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Antique Braid Makers Attract Showgoers
Al Kamminga, DeMotte, Ind., makes colorful braids with a pair of antique braiding machines that he operates with a small electric motor.
  The 2 machines ride on wheels and at shows stand side by side, belt-driven by the same motor using a double pulley. One machine produces round braids, and the other flat. Both machines were built back in the 1890’s by New England Butt Co. of Providence, Rhode Island.
  “I often demonstrate my braiding machines at local antique tractor shows, where they’re a big hit,” says Kamminga. “Kids like to use the flat braids as shoelaces. Adults use the round braids for lanyards or as decorative items. At shows I set out a table to show examples of the different kinds and colors of braids that I can make. Braids that match a student’s school colors are quite popular.”
  Each braiding machine uses a series of 16 “bobbins” that work by means of a circular weaving process. The bobbins magically create a braid that rises from the machine, goes through a series of rollers, and then lowers into a bucket as the spindles continue to spin and make more.
  “With the machine that makes round braids, half the bobbins go clockwise and the other half counter clockwise,” says Kamminga. “With the machine that makes flat braids, all the bobbins go almost all the way around but then reverse their direction and go back the other way. It’s a very ingenious design.”
  The braiding machines were originally used in factories, and the braid was put on huge spools. “Each machine could produce up to 800 yards of braids per day,” says Kamminga. “Such machines are now quite rare in the U.S. There used to be thousands of them on the East Coast before they were eventually moved overseas.”
  He got his machines in a roundabout way. “Someone in Pennsylvania had salvaged braiding machines from a factory that was scheduled to be demolished, and then sold a few to different people. The guy I bought my machines from had set them up on wheeled carts so they could be easily moved around.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Al Kamminga, 5666 W. 1250 N., DeMotte, Ind. 46310 (ph 219 987-3993; alkamminga@hotmail.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #3