Sunday, July 28, 2013

Squirrel Cage "Something" Winder

Last June I talked about having bought a lovely tabletop wheel at an estate sale.   I'm still not 100% sure what it is --leaning toward a bobbin/quill winder, but there was also some speculation that it was perhaps a spindle wheel - or possibly both.

Another Raveler recently purchased a very similar wheel and has asked me to post photos in her thread here: .  If you're at all interested in these wheels, you should go on over and have a look at Tropical-Twister's wheel - it's a beauty!

I wasn't all that happy with the photos I already had, so I took a few minutes to take new ones.  I think I got a little carried away...   Rather than adding more photos than anyone cares about on Rav, I thought I'd blog them here and post just a couple of photos and a link there.

So this is how she looks - just as I got her.  Except I gave her a good cleaning and coating of paste wax.  Please ignore the dust that has gathered since then...

Her vital statistics:

Height: a scant 2' tall
Diameter of base: 7 1/2"
Diameter of wheel: 9"
Diameter of squirrel cage : 3"
Length of squirrel cage: 3"
Spindle on whorl side: 3 1/4" (not including width of the whorl)
Spindle on cage side: 3 1/8"
Length of long slat: 13 1/2"
Length of short slat: 9"
Adjustable span of slats: 14 1/2" to 21"
Weight:  Shame on you!  You should never ask a lady her weight.

I don't think that the squirrel cage belongs on the spindle at the top.  There are two cages, and their holes are exactly the same size as the holes in the wood slats.

The way the cage is attached just doesn't seem right.  One end of the cage rests against a bit of dome-shaped wood.  There's nothing to protect either side from friction. The other end of the cage has a plug in it -- at first I thought it was a piece of rubber, but when I took it apart today I realized it's an unfinished piece of wood carved to fit between the spindle and the cage.  The thing that seems most wrong is that the cage was secured to the spindle by an aluminum (I think) cotter pin.

The very end of the spindle on the whorl side of looks a little shinier than the rest of the metal.  Is it possible this was a sharp, functional spindle that was ground down?  What other reason would there even be a spindle sticking out beyond the whorl on this side?

The whorl is somehow secured to the metal on the spindle and there is a small but definite gap between the whorl and the dome-shaped wood on this side.

Looking at the short column that holds the crank, you can see that there is a slight indentation where the crank has been hitting the column.   I think this has to do with the way the two columns are attached to the base -- the crank currently is well clear of the column.

But there's an even larger indentation below that -- as if there had previously been a different crank, or something else wearing away at the wood.

The wood on the handle doesn't seem to match the rest of the pieces.
The wood where the crank is attached to the pillar also looks like it's been damaged and possible bored out at some point.  And if you look at the end of the metal holding the crank in place, you see that there's the end of a screw sticking out.  The top of the crank itself is made of two pieces - I wonder why?

The two slats fit through this slit in the central column.  They can be adjusted from 14.5" to 21" hole to hole.  

There are some obvious dings and wear marks.  Most visible is this crack in the central column.  But despite some damage, I think she's still very pretty. 

Except for this ding, the wheel itself is in remarkably good condition.  Notice that the wheel has an inset metal rim.

Now we come to the base.  The metal ring inset in the wood seems to match the metal on the wheel.  I have no clue what it's purpose would be.

Then we get to the problems.  The two columns are held in place by these odd chunks of wood.  For such an elegant looking wheel, it looks like someone picked up random bits of leftover wood - perhaps to replace more elegant original pieces that had broken? The wood anchoring the central column tends to get loose and then the column wobbles.  Which I think may have been the cause of the damage mentioned above.

The hole visible between the two pieces of wood is also bored to match the threads on the column pieces.  Wonder why?  On the opposite side of the base, there's just a wood plug covering the hole.  Was the person who made this having a bad day and drilled in the wrong spot?  Or was there something else here?  Or is this central hole an artifact of the milling process?  

The other obvious problem on this wheel is the very poorly done repair to one of the legs.  The legs look original to me - each has a flattened spot where they touch the table, and there's some wear that I think would be consistent with age.

This leg looks like it was re-glued, but it's askew and has been rotated so the flat spot is not aligned correctly. Perhaps because there is some damage to the base.  One of these days I'd like to get this fixed if it won't be too costly.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ropes and Gourds

So in my last post, I had just taken a ropemaking workshop with Gwen Powell.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the class, even the part where I practice stop, drop, and roll without intending to.

After the class I went home and spent the evening surfing the web for more information about ropemaking.  It became an obsession.  By the next morning, I NEEDED a rope jack.

Contacted Stephanie at Dragonfly Farms - the website for Stephanie Gaustad and Alden Amos.  He made the rope jack we used in class.  Their products are specialty items, so they don't have inventories rope jacks waiting to be purchased.  In fact, there would be a pretty long wait if I ordered one.  As nice as their machine is, I needed one NOW, so I kept looking.

