Electric Spinning Wheel


[glacialwanderer], who you may remember from his CNC machine build, recently completed an electric spinning wheel. Spinning wheels are used by knitters to turn raw sheep’s wool into yarn. He went through several iterations before arriving at a good design. Besides the motor, there are two major components to the spinning wheel: the flyer and the bobbin. A Scotch tension brake is used to slow the rotation of the bobbin in relation to the flyer. This causes the wool to twist as it’s pulled on.

He initially tried to just use a dimmer switch with an AC motor. That quickly burnt up. The next version used a sewing machine motor since they’re designed with a variable speed control. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough torque at low speeds. The final design used a DC motor with a SyRen motor controller. It offered plenty of power and at ~$150 it’s still less than the cheapest commercial models on eBay. You can see a video of it and the spinning process embedded below.


16 thoughts on “Electric Spinning Wheel

  1. Pretty nifty. One thing that I notice, having helped my mother make yarn on her manual spinning wheel was that the foot-pedal action allowed for “on the fly” control of the speed without taking your hands away from the yarn/wool. With this device you have to reach up to a dial on the box.

    Perhaps integrating a sewing machine pedal would allow hands-free speed control?

  2. Jan, the foot pedal idea is something I thought about. I asked a few spinners about this they all all preferred the dial to a pedal. The reasons where because it’s easier to move around without a pedal and you usually set it to one speed and just forget about it. I’m sure some would prefer a pedal though and it wouldn’t be at all difficult to add.

  3. Hmm this is a smart use of technology but i still think a traditional spinning wheel is better when producing wool by hand in a craft fashion. For most hardcore spinners i think the theroputic action of bouncing the foot pedals up and down is half the pleasure!

  4. grovenstein, I agree that many spinners will always prefer the traditional wheel. The friend that I made this for ended up switching over to this because it’s faster and portable (she likes taking it with her to friends’ houses and to knitting nights). But it wouldn’t surprise me if she switches back to using her traditional wheel more in the future. One other group of people that benefit from the electric spinning wheel are disabled people and people with injuries. I’ve had two people in this category contact me about this article.

  5. “Electric” spinners as based on a mains power AC motor are not very good. If you want a good portable type spinning wheel you have to buy an “electronic” one. The difference is explained here.
    Roberta Electronic Spinner
    The Difference Between “Electric” and “Electronic” Spinning

    The difference is not so much about the ability of the spinning machine to do a job, but more about the lasting ability of the motor.

    There is a difference to consider, in the spinning ability of motorised spinners. There are bobbin-led machines (Irish brake design) or flyer-led machines (Scotch tension design). The Roberta is bobbin-led because this allows better control of the drafting rate. If the flyer is driven by a motor (as with the scotch tension design), the speed needs to be altered continually to suit the drafting speed or spinning speed. Failure to handle this correctly, will affect the quality of the yarn produced. With the Roberta electronic spinner (bobbin led),this is not a concern, because the motor speed is affecting the bobbin, not the flyer. The motor affects only the twist rate, not the pull-in rate for drafting. No broken yarn, when starting up, with a motor speed too fast. The Roberta electronic spinner design is based on the same design as is found in modern spinning mills today. The only difference being, that in the mills they run at 6000 revolutions per minute. Just a little faster than the Roberta!

    “Electric” means power goes straight to the motor and is adjusted with a speed control. The control is a resistor, that restricts the voltage going to the motor to make it go faster or slower. Electric (sewing-machine-type motors) are not designed to do the job required of them in spinning, which is high torque (twisting effort of the shaft), at slow speeds. These straight electric motors are designed to run at high speeds under load. They use AC (alternating current) power. When you restrict the voltage to slow it down, and then put it under load, you stress the motor, and a burning of the armature (the middle core) will occur. This will be very bad, if the motor actually stalls under load. With all this stress and burning on the armature surface, the motors are not likely to last more than 5 years with constant use.

    “Electronic” means that the power or current is modified, and is monitored and controlled according to the demands placed upon the motor by the person using it. All the disadvantages of the “Electric” are removed. The power voltage is reduced and changed to DC (direct current). This type of current gives very strong torque to the motor at slow speed. No harm can come to the motor because of the reduced voltage. The DC motor is designed for this use. In addition, the current is automatically and continually adjusted between amperage and voltage according to load and speed factors wanted. There are a number of electronic components in the circuit to accomplish this. They include a transistor, transformer, bridge rectifier, potentiometer, diodes, and a capacitor.

    The Roberta has great advantage over other spinners with its bobbin-led, electronic system, and the 10-year guarantee on the motor is unmatched.

    Ian Spark, Ertoel Spinning wheels

  6. There is a lot more I can say about foot controls and the difference between “electric” and “electronic” spinners. For instance the foot control on a Roberta electronic spinner is only a stop and start for pausing. A variable speed foot control is not needed on the Roberta because it is bobbin driven. If you kept altering the speed of the bobbin you would be changeing the twist rate. Something you would not want to be doing. If you want more information about the “Design Features in spinning wheels” (treadle and motor driven, please feel free to contact me on http://www.ertoel.com. e mail from the top of the home webpage. Ian Spark Manager/proprietor

    1. @Ian G. spark
      I rarely if ever, email a company for the price of their product.
      If a company is too fearful to post the price of their product on their website, that fear implies that the price is excessively high.
      If I go into a brick and mortar store the price is posted on the shelf by law, if it is not, I inform a store employee and do not purchase the product.
      It is inappropriate to inconvenience potential customers with; “contact us for current price”.
      Scott A. Tovey

  7. AC motors are not very good for spinning wheels. Alternating current motors are built to run at high speeds, when you put a load on them. In a sewing machine, where they use these type of motors, they get the slower sewing speeds, by using gears. In a spinning wheel,if you lower the voltage through the foot pedal, to get the lower slow speeds, it will eventually burn out the AC type motor, because it is designed to run at higher speeds. They will last less than 5 years of constant use.
    You only need variable slow speeds on a spinning wheel, if it is flyer driven. You do not have to alter the motor speed (after the first setting), if it is bobbin driven. Also the yarn does not break either, when you start it up. The only kind of motor to use in a motorised spinner, is a DC motor which require electronics to support and protect it. DC motors give high torque at low speeds. Just what you need in a good motorised spinner.
    Ian Spark

  8. Any motorised spinner (electric or electronic) should not be a flyer driven machine, but be bobbin driven, the same as are used in the modern spinning mills. The reason why a bobbin driven spinner is best is that everything is more controllable, and you do not have to keep altering anything as you spin the yarn and fill a bobbin. A motorised spinner that has a driven flyer can be a bit problem, if you do not keep up the speed of drafting the fibre properly, as the yarn will break. Also you have to stop frequently to alter the brake on the free turning bobbin, as it grows fatter in the middle, and gathers more yarn on the bobbin. These things are not a problem with a bobbin driven spinner.
    Ian Spark

  9. ahhh, I want one. I would LOVE to have one to spin wolf hair into yarn for our rescue/rehab.
    Is there a site that sell instructions, OR do you sell one? THINK of all the little woofers you’d help feed/… ; )

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