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An electric spinning wheel for knitters, crochets, and anyone wanting to make their own yarn.
An electric spinning wheel for knitters, crochets, and anyone wanting to make their own yarn.
245 backers pledged $53,931 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

Electric Eel Wheel - A Spinning Wheel for Fiber Lovers project video thumbnail
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$53,931

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The Electric Eel Wheel is an electric spinning wheel that takes fiber and twists it into yarn.  The uptake is controlled with a unique scotch tension design and the yarn flows through a clever flyer assembly.  It is a very light and portable design.

What are the advantages of the Electric Eel Wheel?

  • Economical
  • Small and lightweight for easy transport
  • Accommodates a range of yarn thickness from lace to bulky weight
  • Great for people with physical limitations
  • Spin then ply multiple strands on the same machine
  • Create artisan yarns using beads or conductive threads

Why an Electric Spinning Wheel?

Front View
Front View
Back View
Back View
Top View
Top View

The most basic type of yarn spinning is done with a drop spindle.  Anyone who has tried one knows that there is a steep learning curve, it can be frustrating and time consuming.  The next step up from the drop spindle is a foot powered, or treadle, spinning wheel. This is the most common type of wheel today.

Essentially, electric spinning wheels use an electric motor in place of foot power. With advances in technology and production, electric motors and the electronics to drive them can be highly economical. It's possible to construct an electric wheel for less than traditional treadle wheels. However, looking at the market there are very expensive electric wheels that have price tags of $800 or more.  On the other hand, you can get a really "cheap" electric spinning wheel that surprisingly costs more than they should, and are often poorly designed using a hodge-podge of materials like sewing machine motors and plastic tubing to hold things together.  This gap in the market was part of the inspiration for the Electric Eel Wheel.

The first version of the wheel was created because I knew I could design something just as good or better than my wife's garage sale treadle jalopy. Her knitting friends who also became interested in spinning didn't want to risk a high price tag for something that they were only curious about, so they requested a wheel as well.  As each wheel was being made, there were ways to improve upon the design.  As each version became better, they started selling on the web.

What does it sound like?

Measuring the sound from the Electric Eel Wheel
Measuring the sound from the Electric Eel Wheel

The Electric Eel Wheel is much quieter than a typical sewing machine. The decibel meter reads ~70 dB right next to the device at full speed. For instance, it's easy to have a conversation while spinning, but it is not completely silent. Making the Electric Eel Wheel completely silent would have dramatically increased the cost of the final product.  

How is the Electric Eel Wheel Made?

Assembly in process
Assembly in process

There are two separate sets of parts to make the Electric Eel Wheel. The first set is the mechanics and the second set is the electrical systems.

Looking at the mechanics, a manufacturing company in California produces the laser cut wood and acrylic. In addition, a lot of thought has been put into designing a system that can be made with off-the-shelf parts.  For example, instead of investing in a custom threaded rod, a standard 6 inch bolt is used to align the hooks.  Because so much effort is put into making it easy to assemble, and obtaining ready-made parts the final assembly and testing is completed in the USA.  While this is more expensive than overseas assembly, it offers more control and a quicker turn around time.

The electronics of the Electric Eel Wheel
The electronics of the Electric Eel Wheel

On the electronics side, there is a custom designed circuit board with a PWM motor controller. The circuit board is assembled at a factory in China that we've been working with for over five years.  These circuit boards are shipped to the USA where a local contractor programs and tests the micro-controller.  The circuit board is paired with a DC motor that has lots of torque at low RPMs.  In short, this is a strong motor with  robust controls.

What is the process of making yarn?

While many people already know how this process works, let me give a little background for those who want to get into this very fulfilling craft.

There are literally hundreds of sources for getting fiber.This can be anything from certain plant fibers like flax and bamboo, or animal fibers such as wool, llama, cashmere goat, or even dog hair. The fiber is processed and washed before it is carded (or combed) to align it to make the spinning process easier.  At almost any stage, fiber can be dyed. Finally you have roving which can be spun into yarn.

