Monday, December 15, 2008


This project was completed a while back, but I haven’t had a chance to post on it until now… A good friend of mine is a hardcore knitter… well… beyond hardcore… her life is yarn. Knitters are a funny bunch and their culture equally complex… Spend any time with one and you’ll find yourself learning all sorts of knitting facts (whether you mean to, or not) What does a computer nerd like me need to know about a Kitchener stitch? I don’t know. But it’ll be stuck in my head forever.

One thing I noticed about the whole knitting process was what my friend had to go through every time she wanted to start a new skein (that’s knitter-speak for those long unwound spools of yarn)… They literally have to wind the whole thing into a ball before it can be knit… While they have small winders to aid in the process (should the back of a chair not be handy…) they’re hand-cranked… This is a significant issue as a good deal of my friend’s customers (she also runs a yarn store... I mentioned the hardcore part, right?) are seniors… and the thought of them cranking away on those things is heartbreaking (and perhaps arm as well?!). Some searching around the internet yielded little... I found three precedents. The first were commercially made winders from the UK... the second was one made from lego "mindstorm" parts (but these kits are quite expensive and I can't imagine too many people outside of serious hobbyists have them handy). The last option I found was a winder offered by a (now defunct?) company in the USA but it turns out it's no longer available... None of these were quite what I was looking for... Something had to be done!

Parts:
A small AC/DC or Universal motor to power the winder… Because of the need for speed control I opted for a gear motor… Some may say you can get a way with any small fan motor but it won’t last long if it’s not meant to run at variable speeds… I found one for around 70 bucks…


I used a ceiling fan speed module for control of the motor… Again, the little things make a big difference… While it may be tempting to use a simple light dimmer for the speed control of small motors, for the health of your motor (and safety’s sake) I strongly recommend going with a proper fan speed control… dimmers take raw chunks of power right out of the current and like trying to vary the speed of fixed speed motors, it’ll burn out your motor.
I found one quite similar to this one…

A regular universal power cable cut at one end…

And last but not least, a standard (manual) yarn winder… I used a “royal” clone… it came in a box that reassuringly read “New Wool Winder”… We just need this for it’s precious gears and angles! It looks like this one…


Putting it all together…

I opened the royal clone first and removed its guts… which basically consisted of a crank and a series of gears… The original hand crank was removed and the motor was fit into its place... Once rigged up, the shaft of the motor fit directly into the main gear of the spindle base. Lastly, I made a brace to hold the motor in place and minimize vibrations…



I had my electrician friend look over my wiring on the speed control and motor (I wanted to help the yarn store, not burn it to the ground…) Make sure you know what you’re doing or have it checked over…

The last thing I needed to make was a small “guide” pole to feed the spindle properly… I ended up just using a bit of coat hanger bent into a loop on one end… The yarn is fed through this “eye” first and then into the spindle cone…
I also decided to paint it… I wanted something that says, “I’m a machine in a yarn store… but I’m approachable?”

Here are some pictures of it in action courtesy of my friend… It actually works!
Until next time,
m.

*EDIT*
12/30/2008

A video is on the way... Also, while it was never my plan, if people are truly interested in making/or obtaining one of these, email me and we can discuss logistics... Thanks for all the comments and thanks to Hack a day for mentioning the project!
m.








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posted by Marcus at 6:03 AM | 12 comments
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