Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Bobbins and singles

I spin a lot of singles. Some get plied, some get woven, but I am moving to storing singles on bobbins.   I understand the advantages of storing singles as skeins or hanks, but I am finding storing singles on bobbins more convenient.

I  need between 60 and 120 bobbins to warp the loom, and that assumes more singles stored as skeins to refill the bobbins.  On the other hand, it is nice to have all the yarn for the project blocked, wound on bobbins and ready to go, so there are a couple hundred bobbins ready to go.

Then, an Aran sweater project starts off as about 64 singles each on its own bobbin. Thus, if there is a large knitting project and a weaving project at the  same time, I want to keep at least 300 bobbins. I want a lot of bobbins, and am always looking for more.

And, I drop and  break bobbins on a regular basis. So I always want more bobbins.

I have been making bobbins from wood for the last 5 or 6 years.  I made a bunch by turning the cores from rock maple and then gluing ends on them.  I made dozens from maple "turning blocks" that I bought when a local wood working shop sold maple turning blocks as loss leaders. I turned a bunch from solid blocks of dry red wood left over from a fencing project. (Alden said it could not  be done!)  I turned a bunch from solid green mountain ash.   I turned a bunch from solid blocks of black walnut that I bought from Royal Fibers. I did a big bunch from dry cherry wood by turning cores and gluing ends on them.

For historical reasons, most of the bobbins that I made in the past were 4".  I thought a 4" bobbin would hold all the yarn from my (4") spinning bobbin.  However, I find that my singles are much more even if I spin less than 200 yd before winding off.  And my  bobbin rack will only hold 72 x 4" bobbins.   A 2" bobbin will hold the full 200 yd of single from a typical spinning bobbin wind-off, and my bobbin rack will hold 144 x 2" bobbins.

These days, I make 2" thread storage bobbins. Now each spinning bobbin of thread goes to a storage bobbin. And, the singles on the storage bobbins are knot free and I do not waste time doing splices.  (With the singles on small bobbins, good twist splices can be made by using a mandrel in an electric drill to rotate one of the bobbins.)  Swapping bobbins as I ply is easy.  The math there is that ~25 bobbins of singles becomes a hank of  gansy yarn. Bobbins used for warping get known amounts of thread wound on to them, and a pound of cloth needs the singles off of ~100 bobbins.

Anyway, I recently had to prune my Japanese maples, - there were several branches in the 2" to 3" range and I cut them to appropriate lengths on the band saw and started turned them into bobbins. The wood is hard, but not too hard to turn. The wood  strong - less likely to break than some woods that I have used.  And, the wood is lighter in weight than some woods I use.  This has been a real winner.

Bottom line, as I have said before, I do not find it cost effective to turn bobbins from the blocks of wood sold for wood turning by lumber companies.  I find turning cores, and gluing ends on them to be cost effective but not very satisfying. However, turning bobbins from various tree prunings is both cost effective and very satisfying. Turning green wood is a wicked lot of fun, but it needs to be planned and carried out in planned stages, or the objects will warp and crack.  Turning bobbins from dead limbs pruned out of maples and olives seems to be the best of all worlds.  It reduces the volume of stuff going into the green bin, it feels good to use the wood, and turning bobbins from 3 or 4 inch prunings is very fast and easy.  I finish them with Perfect Pen Polish, which is a solid non-toxic wax that is applied to the object as it rotates on the lathe, and is then rubbed as the lathe rotates until the wax melts and forms a high gloss finish.

With a rack of freshly sharpened tools, it takes me 5 or 6 or minutes to turn a 2" maple bobbin that will hold 250 yd of 5,600 ypp single.

Turning blocks of hard maple into delicate bobbins is a very good way to release all of of one's aggression and frustration.

5/15/2018 ETA

A recent count of bobbins on yields more than 200 x 4" bobbins and larger bobbins and just over 100 x  2" bobbins. I need more. There are ~15 oak blanks on the work bench, but I need more.

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