Start by harvesting the fiber from a llama
Start by harvesting the fiber from a llama
Carding and dying the fiber creates this roving
Carding and dying the fiber creates this roving

This is where the Electric Eel Wheel fits into the process. A carded strand of fiber is pulled from the roving and fed into the wheel. The yarn is made by putting twist into the roving to give it strength.  Then the last option step is taking two or more of those strands and ply them together into thinker yarn.  Voila!

Spinning the roving creates yarn
Spinning the roving creates yarn

Some Questions

Q1: Is Emily pregnant in the video?

Yes.  Since the video was made our first baby girl was born.  Ada and her mom are both happy and healthy.

Q2: How do you use the Electric Eel Wheel in the car?

With the proper cord it can run off the 12V power jack in the car.  The Electric Eel Wheel uses a 2.1mm DC jack with center as positive.  If you look around you can find this kind of cord online.  It is also possible to use the Electric Eel wheel with a battery pack.  I will give more information about this before I ship.

Q3: Previous versions of the Electric Eel Wheel where open source under the Creative Commons Noncommercial licence.  Will this version of the Electric Eel Wheel be open sourced?

Yes.  The software, laser cut files, BOM, and the PCB schematic/board files will all be released under an open source licence when I ship the Electric Eel Wheel.  This makes it much easier for people to repair their wheel or make their own if they are so inclined.  I share this knowledge so other enthusiasts can make their own or improve on my designs.

Q4: Can I use bobbins from other spinning wheels with the Electric Eel Wheel?

No.  Allowing it to use bobbins from other spinning wheels would have greatly constrained the design of the Electric Eel Wheel.  I wanted a constraint free design so that we could create a really revolutionary spinning wheel.  Also consider that bobbins generally aren't a huge percentage of the cost of a spinning wheel.  I feel the more open design allowed me to reduce the cost of this spinning wheel by more than enough to justify having to buy new bobbins.  Also remember that many people won't have bobbins from other spinning wheels so making them pay more for the spinning wheel would be unfair from their perspective.  See the "How is the Electric Eel Wheel Made" section for the design philosophy behind the electric eel wheel.

Q5: What kind of plug does it have?

It uses a USA 3 prong style plug.  The power supply accepts 110-240 volts so all you would need to make it work in other countries is one of those inexpensive plug adapters.

Risks and challenges

The biggest risk is this kickstarter sells many more units than expected. While a blessing in some ways it could also be a problem because might cause me to adjust my manufacturing plans and that could cause some delays. The next largest risk is new issues arising when we assemble the Electric Eel Wheel in larger quantities, but my experience with similar products minimize this risk.

Other risks are pretty minor since the Electric Eel Wheel is working today and I have a proven assembly strategy planned. It is always possible for for things out of my control to delay shipping though such as one of my major suppliers going bankrupt, but these risks are low since I have been working with my major suppliers for years and they have been stable.

That said I will always choose to delay the project over shipping something I know isn't up to the high quality standards I set for my products. I will always be open about my progress and keep everyone appraised of any delays.

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    EARLY BIRD - TASTE OF FIBER PACKAGE

    (1) Electric Eel Wheel +
    (1) Bobbin

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    TASTE OF FIBER PACKAGE

    (1) Electric Eel Wheel +
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    EARLY BIRD - FIBER LOVERS PACKAGE

    (1) Electric Eel Wheel +
    (1) Foot Pedal +
    (3) Bobbins

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    FIBER LOVERS PACKAGE

    (1) Electric Eel Wheel +
    (1) Foot Pedal +
    (3) Bobbins

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    DISTRIBUTOR/CLUB PACKAGE

    (5) Electric Eel Wheel +
    (5) Foot Pedal +
    (15) Bobbins

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Funding period

- (30 days)