Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Making Resin Electric Eel Wheel Nano Bobbins - Part One

Full disclosure - Having purchased Resin8’s Mould-it in the past, and used it for the first set of bobbin moulds, they sent me a few products to assist in finishing this blog post.  All opinions are my own.


I love my Electric Eel Wheel Nano - especially since I modified it to suit my style of spinning.  It’s cute, light as a feather, and incredibly portable.  The two e-spinners I use the most are my Nano and my Hansen Minispinner and I honestly can’t decide which is my favourite!  Having said that, there’s something about the bobbins that kind of bothers me...

The Nano was intentionally designed to be the smallest, most affordable e-spinner on the market and it lives up to that principle admirably. The identical bobbin ends pop on and off for compact storage, but because the bobbin tube slots into a channel on the bobbin end, the central tube needs to be wider than the two holes in the bobbin ends that sit on the flyer rod. Most people love the fact that the bobbins break down for storage, but I can't help but wonder just how much more yarn I could get on there if they were made as a single unit with only one brake band end groove.


A little back story...

A few years ago I made resin bobbins for my Electric Eel Wheel 4.

I needed two more bobbins, but the cost of shipping them from the US was going to be more than the price of the bobbins themselves.  As a prototype, they worked well, but the Ice Resin I used wasn't appropriate.  In the summer months, the large, flat ends would distort in the heat and I used to have to put them in hot water to flatten them out again.  I didn't use a mould to make them, I just cut acetate circles to size and poured resin on either side, leaving it to cure in between.  The resulting bobbin ends were quite thin, which may have been a big part of the problem.  Although the project wasn't a complete success, I learned a lot in the process.

Later, when I purchased my Electric Eel Wheel 5, I decided to attempt to make my own flyer. My husband had purchased a 3D printer and I had the idea of designing a pretty, leafy flyer for my EEW5.

My main reason for wanting a flyer with holes in was to find out if it made the view of the bobbin more accessible while spinning.  Unfortunately, it didn't. Sadly it was still much easier to see how much yarn was on the bobbin by turning the wheel by 45 degrees.

I'd been playing a bit more with resin and I thought it would be cool to make a mould out of my 3D printed flyer to see what it would look like with a glossy, glittery flyer and whether resin would be the answer to being able to see the bobbin while spinning.

Although the colours came out a little darker than planned, (It was supposed to be a glittery blue colour),  I was finally able to see the bobbin through the flyer for the first time - but of course, the Electric Eel Wheel bobbins are opaque so that still didn't buy me very much...

...Back to today

So, for nearly a year, I've been working on designing and making my own resin Nano bobbins.  

I had 3 motivations; I wanted to increase the capacity of the Nano bobbins, I wanted a way to personalise it and have those ‘see-through’  bobbins I’ve always wanted, but also, I’ve never been overly keen on the 100% opaque plastic aesthetic of the Nano.  

It often resides on my conservatory windowsill and I wanted a way to make it look more elegant while I wasn’t using it - I wanted it to be as attractive and ornamental as any treadle spinning wheel.

Making my mould 

I designed very basic Nano bobbin ends in Tinkercad -

I wanted the ends to be as simple as possible as I knew I wanted to add a section of colour to the resin.

Once the bobbin ends were printed out, I coated the tops with doming resin from Resin8.  This is how the 3D printed bobbin ends looked before and after I put doming resin on them.

I needed the resin to be as smooth and glossy as possible before I made the moulds as I wanted my final resin bobbin ends to be transparent.

I then went on to make my moulds using my preferred method.  I thought they were pretty smooth, but when I took my resin bobbin ends out, I saw that tiny flecks of fibre had settled on my curing resin. (The hazards of storing fibre and playing with resin in the same room!)

I wasn't too disappointed though.  I knew that the 3D printing would have left ridges in the side, so I was already prepared to make a second mould.

I sanded back the resin bobbin ends that I made from my first moulds and poured a second coat of resin over the top, using a silicone brush to make sure the whole thing was covered in resin.

This is my set-up for pouring the resin glaze coat.  I painted the back first with liquid latex so that any drips that settled on the back could be easily pulled off.  Quick tip - I like to pour resin over a tiny silicone ice cube tray so that any drips settle in the cubes and I can use them later in another project.

This time, while the resin glaze coat cured, I put them in a box designed for storing A4 paper to prevent dust from settling on the sticky resin.

The second glaze coat of resin left a much smoother finish, so they're ready for making the final mould out of...

