Tuesday, April 24, 2012

High Whorl vs. Low Whorl Spindles

The choice between high whorl and low whorl drop spindles in usually presented as purely personal choice.  However, there are rational factors that should enter into the selection of a spindle for a particular project. Both styles of spindle have their virtues, and things that they do less well.  Between them is a middle ground where either will serve.

Bottom whorl spindles are inherently more stable.  They are suited for robust designs which tend to be heavier, and less fragile.  These designs have substantial mass (more than 30 grams) and are suited for plying and making singles with grist of less than 6,000 ypp.

Top whorl spindles can be made lighter, so that less effort is required to accelerate them to very high speed.  The high speed makes them suited to spinning high grist singles.

This is not to say that it is not possible to make a heavy top whorl spindle. However, if you want a heavy spindle, you might as well go for the stability of a bottom whorl spindle.

A heavy spindle will not spin high grist singles as fast as a (center weighted) light weight spindle. Thus, the bottom line is that a well designed top whorl spindle can spin fine singles (greater than 9,000 ypp) several times faster than a bottom whorl spindle. This is an advantage that no amount of skill or experience can overcome.

A heavy (rim weighted) spindle delivers torque to overcome the higher resistance of  low grist singles and plying. For these duties the heavier spindle is better, and gets the job done faster.  There is nothing as frustrating as trying to spin a low grist single with a spindle that does not carry enough momentum.   (Yes, Virginia, you need to ask Santa Clause for 2 spindles;  a light one and a heavier one.)

So the next time a spindle vendor tells you that their spindle is "fast", ask,  "Fast for what?"  A spindle that is fast for plying and low grist yarns will be slow when spinning lace singles.  A spindle that quickly spins lace singles will have problems spinning low grist singles (or plying).  If they say for spinning lace, ask them what they mean by "lace".  These days, lace can mean anything from 4,000 ypp to 30,000 ypp and that is a huge range.

No drop spindle is as fast as a properly selected, and tuned, DD flyer/bobbin assembly.  However, the correct spindle for the job is a whole lot faster than the wrong spindle for the project. 

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