As a nice holiday occupation I am examining the old reeds I have collected over many years.
One thing that immediately strikes me is that they are so short - most of them are between 5 and 6,5 cms (2 resp 2,6 inches). (Common height in Sweden today is 10 cm, or 4".)
The next thing is that they are so fine - the finest (yet - below) has 12,5 dents per cm (slightly over 31 dents/inch). The majority has between 8,5 and 10 dpcm.
New Swedish reeds are marked with number of dents per 10 cm, plus length. The fine reed above would be stamped with 125/10, 104. These old reeds are marked in different fashions, where the most notable is that the marking does not give number of dents per a certain lenght - instead it often gives the number of dents in the whole reed. However, it is given in different systems... the fine reed is marked as iiii iiii iiii iiii iiii iiii iii (27 small notches) in one of the endpieces.
The weaver has also marked off the 27 "partitions", each of them 48 dents long. (Why 48? Because in some parts of the country one, er, lea? hank? was supposed to hold 96 threads, and each dent usually held two ends - that's why!)
Others are marked with roman numerals, sometimes backwards - IIIV, for instance, means 8. Some of the "romans" tell the number of "score" (or is that "scoreS"? - score as in 20, anyway). Thus, the reed marked XIII has 260 dents total. All the "score" reeds I have identified yet are fairly open, between 29 and 35 dents per 10 cm (ca 7 to 9 dpi).
Then there are many with romal numerals that count the number of 30-dent partitions. (Why 30? Because in other parts of the country one, er, lea? hank? was supposed to hold 60 threads...) Thus, one reed marked XXVI has 780 dents total (26 x 30 = 780), which, re-calculated to dents per cm is 9,4, or 23,5 dents per inch.
To make things more confusing, I also have several that I can't see the system for... Take the VII-marked one that has 879 dents, has thread markings in each 30ieth dent and is 75,5 cms long. It has 11 dpcm (27,5 dpi) - but I can't figure out any relation between VII (which should mean 7, right?), 30 and the total of 879...
There are two different styles to them - either the separating strings are just wound one (or, in some cases, two) turns between the splines, or the string are knotted between turns.
Some of them also has pieces of fabric sewn on. The fabric could be protection against wear - or perhaps it is padding? We all know that it can be very irritating to weave with a reed that doesn't fit snugly in the beater.
The most good-looking one has both knots and decoratively carved end pieces: