Monday, March 03, 2014

Accelerators and the Miner's head

If we look, we see a significant number of old flyer/bobbin spinning wheels with accelerators.  When there were large numbers of professional spinners and hand spinning was a competitive industry, they knew about accelerators to allow them to spin faster.  They did not put them on great wheels.

With some care, one can design a flyer/bobbin spinning wheel to run at 3,000 to 4,000 rpm in either single drive bobbin lead or single drive flyer lead.  What is hard, is fabricating a DD/DRS  flyer/bobbin spinning wheel to run at  3,000 to 4,000 rpm.

Designing and building an accelerator for a spinning wheel is a large effort, so there must have been a serious reason for putting accelerator wheels on flyer/bobbin spinning wheel..  The only serious purpose seems to have been a fast DD/DRS system to produce fine, consistent,  smooth warp at grists less than the spun count at high speed.

The Traddy Hot Rod now has a 1:2 accelerator wheel, and the AA Competition flier has no problem running at 4,500 rpm; Scotch Tension, Irish Tension, or DD/DRS.  It does not do DD w/ slippage.  First make it work, then make it pretty.  It needs to be a little prettier for its pix.

And, as I have already disclosed, spinning at speeds over 3,000 rpm produces superior quality warp.  DD/DRS provides consistency.  DD/DRS with an accelerator provides consistency at high speed. (For that speed and consistency, DRS demands great effort..  The whorls must have the precisely correct DRS for the intended grist. Draft too thick and you break off;  draft too thin, and you break off; draft too slow, and you break off. )  When you must spin a great deal of fine worsted, it is the tool of choice. If you much spin a lot of worsted, it is worth the effort.

Thus, in the last 3 months, I have moved from thinking that warp could be spun at 400 yards per hour to knowing that warp can be spun much faster and the process of spinning faster, produces much better warp. The same line of inquiry convinces me that trying to spin woolen too fast, reduces the quality of the yarn.

There is no reason why a high quality, very small flyer/bobbin assembly cannot be run at a sustained pace of 3,500 to 4,000 rpm. (with an accelerator wheel.)  This will allow the spinning of a hank of  fine (10s) worsted warp per hour (e.g., 48 minutes). Shirting and hosiery singles (40s) require twice the twist, so you will only get about 320 yards per hour.

The issue of yarn blowing out of the heck array, is not so much aerodynamic as centripetal force.  Clever placement of a extra heck or two resolves the issue.

Great wheels were the Medieval technology of choice. The Renascence tool was the flyer, and the flyer was faster and more compact. Certainly great wheels were cheaper and deeply bedding in myth and romance, but as a tool for a professional spinner was the tool of choice. No great wheel can keep up with a flyer/bobbin wheel properly designed for the grist; not spinning worsted or woolen. Moreover, a flyer allow spinning finer and more consistent yarns. True a spindle (driven or supported will spin very soft yarns that cannot be spun with single drive flyer system because take up will pull the the yarn apart. Spinning such soft yarns with DD/slippage systems is theoretically feasible, but not practical. However, very soft yarns can be spin with DD/DRS systems. It is a matter of doing math, and making up the right bobbins and flyer whorls. With the right tools in hand, spinning such yarns is quick and easy.

Expertise in the flyer has been lost. A flyer will do a lot more than most spinners are aware.

4 comments:

Gough Whitlam said...

What do you mean by 'accelerators' on flyer wheels? Do you have a picture, patent, description, or other source that would show this?

Aaron said...

See Alden Amos, Big Book of Handspinning. 3 of the 11 (flyer/bobbin) spinning wheel designs illustrated have accelerators. Many of his sources are still widely available - talk to your librarian, and Google is your friend.

However, every spinner should own a copy of his book. He gets more correct, and less wrong, than any other author on spinning.

Jane Maple said...

1. If spinners used your accelerators, where is the evidence? Why don't we see these items in museums? Or is this like your fictional ganseys?
2. If great wheels are so inferior, how did medieval people produce some of the stunning fabrics that *do* exist in museums?
3. Most people who span for money did it out of necessity, not out of a desire for perfection. They were poor people fitting in spinning at spare moments between their other tasks and they were paid a pittance.

Aaron said...

Jane,
1. Look in Alden Amos, The Big Book of Handspinning and look at his discussion of types of spinning wheels. When I was a lad, the same kinds of wheels showed up in my Illustrated History of Technology. They are real.

Tools do not end up in museums. Do you see stone chisels in every collection that has fine stone work? How about the dividers and rules that the masons used?

2.) My point is that great wheels are slower than a well made flyer wheel, thus there was an economic advantage to using a flyer in the very competitive textile industry of the 16th century. You can make wonderful yarn with a drop spindle, but the process will be slower than making the yarn with a great wheel. Thus, there was an economic advantage to using a great wheel in the very competitive textile industry of the 13th century. The point is that textiles are a large competitive industry.

3. In Chaucer's time there were 35,000 textile workers in Florence and Florence was only a small part of the Italian region producing large amounts of wool cloth. At that time, there were also large textile industries in Flanders and York. Spinning was an industrial job just like making cars was in the 1950s. It was a job.

Look at the yarn in the Tapestries from Brussels circa 1520 on display at the Louvre. Note how fine, uniform, and closely co-ordnated the spinning is. That is the work of extraordinary crafts-persons, working closely together. These were not cottage spinners that had no other way of earning money, these were talented professionals working as a group. The folks that made the great tapestries, and the fine fabrics for the rich and powerful did have a desire for perfection.

We cannot lump all the spinners together. There were cottage spinners on the moor of Yorkshsire and spinning factories in Flanders. Spinners worked in wool, linen, nettles, silk, and other fibers. And, we need to remember that the yarn for the sails of Christopher Columbus's ships was spun with drop spindles.

Spinners spinning low grist yarns do not need high rpm spinning tools. On the other hand, a spinner spinning fines (60s-80s, 30,000 - 45,000 ypp) does need all the twist they can get.

We know that fines were spun as a commercial product. If people want to talk about this phase of the hand spinning industry, then they should be also be able to spin fines at a commercial pace. Anything written by anyone that does not understand the spinning of fines does not matter.