Tablets. No, not that kind, the kind for weaving…

More tool building. I mean, I guess these tablet weaving tablets technically count as tools. Or maybe all of them together constitute a tool. Anyways.

A lot of people who do tablet weaving use paper cards (even playing cards with holes cut in them) but I wanted to make some more old-school ones, so I tried to make some out of wood. They were also made of horn, bone or ivory in the past, and those materials might be somewhat easier to work with since they could be made a lot thinner without splitting. Anyhow, here’s what I did to make mine. I don’t really recommend this method, for various reasons that I will explain, but it was basically free, so I can’t complain too much.

So when I thought of making this, I was out at the family cabin in BC and wasn’t anywhere near a “craft store” so I thought to try the hardware store and see if they had anything like the small pieces of basswood or balsa wood you can get at somewhere like Michaels. I was there with my dad anyhow picking up bricks to build a retaining wall and asked if we could find a small piece of plain, flat trim or thin wood. The guys that worked there just gave us a scrap piece for free. I’m not sure what that piece of wood was technically supposed to be, but it was about 1cm thick and 4cm wide rough pine.

Being out at a cabin in the woods with only the tools we had in the shed there, it was a bit of a process to turn a rough piece of wood into smooth little squarish disks. First it was just a case of marking them out to the same length as the width of the wood and cutting it all into little squares, and then drilling holes in each corner. Easy enough, there were power tools for that part.

Small square pieces of wood sitting on top of a rasp.
Took this picture out on the bench at the cabin showing my stages, as well as the tools I used. I finished about 12 of them then and I’ve been working on the rest which I brought home unfinished.

Then, I spent hours over several days with a dull rasp and a couple files to try and make them smooth and thin out the edges. My hands got shredded against the rasp several times and seriously cramped up from moving little bits of wood over the tools for so long. Then I sanded them all by hand until they were smooth enough to use.  That’s pretty much why I wouldn’t recommend using my method. It’d be a much better idea to either use power tools for the shaping and sanding, or to find better/thinner wood to start with, which is something I plan on doing when I make myself another set. Not only is this set too thick, they’re also kind of too small. They function, but it could be a lot better.

A fallen over stack of unfinished tablet weaving tablets, rough squares of wood with holes drilled in the corners.
These are the ones I brought home unfinished and have been working on with slightly better tools and more sandpaper.
A tablet weaving tablet - a rounded and smoothed square of wood with holes drilled in the corners.
Here’s one I’ve smoothed out. Yeah, it’s still pretty rough and uneven. I’m not really much of a woodworker o.O;

They are functional on a basic level though, just have to be rotated one by one or in pairs because of the thickness, and they look a little messy. Here’s what I’m working on now with them:

A tablet weaving setup.
I’m just doing a narrow band with 11 tablets strung with cotton embroidery thread. I’m not a terribly accomplished weaver, but I enjoy the process.

The beater shown in that picture is actually a paint stick that I shaped around the same time as the tablets. It was a bit easier, I think because it seems to be made of a softer wood.

A paint stir stick shaped into a beater for weaving.
The back side of the paint stick beater before I sanded the printed brand stuff off.

I’ll have to post a tutorial of how to actually *do* tablet weaving at some point, but I’m a bit of a novice myself, and I’ve only done really simple patterns. Some folks can do amazing interlaced knots and even writing and things, but I mostly do stripes and chevrons/diamonds/x-es. This piece I’m working on will hopefully be trim for a bag I’m giving away in an online swap… So, I’m going to get back to work on it now.

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