Building an electric spinning wheel – Part 1

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Building an electric spinning wheel

It’s been a long time since I’ve spun, but somehow the bug is back. I know spinning is supposed to be calming, meditative, yada yada … and I do enjoy it for those reasons too, but when faced with a mountain of fleece and a mad infant fascinated by everything lethal (when you see your child crawling at speed towards your wool picker :O …) you know you need to make some changes.

Enter the electric spinning wheel (e-spinner) idea.

Having sold my Ashford Country Spinner, I was planning on splurging on their electric model, but when it came to it, I just couldn’t do it. Considering that this is just basic hardware, and that the engineer works in motors, it seemed silly not to try to build one myself. This way, I can hopefully create a lovely lightweight model for on the go (Ashford’s E-spinner is a hefty 2.8kg!), inspired by Heavenly Handspinning’s Vespera and the nifty Electric Eel Wheel (why are these great products always States-side?!).

Choosing a flyer

I learned to spin on the fantastic Louet S20 – basic, beautiful, large orifice, huge bobbin capacity. Sold.

A lot of the e-spinner designs use an Ashford Giant flyer, and I considered this, but why would I step away from my Louet when I have the flyer here ready to go? The flyer is by far the most expensive part of the design when you’re making a wheel yourself, but if you’re unlikely to be using your traditional spinner and your e-spinner at the same time, why not just shift the flyer between the two? Louet also manufactures a high-speed flyer and bobbins that are compatible with the basic model, so if I want to go faster in the future, the part will be ready and waiting.

Housing the flyer

If you’re using a flyer from your existing wheel, it makes sense to simply replicate the housing for the flyer … This is particularly simple with the Louet as it’s such a basic design. I measured everything up (it’s three pieces, it’s not rocket science, but somehow I still managed to lose a cm on my measurements for the front piece – thanks Stilldemenz). Here’s what I needed for my faux-Louet housing (corrected measurements):

I’ve found that if you take a cute baby to Bauhaus, you’re quite likely to get assistance, so I walked away with my three pieces perfectly cut, including the semi-circular orifice cutout. The wood came from the off-cuts bin, so this cost me just €3.00.

Assembly was a simple case of pre-drilling the holes and screwing and glueing them together.

Irish tension belt

Building an electric spinning wheel

The Louet uses an Irish tension system, with a leather strap fulling over the flyer. Easy peasy … leather belt from the secondhand shop, large hole punched out for the screws. The belt is attached on the left-hand side, about 2.5-3 cm down, and then loops over onto a tightening mechanism. This was fairly expensive as I could only find it in the nautical section, but it still set me back just €1.80. I mounted two O-ring screws with internal diameter slightly larger than the screw (6mm). The ring screws I used were actually far too large, but it’s all I had at the time … I have to see whether they’re too large and the screw rattles about a bit.

Orifice housing

Building an electric spinning wheel

On the Louet wheel, the nylon orifice on the flyer sits in a brass cradle tacked to the top of the flyer housing. For this, I bought a stainless steel hose clamp from the plumbing department. Some models have a raw edge, but I bought one where the edge is slightly bevelled or rounded downwards. I then used a mallet to create the shape, drilled a hole in each side and tacked it onto the top of the post. I’ll have to see how this holds up against wear and tear, but I did spy a few possible alternatives in brass in the plumbing section in case this doesn’t work out.


And that’s how far I’ve got! So far, so easy … next steps:

  • sourcing nylon tubing to hold the flyer shaft
  • finding a drive band
  • working out which motor and controller we need

Part 2 coming as soon as I have enough brainpower to figure out how motors actually work.

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