Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Great Wheels

Making yarn is about inserting twist into fiber.  Twist is energy. The essence of making yarn is using energy to organize fiber.  And, energy for twist  has traditionally been the largest single cost for a mill making natural fiber yarns.

With a great wheel, if the spinner wishes to work very efficiently, the  spinner will turn the wheel rather slowly so that most of the energy goes into twisting the yarn, and very little braking is required. However, this produces yarn slowly.  A motivated spinner spins the wheel rapidly so twist is inserted quickly, but then the wheel must be braked and stopped before the yarn over twists.

Braking and stopping the wheel wastes the energy already added to the wheel, and the braking/stopping process requires additional energy from the spinner.

Spinning yarn on a great wheel is energetically very inefficient.

A great wheel is like an old Ferrari - it goes very fast, but it uses a lot gas.

In contrast, a  flyer /bobbin assembly does not have to be stopped and CAN be  energetically  more efficient.  Note, the single drive flier-lead assemblies do require continuous braking, which wastes energy.. With flier-lead there is an adjustable brake band device (Scotch Tension) and with bobbin lead, the braking usually comes from the aerodynamic drag of the flyer (Irish Tension, sometimes with an additional brake band on the flyer).

A double drive flyer /bobbin assembly designed to insert twist as required for the desired grist does not require any braking. These are the energetically, the most efficient spinning wheels. 


In a double drive flyer /bobbin assembly not designed to insert twist as required for the desired grist, one loop of the drive band will act as a brake. Because such systems require drive belt slip, their energetic efficiency is noticeably LESS than a single drive  flyer /bobbin assembly. Thus, a few  millimeters difference in a whorl diameter can dramatically change the energetic efficiency of a double drive flyer/bobbin assembly for the production of a particular grist.

That said, if great quantities of thick woolen singles are wanted in continuous lengths, then a great wheel may well be the tool of choice because it offers the leverage to spin those big copps.  If  I want to produce an 1,800 yd cuts  of 3,000 ypp singles on my wheel, I have to splice short ones into long ones.   On the other hand,  if we are spinning 23,000 ypp, then 1,800 yards is only a little over an ounce, and I do not have to splice at all.  On my wheel, spinning fresh rolags, (from the drum carder), 1,800 yd of  woolen 23,000 ypp is about 6 hours work.

Folks with great wheels should let us know how fast they spin  23,000 ypp singles on their great wheel.  I do not seem to have any GW production numbers for that grist.  In theory , it should depend on the motivation and fitness of the spinner, and a spinner willing to put in a lot of  energy should be able to do it very fast indeed.

6 comments:

Gaby M said...

Hhhhhm. No. Have you ever spun on a great wheel? It should be in one continuous motion. What you are describing sounds like the "park and draft" syndrome carried over from spinners who spin on drop spindles and graduate to a spindle wheel. If you spin CORRECTLY on a great wheel, you should have one continuous spin where the only break in your spinning is the slight stop to reverse the drive wheel to wind on what you have spun. Otherwise, it is one continuous motion and you can spin massive amounts of fine singles this way. And, no, I won't post photos because I can't be bothered. You might get suckered into the arguments of the Ravelry Rubberneckers and feel like you have to post photos of your every move, but I don't. Check on YouTube for some of the videos of how to spin on a great wheel. You will see how it is done properly. And, truthfully? If you want to spin fine yarn fast? Get a Canadian Production Wheel.

Holin Kennen said...

Aaron, have you spun on a great wheel? How much time, if any, have you spent spinning on a GW? Since you look to history for greatness in spinning, it would seem a simple task for you to observe that the GW has been in continuous use since the Middle Ages. These were the wheels that produced the fine yarns which clothed royalty (and the "small folk") for hundreds of years. If you look at images of spinners, you will see that they are using GWs to produce that nearly invisibly fine yarn you so admire.

The primary disadvantage of a great wheel, to modern spinners, is its size and lack of portability. GWs are big and take up lots of space in homes and apartments. They usually have to be broken down to transport them, and they require something the size of a van or pick up truck to move them. They were never really meant to move around a lot. This is the reason that you find very few in California - they were just too darn big to put into the Conestoga wagon or aboard ship. People brought their treadle wheels instead, leaving the GWs behind. I have bought several here in Wisconsin and have kept two - one from about 1850 and another from about 1800, and I use both of them.

GWs are somewhat more delicate than many modern wheels in that they can be thrown off balance if the grandkids decide to play with grandma's wheel. The spindle can be a concern for parents and looks scary, even with a cork on it, though most are not terribly sharp. Still, unsupervised, careless children could possibly hurt themselves badly if they ran into it.

