Another non-geeky post; sorry about that.

A project that I’ve been kicking around for a while (and annoying TacoMa’am with endless talk about) is to create my own yarn ball winder (or yarn cake winder as they are often called).

You know, one of these.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to make my own for various reasons.  First, because the inexpensive (about $40, generally) plastic winders like the one pictured above tend to have an unfortunate reputation of not being very strong or durable.  Plastic gearing combined with cheap parts and design mean that the product life is pretty short and that there isn’t much strength to the winder when trying to pull heavier yarns.

Of course, you could go this rout:
Stauch brand yarn ball winder.

Wooden, sturdy, and big.  You can wind upwards of a 1 pound ball with this baby.  It’s perfect, and fairly simple.  It’s also fairly expensive; $130 plus $30 shipping.  You can go even nicer if you’re willing to pay more than $200.

Daunted by the duality of either lack of quality or lack of economy, I searched around for plans.  I found one set on the entirety of the internet.  It cost $30 and the link to buy the plans was broken.  Wonderful.  The only other thing that came close was a loose idea of how to put together a Lego Technik winder.  Not actual plans, just a picture of what they did.  Not very helpful other than for research on how it’s done.

Ok, so there WAS one set of free plans. But I'm thinking something a bit less... duct-tapey. I'm thinking I can do better.

So enter in my creative side.  I did a bunch of reasearch and found that there are a few ways to wind a ball of yarn.  By hand you can use a rod (called a Nostepinne by those who want to be fancy) or your thumb for hand winding, but since I wanted something more… automated, that’s just trivia at this point.  Mechanically there are two primary methods I’ve found.  You can either create a mechanism that spins a spindle while a yarn guide oscellates in a 45º-90º arc around the spindle; or more commonly (easier) you can have a spindle that is rotated at a 45º angle while the spindle itself spins at a much slower rate (see the picture of the Stauch winder).  The vast majority of the winders I looked at use the second method.  In fact most of them do it in the very same way.
The basic mechanism is that you have a fixed axis that passes through your center of primary rotation.  This primary rotation is supplied with either a belt driven mechanism affixed to the outter, moving portion of the axis, or it is geared to a crank offset at 90º.  The spinning portion of the axis has a 45º arm and a counterweight mounted to it, and the fixed axis terminates with either a nipple or a gear.  On the 45º arm the yarn spindle is mounted to a wheel, which in turn is mated to the nipple or gear of the fixed axis.  The end result is that the spindle arm rotates at 45º across the fixed axis while spinning much more slowly along it’s own axis.  A somewhat complex mechanism to pull off, actually.
Using the Stauch (and the 4 or 5 others I found that were extremely similar to it) as a base model I started designing my own.  Several messy drafts and a fair amount of trigonometry later I had my first primary draft.  After going over it with my father, it became apparent that I needed a re-draft.  I had, unwittingly, created the need for two seperate plans in order to meet two seperage goals I had set for myself.  I’d tried to accomplish both in one plan and was failing.
So, two projects were born:
Project 1(this project): Kludge Build 
Build a, cheap, easily assembled, and highly functional yarn ball winder.  The focus will be on simplicity of design and use of inexpensive or free parts.  Aesthetics will be considered but are ultimately a tertiary consideration to the other design metrics.  Construction should be with as small and cheap an assortment of tools as is possible.  Recycled parts will be used wherever possible, and inexpensive alternatives will be provided in cases where recycled parts may be difficult to find.  Existing shop scrap will also be used for the design; consisting mainly of plywood extras from previous projects.  The goal is to assemble with a total out of pocket cost of $30.  Shop scrap and tools will not be considered part of the budget as these have already been purchased for other projects and are thus sunk costs.
Project 1 will be fully documented with photos, directions, and plans.  These will be provided free on my blog to fill the void I found for free yarn ball winder plans.  I’ll also include some of my planning phase in case somebody else wants to design their own version.
I may or may not include directions to build a yarn swift, as that is somewhat outside the bounds of the project.  Plans for these are readily available online so they would only be included for completion sake.
Project 2 (Future project): Aesthetic Build
Build a highly functional, very attractive yarn ball winder.  Assembly will require more advanced tools, methods, and specialty parts not readily available in hardware stores.  The plans will be catered to the more advanced builder who has a wider selection of tools available to him.  Further, the build will be using hardwoods rather than shop scrap.  The project will be geared rather than belt driven and feature a 90º offset crank drive.  The attempt will be to complete the build on a budget of under $100; however, over-runs in price will be entirely acceptable as the focus will be on completing the project rather than economy.
Like project 1, project 2 will be documented with photos, methods, and plans.   This project may or may not be made available free.  Since there is such a lack in plans of any type for yarn ball winders I may try to sell the plans either online or as a published piece in a woodworking magazine.  It may all come down to how much work I end up putting into the plans and how much of a market there appears to be for the plans.
Again, the a yarn swift is an optional inclusion to this project that may be included only for completion sake.
So that’s what I’m working on in my garage right now.  I’ve already drafted a good portion of the designs and have built the base.  I’ll likely be posting my directions and plan progress as I complete each section.  Once I’m entirely done, I’ll fold it all into a giant PDF which I’ll try to host here on my blog.  I’ll try to create some mirrors for it out in the crafting world as well.
-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?