What's a SpinOlution?

What's in the bag?By Amelia

A few weeks ago, this arrived ...

First things first ... there were no instructions, and a few parts had come out of the baggies taped to the top, so I was a little worried. But we chased down the 8 screws for the wheel kit. The two other odd bits in a baggie -- a spring on a plastic flange and a knob that clearly screwed on -- looked like they belonged on the naked screw at the top, and they did! Those are the bobbin tension adjustment spring and its tightener.

SpinOlution Mach 1 wheelThe wheel comes bagged up with a protective piece of scrap over that upper screw. Remove the wood, take it out of the bag, put the spring, flange-side-down, on the screw, and screw the knob above it just until the spring starts to compress.

Details on SpinOlution Mach 1 wheelClick on the mini picture to see the flickr notes about the various wheel parts.

The bobbins "lock" in place on the back of the flyer, a shape cut out of the end of each one fits onto a hex-bolt at the back of the flyer. This is very similar to a Journey Wheel, providing it with a front-loading bobbin design. You take a bobbin off by twisting the front orifice bar off the flyer side-rods and taking that off. Fairly simple, after a few bobbin changes I had a feel for how much pressure to use to release the orifice bar and to re-twist it into place, and for how to line bobbins up to match the bolt to the cut-out shape. The SpinOlution people put together a YouTube video showing the wheel in use (with the trainer on - that's the clicking noise) and how to remove and replace bobbins.

If you got the wheel and strap kit, the wheels screw in place on the audience-side of the wheel, where there are pre-drilled holes (four on a side) for the screws that hold the wheels on. The strap attaches to the wooden handle on the audience side of the wheel. Once they are installed, you tilt the wheel onto its wheels and pull it with the strap. Set it in place, and tilt it back up to its normal working position, which lifts the wheels just off the floor and out of the way.

SpinOlution Mach 1 Wheel, with bobbins!My first impression of the wheel, out of the box ... really nice work, very professionally cut and assembled. And the bobbins ... my goodness, they're huge! I got extras, and promptly started using the metal rods on the body to hold them.

Later I determined they "fit" better with the rod in the center of the bobbin, not in one of the holes on the bobbin.

My wheel came with the regular attachment in place and the "trainer" shown on the SpinOlution website in another baggy. Good thing, too -- when we tried out the trainer later, *wow* was it loud! And since both my son (my helper-tester!) and I already spin, we found we really didn't need it.

SpinOlution Mach 1, Audience sideOne surprise ... the SpinOlution website hadn't shown any pictures of the audience-side of the wheel. What do you think of it? I like it!

My son and I both played around with treadling that Thursday evening, and I managed to put a leader on one bobbin, but that was it. My son probably spent a solid hour treadling away at the 3:1 ratio, getting a feel for it and being amazed at the inertia-factor. The wheel just keeps going and going and going once you've started ... so you can take a little treadle break, or take advantage of the super-light-touch you can use to keep it going. I found also that you can treadle with one foot as easily as two, should you want to use the wheel single-treadle.

Terry dyeing her skeinsThe next day, I was off to Lacey, WA, early, to run a dye workshop.

The Mach 1 came with me, and in the spare moments, I spun on it, and let the sock knitters try it out too.

SpinOlution bobbins on KateThis is what I got done, almost 2 ounces of Carnations From Steve, a CVM/silk/silk noil blend, spun fairly high twist at about 20 WPI. I was just amazed at the bobbin size -- that almost 2 ounces looks like nothing on the bobbin!

Around this time, folks on ravelry "outed" me as a vendor for the wheel ... being primarily a spindle vendor, I hadn't carried wheels at The Bellwether since the Journey Wheel stopped being available wholesale. It felt like time, but I admit I'm easing back into it with this one wheel. It's unique, and The Bellwether is very much a focused, one-woman business. They were interested to know what it was like to spin novelty yarn, thick-and-thin, on the SpinOlution Mach 1 Wheel.

Leah's PosiesMy Pluckyfluff study group was meeting to spin Lexi's posie yarn, so it seemed a perfect test. For this yarn, Lexi says you need to use your orifice hook to get the flowers through the orifice, each time, and then wind them on without letting them near the hooks, or they would hang up.

SpinOlution full of posies

The SpinOlution's unique peg "orifice" and peg-hooks looked like they would make this task much easier, and they did! There is only about a 3/8 inch gap between the front peg and the bobbin, so my big flowers did need a little hand-help past that, but so easy -- no hooks, no yanking, just lift up the single, move it slightly to be past the orifice peg, and keep going. All but my biggest flowers made it between pegs on the flyer just fine. The biggest two needed a similar hand-help to get through the gap, and then wound on just fine from there.

My posies as singlesI skeined up my yarn from the bobbin after loosening the tension knob.