Materials needed to make my silicone mould

  • Sticky back plastic
  • Resin bobbin ends - or whatever you want to make a mould of.
  • Digital weighing scales.
  • A ‘wall’ to contain the liquid silicone.  Lego works well, or a plastic container with the bottom cut out.  I’ll be using a scone sized cookie cutter as it is about 10mm wider than my bobbin ends.
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks.
  • Two-part liquid silicone.  I’ve tried a couple of liquid silicones and I prefer Resin8 Mould-it.  It has quite a low viscosity which means that it is easier to get a more detailed mould out of.  I’ve also heard very good things about Moldstar 15, but unfortunately shipping from the US makes it quite a bit more expensive for me.
  • Measuring cups.
  • Stirring sticks.

I made a short video of me making the final silicone mould, as I'm sure it's much easier to follow than a photo tutorial - 

I've time-stamped a few key points of the video to break down the process - 

Just click on the links below to jump to the relevant part of the video -

... and here they are!  They’re not absolutely flawless, but I’m still really pleased with how they’ve turned out.

On to making bobbin ends!

Shimmering Sky Resin Bobbins

I’m going to show how I made two styles of resin bobbin ends.  The first is a kind of stylised cloud over a shimmering sky.  

This is a design I’ve had in my head for months, and the inspiration for it came from my current long-term spinning project - 

I've been experimenting with blending a spectrum as I wanted to build up my own reference library of blended wool shades from the minimum number of base colours.

Quite coincidentally, I started planning my spectrum project just before the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown was announced. Shortly after, children started to hang rainbows in their windows to help keep everyone's spirits up.  I thought it would be amazing to literally, spin a rainbow over a sparkling sky!

Materials used to make the Shimmering Sky bobbin ends


Again, I made a video of the process as it’s much easier to show you, rather than tell you what I did.

Resin8 sent me some of their new mica flakes to try out and I thought that the dusty blue would make a perfect stylised cloud. Mica flakes are really lovely if you just want a random smattering of natural, colourful sparkle.  Unfortunately I wanted to control their placement, and although they're heavy enough to sink to the bottom, they’re light enough to have a tendency to wander around and spread out while the resin is curing.  After a little experimenting I found that I could get the dense cloud effect I wanted by coating the flakes very lightly in resin and placing them in the mould to cure in place before I added the next layer of resin.

Here are a few key points of my video and their starting points:-

They're even better than I imagined!  I can't wait to build a rainbow of yarn above those sparkling clouds!


Resin Petri Effect Bobbins

Anyone that enjoys experimenting and learning about different resin techniques will probably succumb to trying the popular Resin Petri Dish effect, developed and made popular by the talented artist, Josie Lewis.

Image copyright - Josie Lewis

The magical thing about resin art is that quite often, you don't really know how your finished object is going to look until you unmould it, and this is especially true with the resin petri dish effect.  Basically, you drop coloured alcohol inks into the resin, followed by white alcohol ink - as the white is denser than the transparent coloured inks, it pushes the colours down into the resin, creating tendrils and cool organic effects.

Resin8 sent me some Fill-It resin to make my bobbin ends with.  Fill-It is perfect if your priority is - as mine is - getting crystal clear, strong resin pieces with very few bubbles.  It has the lowest viscosity of any resin I have ever used, with a long pot life and a curing time of 3 to 4 days.  I'm learning that water-clear resin requires patience!

In the past, when I've tried the resin petri effect, I've either dropped the inks in straight after mixing, or waited 15 minutes or so for the resin to thicken up before dropping in my inks.  If the resin is too runny, the white ink will drop down too quickly and leave white splodges on the surface, if it’s too thick, the ink will just sit on the back - so there is a lot of trial and error.

As the Fill-It resin was so runny to start off with, I actually waited closer to 7 hours to drop my inks in -when it had thickened up quite a bit. This was my first time trying the resin petri effect with Fill-It, so 7 hours was quite an arbitrary figure.

Materials used to make my resin Petri dish effect bobbin ends

Here’s the video of my process for making the resin Petri effect Nano bobbin ends -

Here are a few key points of my video and their starting points:-

Click on the video links below to jump to the relevant part of the video - 

As you can see, my resin overflowed a little.  I’m used to slowly filling my moulds until the resin starts to dome, but of course, Fill-It resin is not a doming resin and so I got a few extra drips that needed removing.

I added a thin coat of doming resin to the back with a silicone brush (not captured on video).  

When that had cured, I went on to grind down any sharp edges and then buff them with a nail drill tool.

Here they are, waiting to be turned into bobbins.  I just love those edges!

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the Electric Eel Wheel Nano bobbins. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.