On any given day, you can  find about half a dozen rope machines on ebay.  I know because I've been watching daily for a few weeks.  So far there has been only one modern looking machine, and the rest have been antiques in varying conditions.  The machines  have had anywhere from three to five hooks.  Tempting, but cast iron can decay -- and can fracture under tension - such as the tension required to twist a rope.

After a couple of days looking for a maker of new machines, I decided there was no such beast.  And decided to order a gadget for making cords -- same concept but smaller output.  I had seen a Bradshaw cordmaker somewhere, and been intrigued by it.  I ordered it from Louise French and it arrived within a couple of days.   Excellent service!

This is a really fun tool and does not require more than one person to use.  An advantage over ropemaking that almost had me convinced to stop pining for the bigger machine.

 The cordmaker attaches to your power drill.  To add stability, you can rig up a sled for it.  I'd like to do this eventually -- making it high enough that the side of the cordmaker doesn't touch the work surface -- would definitely prevent accidental wear and tear.

It also comes with a wooden "outend" that has four hooks corresponding to the hooks on the cordmaker.  Clamp this to something at right angles to the work surface and you're set.

The "outend"
Basically, you run your yarns/strings/threads between the cordmaker and the outend.  You can run material between hooks on the outend to avoid having to make lots of cuts and knots, but you should never do this on the cordmaker because its hooks must be able to spin.  You don't have to use the same materials on each hook, but they should be equivalent in thickness or the cord will not twist evenly.  You also want to make sure to have the same tension on hook.

Then you get to start twisting!  For the first twist, you hold the cordmaker carefully by the side and start the drill.  Because you are restricting the case, the individual hooks will turn, putting twist into each group of strands.  As you continue to twist, the drill will be pulled toward the outend.  How much you let it twist depends on the materials you are using and how tight you want your final product.

When you have decided you have enough twist, then you stop the drill and wait for the hooks to stop rotating.  Let go of the cordmaker case so the whole thing can rotate.  Start the drill, and watch while it twists all of your groups of strands together. When you have decided that the cord has enough twist (another subjective decision), stop the drill, and tie off the cords at each end to prevent them from unraveling before you remove them from the hooks.  Depending on what you're going to do with the cord, you could also tape the ends. 

 I've been having a lot of fun with the cordmaker -- figuring out how to finish the ends neatly for jewelry has been a bit of a challenge (I'm not fond of jewelry that is simply tied on).  I actually went to a local bead store and the person there had no clue what I was talking about.  What I wanted was actually called a cord end (pretty arcane, huh?).

So here's a look at a few of the things I've been working on...


But the story doesn't end with the order for the cordmaker.  Because I just couldn't leave it alone. No,  I got hooked on YouTube videos about ropemaking, and saw several where the people mentioned "Rope Master."   I did a lot of websurfing on the name, but there's apparently a professional jumprope athlete (seriously!) and a mountain climbing rope by the same name.

The day after I ordered the cordmaker, I came across a link to "Farm Collector" but it led to a page full of farm equipment and no rope machines in sight.  Frustration!  I'll dispense with the boring details, but more tedious poking around that website finally resulted in this page.   I couldn't even tell if it was a current ad, but I called the number and left a message, figuring nothing would come of it.

Just a couple of hours later, I got a call from Mr. Rope Master.  He still makes and sells the machines, and we had a nice long conversation.  A very interesting man.  And my check to pay for my new 4-hook Rope Master was in the mail that afternoon.  In under a week, my machine was delivered.  It includes the twister on a stand, a hook for use as the "outend,", and a rope guide --  it's hanging on the hooks in the photos below and looks a little like a fancy bubble blowing wand.  And the machine is red!  Huzzah!

Now all I had to do was round up some friends to make rope.  Some pals and I had been planning a short trip to Welburn Gourd Farm over the July 4 holiday weekend, so I asked if they would like to make some ropes after we returned.  Didn't have to twist any arms.

On Thursday and Friday, I decided to work off some of my extravagance guilt by cleaning up my studio, which had again become a dumping place for things that needed a place to go.  And to make room for another addition to the studio (part of the extravagance guilt) that I will talk about next time.  After I've done something productive with it so I don't look like a complete flake.  I'm ok with being a partial flake, I guess.

Anyway, I had some things that took up a lot of shelf space because they don't "shelf" nicely.  I enjoy seeing them so I won't put them in boxes to save room.

I had a couple of packages of those Command removable hooks, so I hung them on the wall.

Got back a little shelf space and I get to enjoy looking at them every time I walk into the studio.

Now I'm looking around the studio for other things  I can hang on the walls because I like it so much.

Wonder if I can attach stuff to the ceiling?

  So Saturday arrived.  Field trip time!  I wasn't really interested in gourds.  I have no talent for drawing, carving, painting, etc.  And what else do you do with a gourd?  But I wanted to go just because I adore these ladies and knew we'd have a great time together.  And we did.  But I had no intention of buying any gourds.  None.

