I was finding it annoying to knit from a spool of fine linen yarn because it was too heavy to unwind easily when I tugged it and I was afraid I might break the yarn if I pulled too hard. I needed a turntable, like bakers use for icing cakes or a Lazy Susan food server. In other words, a single-package version of the Lazy Kates spinners use when plying several strands of yarn together.
I enjoy woodwork as well as knitting and I already had a nice piece of oak, a length of hardwood dowel and a fidget spinner bearing, so I decided to have a go at making the yarn delivery device I wanted. This was my first project using a router. I wanted to create something that would not only hold a variety of different yarn packages (balls, cakes, cones and spools) but also be presentable enough to leave out in my sitting room between knitting sessions. The teardrop shape looks quite sophisticated but is easy to achieve.
The main issue with this project is making the circular rotating platform on which the yarn sits. My router’s circle-cutting attachment – like most, I guess – won’t go smaller than a diameter of about 6”, which defined the size of the base. The rotating platform could be the same size as the base or even a little bigger, but I thought it would look better smaller so that it’s almost hidden in use. I couldn’t face trying to cut a perfect small disk by hand, or with a jigsaw, and in any case I didn’t want to waste the remainder of my oak plank by cutting a small piece out of it. I got round this by cutting a slice from a log, but if you have better woodworking skills than me (or better equipment, or just more patience) you might prefer to cut a circle from a plank instead, or possibly repurpose something like the base of a kitchen roll holder.
- A hardwood plank at least 15cm x 15cm (6” x 6”) square and 18-25mm (¾-1") thick
- A thinner piece of hardwood at least 5cm x 5cm (2” x 2”) square, or a log between about 6cm (2½”) and 12.5cm (5”) in diameter
- A size 608 fidget spinner bearing (22mm outside diameter, 8mm bore, 7mm thickness)
- About 30cm (12”) of 8mm hardwood dowel - no Imperial equivalent diameter given because this needs to match the bearing
- A short length of copper wire, about 1mm (0.04") diameter
- A piece of scrap wood
- Wood screws
- Optional – cork or rubber mat, or felt, for the underside
Tools and consumables
- A router (or other means of cutting a 15cm / 6” disk)
- Router bits – cutting and round-over
- A saw (and mitre box, if using a hand saw)
- A drill and assorted bits (including 12mm and 22mm spade bits, an 8mm wood bit - again, these need to match the bearing's dimensions - and a countersink bit)
- A small chisel
- Wood glue and (possibly) silicone glue
- Wood finish, eg Danish Oil
- Wire-cutter pliers
Step 1: Preparing the Base
Cut a square for the base with sides about 15cm (6") long, taking care to get at least one cleanly-cut corner that's nice and square. Mark the centre point on the upper surface (ie the “good” side) and draw a circle with that centre that fits within the square with just a small amount of clearance. Decide which is the corner you want to keep and then cross-hatch the other three with a pencil to indicate that they'll be cut away.
In a piece of scrap wood, drill 3 screw holes right through in a triangle that fits within a circle of about 12.5cm (5") diameter, and countersink them so that the screw heads won’t protrude. Then place this scrap wood on the underside of the square base with the 3 screw holes well clear of the circle drawn on the other side. Drill through the holes into the base with a slightly smaller bit, to about half the depth of the base.
Screw the scrap wood onto the base and clamp it to your workbench with the base on top. Depending on the size of the scrap piece and the clamping arrangement, you may need to position the scrap/base combo such that the base is a little above the workbench's surface, so that you can rout or drill right through it without hitting the bench.
Step 2: Cutting the Base
Fit a straight bit into the router. I used a 12.7mm diameter, 26mm long bit. Then, if you aren't experienced in using a router, practise making freehand cuts in some scrap softwood before moving on to scrap hardwood. You could make some cuts across the unwanted corners of the base. Find a combination of bit rotation speed, speed of cut and depth of cut that gives a clean cut.
