Posted tagged ‘birds’

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.

The View from my Window

August 10, 2011

We had zero yard in Dover. So, it was difficult to attract many birds near enough for observation. I did put up one of those suction-cup-mounted window feeders.  A purple finch stopped by for a snack pretty rapidly. However, our cats took to jumping at the window whenever he landed. So Mr. purple finch never stayed at the feeder for long. A wind storm knocked that feeder down, and an eccentric (most people would say crazy) man who kept the streets clean took it away before I could get it the next morning. It was nice of the eccentric man to clean our streets, anyway.

I was pretty excited to have a yard so the cats and I could watch birds from far enough away to not scare them off. I figured it would take a couple days for some avian visitors to find my new feeder.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when half a dozen goldfinches swooped in not ten minutes after I’d hung the feeder.

I like how one is hanging out sideways here:

This female landing on the cord is pretty cool too:

Narration by Beth (she didn’t know I was recording a movie ^_^).

Close Encounter

May 25, 2010

I was walking from the student union building back to my office after lunch today when out of nowhere a HUGE flash of white and brown feathers passed from right to left just before my eyes. I felt something light and fast pass over my arm and chest. My friends Yi-min, Liwei and I all looked dumbfounded for a second trying to figure out what just happened.

We saw it fly into a rhododendron. In the darkness of the bush sat a red-tailed-hawk. A huge red-tailed-hawk.  Looking at it, I wondered for a second if it was an eagle–it was so big. It perched atop its kill. It had caught something in the air and had run into us with it! I think some of the prey might have hit me, too. The hawk hit me in the arm, but it actually hit Liwei in the ear. We checked out his ear and verified that it hadn’t removed any of him in the process. Then we watched it fly away, and I saw the impressive red upper side of its tail as it came out of the bush.

A few second later, some of my other co-workers who were slower leaving lunch came around the corner, and I said, “did you guys see what just happened?!” but they’d missed it. I was wishing I’d had my camera, but it happened so suddenly and was over so quickly, I doubt it would have been of any use. You can’t really capture the experience of being hit by a hawk in a picture.

Nonetheless, check out the huge talons on this juvenile red-tailed hawk (public domain photo released by Alison Philips):

Bird Photos

April 22, 2010

This April 26th (Monday) will be the 225 anniversary of the birth of the French-American ornithologist/painter John James Audubon. Additionally, 2010 has been declared the International year of Biodiversity. In honor of these events (or just because I feel like it), I’ve created a separate blog where I am planning to catalog photos I’ve taken of all the bird species I have ever seen.

There was an NPR story about Audubon a couple years ago–he sounds like such an interesting person. The illegitimate son of a French sea captain, he was born in Haiti in 1785. He apparently made up his own name (Audubon), and passed himself off as being the Louisiana-born son of a French admiral, before going on to paint hundreds of birds, and getting into knife vs. canoe-paddle fights. Whereas he cooked and ate most of the bird species he cataloged, I have eaten very few (if any) of these birds that I’ll be posting (he didn’t have a camera; and birds won’t hold still to be painted). So there will be no recipe section on the bird blog.

Did you know bird species outnumber mammals by about two to one?! I’ve been mildly into birding for a couple years, and I believe I’ve seen a couple hundred species of birds in my life–but I was never really keeping track before. There are around 23 species already up on my site. Maybe I can break a hundred species in photographs in the next year. That’ll be a tentative goal. My hyperlinked life-list-in-progress can be found here.

Goldfinch; Kanye Interrupts

April 3, 2010

focal length: 432mm, aperture: f/3.5, shutter: 1/640 sec., distance 2 meters, location: Groton, CT

Gold Finch and Kanye West (click image to view larger).

I saw this goldfinch (among other birds) at my in-laws’ feeder this morning. Kanye came out of nowhere and interrupted the moment. Note the transition from winter to summer plumage happening on the goldfinch; something’s going on with Kanye’s plumage, too.

POTW #7: Christmas Day Cardinal

December 27, 2009

Female Northern Cardinal; Cardinalis cardinalis

focal length: 432 mm, aperture: f/3.5, shutter: 1/160 sec,  distance: 3 meters, location: Groton, CT.

This Cardinal didn’t do anything to help defend the Pope this Christmas, but I enjoyed her visit anyway. We’re visiting Beth’s parents in Connecticut for a few days. The birds put on an entertaining show several times a day at their many backyard feeders. This morning I saw six bluejays congregating at the trayfeeder for breakfast, but the camera wasn’t handy. I’ve never seen so many bluejays in such a small area before.

When we arrived in town late Wednesday evening, thirteen inches of snow covered the yard. Rain has basically washed it all away now. We packed our cross country skis, but skiing it seems will have to wait until we return to NH.

Birthday Bald Eagles

October 14, 2009

click gallery images to view larger versions

The day before I turned 29 we saw a pair of bald eagles (top photos), landing in a tree. Those pictures are a little pixely because the eagles were sitting across a bay, about a third of a mile from where we were watching whales. The next day we saw two eagles in flight (above), and one sitting in a tree at the other end of Campobello Island:


What a great way to begin a new year, seeing these huge, majestic birds.

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