OK, so I saw some dolls that had been made using jewelry-sized gourds for the heads.  They were turned on their sides so the neck of the gourd was the doll's nose.  Did you ever see a dog so homely that you kinda fell in love with it?  I couldn't stop looking at these dolls and thinking I could do that.  These were made up as fairies, but I'm seeing a spinster, a weaver, a knitter, etc., each with her little tools and partially finished project.   The only thing I'd have to paint is the eyes.  Wonder who I can get to paint the eyes for me?   I came home with a handful of very small gourds. 

We had a great afternoon making rope.  So now we're thinking about cool things to make with all these ropes. I have a feeling our family and friends are going to get pretty tired of receiving rope-encrusted objects on gift-giving occasions.


Gwen Powell Workshops

In mid-June, the Saturday Spinners hosted a two-day workshop with Gwen Powell.  Gwen has earned a certificate of excellence in handspinning from the HGA (there are only twelve people who have reached this level), and she's become well known for having worked with Clemes & Clemes to develop their very popular blending board. 

On Saturday, we had a class on using the blending board and spinning woolens from the rollags.  Gwen showed so many techniques I couldn't keep up!  I still have a pile of rollags to spin up one of these days.  But I think I have made better friends with my board and now I know what to do with all those little orts of yarns and threads I've been stashing away.

Spun singles
I think the first thing we did was some simple striping -- just laying out rows of different colors in varying widths on the board.  

Gwen gave some instruction on woolen spinning -- something I've avoided.  I did very poorly at first.  I'd like to say I was getting the hang of it by the end of the day, but all I can say is that I was doing less poorly.  A few thousand hours of practice and I might get a handle on it.

Another technique we tried was color blocking - overlapping colors slightly, while keeping the fibers all going in the same direction.  I got a little carried away.

We also played with loading the board in different directions.  I started to do just a little cross-hatching but it got away from me and I ended up with a bizarre plaid.  But I like the way the rollags turned out.  Wonder how they'll spin up?

Laying down cross-hatched pieces
Added thin layer of dark brown over all to give stability
The 'plaid' rollags

Garneted singles
 Then we tried some garneting.  I remember garneting boards from my first incarnation as a wannabe spinner.  They were terribly expensive and I wasn't skilled enough (ok, at all) to really consider getting one.  In garneting, you basically tangle little bits of interesting stuff into your base.  If all goes well, most of the stuff stays in when you spin it.  I chopped up small pieces of a filmy purple chiffon and an opaque gold fabric into tiny pieces, along with some little bits of chopped up gold thread, and cross-hatched those bits here and there on the board that was already loaded with my base material.  Seemed simple, but it was challenging to get the little bits to stick without pulling up the base.  This technique is going to take a lot more practice but I really liked the results.  Most of the bits actually stayed in the yarn when I spun my singles, and I lost just a few when I plyed them.

Just part of the unspun rollags from class

Saturday's class
 Check out Gwen's videos about the blending board on YouTube.

IEHG West Dye Fest June 1

Where does the time go? 

I've been to so many classes and group events, I can't even remember everything that's gone on since Studio 66. So I'm going to write a brief (for me) post for each of the highlights.  First...

IEHG West Dye Fest...  at the home of one of our members who has a dyeing station at her home.  We had jugs of the acid dyes left over from Studio 66, and did microwave dyeing on all sorts of things.   I got carried away with a gorgeous shade of turquoise and used it on nearly everything. 

Even though it was one of the hottest days of the season, we had such a good time playing with dyes and oohing and aahing over everyone's results. And of course I was so busy enjoying the moment, I didn't think to take photos.  We had drying racks full of the most brilliant colors all over the yard, and I just wish I could show them here.

By the way, I learned that Reduran does quite a good job at removing dye from skin.  Ask me how I know this.

A few days later, I realized that I hadn't taken any pictures so I took these with my phone.  Then learned that it captures turquoise as blue.  So the photos here have all been photoshopped to get back some of the actual color, but they don't do the real things justice.  Guess I'm going to have to break down and get some batteries for my digital camera.

Silk Hankies

More Silk Hankies

Mohair Locks.  There are actually twelve different combinations of colors - but the phone camera loses a lot of detail.

Wool Roving - looks pretty garish.  May overdye...

Just can't get the color anywhere near realistic on this.  I painted one long edge of this silk scarf with teal and the other with purple, and let them blend in the center.

I started with turquoise on the ends of this scarf and added a little teal every few inches as I painted toward the center.

Wool roving - pure turquoise

More wool - turquoise with more purples and pinks than shows here.

This was a really ugly yellowy-beige wool that made my eyes hurt.  I squirted some red, pink, and purple dyes on it randomly and got this gorgeous coloring.  Now wish I'd had more of that ugly stuff.