When I visited The Big E this year, I saw a demonstration of an electric spinning wheel near the alpacas. Erika has always been interested in knitting and the fiber arts, so it seemed like a logical Christmas gift.
After you shear a fiber animal, such as a sheep or alpaca, you wash the fur to remove the oils. Next you card the fibers to get them aligned using a device such as a carding drum. Finally, with the "roving" in hand, you use a spinning wheel to twist and wrap the fibers into a string around a bobbin. Before mechanization this was accomplished with a foot pedal that spun a large wheel with a high gear ratio.
Since I don't have a need for a dramatic great wheel, an electric motor allows me to construct a compact spinner that can be run at our dining table. I used the project on Hobby Robotics as inspiration but largely went with my own design.
- 1/35 HP DC electric motor
- V-Belt Pulley, 2" OD (SKU 6245K214)
- Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer
- Drive band
- DC Motor Controller
- DC Power Supply
- DC Connector Jack
- Wooden box
- 19" x 12" oak board
- 2" x 2" oak
- 18" x 24" x .22" acrylic sheet
- Knurled brass thumb nuts
- Assorted brass-plated fasteners
Using the Epilog laser cutter at my hackerspace, I cut the motor box tension plate, spinner support arms and bobbin brake tension lever from the acrylic sheet. After assembly I found that the motor bolts needed additional support so I laser cut a face plate that "pulls" the motor into the box (plus an engraved name and year).
Using a drill, Dremel and laser cutter I modified the wooden box to have openings for the direction switch, speed pot, power jack and motor shaft. The electronic components are friction fit and held in place with hot glue. If I were to do it again I would have found a box with thinner walls so I could use the nuts and flanges on the components as they intended.
The platform and arm bases I simply cut on our table saw and routed. The support arm near the bobbin is actually on a hinge that I chiseled a slot for. I added screws and magnets so it "snaps" into place and does not rock out during operation. The bobbin brake lever and motor tension bolts are drilled and countersunk from the bottom side.
To secure the motor housing to the tension plate I covered the plate with T-88 epoxy. It may be overkill but since it has mild stress stronger is better.
All that was left was attaching eye hooks, joining the drive band, and screwing parts into place.
Before operation, I apply a very light coat of WD-40 to the exterior of the orifice and bobbin shaft where it comes in contact with the acrylic. It runs without lubrication but makes annoying squealing noises.
The first step is running the drive band from the motor pulley to the gear on the spinner for the appropriate speed. To tension the drive band, you loosen the two nuts on the sliding plate, put the motor box in a resting position, pull back lightly, and tighten the thumb nuts.
Next, you run the bobbin string from the spring, through the first eye hook, over the top of the bobbin, and down to the tension lever. You turn the lever to increase or decrease tension to find a speed that is slower than the bobbin but not at a stand-still.
From there you follow conventional spinning instructions for loading and running.
I think the motor and controller are over-powered for this application. Without having other motors to test, I feel like even a 1/70th HP motor could do the same job.
Having watched my wife use it, I think the pedals on commercial e-spinners would be an improvement. If one were to shop around, I'm sure there is a suitable analog input pedal that could be retrofitted to a PWM controller like I used.
Most e-spinners have their motors placed under the spinner. My original thought was to keep the design open so addressing problems is easier; in retrospect, I would put the motor under the spinner and have a footprint 1/2 to 2/3 the original length.
Lastly, and I did not know this when I built it, the fiber that comes off the bobbin is often too small to use, so it is spun with two or three other identical strands to make a final yarn. This is accomplished by putting the bobbins on a Lazy Kate and feeding those into the machine. With some planning, I could have integrated posts onto the base plate to make a self-contained device.
The machine does work and, as far as I can tell, as well as the commercial versions. The choice of oak, laser cut panels and brass fasteners does not make it function better, so if one went with pine, steel fasteners and a DIY spinner I'm sure this project could be done for under $100. Being a gift, though, it needed some class.