Navajo Spindle

Introduction: Navajo Spindle

About: I'm an author and freelance writer. I approach every new skill as if I were going to either teach it or write about it. The sing for my supper approach has served me well and most people find it really annoy...

I've mentioned this project in a couple of other Instructables so as a kickoff to a series of fiber arts related Articles.

This project came about because my wife likes to knit things out of plastic grocery bags. The unspun plarn is kind of bulky and makes a rather loose knit, so a tote bag has a lot of give. A shoulder bag for carrying produce will stretch under load and is painful to watch someone use... So I went looking for a cheap means of spinning that loose bulky nonsense into a tighter strand that hopefully will have more tensile strength.


Let's build...

Step 1: Getting Started

The materials for this project can be sourced cheaply if not scrounged from stuff lying around begging to be put to use or thrown away. If you don't have any of the materials they can be purchased for less than five dollars. The hardest part of this project is finding center of the disc.

You will need:

1 full length wooden dowel (I bought a 5/8, I'd recommend 1/2. Reason being is the average home tool box's drill index stops at 1/2")

1 flat disc I bought a 7" disc made of 1/4" plywood

This project lends itself to using what ever happens to be handy so long as the configuration is the same. So source your materials and go on to the next step.

Step 2: Let's Get the Hard Part Over First.

Some of you are intimidate by the prospect of finding the center of this circle. So was I. You can do it and here's a few examples of how:

1. Use a center finder tool such as: OR

2. By Triangulation

3. Cheat and use a CD

I used a speed square which I have not been able to locate since we rearranged the apartment. Look at the center finder tools. If you have a framing square and a speed square you're good to go.

Once center is found and marked, drill a hole the size of your dowel.

Step 3: The Dowel

This part is much easier than finding center I promise.

Dowels generally have a cut end that is unsanded, that is unless you're buying craft wood and then sometimes they've been rough sanded. It doesn't matter what you have, unless it is rounded over and lacquered like a broom handle, we're going to change it anyway...

1. With sandpaper and a file or carving knife trim the edge off the entire circumference of the face of one end.

2. Stand the dowel in front of you with the trimmed end up. Dress what you trimmed with a file for uniform depth of cut.

3. Trim the topmost edge again and dress it with the file. If necessary repeat until this entire end is generally rounded and then sand smooth to 180 grit.

4 Turn to the other end of the dowel. You want to taper this end gradually down to a rounded point. There are a number of ways to do this and it is pretty easy to figure out.

Here is what I did:

I used my machinist's square to measure two inches from the end and mark it around the entire dowel. Then I drew a circle roughly 1/2 the diameter of the dowel on the end. Using a combination of my pocket knife, a half round bastard file and 60 grit sandpaper I roughly tapered down the diameter a little more than half, then I used finer files and progressively finer grit to sand it smooth. You can check for flat spots by rolling the piece over your hand in harsh light the surface contrast will shadow differently and you can mark it with your pencil and sand it out all at once.

Step 4: Assembly

You're almost done. All you have to do is fit the disc to the dowel. Start it on either end. It should be a very snug fit. If you must do any tooling to fit the dowel into the disc, do so carefully and remove the minimum amount of material necessary. The idea is to only glue it in place if necessary, but the best spindle is one that can be disassembled and stored away flat when not in use.

Good luck with building this simple but effective machine. Learning its basic operation can be learned in a few minutes watching any of the resource videos I linked to. Coming soon I will have Instructables on a simple spinning wheel, a yarn swift, and spool winder. While I'm at it I may as well do a niddy noddy, lazy kate and nostepinne.

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    How long do you mean for the 'full length' dowel.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I am in the US. When I buy dowels they are 36 inches long. However, you can use a shorter dowel, so long as it is long enough to provide the whirl proper clearance and rude along your hip properly. It's a matter of preference. Start with a longer dowel and then cut to a more comfortable length. Don't over think it. When you go to buy the dowel, roll it on the floor to check its warp. less is better, perfect is not necessary.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Ok, I'm in the US too, so off I go! :D


    4 years ago

    sounds like a practical guide to make it. ..ordered one and the shaft was they sent us another one and it had the sameproblem! IAnd they had the nerve to say that there is no way to prevent that...I don't believe that. I am going to try to remove whorl and put it on a dowel. ..hopefully it works...and good luck to your endeavors. ..