**If you are looking for the Pigeonroof Studio’s awesome giveaway, follow this link to YouTube, Episode 3 of the knittingthestash podcast and leave a comment 🙂
As promised, this week I have an interview with Maurice Ribble, inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel. I will be posting a full review of the wheel in the new year once I have a chance to run it through its paces; but I wanted to get the word out about the wheel because Maurice has a Kickstarter campaign going on and he–and you all–might benefit from getting in touch! Oh, how I do love DIY–and Maurice’s project is certainly about rethinking the electric wheel and making its price point more accessible. Plus, if you choose to support a certain tier of the Kickstarter, you’ll receive the Electric Eel Wheel at a pretty cool discount. Electric wheels are somewhat different from their foot-powered cousins, but, to my eye, they offer some pretty big plusses: portability, speed, and adaptability, particularly for those who cannot treadle a traditional wheel. This model, designed by Maurice, was inspired by his wife’s spinning hobby, so, as you’ll learn in the interview, he’s an inventor and an insider to this fiber community of ours. I hope you’ll read on to learn more about Maurice’s invention process and the Eel Wheel. I’m really looking forward to testing it out in a few months!
What is your background? What else have you invented?
I’m a computer engineer by training. My day job is designing the micro-processors that go into mobile phones. Designing electric spinning wheels is a very different end result, but I use a lot of the same critical thinking and communication skills for both. At the end of the day I really enjoy solving hard problems and have found electric spinning wheels are an interesting place to have fun doing that. I’m one of those people who always has to be doing something so instead of watching TV I’m designing spinning wheels.
Another project I’ve worked on is the Camera Axe. It’s a high speed photography system used for things like photographing bullets in flight, humming birds, lightning and other fast events. Photography is my hobby which is why I ended up doing that. Spinning is my wife’s hobby so I made a spinning wheel. Both of these are now ongoing projects where I keep iterating and improving them over many generations. Hopefully neither of us pick up too many more hobbies or I won’t have any time left for sleep!
How did you get interested in building an electric spinning wheel?
A little over 6 years ago my wife only had a treadle-based worn out spinning wheel that didn’t work very well. I was looking for a project so I told her I could replace the treadle with a motor and then half way through decided to also make a new flyer. She showed this first version to some friends and they really liked it and some of her friends started asking for something similar. I looked around and found very few electric spinning wheels back then, and the ones that existed were crazy expensive. So I decided to make some for my wife’s friends. From that point on I’ve been iterating and improving on the Electric Eel Wheel.
How does this wheel compare to other, traditional spinning wheels and/or other electric wheels?
One of the defining traits of the Electric Eel Wheel is it’s affordable price. So when designing each version I have to make compromises to keep the price reasonable. I can’t use a $200 motor, or high end ball bearings. Instead I pick areas I’d like to improve and work on ways to make that better. As one example, on this version I created a new hook sliding system. One of the most requested features from the community on the previous version was to find a way to covert the fixed hooks into a sliding hook solution. Most sliding hook systems on wheels use wire hooks that clamp onto a round dowel, but those are pretty expensive to make and often rotate on the round dowel so they don’t work that well either. I was trying to come up with other solutions and probably went through 4 or 5 very different designs before arriving at the current solution. Several of these designs were tested by community members (I mailed them prototype wheels). This shows how design involves a lot of community collaboration and input.
What are the best features of the Electric Eel wheel?
The small and lightweight design makes it extremely portable. When you have a spinning wheel that you can easily carry around in one hand you find a lot more places you can spin.
Another nice feature is because there is no treadle it’s easier to use the wheel while relaxing on the couch or when there just isn’t enough room to use a standard spinning wheel, such as in the car. Also not having to use your legs actually allows people who have leg or back problems to spin. It really feels great when people with disabilities that have kept them from spinning for years write in to tell me how the Eel Wheel has let them spin.
What kinds of yarn can spinners make on this wheel?
Every Electric Eel Wheel 5 comes with 3 different orifice hold sizes so it works great with lace weight to super bulky yarn. If you are doing artistic yarns where you put something into the yarn like beads, the biggest object that can fit through the EEW is around 0.3 to 0.4 inches.
Where can folks find your Kickstarter campaign online?
The easiest link is www.dreamingrobots.com/eew5_kickstarter At the top there is a 3 minute video. That’s usually the best place to start.
When will the Electric Eel Wheel be ready for production?
We’re hoping to start production in February 2017, but there will be lag between production and when our backers get them. We’re currently targeting to finish shipping the Electric Eel Wheels to our Kickstarter by May 2017. Some should ship before that date because we ship them as we complete batches of them; by May 2017 backers will hopefully have their spinning wheels.
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Thanks so much to Maurice for an interesting interview and opportunity!
I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a DIY inventor, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)