of good use already.

This device is left over from the days when the U.S. had a lot of textile mills. It is designed for precisely the use that I’m making of it: weavers used them to repair broken warp threads quickly and with no “tails” to snarl the weaving. If they tied whole warps together, you can bet they used it for that, too. It’s pretty simple to operate: you lay two threads into it and pull the trigger. It ties them together and snips off the tails.

(Pay no attention to the one long thumb nail in these pictures. It’s very convenient for someone who spends all day fiddling with thread.)

Here’s a step-by-step photo essay of the workings inside the device as it goes through its motions.

Two threads ready to be tied together. They are just laid on either side of the big black guide hook on top.

Plates on either side push the red thread under the green one.

The tiny “finger hook” inserts itself between the two threads as it turns

It keeps turning, getting ready to grab the green thread

The green thread enters the fingers

This is a little tough to see. The fingers have clamped onto the green thread and now a tiny pair of scissors on the far side of the device trims the thread ends. If I wasn’t holding the camera in my left hand, I would be holding those tails, ready to toss them into the trash after they’re cut.

After cutting, a blunt hook comes up between the two threads to pull the red thread and tighten the knot. (At the beginning, when the red thread got pushed under the green, the pushing mechanism clamped onto both threads. This clamp is holding the thread as the hook tightens the knot.)

The hook continues its motion, pulling the knot up and clear of the mechanisms.

When the trigger is released, the whole device resets itself and the clamps release the two threads which are now tied into a sturdy knot.

The whole operation happens in about half a second. To tie the same knot by hand takes 5-10 seconds without trimming the tails (if I’m quick, that is). Multiply that by 1200 threads in a 60″ warp and this little device will speed it up by over two hours. And since it’s already nearly 100 years old, I think it will serve me well for many years to come.

Related Posts:
Keeping Threads Organized

18 thoughts on “The Boyce Weaver’s Knotter, How It Works”

  1. Thanks! I have one of these gadgets but have not been able to get it to work consistently. Hopefully with those detailed pix I can get it so it ties a good knot every time.

  2. First, I'd like to thank you for stopping by my blog earlier, it is always exciting to hear/meet new people. Thank you for the information on the camera jitters, it is a small but good little camera never had any problems before, you cleared up my concerns for me.
    And also, being new to weaving I am facinated by the art and eager to learn all I can, thank you for this post about the Weaver's Knotter! So helpful and interesting!

  3. Milly, the title of your blog caught my attention immediately. I come from a long line of natural-born storytellers, and can't help but notice how that trait is associated with fiber arts: "spinning a yarn", "weaving a tale", etc.

    Tien, I've found that the key to getting it to work right is to have no tension on the threads at all. They are laid inside the mechanism flat and slack. Oh, yeah, and after oiling it, I cleaned the little finger mechanism with alcohol because the thread needs to be held tight without slipping out of it.

  4. this thing is amazing. but I always love bragging about the "thousands of knots I have been tying" to people who think it is a complete waste of time.

  5. This is the coolest thing ever! Thank you so much for documenting it so beautifully! Your blog is full of such useful information.

  6. Thank you for this nice page. MY FATHER (born in Gastonia NC)told me about one of his close relatives who had invented "The Boyce Knotter" but for these 40 to 50 years since I've not been able to track down other information. I'm going to send your URL to all my siblings and extended family!

  7. What a great tool! Wish I'd had one of those when I last tied on, it may have made the job so much neater…..Glad I found your blog again – you've been very busy and I have much to catch up with.

  8. Hi, that tool is the very reason why I found your site. I hope you can help me find another one… I just need it very badly… thanks

  9. Wow! I have had one of these for years that I found wedged behind a drawer in an antique piece of furniture that I had purchased at an estate sale. I have talked with dozens, and dozens of people and have not been able to find out what it was until today. Everything on the brass badge is worn off on mine except for the number. This is great! It's been one of those things that has always boggled my mind. It's so nice to finally know what this item is.

  10. Found one today at the flea market, (as a weaver, of course I have to buy everyting if it sais 'weaving' on it ; ). Now I know what it is, Going to try it tomorrow first when I arrive at my studio, Thanks! rgds,

  11. I have had one of these since about 1976however not the 1926 US version but the Mellor Bromley & co ltd of Leicester England, The tin that it came in has Bentley Wilot Mellor Bromley ltd. Manchester England

  12. I saw this blog a while back when I was looking to buy a knotter for my mother-in-law. I found one on ebay, bought it, and had it shipped to her. She, of course, doesn't know how to use it I re-found this blog, hoping to be able to print it out and send it to her. However, the pictures aren't showing up now on any of my computers. I was wondering if they have been removed. If so, I was wondering if you could repost them? Thanks!

  13. I am curious if this device can tie a 'tension knot'? If I'm working on an air-jet loom and a string breaks, I have to tie the ends back together and do so tight enough that the string will hold up the drop wire. I've seen videos of this Boyce Knotter, but none tell me whether it will knot two ends together that are under tension. I have been told that it won't.

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