The power of string – simple ways too get your spinning wheel to perform the way you want

Good morning, and happy Saturday! It’s a beautiful brand new day where all Americans in all fifty states are just a little more equal and that feels really great.

Last week I talked a bit about the cleaning and maintenance on spinning wheels in general, and the cleaning and maintenance I was doing on my Polonaise. This morning I’d like to talk about a couple of modifications I made and how they affect the performance of that wheel, as well as some easy changes that any spinner can make to their own wheels to change or enhance how it spins.

My Polonaise, like many wheels, is capable of spinning as either a double drive wheel, or a single drive, flyer led wheel with a brake band/tensioning system on the bobbin. The “factory settings” for that tensioning system are a spring and a rather thick and coarse piece of twine that attach to pegs in the mother-of-all and wrap around the groove on the end of the bobbin.

Because this wheel hadn’t seen a lot of use before it came to me, the spring felt a little stiff to me, and perhaps with use, would have loosened up a bit on its own. That combined with the thick, coarse twine which by itself created a lot of friction on the bobbin groove, made adjustments to the take-up on this wheel very difficult. There seemed to me to be too fine of a line between not enough take-up and too much, with only the slightest turn of the peg. So while I had the entire wheel in pieces I figured it would be a good time to make a change.

The brake band on my Lendrum uses a simple hair tie attached to the string that wraps around the bobbin groove. This wheel has seen a lot of use and I had long ago needed to replace both of these things. Hair ties are cheap, and even a small package of them provides me with more than I am likely to use in my lifetime, and I have plenty of the blue string I used for my Lendrum. It also serves as the drive band for my Polonaise as well as my Cardarelle, which we’ll talk about soon.

I decided to reassemble the Polonaise using the same hair tie and blue string that I use on my Lendrum. The thinner, smoother blue string doesn’t create as much friction on the bobbin groove, and combined with the stretchiness of the drive band, gives me a greater range of adjustability in the take-up. Subtle turns of the peg to increase the tension now create subtle adjustments in the take-up instead of going from not enough to way too much, with only a brief stop at just enough.

For those of you with spinning wheels that use string as the drive band, changing out the drive band can change the performance of your wheel too, especially on double drive wheels. Double drive wheels rely on slippage of that drive band and if the band is too thick or coarse, it can create too much friction or grip on the bobbin groove and too much take-up as a result. Too thin of a string might not give you enough grip. These bands need replacing regularly too, as they can wear out or stretch out pretty easily, so consider trying a different type of string to see what you prefer.

My Hilltopper wheel originally came with a thin, smooth, waxed linen drive band. The wax gave it a little too much grip and take-up for my preference, so one of the first things I did when I got it home was swap that waxed linen band out for a cotton and linen blend yarn. I have also tried the blue crochet cotton on this wheel which does perform nicely, but I still prefer the slightly thicker cotton and linen blend.

When I got my Cardarelle, it desperately needed a new drive band. What was on it was as dried out and fragile as the yarn on its bobbins. I tried the cotton and linen blend as a drive band on this wheel, but quickly decided to go with the blue crochet cotton. The grooves on the flyer pulley and bobbins aren’t as smooth and polished as my Hilltopper, so its performance really benefits from the thinner string.

That blue string is handy stuff. It’s actually a crochet cotton, and it also makes a great drive band material and I use it as the drive band on the Polonaise as well. Next time you need to change your drive band, or now if you don’t want to wait, try using a different type of string. Just that one simple change can make a difference in your wheel’s performance as well as in your spinning.

That’s all for this morning. I’m off to play with a method of fiber preparation that some of you may have already tried, but is completely new to me. I’ll have more about that next week.
Have a great weekend!

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