Once I had all my posies done, I decided it would be a good idea to cable the posies for strength and stability. So, I spun the rest of my white wool very finely, on the SpinOlution -- it works like a champ on the fine spinning, I adjusted the tension right down to nothing, and used the cross-lacing you see done on other wheels to reduce draw-in even further. Plying and cable-plying were a breeze, and the finished skein was well worth the effort.
Cabled skein of posies

As far as the separation of the treadles is concerned ... it is a much easier treadle than some double-treadle wheels, in that your thighs aren't continuously rubbing together, and if you wear bell-bottoms, they aren't likely to be whapping each other. I haven't tried wearing a skirt in front of this wheel, but I'd say it would be very feasible. To compare with my wheel-on-hand, the treadles of the Spinolution are toe-end treadles, so they are not full-foot-length. They are 4-5 inches wide, and there is 12 inches of space between them. On a Majacraft Suzie Pro, the treadles are 4 inches wide and have 5 inches of space between them. My son (11 yo, almost 5 feet tall, size *mens 10* feet (eeek)) finds this comfortable to treadle; my daughter (8 yo, about 4 feet tall) finds it more of a stretch, for her leg length alone.

My son has spun up some of his "signature" low twist worsted-weight singles on the wheel as well -- the 3:1 ratio meant he could be as energetic as he likes to be, and still end up with a nice soft yarn when he was done.

Additional observations on the SpinOlution Mach 1 ...

When spinning Z (clockwise), I found the yarn was held best by the orifice-peg if I laced on the right-hand side of the flyer; on the left-hand side, if I didn't sit square on, it jumped off the orifice peg. Annoying, but not shocking. Similarly, when spinning S (counterclockwise), the left-hand side of the flyer gave more stability on the orifice peg. If I wanted to use the other side, for more even filling of the bobbin, I made sure I was holding the yarn square-on to the orifice peg, similar to how you hold yarn square-on to a delta orifice wheel like a Majacraft or Fricke.

SpinOlution Mach 1 wheel, bird's eye viewThe ratios go from 3:1 to 15:1. I found, that after it was used 3:1 for a few sessions, the band was a little loose at 15:1; when I moved it up to 10:1, there was less noise when spinning. I left it in a warmer spot for a little while so the band could contract back to a good fit at 15:1, and the noise came back down with the return of the band tension.

In terms of noise, now that I've mentioned it ... I'd say this wheel is perhaps a little quieter than my Journey Wheel, and not as silent as my Majacraft wheel. It had a continual soft whirring sound when in use, which increased a little with the loosened drive band. I'm thinking for consistent use at the wide ends, I might want to put a second drive band on to use when I'm using the highest ratio. The brakes can make a fair bit of noise when they are applied, though they work very quickly; I found using the off-side brake (e.g. clockwise/Z, the left brake) was quietest.

In terms of heft, this was comparable to my Schacht Matchless wheel, lighter than my Betty Roberts wheel, heavier than my Majacraft Suzie Pro wheel (okay, so I've had a few wheels in my day!) It's 22 pounds, and sits solidly on the floor. My 11yo son found this worked well for him, his wheel, a Louet S-17 Kit wheel, is a bit light for his growing muscles.

SpinOlution bobbins on Kate - top viewI'm not sure I'll ever know for sure the true volume of the bobbins ... but I was pleased to find that they fit on my Nancy's Knit Knacks Kate, and that their own metal bearings gave a nice level of friction on the kate, since they are groove-less bobbins.

All-in-all, I am happy to be a vendor for this wheel. Its $495 unfinished/$595 finished price tag makes it an approachable new wheel for people, and its solid construction means it will last a long time. Given that it's a double treadle wheel, that's even more impressive. The ease of treadling of the SpinOlution Mach 1 is wonderful, the selection of ratios from 3:1 to 15:1 suits a wide range of spinning and spinners, the bobbin size is eye-opening, and its unique peg orifice and peg hooks make threading a breeze.

Compare this to the high-end Schacht Matchless double treadle current retail price of $975, with its standard ratios from 9:1 to 15.5:1, traditional orifice, and generous but not this-huge bobbins.

Now, price-wise, wheels that are in the same price-range include the Lendrum Complete, the Schacht Ladybug, some Louets, and some Ashfords. For a choice of wheels, I find it useful to look at wheel reviews such as those available on The Woolery and on Abby's Yarns blog (on the Louet Victoria and Louet Julia). Neither has yet tried the SpinOlution, however, so they do not discuss this wheel.

In addition, the SpinOlution makers stand by their work. They provide a 1 year parts warranty. If there is a defect in workmanship, they will always work with the owner to resolve any issue. Usually they will supply the replacement of the broken part, as shipping the unit will get very expensive for the customer. They never want an unhappy customer, and will do everything in their power to correct any issue. From what I've heard so far, they have been fast to respond to any customer questions and requests for adjustment.

