Some time ago I went to a vintage fair in Wiltshire and came home with an old hand drill. Apart from the fact that it’s rather lovely, I had an ambition to turn it into a yarn winder some day. I’ve made a start on that.
I started by dismantling the various components, a process which resulted in a number of tiny ball bearings bouncing all over the kitchen floor. I’ve found 14 of them, which I hope is all there are. I’m not too worried if not because ball bearings are cheap and easy to come by, and I may not need them anyway in the winder design.
I had to resort to drilling out one of the screws that held the winding handle onto the large gear wheel, because I just couldn’t budge it even after leaving it soaking in penetrating oil. The screw head looked suspiciously shiny and I’m guessing that it wasn’t original and was the wrong thread, which would explain why it wouldn’t undo. I had a similar lack of success in removing the interference-fit pin that held the smaller gear wheel onto the shaft, and had to drill that out too.
I’ve cleaned up the two gear wheels, removing probably 60 years of oil, sawdust, rust and general dirt. Now they’ve had a couple of coats of spray paint they look a lot better and are fit to be used in proximity to precious yarn.
A ball winder works by rotating the shaft on which the yarn will be wound – which is at a 45° angle – around a vertical axis while spinning the shaft along its own axis at the same time. This photo shows a top-of-the-range version in a local yarn shop. The drill’s bevel gears will do a fine job of translating a winding action around a horizontal axis into perpendicular rotation, but I’ll need to create a new mechanism to achieve the required spin. The commercial winders I’ve seen use a 45° cone arrangement, which is what I’ll try to replicate. You can see the cone in the photo below.
The disk at the base of the 45° shaft has a rubber “tyre” around its edge. The cone itself stays fixed, so that the rotation of the shaft around it drives the disk and causes the shaft to spin on its axis. The ratio of rotation to spin is important to achieve a neatly wound ball, but I’ll worry about that once I’ve worked out how to make the spin happen at all.