DIY Disaster to Delight

a few weeks ago I dragged out my 15+ yr old Necchi sewing machine to hem a few throw blankets I’d woven up as a gift for my mom and her new vacation house. I’m not a fan of sewing. I know how, I’m good at it (or I was, I’m a bit out of practice), I’ve made my share of the living with sewing in the past, which is probably who I don’t like it. All of this is to say that I know what I’m doing with a sewing machine and I knew this one had outlived it’s usefulness as a sewing machine. After miles and miles of sewing, some of this stuff that probably shouldn’t have been sewn on this type of machine, it flat out refused to hold time. The entire lower end is “worn slap out” from the dog feet to the bobbin carriage. I couldn’t get it to sew 6″ without slipping time.

So, frustrated and annoyed I swallowed the urge to drop it off the 20′ high end of the deck and grabbed a few tools to rip the motor out of it.

I’ve been thinking about building an electric spinner for a couple of years now. I have pondered and planned but a big hold up has been the motor. Electric motors can get expensive, especially when you add in power cords, switches and all the other accoutrements that you need to go with them. I had the thought that re-purposing the “guts” of an used sewing machine would be the cost and labor effective way to go. So with the death of the Necchi, I have the biggest part of the puzzle.

My second concern was the flyer assembly. One wood working tool I don’t own is a lathe. Though you can build a flyer/bobbin set up with out one, it is a labor intensive process. However, I had the regular flyer from my Kromski Sonata and 12 bobbins that have spent a year gathering dust on the shelf, I haven’t used them since I got my WooLee Winder. My thought was: Build the e-spinner around the Sonata flyer and I can not only use the equipment (12 bobbins is almost $150 investment over the 3 that came with the wheel) that isn’t being used, but I could switch it with the woolee winder on my Sonata. I like interchangeability. I contacted New Voyager and EarthGuild and they helped my obtain a set of maiden posts for the Sonata. This saved my a lot of time, energy and failure in engineering my own.  Thank you Tim and BJ!

At Lowe’s I choose to go with red oak for the wood. It was a little more expensive, but I didn’t need much and red oak being heavier should help prevent it from creeping around on me.

Yes, I did go through every piece of wood they had to get the right ones.

The rest of the supplies

The rest of it went together pretty well. I did make up a lot of it as I went along.

Laying out "The Plan" for the mother of all table.

Completed mother of all

Plumbing strap for my motor mount

Oops. I broke off one edge of the pully side of the motor cover. It's a prototype right?

Cutout for controls. I'm usinge the switch panel from the original machine

I had a little mix up at Lowe’s. I wanted a custom color of stain that they had a sample of, but they couldn’t find the base for that brand. So I went with a different brand and tried to pick the stain color from the brochure because they didn’t have wood samples of that brand. It came out completely wrong. I was looking for a color like purpleheart wood, and this is just purple. Later at Ace I saw the color I really wanted in that brand. Not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of a quart of purple wood stain.

Not even close

It's together

One quirk of the Sonata’s is the brake band. There’s a video on the New Voyager website that shows you how to reverse/cross the brake band when plying so you are always pulling against the tension spring. I decided to go with a bit different st up and put a secondary inline spring in the brake band. Now, no matter which direction your spinning, you will have equal brake tension on the bobbin.

inline spring and tension pin

stationary tension spring

The motor is uni-directional so to change the twist direction I need to put a twist in the drive band. I don’t find this to be a problem. I gave a bit of thought to what drive band material to use. I figured an elastic poly band would be less likely to slip on the metal motor pulley and give enough to allow for that twist to control direction. The donor drive band is a Symphony band (thanks again EarthGuild) and I have enough left over to supply myself with drive bands for the life of this device.

One feature of this electric spinner that is a plus for me, but may not be for others is the variable speed foot control. I left it that way on purpose. I like having instant control and being able to adjust the machine to me without stopping. Other people choose electric wheels because of leg issues and the foot control would be counter-productive. This could be easily replaced with an adjustable knob.

Yes, that is my NetFlix dvd

This thing is fast, I mean really fast. I briefly owned a Seiko E-Spin and it was so slow and loud I couldn’t stand to use it. I’m positive this would easily spin cotton and still have speed left over. Or dryer lint even, though with the amount of fiber in my house, my dryer lint is a longer staple than most…

In short, I love it. It’s not perfect, but this is the most useful tool I’ve ever made and I am going to get a lot of use from it!

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