In which some interesting variations (and a couple of mysteries) are discovered.
This pair of wove moulds was given to Cathleen Baker by the late Larry Lou Foster of Tuscaloosa, Alabama who acquired them in 1968 while traveling in England. Cathy loaned me this pair and another laid pair to examine.
The moulds are small, 11″ x 12″, and of fairly standard construction but with a few puzzling features. The bottoms are fitted with boxwood rub strips and these curious, roughly shaped ‘minimal’ cast brass corners. These moulds, being so small, are naturally very stout. In this case at least, brass corners must have been added to take wear rather than to brace the structure; that there are only two screws each and that the corners are so small supports this idea.
The moulds have been altered and/or re-conditioned. They seem to have started out (as many small moulds do) plain, without rub strips and brass corners. This is indicated by the remains of a miter partly hidden beneath each of the eight brass corners. A miter (combined with the regular joint) is a traditional way to neatly finish the bottom corner of a plain, unbraced mould. Corner braces and rub strips were added later, possibly because the mould was wearing badly on its bottom edges. The narrow copper strips that protect the edges of the wire facing were originally folded down over the ends and nailed. The current edge strips stop just shy of the corners. You can see the two holes left when the nails were removed and also an area which was carved out of the wood to accept the thickness of the original strips. The joints seem to be nailed and countersunk; filled holes appear on both faces of each corner. Also interesting is this variation of the double dovetail joint in which the top ‘pin’ (this refers to the part that overlaps the ‘tails’ in dovetail joints) is offset by about 3/32″. My guess is that this was intended to add strength to the end of the frame. Gripping the mould to the deckle during formation might tend to pull the bottom edge out, thus torquing the top edge inward; in this case the inward thrust would be stopped by the narrow ‘ledge’ cut into the adjoining (long) side of the frame. (This is illustrated more clearly at the bottom of this post).
One of the moulds has a decided twist, though the mahogany sides are all very straight (as is the grain of the wood). Both moulds are slightly concave; the metal screen sags by about 1/16″ in the middle. This may be a result of the long term stresses of couching. The photo shows the back side of the mould where the pegs of the ribs are visible. These moulds have ‘through holes’ and the pegs formed on the rib ends pass all the way through the frame. The entire front of each mould is sheathed. The sheathing ends right at the two front corners and is not folded around the sides. You can see this in the previous photo.
Mystery #1: Why are all of the holes that the rib pegs rest in uniformly ‘lemon shaped’? And why are they oriented the same way? I can imagine that a file or a sort of broach must have been used to shape the holes. If anyone has any insights please share!
This is truly weird for me to see. The holes have little points at 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock. This uniform orientation seems to argue that a jig or mechanical device was used to make the holes.
The brace rods are hammered flat at the ends and set into oblong mortises. The ribs are made of wood with a very uniform grain; not resembling any coniferous wood that I have worked with. They may be made of a species called Parana Pine. I have a couple of samples given me by Serge Pirard and I fancy there is a resemblance. (I will at some point make a mould using this wood for ribs.) The wire structure that supports the wove facing is a variation that I haven’t seen before. There are two ‘grid’ wires between each pair of ribs; this is not unusual but what IS unusual is that only one of them is stitched in place. (See post #26) The other ‘floats’, giving support to the facing but not held in place by stitching. ‘Floating’ grid wires are pretty standard but usually they are flanked by a two sewn grid wires, one on each side.
In each space between ribs you can see the two grid wires; in the usual repeating pattern a sewing wire passes under three (backing) laid wires and passes up and over two wires of the mesh and back down, taking a spiral path and binding the layers together. But this is true only for the grid wires on the right in this photo; the ones on the left are not sewn at all.
I was gratified to see that the stitches are carefully placed to ‘lie low’ by crossing the mesh wires at the low points as they spiral around the backing wires. (Gratified because I sometimes wonder if I imagined this detail; it seems such a fine point and may or may not be a common feature). The sewing wire is unusually small at .006″ diameter and the mesh wire is relatively coarse at .011″ diameter. The mesh is fairly coarse at 36 wires per inch by 40 wires per inch. The 4 stitches visible in this close-up are indicated by blue arrows. The path of a floating grid wire is shown by the yellow arrows. Ideally this grid wire is held in a sort of ‘trough’ formed by a pair of zig-zagging mesh wires; here you can see that this wire wanders off to the right a bit.
When I first studied moulds in the early 1980s I noticed an inward slant on their sides but with time came to doubt my first impression. This feature would make it easier to place and remove the deckle. I started out making moulds this way but soon switched to making them with no slant at all. These moulds show an inward slant (actually more of a slight curve) that was probably shaped with a plane after the mould frame was assembled. This slant is on the short end of the mould, parallel to the ribs.
This shows the slant on the long side, at right angles to the ribs.
Mystery #2: Is it possible that grooves were actually carved out for the backing laid wires to rest in? It sure looks like that here, along with a transverse groove to hold the chain wire. Usually there is what I call a ‘ledge’ here but there’s no sign of that on this mould. It seems unlikely that the laid wires could have been pressed into the wood. When wet the wood would tend to return to its original shape, pushing the wires back up. The copper nails in old paper moulds are often remarkably loose; I was able to pull these out with my fingernail so I could peek under the facing. I would have loved to examine this more thoroughly but couldn’t ‘dig any deeper’ without damaging the mould.
These deckle joints were made in the fashion that I prefer with joints fitting together in a rotating ‘pinwheel’ pattern. This eliminates the necessity of cutting opposite forms of the complicated joint. Notice the single inset wear plate of brass at lower right.
The left front corner of the deckle has a brass plate inset into the vertical inner edge. It is bent at a right angle and nailed into a shallow mortise. There was also an “L” shaped flat brass plate that was set down into the groove behind the deckle rim. Now it is missing. Both front corners also have bent brass plates along the very narrow vertical face of the rim. These ‘wear plates’ are standard features on most British moulds I’ve seen.
The left front corner viewed from a different angle. The extra reinforcement (I believe) reduces wear on the part of the deckle that first hits the edge of the mould as the deckle is quickly placed on it (over and over and over…).
This is a pretty deckle. It is very ‘curvy’ and the relatively thin sheathing (.008″) is nicely fitted.
The front and back edges are shaped to a very narrow edge; less than 1/8″.
I have not carefully examined a lot of moulds and deckles. I thought I should get organized to make it easier to note features and variations. The survey that I devised ended up describing about 75 features that I am interested in recording for comparison. I first print blank versions with only the questions to complete by hand. Then I enter the information for a digital record. Pictured is a completed survey of this pair of moulds.
More about the offset in the corner joint
I’ve altered and annotated the above photo to show how the offset part of the joint adds an extra strengthening feature to the completed joint.
The red lines show what the edges would look like if the facing and edge strips were removed. The yellow arrow shows the offset and the black arrows point to the extra joining surface that is created on the right hand part of the mould frame. This little ledge would keep the mould frame (on the left) from being pushed in at the top. That’s the theory I’ve come up with to explain the function of the extra feature. There must be some reason to do it this way since it makes cutting the joints a little more difficult.