Train of thought on the subject from an “American” weaver….(and you’ll see why I label myself later if you choose to keep reading…) sparked by a recent conversation on the Weaving yahoo group:
I know this discussion of harness vs. shaft comes up from time to time but as I learned to say “harness” rather than “shaft” I did some research as to why I do that.
I pulled out the Schacht catalog that I picked up at my local weaving store when I bought my first loom in the late 1980’s. In the literature, the word ‘harness’ is used over and over again. I then checked out the wording for the same floor loom on the current Schacht website/page and both terms are used. In the first part of the product description it says 4 or 8 shafts and at the end of the description its says:
“*”Four Now – Four Later” (4N4L) is an eight harness loom shipped with only four harnesses installed, but with the capacity to add an additional four harnesses. You can purchase a kit to add four harnesses at a later time. 4N4L looms are shipped with all the heddles, tie-ups and other items normally included with an eight harness loom.”
On the labeled image of a low castle floor loom both terms are used: “harness or shaft”
So, I went a bit further and looked at Louet, LeClerc, Glimakra, and Harrisville. The first 3 use the word “shaft”. Harrisville uses the word “harness”.
Then I checked a few online “American” dictionaries for the words and whittled down the gist of the definitions to:
Shaft: long narrow pole, tunnel, stem of body of a spear
Harness: a support
So, following the dictionary definitions and to my current understanding, the word harness refers to an actual object that holds/supports something (think horse & cart) and shaft is a sort of space like mine shaft or tunnel or, as the above definition states, a long, narrow pole, stem, etc. In weaving terms: Harness, the object that holds the heddles, Shaft, well, I’m not too sure – maybe the space where the harness goes (think tunnel or mine shaft)?
Then I went to my bookshelf and reviewed a few books. Some used the word “shaft”; some “harness”. Best explanation I found was in Rachel Brown’s 1983 copyright of The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book, pg 127, The Heddles and Harness:
“Before discussing this part of the loom we must clear up the terminology. The heddles are the wire, steel, or string devices through which the warp ends are threaded. They are held in a frame (or simply two laths of wood in the case of string heddles). The entire arrangement is called a ‘heddle shaft’ (or simply ‘shaft’) or ‘harness’. ‘Harness’ formerly was used to mean a set of shafts, but American usage has deteriorated and here ‘harness’ has come to mean a single shaft, and is the term most commonly used, and the one we use in this book.”
I am curious as to why the “deterioration”. Development of American English? Perhaps loom design? Another study for another day….
When I’m teaching, I use both terms without getting into a full explanation unless they ask. Most students already have enough to think about when they are warping/dressing a loom. I use both of those terms with students for that process as well. I use both terms not to confuse them, but the reality is, if they continue to weave, then they will hear variations in terminology.Faith (who should be in the studio weaving…but my curiosity got the best of me) PS: I just recently bought a used copy of the Rachel Brown book at amazon.com. I had borrowed a copy from my guild’s library and fell in love with it. Great drawings…great info. But it was not on my shelf when I began weaving years ago. Glad it is now.