Kick Spindle

Later this month I’m teaching a two week introduction to spinning course. Here is one of the spinning tools I’ve built recently, a kick spindle.

As a starting point for my design I read this post by Layne Brosius, a.k.a. AFrayedKnotter. My kick spindle is pretty similar to hers. There are two major differences. The first is that I used a 1″ thick piece of poplar with feet, as you can see in the pictures. The weight of the flywheel (a furniture bun foot from Lowe’s) seems to give the device sufficient inertia both to spin for a while and to not slide across the floor during use.  I’ve only used the kick spindle on carpeting and outdoor cement, but I think if I put some rubber feet on the bottom it would stay in place on wood or tile, too.

The second significant change I made is in the bearing design. Most kick spindles I’ve seen use roller bearings, like you’d find in a roller skate. That would make the spindle turn longer between kicks, but nice bearings are expensive (especially if I’m looking to build ten of these in a class), and I don’t really mind kicking in a rhythm, since I’m used to treadling on a wheel anyway. Instead of a $4 skate bearing, I came up with something that costs a dime, namely an actual dime:

I drilled into the base at a 45° angle with a ¾” spade bit then super glued a dime onto the floor of the angled hole. I put a divot in the dime with a 1/16″ metal bit.

In the divot rests the sharpened metal point of the spindle. To point the spindle end, I nailed a small finishing nail into the center of the 1/2″ dowel that I used for the spindle (I used 1/2″ dowel because I have a 1/2″ in drill bit but not a 3/8″ one. If I had the 3/8″ bit, I’d probably go with the 3/8″ dowel).  Next I sharpened the end of the spindle by cutting away excess wood with a knife. This leaves the small nail head sticking out the end like a pencil lead. I sharpened the head with a file:

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the sharpness of the tip. (but yes, that is a dvd of Flash Dance behind my hand. I’m a spinning maniac, maniac, and I’m spinning like I’ve never done before…) The spindle will go through twelve to twenty rotations per kick:

I spun a few ounces of wool from rolags in a hotel room while watching Elf over thanksgiving weekend.  The kick spindle works pretty well.It fits in car much more easily than a spinning wheel–with a convertible car seat in the back of my Corolla, there’s no way my Saxony wheel would fit anywhere in the car anymore. It’s fairly lightweight, but heavy enough to stay in place. It isn’t as portable as a drop spindle, but the winding on procedure is a bit more efficient. Also I’m still not very good at long draws on a drop spindle, but it’s easy to spin short or long draw on the kick spindle. The kick spindle can  accommodate a very large cop of yarn, So I can spin more yarn before winding balls for plying. Winding directly off the kick spindle is also very easy.  Total cost for the whole thing was about $12. If you wanted something a bit more aesthetic, you could use a plaque with a routed edge for the base and stain the whole thing.


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all! I’m pretty pleased with how Owen’s first Halloween costume turned out. Beth knit the vest and pants, and I did the hat. I think it looks especially hilarious when we put the hat on backwards so it looks like we’re carrying a little sock monkey around:

It was really  fun to take Owen to a high school Halloween dance where we could bounce him in his costume to the tunes of “The tale of Captain Jack Sparrow” and” Party Rock Anthem“, among others. I realized during that one that I can’t shuffle or running man while holding a baby…

I hadn’t improvised a pattern in a while–it was fun. It’s a combination of knit and crochet, mostly knit. Here’s the “pattern.” I took gauge on some knit picks interchangeable tip 8′s because they were handy, then measured the circumference of Owen’s head and multiplied my my stitches per inch then rounded down to a multiple of four for my k2p2 ribbing. I think I ended up casting on 72 stitches. After about 3.5cm  of ribbing I switched to stockinette for another 5 cm, then decreased every 8th stitch, then a row of knitting, decreased every 7th stitch then a row of knitting, every decreased every sixth stitch,  etc down to where I was decreasing every 4th stitch, and at that point I left out the non-decreasing rows and just decreased til I had four stitches, which I pulled the tail through.

For the monkey nose, I knit a sock toe, beginning with a figure 8 cast on of 10 stitches per needle on a 40″ circ. For this toe method see, for example, Silver’s Sock Class. I don’t know what it’s called when you crochet a piece of knitting onto other knitting, nor can I really describe how I did it. Basically I held the sock toe against the hat, and crocheted around the toe, treating the hat as if it were the previous row of crochet.  The ear’s are crochet’s semi-circles, which I crocheted on the same way I attached the nose. The black mouth line and two nostrils were added with duplicate stitch.

I think a whole family’s worth of sock monkey hats may be in order.

Owen rolled over for the first time tonight! He repeated the feat three times, but wouldn’t do it for the camera.


Paper Trebuchet

No kitties were harmed during the production of this video. The trebuchet requires a bit more tuning. I need to lengthen the sling and adjust the ratio of projectile mass to counterweight mass. The projectile is a wadded up ball of aluminum foil, whose mass is less than one gram. The counterweight basket is holding 77 grams of quarters, ball bearings and other tchotchke. I’ll post more on this including some slow motion footage once the siege engine is better adjusted. I’m guessing a 20-30 foot range will be possible with this machine.

This project is a warm up in preparation for building something a bit (or more than a bit) larger at school. Look out pumpkins…


Owen Dance

I often take many photos in rapid succession. When reviewing them later, I have this habit of repeatedly toggling two or three photos back and forth if the result looks funny. Sometimes I do it until my eyes tear up. Here is an example set to music. Hopefully Owen will forgive me…some day.


Owen Joseph Sullivan

Owen is a month and two days old today!
To those of you I only communicate with via blogging, sorry I’ve been away for a while! It’s been pretty hectic being a new dad and a new high school physics teacher, so I haven’t had much time for blog posting, but I love being a new dad and being a high school physics teacher. Life is good.