Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ballad of the Woolee Winder

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed 
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed, 
Then one day he was shootin at some food, 
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude. 
Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea. 

St. Valentine was good to me this year, and brought me a Woolee Winder and three bobbins for my Majacraft Suzie. Since St. Valentine is so very nice, I even got my gift early, so I've had a few days to play with it.

Or maybe that should be, I've had a few days to wrestle with it.

What, you say, is a Woolee Winder? It is an invention by a man in Oregon designed to improve the efficiency of spinning by eliminating the need to stop and move where the yarn is winding onto the bobbin. The device replaces the regular flyer assembly on your wheel with one that contains a travel screw inside one arm, which drives an eye back and forth using the movement of the flyer and bobbin, to distribute the yarn evenly.

The engineering-minded can see a schematic on the inventor's website, here, under "how it works."

And the visual learners can see the results below. 

Manual flyer on the left, WW on the right. Yes, two different wheels. You can see the difference in how the bobbin is loading!
Things go in trends in all aspects of life, and Woolee Winders seem to be trendy in the spinning world right now. The maker provides them to fit a variety of current popular wheels, and it seems more are in the works as well.

What do I think?

When it works, it rocks. The closest example I can think of for non-spinners is, it's the difference between having to stop your 4WD and get out and manually switch the hubs on each wheel (inevitably in the snow, ice, or mud, which is mostly when you'd want 4WD of course!), and turning a knob on the dashboard for 4WD on the fly. Okay, that's a bit dramatic - but I tend to zone out when things are going well in spinning, and I'm forever forgetting that I need to stop and shift things - it's interruptive, frankly. Plus the uneven winding-on means you can't get as much on any given bobbin.

The key term is, when it works. For the cost of this thing, it really ought to work out of the box. But no. It's finicky, grumpy, grabby, stiff, tense...sounds like me after a bad day at work in my old life, and working with it is about as much of a struggle as that job could be. 

And this is where our friend Jed comes in. Oil is your friend. 

The online troubleshooting I found, mostly on Ravelry, sometimes mentioned using a drop of oil in the traveling screw. 

I think they mean "drop" as an alcoholic would use the term in the phrase "a drop of whiskey." 

I've been oiling this thing like there's no tomorrow - and in waaay more places than people have mentioned. All the gears, particularly the gear shafts. The worm gear at the end. The traveling screw. And the bobbin shaft when putting on the bobbin. Not a drop at each end, a line of the stuff all along the bobbin shaft. 

I also switched out the brake band to a length of cotton crochet thread, and ran a 5.5mm sketch pencil (graphite! A lubricant!) along the brake band groove on the bobbin. Oh, and I ended up modifying the position of the eye that feeds yarn onto the bobbin by (this is very scientific) sticking a screwdriver through it and gently tweaking it counterclockwise, so it would align better.

And FINALLY it is not routinely a struggle to use this thing. I just caught myself doing the "in the groove" mind drift which means everything is working perfectly, I don't have to fight the equipment, and I'm just cranking along, daydreaming as I go. 

So, if you happen to have just acquired one of these, and Dr. Google has brought you here in a search to help you with your troubles, get out Jed's Texas tea and don't be shy about using it. And remember the challenge starts anew with each new bobbin for a while too. 

As of this writing, Robert Lee & Son offers a two-year money back guarantee if you just can't make friends with your Woolee Winder. (See their website for details, of course.)

Y'all come back now, y'hear?