Monday, February 20, 2012

Spindle vs. wheels

I say, " wheels can be faster than spindles." That is not a value judgment, that is a demonstrable fact. Spinning slowly may be a meditative activity, like yoga, and I do not say that meditation is bad.  I only say that, "I want the most thread in the least time."

Humans use toys to learn skills. Toys are an essential good. Children use dolls to learn child care skills without endangering an actual baby. I used spinning toys to learn basic skills. The Traddy as it come out of the box was a toy.  As tweaked and fixed, it is a very fast wheel.  Playing with that wheel, taught me how to "fix" a wheel. That was good.  I used spindles with a wooden whorls to lean basic spindle skills.  That was good.  However, basic physics told me that there where ways of getting a (drop) spindle to go faster, and to spin finer.  I looked, and did not see such spindles on the market, so I made faster spindles myself.   ( )  Playing with wooden spindles taught me to make faster spindles that spin finer.  And, I will say that such spindles spin disconcertingly fast and are not suitable for beginners. I do not say they are better, I only say that they are faster and allow spinning finer.

How can anyone dismiss this technology without trying it?  I cannot patent it, this technology is at least 3,000 years old.  It was in use in the Highlands of  Scotland within living memory. And, it is in use in South America today.  Anyone that talks about South American spinning tools and does not mention removable metal whorls is not telling the whole story.

Spindle advocates say, that if I would just practice, then my spinning with a spindle would be as fast as my spinning with a wheel. OK!, let's assume that I practice until I have perfect spindle technique and my wind-on operations require zero time.

With respect to supported spindles, if one is spinning 6,000 ypp, then 5 yards per minute requires ~180 revolutions per minute. If one is spinning 12,000 ypp (110 wpi) at 5 yards per minute than one needs about 400 rpm on a sustained basis. That approaches the upper limit of hand spindling. Yes, you can get instantaneous speeds in excess of 2,000 rpm, but that is not the sustained average speed over a work day or work week. (Of course, the flier on a stock Ashford wheel cannot sustain such speeds either.)

However, I have fliers for my wheel that will sustain average speeds of more than 2,500 rpm. My wheel has produced more than 2,000 yards of worsted 12,000 ypp singles in an 10 hour day. No spinner with a spindle can do that. When we get to serious lace at 35,000 to 40,000 ypp (200 wpi), then a spindle will produce twist for a maximum of about 2 yards of single per minute, while spinning at my wheel,  I am still limited by my drafting ability to about 5 yards per minute.

The the numbers above dramatically understate how much faster a wheel spins compared to a spindle. If we look at reality, even the best spindle spinner must take some time to wind-on. Thus, in reality a hand driven spindle is very much slower than a properly setup wheel. Anybody that says differently, likely does not understand how to select and setup a wheel to achieve good spinning speed. Anybody that says differently should be ready, willing, and able to show that they can use their spindle to produce more than 2,000 yards of worsted 12,000 ypp singles in an 10 hour day. I am perfectly willing to show anyone how to hand spin 2,000 yards per day of 12,000 ypp worsted singles in 10 hours on a wheel. Let me use a Studio Gaustad Motor Spinner, and I can go much faster. The numbers above prove that no amount of practice will make any hand driven spindle as fast as a properly setup wheel (or driven spindle). This is not about me or you, this is physics.

People say that I do not like spindles and that is just not true. After I had a good, fast wheel, I put a lot of effort into finding a spindle design that allowed me to spin much faster than I could on the stock/standard wheels at a LYS. Given my choice of of those strictly stock wheels or a spindle of with a removable metal whorl, I would take the spindle because it is faster. However. let me put new bobbins on those wheels and do a couple of other tweaks, and suddenly the “fixed” wheels will be much faster than the spindle. Anybody that says a spindle is faster than a wheel does not know how to set up a wheel for faster spinning.

If we look at garment weight, worsted thread (9,000 ypp to 15,000 ypp) and consider ergonomic factors for a full time spinner over a period of years, then the wheel will spin a great deal more thread. In the 18th century, when all spinning was done by hand and there were huge numbers of full time professional spinners, it was a common rule of thumb that a spinner with a wheel could produce 7 times as much thread as a spinner with only a spindle – and that was a spindle with a removable metal whorl. To me, that number seem a little high, but it could be correct because professional spinning wheels in those days had two fliers allowing spinners to spin a thread with each hand. See for example .

I am old, and my wrists are weak. I must consider ergonomic factors. If I want as much thread as possible over my remaining years, a wheel is my best choice, but that is just me.

1 comment:

Projektmanagerin: said...

I guess there is a reason why mankind invented tools. And then better tools - or tools to achieve different/better output.
(I did not want to imply that handspun on a spindle was automatically in any way better or worse than handspun on a wheel or machinespun.)
But in times when spinning was considered bread-in-your-mouth WORK and not a hobby tools sure made all the difference.