Finding a One-Day Project

I was feeling pretty terrible about my woodworking skills. I have a bunch of projects I want to do, but I haven’t finished any of them. In many cases, I have the wood, and it’s been acclimating to my workshop for a while now. But I haven’t actually done what I set out to do.

I made a list of my projects, as a result, and identified the four or five that I could finish in a day if I put my mind to it.

One of the projects that I’d been wanting to do is build a yarn-ball winder from Clayton Boyer Designs.  As a knitter, I wanted to be able to turn my own hand-made wool into something more serious.  Once I make it, though, winding it into a ball is somewhat haphazard.  It tangles more often than I’d care to admit.

So I got out the yarn-ball winder pattern, and I choked back a tear.  No way was I going to scroll-saw that many gears in a day.  It’s a multi-day project at least. But…. the yarn swift?  That could work.

The Yarn Swift is a vertical bar mounted on feet, that supports a pinwheel-like arrangement of fixed and moveable bars.  It’s used for taking a bunch of yarn and arranging it in a skein after spinning it.  The skein can then be repackaged using the yarn-ball winder, later. In theory.

Looking over the plans for the yarn swift, I decided that this, this I could build in a day.  At some point, I’d convinced myself, I had bought the hardware I needed to build it? Isn’t it in this bag of hardware? So it is.  Let’s get started.  I cut out the paper patterns (full size!), glued them to the boards (I already had them!) and got my scroll saw and drill press working.

Pretty easy.  Labor intensive, though.  I’d say that this project took me about three hours this morning, and about four hours this afternoon. There were also two trips to the hardware store, because I had bought the metal hardware and parts that I needed for the yarn-ball winder but not, as it turned out, for the swift.  And the first time I went to the hardware store, I bought the wrong thing.  Alas.


From a skill-development point of view, this was pretty much a perfect project to follow on yesterday’s tool board project (see the tool boards in the background, already getting loaded up with tools? Go, me!) It involved a lot of use of the scroll saw; it involved drilling holes and countersinks; it involved making interior cuts within the bars of the swift’s arms, and it involved cutting dowels cleanly, so that the ends were flat.  Some hand tools were used in the process of making this yarn swift, but mostly it was power tools.  Even so, it was sweaty work — guiding the blade of a scroll saw around a curve is not always easy.  Still, I had fun.

I had hoped to get it all cleaned up — the paper patterns removed, the sanding completed, and the first coat of stain applied.  But I just didn’t get there; if I hadn’t had to go to the hardware store twice to get what I needed; and if I’d just been able to walk in and get exactly the right parts in thirty seconds, I might have gotten the patterns removed and the glue cleaned off.  But I think that trying for a coat of stain would have been impossible.  As it is, I can do that first thing in the morning, and this project will have been finished in twenty-four hours by the clock — not 24 hours of actual labor.

I also feel like I’m now ready to tackle the yarn-cake winder/yarn-ball winder, which involves quite a lot of gear-cutting and scroll-saw cutting.   This project was a nice wind-up and skill re-hash; and now I’m much clearer about reading Clayton Boyer patterns.

Reviewing the Design

Reviewing Mr. Boyer’s plans, I find that he’s done an excellent job of encoding the information about what to do and in what order to do it, on most of his parts. I rarely have to consult the directions about which step to do next.  There’s a lot of changing out of drill bits and saw blades as I go, because not everything is clear-cut to me.  But Clayton did, and does, know exactly what he’s doing.  He specifies diameter of holes to be drilled, depth of hole, size of bolt to pass through two holes into this part, and through that part, and mounted in this one.

It’s an insight into what real designers do, actually. Each part is specified — make this of 3/4″ stock.  That means, as I’ve now learned, make it of solid wood, not plywood.  The size and shape is exact — paste the parts to the wood, cut around the shape, sand down to the line.  Mr. Boyer knows that wood expands and contracts, so his plans allow for that, a little.  Even so, he knows that his mechanism may, in fact, seize up.  Also, he specified that I should use a tube of a particular diameter for the bushing of the pinwheel.  I didn’t.  I used a slightly larger tube, and split my glue-support bearing.  Oops.  Clamps and glue, fortunately, can fix a great many things.

You can see Mr. Boyer’s patterns on my cut pieces, below.  The plans are full-size, meaning that all you have to do is cut out the forms, and then paste them to your wood, and then cut and shape to those specifications.  It mostly works; the errors appear to be mine, and not his.  His forms are perfection, frankly, and I’m looking forward to building the ball-winder, and the other projects that I’ve purchased from him.

I’m looking forward to tackling a clock or one of his mechanical calendars, next.

For the MakerSpace

As always, tools make tools make things. The yarn swift, and the ball-winder that goes with it, are tools.  They are capable of supporting a knitting program in a MakerSpace, such as a Stitch and Bitch Circle, where people get together to work independently on knitting projects, and engage in various degrees of gossip community building through conversation. 

I’ve found that doweling and beads can be turned into some quite-respectable knitting needles, so the yarn-cake winder and the yarn swift and the knitting needles together all demonstrate a core competency for a MakerSpace — an awareness that carpentry projects can be used to support textile projects.  And these tools also raise awareness that textile projects are themselves a MakerSpace project of some seriousness and validity.