This, without any apology, is going to be me gushing about how incredible my husband is. Hopefully, you'll also hear about prototyping at Good and Basic Manufacturing and how new products are born, but you have been warned.
Every product at Good and Basic starts when Joseph thinks, "Huh. I bet I could make one of those." He personally designed the wool combs, hackles, charkhas, and Irish tension wheels available on the Etsy shop.
"Designed" encompasses a few different steps. First, Joseph studies existing models and their variants, generally through pictures or videos. Imagine a montage here of about a week's worth of research. Some products, like the charkha, are harder to find online. So, he watched a black and white documentary in Hindi. (At least, I think it was Hindi. I don't speak any of the Indian languages.) He also looked up old designs and photos of book charkhas.
After the research, he builds a 3D file using design software. This step can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple of months, depending on the complexity of the design. The wool combs, for example, weren't as complex as the Irish tension wheel.
Once he designs the 3D files, he slices them using an intermediary program. It's kind of like a translator between the design software and the printer. The slicing helps him to fit the design to a specific printer bed. We use Creality Ender 3 printers, which I've named Skeeter, Ivan, D'artagnan, El Cid, Felicia, and Maurice.
Once the files have been sliced, he prints a prototype. Products can take anywhere from 4 to 30 hours of print time, assuming that they don't fail due to bed leveling, filament, or extruder issues. We've literally had prints fail on the last two or three layers. Talk about adding insult to injury. Joseph maintains each printer, replacing parts and calibrating as necessary.
Now! At the end of all that, we have a prototype.
And guess what? It generally needs adjustments. Meaning, back to the design board to tweak a millimeter here or a curve there. Then it's slice, send, and print. If we're lucky, the piece is ready. More often than not, we collect prototypes like Christmas ornaments. Finally, at the end of the process, we have a product that works.
Incidentally, per Good and Basic Manufacturing's mission to provide low-cost fiber technology to those who need it, all of the design files for the charkha and spinning wheels are available for free on Thingiverse. Yep. That's right. Absolutely free. If you have a 3D printer or know someone who does, you can slice and print your own files. You can also print files via a local maker space.
Well, wait--you might be wondering--if all of the files are free, then how do you run a business?
Carefully. Very carefully. We keep the right filaments--blue, red, bronze, and silver--in stock. Unless, of course, there's a filament shortage. Then we sweat, waiting for the filament to arrive (or even to come back in stock). Not all filaments are created equal, and the worst ones gum up extruders or crack under tension. We print or purchase modifications for the printers to increase efficiency. And, we dry out our eyeballs watching prints over a period of several hours (or several days).
Joseph tells me that anyone can run a print shop, and that he would love to see more people running small scale manufacturing at home. While I do love the ability to print anything we want, I love even more having Joseph as a maintenance technician.
But, and he would want for me to point this out, he taught himself everything he knew. Print temperatures for filament, the differences between extruders, bed leveling techniques, and all of the design software--he learned it all from free resources online. So, theoretically, anyone with those same resources could run a print farm. I mean, if you wanted to.
Since most people don't, however, that's why we run Good and Basic Manufacturing on Etsy. Anyone who wants to can have access to affordable appropriate technology without babysitting their 3-D printers. Ivan may or may not be my favorite. Don't tell the others.
*Note: The products we mention below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something we recommend, we get a commission through Amazon. It doesn't increase the price on your end. Also, all of the products we recommend here we either own or use personally.*
You know you're wool nerds when you spend your anniversary building fiber prototypes. Guess what? They came out so nice! More about those in a future post.
For now, let's talk about drop spindles. A drop spindle generally has two components: a rod or shaft and some kind of head or topper. (These are, of course, my very technical terms. Wikipedia refers to these parts as a spike and a whorl.) It's a low tech, cost efficient option for spinning, and is a great way to start if you want to practice spinning technique.
To use a European drop spindle, you attach some wool and, well--you drop it. Imagine dropping the mic, but with fiber arts. Gravity pulls the spindle towards the ground, which stretches the wool taught. By adding a little spin to the strand, you twist your own yarn or thread. Then, you wind your new thread onto the shaft and start again. It's that simple.
One of the first videos Joseph ever made was how to spin with a European spindle that he made from a gavel. He loves using his spindle while he's waiting in line. When he's not spinning, he puts the spindle back into a small bag or a large pocket.
I'm not sure if it's this way for everyone, but Joseph generally spins standing up. He's six feet tall (1.8 meters), so he has a lot of space between his hands and the ground. I like to spin sitting down and I'm shorter than he is, so I would probably spin while sitting on a tall barstool.
The design of the head and the length of the shaft vary by culture. A Mayan spindle, for example, features a long head that rotates arrive a proportionally short shaft. A Navajo spindle, in contrast, has a much longer shaft and a proportionally smaller head.
Again, more on that to come.
Joseph & Aubrey Bjork
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