If the wheel has a downside, it would be that you would want to purchase additional bobbins ($30 each), the wheel and strap kit ($20) and if you don't have one yet, a Lazy Kate. I was glad to find the Nancy's Knit Knack Kate fit the bobbins very nicely. Given the large size of the bobbins, you wouldn't need many. And with this great blogged trick, you can effectively "double" the number of bobbins you have if you like to spin enough to fill your plying bobbin.

My wheel is unfinished, I plan to finish it with a wipe-on/wipe-off varnish. Also, I should point out, there is no WooLee Winder for this wheel -- though its open threading makes the lack less arduous for me than with an orifice-and-hook wheel.

If you're on Ravelry, you can find members' discussion of this wheel in the forums. The maker has a website as well, www.SpinOlution.com.

Next, I would like to spin some boucle on the SpinOlution -- those pegs look like they'll do a great job!
Boucle madness

I'll have the SpinOlution Mach 1 Spinning Wheel at the NwRSA Conference in Salem, Oregon, June 5-8 2008, in Salem, Oregon; and at Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon, June 20-22 2008. And it's set up in my spinning studio, if you'd like to take a trip out to Port Angeles, Washington.

In 2009, I'll bring the Mach 1 to Black Sheep Gathering where I am vending; if you'd like to see it at any of my teaching venues (NwRSA, OFFF) let me know.

I've written some comparisons of the Mach 1 to other wheels on the SpinOlution group on Ravelry: Mach 1 and Schacht Matchless, and Mach 1 and Majacraft Suzie Pro/Alpaca.

Interested in the new wheel from SpinOlution, the Bee Travel Wheel? See my review, And Then There was Life Before the Bee.
posted 1 May 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/ Edited 22 Mar 09 to add review links and these maker marks.


~*Spindelicious Handspun*~ said...

oh man...I have major wheel envy!

Madame Purl said...

Oh no - I'm feeling an addition to my wheel collection. Very cool.

Janice Rosema said...

Great review! I agree with you about the versatility of this wheel. I happen to live in Hemet (where the wheel is made) and bought one from the fellow who makes them. I have kind of been a "test pilot" for him and had him do a couple of modifications for me. He made the roller pegs on the flyer a little taller and the orifice hook a bit bigger. I have been spinning art yarns and it is an absolute dream. I also have a Schacht Matchless DT and a Pirtle spinning wheel (vintage wheel with 1 1/2" orifice.) Over the years I have spun on a lot of wheels but this is an entirely new approach. Love it!

Unknown said...

I just found out about this wheel today. It is very intriguing. I was a bit put off by the clicking sound, but when he changed that centerpiece on the treadle and wheel and the smooth quiet wheel began, i was very excited to research it more. Thanks for the review. I am a bit hesitant, but it is a fantastic design and I wish them much success in their new venture.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

I've updated the blog entry with a few more dimensions and information on customer care -- thanks to all for your interest and great input!

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

I was asked what I've learned since this blog post went up, so here you go:

<*> The holes in the end of the bobbin can be used to attach a leader -- tie a string through two of the holes to hold it on, then bring it to the inside and let it be your leader; it will wrap around the bobbin if you are spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise.

<*> The Mach 1 is only available finished now, $595 retail, but does come with 3 bobbins included rather than one.

<*> I taught a pair of beginners recently at my local yarn store, on the store's Schachts and the Mach 1, and they both really "took" to the Mach 1 as easier to learn on. That, says a lot right there!

<*> The folks at SpinOlution are working on a user manual to go with the wheel; I've given them some notes toward this, and hope to see it soon -- no word yet on timeline, but they have what I wrote, and are adding other information as well.

<*> They ship now in a puff-filled box, as their wooden frame (which I referred to briefly in the blog post) was having some performance issues under very rough UPS handling. It's like that stuff you put around your pipes where they go through exterior walls, when you are building a house.

<*> There's a kate built by SpinOlution now, as seen on their website. It uses friction between wooden dowels and the bobbins to work -- so it has a slight wooden chatter as you ply, but it worked out really well for my students (the ones I mentioned above) in their lesson on plying.

<*> The bobbins are just as big as ever -- I seldom spin over 4 ounces of a fiber, but I can spin that and ply it, and the bobbin still has room to spare after plying on it. Most folks report 8-10 ounces on the bobbin before it is full.

<*> There is the possibility of a level wind by SpinOlution (like the WooLee Winder, for this wheel, which doesn't have one by the WW folks) -- I'd guess that would be a year or two out, yet, though, if their initial ideas work.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

I've written some comparisons of the Mach 1 to other wheels on the SpinOlution group on Ravelry, see them here:

Mach 1 and Schacht Matchless: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/spinolution/359590/1-25#25

Mach 1 and Majacraft Suzie Pro/Alpaca: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/spinolution/359590/1-25#4