When you are happy, fit the circle-cutting attachment to your router and position it with the pin around which the router rotates in the centre point of the square (and circle). Starting in the middle of the side to the left (when viewed from above) of the corner that is to be retained, cut out ¾ of the circle. Remove the circle-cutting attachment and tidy up the 2 sides that make up the 4th corner by running the router along a parallel straight edge clamped to the bench. The aim is to make a perfect teardrop shape with the straight sides running tangentially to the circle.
The last step in routing out the base is to round over the top edge. Fit a round-over bit - I used one with a radius of 9.5mm - and use it to cut down the top edge in stages with the bearing of the bit running along the previously cut vertical edge. Work anti-clockwise again. It’s easiest to start beyond the corner. Just go round it to get back to the starting point.
Step 3: Drilling Holes in the Base
With the 22mm spade bit, drill a hole in the centre of the circle 7-8mm deep so that the bearing can sit in it flush with the surface.
Then use the 12mm spade bit to make a shallow recess in the bottom of the hole to provide clearance for the inner race of the bearing. (In use, the outer race is held stationary while the inner race and the shaft within it rotate.)
Clear out the splinters of wood from the base of the bearing hole with a small chisel and/or a disk of coarse sandpaper stuck on the end of a suitable cylindrical object.
Drill an 8mm hole on the centre line of the corner and close to it, to about half the depth of the base. This is for the yarn guide.
Unclamp the scrap wood from the bench and unscrew it from the base.
Step 4: The Yarn Platform and Dowels
Now make the platform to hold the package of yarn. Either saw a parallel slice off a hardwood log or cut a circle from a piece of wood. It can be any diameter as long as it's bigger than the central hole of the yarn cones, balls or whatever you typically use and small enough to clear the yarn guide. Somewhere between about 7cm and 13cm (2½" and 5") should be OK. It doesn’t need to be as thick as the base but if it’s too thin then it may warp or be hard to attach firmly to the dowel shaft. I cut a 10mm (3/8") slice from the log.
Drill an 8mm hole in the middle to take the shaft, taking care to get it perpendicular.
Saw 2 lengths of dowel, each about 15cm (6") long or of a length to suit the size of yarn package you normally use. One of these is for the shaft and the other for the yarn guide.
Step 5: Finishing and Assembly
Sand everything smooth (and remove any charring on the base left by the router), starting with coarse sandpaper and working down to finer grades. Try not to remove too much material from the dowels at their bases (the lower inch or so in the case of the shaft, less for the yarn guide).
Wipe the dust off then apply a finish of your choice - oil, varnish or wax. I used 3 coats of Danish Oil. If you wish, stick felt on the underside of the base, or better still cork or rubber for a non-slip finish.
Make a coil for the yarn guide by wrapping a length of copper wire - polish it first - around a pencil or biro for about one and a half turns, leaving a straight piece at each end. Spread the coils apart a little, to allow space for yarn to slip between them.
Assemble everything. If the bearing isn't a tight fit in the central hole, stick it in place around its outer edge with a little silicone or other suitable glue. Alternatively, stick a length of tape around the outer edge to make it a tight fit - I used electricians' tape but PTFE plumbers' tape would be better for a very small gap. Make sure the centre of the bearing can still rotate freely and get it perfectly level – pack the hole first if necessary – or the shaft won’t be vertical.
Slide the platform onto the shaft and glue it in place if needed. (Or drill through the shaft immediately below where the platform is to be and put a tight-fit pin or small nail through to hold it, if you think you may ever want to use a smaller or larger platform.) There needs to be a little clearance between the base and the platform, so start with the shaft pushed home into the centre of the bearing to work out how far up it the platform needs to be to rotate freely without risk of interference.
If the shaft isn't a tight fit in the bearing, either stick it in place or wrap a piece of sticky tape around the end. Do the same to fit the yarn guide into the hole in the corner of the base, but first drill a small hole in the upper end for the coil of wire you made. (Try using a nail as a drill bit if you don’t have one small enough.) Before you glue the coil in place, test how it works and trim and bend the straight ends as necessary. You might also want to round the wire end that will be left exposed with a file.
Step 6: Use It!
Mount a cone, ball, cake or spool on your new Lazy Kate, slip the yarn end through the coil and enjoy effortless yarn delivery for knitting or crocheting.