I am holding a lucet in my hand. Although this one is made of plastic, wooden and bone versions of an almost identical shape have been used for thousands of years. It looks a bit like a two pronged fork, or perhaps a very delicate catapult, with a short handle that has a hole through it, just below the point where the tines meet. If I turn it upside down so that the spikes become legs it resembles the sort of thing that might be misconstrued by an ignorant archaeologist as a ‘fertility figure’.
So what is this thing, and why is something the Vikings used, still a useful tool?
A lucet is both the simplest weaving loom ever invented and a sophisticated device for producing high tensile cord out of low tensile yarn. A weak twisted thread can be made into a far stronger cord by intertwining the thread in such a way that it compresses its core as it is pulled, any tendency that it may have to fray apart is prevented by its being pinched together with equal force that it is being pulled with.
Making cord with the lucet is delightfully easy and a surprisingly addictive activity, in fact it is easier to do than to describe, but a description follows nonetheless.
Looking at the lucet you realise that it is about the scale of two small fingers and indeed the work could be done with your fingers, for a while, before cramp sets in. Having the ability to rotate the fork makes the result more even and the whole process a lot faster.
Hold the lucet in your left hand so that the tines of the fork point away from your hand and you can see its ‘u’ shape with the hole below. Take the string/wool/twine that you are going to use, you will need quite a lot, and it will help to place it on your right hand side.
Place the end length of the thread between the fork so that the cut end is towards you. Pull this cut end, wrapping it around the right tine of the lucet and thread it through the hole from behind, pull through enough that you can trap the end with the hand that is holding the lucet.
Get the main length of thread from behind the left tine and wrap it forwards around the tine, then pull it to the right, taut across the front of both tines. The right hand tine will already have the loop you made a moment ago. Try and keep the thread reasonably taut while you lift the old loop up over the new taught thread, and slip it over the tip of the tine.
Following the thread, turn the lucet around, so that you are now looking at what was the back. Still keeping the thread taut, again pull it to the right across both tines above the existing loop on the right hand tine. Pick up that old loop, lift it over the taut thread and slip it over the tip of the tine. All you need to do now is continue this process; turn the lucet, wrap the thread, slip off the loop, until you have a cord long enough.
Once you have made a short length of cord the process gets much easier as the cord itself tends to keep the loops centered and the tension even. As you proceed you can pull the finished cord through the hole to keep it out of the way, some people wrap it around the handle.
These instructions are for right handed people, to convert to left handed just exchange the words left and right.