An Ode to the S17

Dutch Wheel, Irish Tension

When the S17 arrived at Skein Shop HQ, I could barely wait to get my hands on it.  I love spinning.  I love wheel spinning.  I love spinning wheels.  I love trying new things.

What was particularly tantalizing to me was that this wheel is bobbin-led, aka Irish tension.  That means that the drive band goes around the bobbin and the brake band goes around the flyer.  This is different from Scotch tension (like I use on my Ashford Joy) where the drive band goes around the flyer and the brake band goes around the bobbin, and it is different from double drive (like I use on my Ashford Traveller) where the drive band loops twice to go around both bobbin and flyer.  I had heard that bobbin-led wheels could be more difficult to use due to much stronger take up, and I was curious to see if my spinning skills, such as they are, would be equal to the task.

Once we got the wheel decorated and assembled (you definitely want to read about the decoration...go click here), I sat down to spin the first bobbin.

I LOVE how Louët puts a little hole and slit in the bobbin core.  It makes it so easy to poke the knot of a leader loop down in there, completely eliminating the obnoxious slippage I usually get at the beginning of a bobbin.

Oh, and the orifice is so big and cleverly shaped that you don't need an orifice hook.  Seriously, I never even thought about standing up to get one.

Ok, so sitting on the couch, ready to spin the first few inches of yarn, and....ZING!  The wheel yanked everything out of my hands and onto the bobbin.  Sigh.  Ok, that take-up is no joke.  I loosened the tension and tried again...ZING!  Took the brake band off completely...ZING!

Finally I decided to make much thicker yarn than I usually do, recalling that some people online said that bobbin-led wheels were ideal for fat, fluffy spinning.

That worked a little better, but I only made it about two feet between each time the yarn would suddenly snap and get sucked onto the bobbin.  Unless I were willing to literally spin only rope on this wheel, something had to change.

In a moment of desperation, I remembered that someone on Ravelry mentioned that her bobbin-led wheel needed far more oiling than her other wheels.

We're going to sidebar here for a moment to discuss how, despite the first thing anyone mentions when troubleshooting a wheel is "have you tried oiling it", I somehow spun happily for a decade before busting out the bottle of oil.  Seriously I have still never oiled my Joy, and I only oiled the Traveller after Mr. Mouse complained that he couldn't hear the TV over the squeaking.

Back to the S17 - I grabbed my trusty bottle of sewing machine oil (note to self - consider oiling sewing machine...probably overdue), and oiled the bejeezus out of the receptacle for the flyer shaft on the back upright.  Sweet success!  Suddenly the wheel I felt like I'd been literally wrestling with for the past half hour became an absolute dream.  I spun up all the fiber I'd brought home with me in record time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Since that first day, I've also taken to oiling the front cup where the orifice sits.  Keeping the flyer turning effortlessly is the key to happy spinning on this wheel.  It is very important, though, that you NEVER oil the bearings on the drive wheel itself.  While some other wheels like to be oiled there, the S17's bearings are sealed, which keeps all the lubrication they need inside.  If you oil these sealed bearings, you will actually destroy the seal, thus allowing all the lubrication to fall out.

(Addendum:  After speaking with the lovely folks at Louët, they say that one should never oil any part of the wheel to avoid dirt buildup.  They recommend using chapstick or Vaseline on the front cup for the first 10 hours or so.  After that, they say that the flyer will be conditioned and not need further lubrication.)

I expected this wheel to be a very nice spinning experience, and it is.  What I did not expect was for it to so quickly become my favorite in the herd, which it has.  Besides the hole for the leader and the hook-less orifice, which I mentioned earlier, I adore the enormous bobbins.  On my first spin, I fit 150g onto one bobbin without even trying hard.  That is HUGE!  I also love the staggered hooks on the flyer.  I cannot believe that no other wheel manufacturers have started doing this!  A flyer needs an equal number of hooks on each side to keep the weight balanced, but they don't need to be directly across from each other.  Offsetting them gives you more control over where the yarn is being wound onto the bobbin.  I am filling bobbins much more evenly than ever before, which in turn allows me to fit more fiber onto a bobbin.  

I also am quite fond of the quick and easy release for the flyer.  It makes changing bobbins a snap!  Just unhook the brake, move the drive band, and the whole assembly lifts out.  When you put your new bobbin in, the brake is still at the exact same setting!  Compared to the Joy, where you have to screw the flyer in and out; and the Traveller, where you have to remove the drive band, unclip the flyer, rotate the maiden, and unscrew the whorl to get at the bobbin; changing bobbins on the S17 is as quick and easy as swapping out floppy disks during a long install (yup...I'm an old nerd).

Basically, I am completely and utterly in love.  My one regret is that, as a showroom model, the wheel lives at the office, which means that most of my time spinning at it is thanks to shirking other duties.  Would it be too decadent to get one for me to have at home???

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