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Spindle Hook Tuning

Chapter One -- (Ed. Note: first part now labeled "Chapt. One" as inclusion of "Chapt. Two" deemed necess due to lie told in "Chapt. One")

The hooks on most high or top whorl spindles need tuning from time to time. As a matter of fact, most spindles come brandy spanking new, right out of the box needing a tune-up. A favorite spindle that sees a lot of use -- gets dropped from time to time, etc -- almost certainly would benefit from some adjustment.

The idea is that you want the highest point of the hook -- the spot from which the whole spindle hangs and spins on the yarn -- to be centered over the spindle's "center of spin". (Ed. Note: that was it! == "the lie". Reader should continue, but be sure to also read Chapt. Two)

drawing: front to back "out of whack"to the LEFT -- Hooks out of whack front to backdrawing: side to side "out of whack"
to the RIGHT -- Side to side dis-orientated hooks


You should visually examine your spindle's hook, but you'll usually only be able to see a major out-of-whackness -- like in the drawings here.

The best test is to turn the spindle upside down and spin it straight up with the hook sitting on the flat palm of your hand. You WANT to feel almost nothing == just a soft, smooth and long spinning. But you'll more than likely feel a thrumping. That thrumping contributes to wobbling and wobbling slows your spindle. Yes, Toto, there IS usually trouble in River City (is that in Kansas?), but then nothing germane rhymes with thrumping.

Where were we? Oh yeah! "My spindle's thrumping! Whatever will I do???"

From here on a lot depends on your spindle and its hook. The brass hooks I use on Hatchtown spindles are rather thin ( 1/16" = 1.6 mm) brass wire (brazing rod, actually). Some spindlemakers use heavier brass wire, some steel and a lot of spindles are "hooked" with hardware store cuphooks. You should be able to tweak just about any of these far enough for a fix. (Note: I have seen fancy cast brass cuphooks, tho never on a spindle, but that would be one type of hook that might very well crack rather than bend.)

The first rule about hook tweaking is that you ALWAYS hold the very top of the spindle's shaft tightly between the thumb and forefinger of your non-tweaking hand. You'll be torquing the hook a bit -- you don't want to tear out the end of the hook that's glued and/or screwed into the wooden shaft.

Cad Drawing: Roundnose vs. Needlenose pliersYou might be tempted to just push against the hook with your thumb...and that might work. But you will be placing a lot of stress right at the point where the hook "enters" the shaft...and maybe that lower part of the hook isn't out of plumb.

The best tool to have for this process is a pair of roundnose pliers. Jewelry people use this kind of plier for bending wire into loops -- Sears used to carry them. The jaws are completely circular in cross-section. They're not flat where they meet like needlenose pliers, and they do not have any nasty "teeth". Roundnose pliers don't have sharp edges that will chew up your soft brass hook.

You can use needlenose pliers in a pinch. But you'll want to wrap the ends of the jaws with some thin leather or multiple wraps of duct tape to cover over the "edges". A DH or SO ("significant other" <G>) might be cajoled into grinding the edges off the jaws of a pair of needlenose pliers that they've graciously donated to the cause.

drawing: straightening side to sidedrawing: straightening front to backUse the pliers as shown in these drawings. A jaw goes on either side of the hook, grip the hook not too tightly and rotate your wrist and the pliers. The black circles in the drawings represent the end-on view of the tips of the plier jaws. Remember to hold the wooden shaft right up close to hook.

Okay, now comes the tricky bit: knowing how much to bend and in what direction. As I mentioned early on, you might actually be able to see that the hook is off-center relative to the shaft -- that would provide a good hint about the amount and direction of necessary correction.

How much force to exert? You do not really want to think about bending the hook -- you usually don't want to feel the hook bend...you're just trying to tweak it. After a "tweak", you should almost always be wondering if you really DID anything at all. I don't want to scare you, but there is a limit to how much and often metal will allow itself to be bent == "metal fatigue" can crop up in spindles just as with airliners' wings. Being a little ginger with your adjustments will extend your spindle's life

No obvious direction? Honestly, I do this tweaking thing a lot and I very often cannot see in which direction a hook has a problem ...but I can feel that thrumping. Do what I do, pick a direction, any direction, and do a slight "tweak" Make a mental note about which direction you tweak.

Do a test spin with the upside down spindle in your palm and see (feel!) if there's been any improvement. I'm embarrassed to admit how often I discover I've obviously tweaked in exactly the wrong direction and managed to increase the thrumping! No worry, "undo" that last tweak and try another. No magic here -- just trial and error. Don't forget to try tweaks from front to back AND side to side.

Now, not all spindles will ever spin perfectly. Variations in wood density can give a whorl a heavy side -- maybe the shaft has developed a slight curve. There are times when a "visually askew" hook results in the least thrumping and best spinning spindle.

And finally, when you figure you've done just about all the de-thrumping you can stand, hook up some fiber and do some real spinning. I'll be surprised if you don't notice some improvement.

Chapter Two -- (Ed. Note: now to clear up the matter of the lie told in "Chapt. One")

Okay okay! I admit it! I DID tell a small inaccuracy ...maybe more an over-simplification when I said earlier

"The idea is that you want the highest point of the hook -- the spot from which the whole spindle hangs and spins on the yarn -- to be centered over the spindle's "center of spin".

And while I am truly sorry about the effects on, and ramifications to, my family, the worldwide web and trusting spinners everywhere, I do contend that my omission of the FULL truth does not, and should not be considered, either a high crime or misdemeanor. The spindleguy will NOT resign! <VBG>

Well anyway, a clear-thinking and true fiberholic member of Spindlitis! caught my lie real quick. She does such a good job of succinctly stating the case that, in her words, here is the FULL truth:

"In my spinning opinion, the Yarn has to be centered, not the hook. If you are spinning really fine yarn then the hook displacement needed from center is minimal.

If you spin "Super-duper Bulky" then the hook would need to be off center far enough so the yarn axis is over the spindle axis."

drawing: hooks = centered, but NOT yarnThe leftmost spindle in the drawing @ right illustrates this correct contention: the bulky, green yarn will want to spin on its central axis == the heavy blue dotted line. Meanwhile, the spindle's wanting to spin on its axis == the lighter, red dotted line. All other things being equal, a spindle that may NOT "thrump" in your palm MIGHT wobble when you're spinning some fiber.

The rightmost spindle in the same illust. introduces the idea that the thickness of the hook can offset the yarn's and spindle's axes even further.

drawing: "bent" hook = smooth spinThe necessary "hook correction" for the extreme case rightmost above is shown in the drawing here to the left.

The illustrated spindle brings up another important point/question: What would happen if the green yarn came up on the other side of the whorl and passed through the hook right to left!?? That's right!! The axis of the yarn would then be WAY OFF the spindle's!!

So, another good rule -- obvious suggestion:

a spinner should always bring the yarn up from under the whorl and pass through the hook in the same direction every time after winding on.

Otherwise, although you've diligently tweaked and tuned your spindle "for the particular yarn" you're spinning, sometimes your spindle will spin sweetly (when the yarn's on the "correct" side of the hook) and other times, it will wobble and slow (when the yarn's on the "wrong" side of the hook.

So there it finally is! The whole truth and nothing but the truth.....OR....At least everything that this spindlemaker has theorized on the subject.