Archive for January 2012

Sweetly Sings the Baby

January 14, 2012

Do you know that song, Sweetly Sings the Donkey? It’s to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider, but it’s hilarious. I love the idea of a donkey singing sweetly—at the break of day or any other time. In any case, I was making up a version of the song about Owen, “Sweetly sings the Baby” and singing it to him (after an introduction on the recorder, of course). Instead of the hee haws, I inserted an impression of the sounds he makes if he’s unhappy in the morning. Apparently my impression (which included lip quivering, and crying so hard that I had to gasp for air before resuming the cry) was a bit too realistic for Owen, as it caused him to cry exactly the way I was imitating, even though he’d been in a fine mood. I guess it’s upsetting to see dad in distress.

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DIY Charkha

January 9, 2012

According to my reading, the oldest evidence of spinning with a wheel (as opposed to with a drop spindle or supported spindle) dates to about 1500 years ago in India. In its simplest form a spinning wheel is just a sharp spindle connected bicycle-style to a drive wheel. The drive wheel is large, the spindle is small. So when the drive wheel turns once, the spindle turns many times to generate lots of twist. Small Indian wheels of this driven spindle type are called charkhas. They are well suited to spinning short fibers that need lots of twist in order to hold together–namely cotton. I figured this would be the easiest sort of wheel to build, and it actually was pretty easy to build a usable one. Here’s Rhianna checking out the finished(ish) product:

The main drive wheel is a 12 inch circle cut from 3mm thick birch ply wood. I used a coping saw and did this at my desk. If one had a scroll saw and a work bench it would be much easier.

The spindle is a smallish knitting needle, probably  a US2 I think, but I don’t remember. The “whorl”, whose only purpose is to keep the cop away from the maidens is a 1″ disc cut from a lasagna noodle box. The maidens themselves are 6″ lengths of 3/8 inch dowels with small eye hooks screwed in about an inch from the top. The drive band would slip if it ran directly over the needle so I fed on to the needle a piece of 1/4″ dowel. I just drilled a centered hole the same diameter as the needle. To put a groove for the drive band into this drive pulley, I mounted the needle (with the dowel on it) into a drill. I ran the drill while holding the edge of a file against the center of the dowel. It’s a poor man’s lathe, probably not the safest thing to do, but I was careful. You can see the groove in the dowel more clearly here:

The drive band itself is a piece of gimp, a.k.a. craft lace, a.k.a. Rexlace–that stuff that you make boondoggle keychains out of at summer camp. I recommend using either “Nite Glow” or one of the glitter colors because they have a grippier texture. I went with the “Nite Glow” because how could I not? It glows in the dark! How many spinning wheels in the world have glow in the dark drive bands?

Now back to those 12″ plywood circles. I noticed in several photos and music videos(?) that many traditional charkhas have zig zag or criss cross lacing between two discs like this (15 seconds into the video):

Notice btw that she does not have a glow in the dark drive band, but that paint job and mirror bedazzling treatment is pretty sweet. I might have to pimp my ride that way, too… Anyway, to lace up the drive wheel I used a compass and some geometry-class-style fun to lay out 24 equally spaced holes 1/8″ in from the rim of the 12″ discs. I drilled the holes simultaneously through both discs, stacked with their centers aligned. Then I separated the discs using a 1″ wooden spool. The spool sits centered in the wheel. I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the two discs and spool then hammered some 1/4″ copper pipe into the hole. The axel itself is some 3/16″ cold rolled steel rod:

This metal-on-metal arrangement makes for fairly low friction and fairly low noise when spinning the wheel. The axel itself does not turn. I used a needle and some lace weight cotton to lace up the wheel:

It took some experimentation to figure out how to do the lacing. In this scheme, the lacing never goes over the edges of the wheels, but if I did it again, I’d probably just do it the simpler way that shoes are usually laced up. Here’s the spindle in action working on some cotton punis that I carded from cotton balls.

The drive ratio is about 48:1.

Kick Spindle

January 2, 2012

Later this month I’m teaching a two week introduction to spinning course. Here is one of the spinning tools I’ve built recently, a kick spindle.

As a starting point for my design I read this post by Layne Brosius, a.k.a. AFrayedKnotter. My kick spindle is pretty similar to hers. There are two major differences. The first is that I used a 1″ thick piece of poplar with feet, as you can see in the pictures. The weight of the flywheel (a furniture bun foot from Lowe’s) seems to give the device sufficient inertia both to spin for a while and to not slide across the floor during use.  I’ve only used the kick spindle on carpeting and outdoor cement, but I think if I put some rubber feet on the bottom it would stay in place on wood or tile, too.

The second significant change I made is in the bearing design. Most kick spindles I’ve seen use roller bearings, like you’d find in a roller skate. That would make the spindle turn longer between kicks, but nice bearings are expensive (especially if I’m looking to build ten of these in a class), and I don’t really mind kicking in a rhythm, since I’m used to treadling on a wheel anyway. Instead of a $4 skate bearing, I came up with something that costs a dime, namely an actual dime:

I drilled into the base at a 45° angle with a ¾” spade bit then super glued a dime onto the floor of the angled hole. I put a divot in the dime with a 1/16″ metal bit.

In the divot rests the sharpened metal point of the spindle. To point the spindle end, I nailed a small finishing nail into the center of the 1/2″ dowel that I used for the spindle (I used 1/2″ dowel because I have a 1/2″ in drill bit but not a 3/8″ one. If I had the 3/8″ bit, I’d probably go with the 3/8″ dowel).  Next I sharpened the end of the spindle by cutting away excess wood with a knife. This leaves the small nail head sticking out the end like a pencil lead. I sharpened the head with a file:

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the sharpness of the tip. (but yes, that is a dvd of Flash Dance behind my hand. I’m a spinning maniac, maniac, and I’m spinning like I’ve never done before…) The spindle will go through twelve to twenty rotations per kick:

I spun a few ounces of wool from rolags in a hotel room while watching Elf over thanksgiving weekend.  The kick spindle works pretty well.It fits in car much more easily than a spinning wheel–with a convertible car seat in the back of my Corolla, there’s no way my Saxony wheel would fit anywhere in the car anymore. It’s fairly lightweight, but heavy enough to stay in place. It isn’t as portable as a drop spindle, but the winding on procedure is a bit more efficient. Also I’m still not very good at long draws on a drop spindle, but it’s easy to spin short or long draw on the kick spindle. The kick spindle can  accommodate a very large cop of yarn, So I can spin more yarn before winding balls for plying. Winding directly off the kick spindle is also very easy.  Total cost for the whole thing was about $12. If you wanted something a bit more aesthetic, you could use a plaque with a routed edge for the base and stain the whole thing.


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