So checking back, my last update was in July! It’s not that I’ve not had anything to report – I’ve just been run a little ragged with, well, life really. Naturally, the little one has been keeping me on my toes pretty constantly. I am astounded on a daily basis by how quickly she picks things up (figuratively and literally), and frequently more than a little terrified at how efficient toddling is at getting from safe places to places I really don’t want her going.
Okay, I’ll stop wittering about my baby. Promise! For now, anyway… On to spinning stuff:
Aside from keeping up with orders, I’ve been tinkering with some drop spindle stuff. I’ve had some ideas in mind about where to take the drop spindle line next, and was starting to get serious about some of them toward the end of summer. Then the Associated Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School (summer school from now on I think) happened. I had a stand at the summer school market place over the final weekend, and was delivered a challenge by one of the attendees. The conversation ran approximately like this:
Attendee: “Wow, those Modular Drop Spindles look cool. What does the lightest configuration weigh?”
Me: “Well, while that varies depending on the wood, I find that they’re generally around 30g without the bobbin.”
Me: “Uhm, yeah. Bobbins…” drops off merino/silk personal project and clips on rather less nice demo project bobbin.
Still Me: “That way I can let you have a shot without handing over my own stash! Also helps when I get bored and fancy a change for a while.”
Attendee: “Oh, cool. Love the idea. Only thing is – I’m a lace spinner. Look at this one I’ve bought today. It weighs 7g*!” Hands over tiny, beautiful wooden spindle. “I do go though them though, they tend to break if they drop.”
* I think she said 7g, never had a good head for remembering numbers though.
Me: “Hmm… with some polycarbonate and carbon-fibre materials, I bet I could make something lighter, stronger and modular at the same time.” eyes glaze over in an engineering fuge.
Attendee: “That would be great… 5g or under would be amazing. There’s a challenge for you!”
Me: “Challenge accepted!”
I’ve been kind of weight obsessed since then. In a healthy, engineering type sense, of course. After really quite a bit of tinkering, fiddling and generally playing around with different materials, I managed to produce the new MDS4 ultra-light modular drop spindle range:
As with its big brother (sister? Okay, older sibling then!) it’s fully modular, so can be reconfigured as top or bottom whorl, has interchangeable whorls and magnetically locking bobbins. In its lightest configuration so far it weighs in at 5g – so I’d say: mission complete there!
That said, of course, I’m certain that I can push the design even further and achieve even lower weights if needed. So far I’ve managed to achieve all the target weights using a 55mm diameter whorl, which gives really excellent spin performance, despite the weight. However, I have some ideas which involve changing the basic design pattern (still compatible with the MDS4 range, naturally) to get whorls which weigh even less. And that’s before I get stuck in with aerofoil profiles and other exotica which could push the design to new extremes.
All that leads me to a question which, not being a lace-spinner, I’m unable to answer myself: What’s the minimum useful weight for a drop spindle? In principle there’s nothing stopping us having a spindle which floats completely weightless, but would that be useful for anything other than turning heads? Having just written that sentence, I now have an image of a group of spinners all drafting up with the spindle hovering above their heads. As I say, an attention grabber, but useful? I doubt it.
In all seriousness though – I’d really like to hear what you think would be a useful minimum weight. Given that I don’t spin lace, there’s a good chance that helpful posters will be asked to help with testing (read: given prototypes to try out/play with/keep). If you’re interested, do get in touch.
Hmm… I just can’t stop thinking about that hovering spindle now. Mostly as an engineering problem. I’m not sure I’d ever need it myself… oooooooh, I’ve just realised where I have some materials that I can test this out quickly! Gotta go…
Until next time, happy spinning.