An Evening in the Wood Shop (my drop spindle lathe adventure)

After an invitation from a friend (thanks so very much Ken) to come see his new lathe (read:  come over and play in the wood shop), I have a new toy. And by toy I mean tool for my fiber art business. (Watch out for artists, they are always adding “tools” to their inventory : )

This will be a picture heavy post, here goes:

I decided the make something that I needed and would use often: this is really rule number one for any items that are allowed into our house. I settled on a drop spindle. For those of you who know what that means, please skip to next paragraph. For those without a clue, the basic idea is as follows: a wooden wheel with a dowel stuck through it has a hook on top. You tie a length of yarn around the dowel down by the wheel and attach raw fleece to the yarn, you place the yarn through the hook, spin the dowel and wheel and suspend the whole contraption in the air from the fleece in your hand. The twist travels up the yarn into the fleece to make yarn. If you spin it too slow, or stretch the fleece out too far, the spindle will drop to the ground. Hence the name drop spindle. If you still have no idea, just look at the pictures, they may help…

First we picked the wood for the whorl. The whorl is the round part (very similar to a wooden toy train wheel) that provides the weight to keep the drop spindle spinning. Ken had laminated a beautiful piece of purple wood with two pieces of white oak. We cut it down to a square and then cut off the corners with a scroll saw. Here is the whorl in the lathe as a flat block of wood. And as a nearly finished whorl.

The whorl in the beginning.The whorl showing its shape.

Here I am working, or shall I say working something out in my head. I don’t look terribly pleased with myself or my work. Oh well.

Next comes the spindle. We didn’t have any dowels the correct thickness or length, so I turned a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of white oak down to a circle, then worked in the contours. It took a bit of time, but it turned out great.

Once I finished turning the whorl and spindle, I sanded them on the lathe to a soft, silky surface. Finally, it was time for finishing. I used friction polish on the spindle and buffed it until it was shiny. We tried a new technique on the whorl: super glue. I applied super glue in thin layers on the whorl while it was spinning on the lathe. After 5 layers, I wet sanded and buffed the polish up to 12,000 grit. No, that’s not a typo. 12,000 grit. Duct tape is rougher than the polishing boards I was using to buff this whorl. Finally, I coated the surface with rouge and buffed it with a soft cloth. A shine ensued. I mixed up a batch of epoxy and joined the spindle and whorl. A new tool for my toy box…

My drop spindle with handspun alpaca yarn. She works!

A great big THANK YOU to Ken for an evening of fun and power tools. Thanks for letting me play (and trusting me with your new toy) and being patient with my perfectionism.

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