The GW has the huge ratio of size between the drive whorl and the spindle whorl that you so favor. Most GWs have accelerators, too, which you also like, so I fail to see what it is that you find so objectionable about them. Granted, most require the spinner to stand, but even that problem was solved by the pendulum wheel, which was invented right here in Wisconsin. Its lack of popularity was due to the even larger space it took for the pendulum to swing to its full length - at least eight feet - a serious problem in the very modest sized houses of the mid-1800s here in the Midwest.

GWs can spin remarkably fine yarn in a very short time in the hands of expert spinners. such as Pat Hilts. She is one of the U.S.'s foremost authorities on great wheels, and I have been privileged to learn from her. She spins cobweb fine Merino on her GW with ease and amazing speed. The GW was the tool of choice for spinning cotton in the U.S., which requires both speed and dexterity to achieve a fine yarn. I prefer my GW for cotton, in fact. My understanding is that yarns for sails were required to be spun on GWs because they produced the best and most durable yarn. It would seem to me that a great wheel would be a much better match for the type of yarn you want to spin than trying to make a poor Ashford into a great wheel, which is essentially what you've done.

You may discover after working with them, tat great wheels may not be your wheel of choice, but the fact that they are still being used and loved for the quality of yarn they produce is a testament to their design and enduring suitability for spinning a wide variety of yarns, including the kinds of yarns you seem to like. They are serious yarn production machines, not the parlor wheels you find so objectionable. Don't knock the GW until you've tried it under the guidance of someone like Pat Hilts.

Aaron said...

Gaby,
Calculate total acceleration supplied to the drive wheel from all sources.
see http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/ for help.

Aaron said...

Gaby,
You may also need a calculus text - there are several online these days.

Aaron said...

Holin,
Yes, i have spun on a great wheel. Have you spun on differential rotation speed flyer/bobbin (DRS) system engineered for your desired grist? I like DRS, because I find that it allows me to spin faster, more consistently, with much less effort. And, if necessary, it will spin finer.

When you "benchmark" a GW against a well setup DRS, you will find that the DRS can spin woolen at 5,600 ypp about twice as fast as a GW and worsted 10s about 5-times as fast as you can spin them on a GW. You have been taken by the "Myth of the Great Wheel" invented by the ladies of Queen Victoria's court. That myth has made you blind to DRS. They believed that God created the Earth some 6,000 years ago, and they mashed spinning history to fit. GW with accelerators were invented 2 generations AFTER power spinning frames had demolished the professional hand-spinning industry. Miner Heads came too late to be used by the professional hand-spinning industry. What was used was more like a vertical charka mounted on a bench with the driven spindle horizontal. The spinner sat at the bench. These bench mounted driven spindles were not as impressive as GW, but they are much more energy efficient and faster. And, for woolen yarns they are almost as fast as DRS, but much cheaper and easier to set up and maintain. On the other hand, they do not provide the control of grist. In China, two vertically mounted spindles driven by a kick wheel were used. The spindles turned more slowly, but the spinner could spin two threads at once.

I have no problem spinning 45,000 ypp singles (200+ wpi) on my DRS. Can you, or anybody you know spin such fine singles from wool on their GW? In fact, can you spin any fines (grist greater than 33,600 ypp (~180 wpi) on your GW?

I can spin hanks (560 yd) of singles at the same grist with all the hanks within 5% in weight. Can you get that kind of consistency and predictability on a GW? You can ask me to spin a pound of 5,600 ypp singles and all ten of them will be within a couple of grams of the desired 45.4 gram weight.

I like worsted spun 5,600 ypp singles. These days it takes me about 46 minutes to spin a hank of 560 yards, so if I can wind-off in 14 minutes, then I can spin a hank an hour. In a 7 hour day, I can spin 5 hanks of worsted spun singles, ply the yarn, block yesterday's product, have lunch, and drink a pot of coffee. Will your GW produce a hank of WORSTED spun 5-ply gansey yarn in a day?

DRS was invented in Florence, Italy by silk workers in the 13th century. DRS was very much a part of the textile industries through the middle ages. It was well understood by master spinners, but not by ordinary spinners or subsistence spinners. It requires real skill and knowledge to set up. Millimeters matter, so you must do the math, and get it correct. No guessing. The calculations are in Alden Amos's Big Book of Handspinning. The mechanics are easier for high grist yarns. On the other hand, making the parts takes the wood turning precision that one gets from making barrel spigots that do not leak.

DRS changes how true worsted is drafted. The best magic in Harry Potter does not begin to compare to what DRS can do to worsted drafting.

Ruth B said...

Aaron. In case you didn't know, millimeters weren't used in the 13th century by ANYBODY. Your understanding of history, not to mention human evolution, is so flawed as to be laughable.