How the miniSpinner Came to Be...
My wife Beth and I spent several years sailing in the
Pacific. During that time, we stayed nearly a year in Tasmania, where
Beth became interested in spinning.
She started with a drop spindle and alpaca
fiber. Not the easiest way to learn to spin, but if you can spin
alpaca, you can spin about anything!
Beth tired of the drop spindle and began to lust for
a real spinning wheel. The only
problem was, a conventional wheel was far too large for our boat. But,
thanks to the suggestions of Tassie friend Charles Payne, the first miniSpinner,
(now known as “Mark 1”) was conceived. My brother and I made it as a
proof-of-concept in pine – really crude - but Beth spun away many
happy hours on it.
That's Mark 1 in the foreground. Ouch!
After Tasmania, we moved on to New Zealand where a
local friend became enchanted with Beth's spinner and wanted to purchase
it. So, since I'd been thinking of producing these on a commercial basis
anyway, we sold Mark 1 and I built a much nicer model, “Mark 2”,
while onboard our sailboat in the Maharangi River on North Island, NZ.
A better view of Mark 2:
Several years (and many hours of spinning on Mark 2) passed. We
finished our Pacific cruise and sold RED, our sailing home of nearly 10
years, and we moved on to design and build a home in Chimacum,
Once the house was mostly finished I had time to
revisit the spinner project. I found an industrial-strength motor,
designed a much improved microcomputer-based speed controller, made it
prettier and more sophisticated, and in general turned it into a
Mark 2 was unbelievably crude compared to Mark 3.
Mark 3, first limited run of five pre-production
The units that finally shipped have a quite a number of improvements
over this one; a better speed controller, better bearings, Scotch
tension knob moved towards the front, a clear belt (Beth insisted), and
many other things.
I continually work to improve the miniSpinner. One of my
university wood shop instructors once said, "Around here, perfect
is good enough." I guess that's my motto.
It's funny, I expected this would be a low-key craft project, and
I expected to sell perhaps 10 units/year. Was I wrong!
Fortunately, I had planned my production methods so that I could
scale up the quantities without straining myself too much.
Good thing, too! The miniSpinner has taken over my life
- in a good way, though.
It's been a
lot of fun to design and build these, and I hope you enjoy yours..