For more background to this review, read the first sections of the post about the 3D printed combs.
3D printed charkha
The designs are free for anyone with access to a 3D printer, but Joseph also sells his products in his Etsy shop. Joseph wrote that he was shocked at the price of spinning tools. He deeply enjoys fiber arts and wants everyone who is interested to be able to spin. The idea with the 3D printed tools is to offer a cheap alternative to more expensive spinning tools for a new spinner who wants to have a go at the craft.
I have never used a charkha before and have nothing to compare with when it comes to the tool. However, I am an intermediate to experienced spinner, I have spun cotton and know the spinning technique required. I have been wanting to try a charkha for a while now, though, and this is the perfect opportunity for me to see if I like it. In this sense I’m a good candidate for Joseph’s 3D printed charkha – a charkha beginner who wants to try but not spend too much money. The 3D printed charkha costs $30.
So, here is my review, beginning with a short version:
- Can I produce yarn with it? Yes.
- Is it safe to use? Yes.
- Does it give me a feeling of flow as I use it? Not really.
- Does it inspire to learn more about charkha spinning? Yes.
- Would I recommend it to a new spinner? Yes and no.
When I opened the bag with the 3D printed parts for the charkha there was no assembly instruction. On a little note in the package there was a link to the Good and Basic YouTube channel where there is an assembly video named I designed 3D printed book charkha. There is also another video where Joseph shows how he uses the Charkha.
The parts for the charkha (including three spindles) look much like the parts of a conventional charkha, only in a different material. Contrary to the wool combs, the metal parts are made of welding rod and give the charkha a balanced look. By assembling the parts on a wooden surface the 3D printed material makes less of a visual disturbance than the 3D printed combs.
Joseph had included some flat rubber bands for the smaller whorl, but the spindle wobbled too much with this solution, making the rubber bands fold and slide off quite often. Instead I used cotton string for both the large and small wheel, which worked better for me. When looking at videos of traditional charkhas, cotton string seems to be used for both the larger and smaller whorls. I think a less elastic rubber (and rounded) band may work too for the larger whorl, but I didn’t have that. After having read this review Joseph is considering changing the included rubber bands.
To keep the charkha steady I clamped it to a table with C-clamps.
Fiber and preparation
To try this charkha I use cotton that has been grown in a botanical garden here in Sweden. I have ginned it myself and carded into rolags with fine (108 tpi) hand cards. For a demonstration of this, watch this video where I prepare cotton for spinning.
The 3D printed parts in the charkha are very lightweight. Without resistance the spindle spins very fast. However, with the slightest resistance there are issues.
The knot on the drive band tends to stop the spinning or just glide around the whorl. This happens particularly often where the string goes around the mini whorl on the spindle shaft. When I make the draft the drive band also tends to slide instead of drive the whorls. The more I fill the spindle with yarn the more resistance the cop brings, which makes the rolling onto the spindle tougher. The whorls in a traditional charkha are typically made of wood, which give them a bit more counter-resistance to talk back to the resistance of the drafting.
In all spinning there needs to be a communication between the hands and the fiber. With this 3D printed charkha this is vital. Since the lightweight charkha is so sensitive to resistance the spinner needs to listen very carefully to the fiber to be able to spin the yarn. I find I need to slack the yarn slightly when the whorl get stuck to get it unstuck. When I see a slub I need to stop to open up the twist before I can go on. With a (wooden) charkha that can take the resistance I wouldn’t need to stop – I could simply add length to the yarn and allow the twist to distribute itself more evenly.
When the thread is to my liking I can add twist with no problem – this part of the spinning process doesn’t involve resistance that will stop the flow. But as I roll the yarn onto the spindle there is resistance again and I need to find solutions to get the yarn onto the spindle without too much extra work. Driving the smaller whorl works better for me than the larger whorl, especially when the spindle has more yarn on it.
This starting and stopping stops the flow of the spinning. And, as I argued in the review of the 3D printed combs, the flow is such an important part of the spinning process. When I don’t get that feeling of flow my inspiration to continue fades. Spinning to me is most of all a process, not just the resulting yarn.
Even if I’m a beginner at charkha spinning I need my overall spinning experience to understand what I need to do when the whorls stop or the drive band glides in the whorls. I need to understand spinning, fiber preparation and how the longdraw works.
A lot of the issues with the 3D printed charkha seem to have to do with the weight of the components. It influences the flow and experience of the spinning, something I talked about in the review of the wool combs as well. Again, I have no previous experience with charkha spinning or with other charkhas so I can definitely be doing things wrong.
So, to the question if I can produce yarn with the charkha the answer is yes. The process isn’t chafe free, though, mainly because of the lightweight parts. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to a new spinner. There are so many things that stop the process along the way. For someone like me, with enough spinning experience to trouble shoot and to understand what is happening I would recommend it as a way to try charkha spinning before deciding to buy a charkha that costs considerably more money but also works considerably smoother.
The 3D printed charkha has given me an appetite for a wooden charkha. I have seen a lovely Japanese foldable bamboo charkha, but I haven’t yet figured out how to purchase it. If you know anything about it, please let me know. The principle seems to be the same as Joseph’s charkha – spinning possibilities for everyone at a low cost. The key, for me at least and just as in the case of the 3D printed combs, is how low the cost can sink before the product looses vital functions functions.
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