Tinkertoy spindle wheel tutorial

(Instructions for spinning yarn not included.)

Finished Wheel

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a charkha, also called a spindle wheel, for Maker Faire. I do want to make something sturdier, but this does have its charms. And it does actually work. (Photo taken with the wheel lying on its side so I don’t have to find a backdrop. Click any picture to see a bigger version.)

Make one of these:
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The spindle has to turn freely; the two wheels it sits in need to have the larger holes.

Make two of these:
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Put them together like this (note the addition of two more red sticks):
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Make two square “wheels” (ignore the string for the moment; all will become clear):
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Gather up some more bits like this to make an axle:

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(Note that the stick is the same length as the green bits from the wheels.)

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  1. axle through the circle at the top of the big purple triangle.
  2. one small round wheel from this picture onto the axle.
  3. a big square wheel on the axle.
  4. three small wheels on the axle.
  5. the other square wheel on the axle.
  6. one more little wheel on the axle.
  7. axle through the top of the other purple triangle.
  8. second stopper on the end of the axle.

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Get some crochet cotton. Using a darning needle or crochet hook, thread it through alternating points of the square wheels so the string zigzags back and forth. When you’ve threaded it through all the points, cut the string, gently pull it so that the wheels don’t shift, but not so tightly that the square wheels come apart. Turn the square wheels so the points are out of sync with each other and the wheels are parallel.

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The two square wheels now make a bigger single wheel. The next step is to make a belt that goes around the big wheel and the spindle whorl. More crochet cotton! Tie it in a big loop around the smaller part of the whorl and around the string part of the big wheel. Tie it fairly tightly, but not so tight that the contraption’s base starts to fold.

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Ta-dah! (Video yet to come.)

The spindle won’t hold much in the way of thick yarn, but I’ve seen pictures of spindle wheels like this used for making cotton thread or fine yarn. I do want to come up with a way of using a proper pointy spindle, but this will do for now, when my son lets me use his Tinkertoys.

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