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Saturday, September 05, 2020

My Ultimate Guinea Pig Hay Corner

We've kept guinea pigs for nearly 4 years now.  They live in our living room, in a habitat that I built myself and over the last few years, I've learned quite a bit about guinea pig behaviour.  Our cage has slowly evolved as their needs have changed and I've observed their little idiosyncrasies.  

Apart from adding more hiding places, the main thing that has changed is that their hay corner has got bigger and bigger.  I've learned that plenty of hay makes for a contented piggy.  Hay should make up 80 to 90% of a guinea pig's diet and they spend most of their active time eating. They don't just eat hay, they hide in it, drag it around the cage, pull it out for fun, and lie on it, so why not enrich their environment by surrounding them with as much hay as is practical? 

Can guinea pigs be toilet trained? This is something I was intrigued by before we got guinea pigs.  Some people say that you really can't litter train a guinea pig, while others say that it is definitely possible.  The conclusion I've come to is that you can't really teach a guinea pig to go to the toilet where you want it to, but you can observe their behaviour and set up their cage so that they are more likely to go to the toilet in a preferred area.  Guinea pigs would rather go to the toilet in a shady corner, but they also go to the toilet where they eat. It is my observation that they are much more likely to use a litter tray if it's in a corner, topped with hay, has some kind of roof, is surrounded by hay and they can all comfortably fit on it at the same time, with room to move about.

I prefer maintaining a hay tray and hay bag, rather than just putting a pile of hay down for them because it greatly reduces the amount of cleaning I need to do.  The hay tray acts as a litter tray, which I do a surface clean out of every other day and so I only need to do a full cage clean out once a week.  Guinea pigs often go to the toilet where they eat, so the advantage of a hay bag is that the hay is off the floor and so it doesn't need to be replaced as regularly.  I also find that a full hay bag gives them a bit of a work out too and reduces boredom.  

They like to burrow into it to find a tasty piece of straw, but they also enjoy standing up on their hind legs and stretching up to reach the newest hay at the top.  We have one little guinea pig that actually jumps up and down on her hind legs to try to reach higher, which is just adorable!  

If I neglect to fill it up for several days, they might climb inside it, which is highly amusing, but it does mean that I’ll probably have to change all of the hay, as chances are, they would go to the toilet in there too!

When we first got guinea pigs, like many people, we wondered how long it was OK to leave them alone?  It's a tricky question to find an answer to, but after asking around and observing their behaviour we came to the conclusion that as long as they had plenty of clean hay, an extra water bottle and extra pellets, leaving them alone for one night away is preferable to the stress and upheaval of travelling in a carrier and being left in a strange place for just one night.  Giving them a large hay bag that is always full of clean hay is one way that we could be certain that they had enough hay to keep them happy while we are away for a short time. (Disclaimer - this and everything else in this post is just my personal opinion as a guinea pig owner.  It is in no way to be taken as expert advice.)

The Hay Tray

I've said that this is my ultimate guinea pig hay corner.  In truth, I'd love to give them an even bigger hay tray area, but unfortunately, the one they have now is really the largest tray my cage set-up can accommodate.  It's actually a 53.5cm x 34.5cm Zak Gallery serving tray.  I altered it with Gorilla TapeFablon and slide binders to seal up the holes, change the outer colour and to stop the guinea pigs from chewing the Fablon.

If I had room to accommodate a bigger cage I would probably go for something more like this 60cm x 60cm tray for their hay -

Maybe one day...

Making a Hay Bag

To make and attach the corner hay bag I used -

I think this is the 4th hay-bag I've made and each time it's got a little bigger, but fundamentally, the height of the bag and the size of the holes have remained the same.

I haven't exactly provided a pattern template, as the hay bag is specific to my cage, but hopefully seeing the plan of my hay bag pattern will help you design your own -

The corner that I want my hay bag in is 36cm along the back to the corner, and then 60cm from the back corner, extending forward along the right side.  I added a 2cm seam allowance on either side, which gave me a nice round 100cm total width for my hay bag pattern piece.  

I used a very large fleece blanket to make the hay bag as fleece doesn’t fray much when it’s cut and it’s quite stretchy.  If I’m cutting a single piece of fabric, to save time I like to tape my pattern onto the fabric rather than pinning it.

The size of the hay bag holes is pretty important.  I designed them to be big enough for an adult guinea pig to get their whole body in and out of (for safety reasons) but not so big that all the hay would fall out.  Having said that, this kind of hay bag is really best suited to longer, softer hay as they do like to burrow their little heads into it.  A stiffer, stalkier hay could lead to a hay poke injury.  Personally, I use a good quality ings or meadow hay in the hay bag, making sure that I pull out any woodier stems.

Here’s a link to my hay bag hole template to print out.

The first time I made a hay bag that fitted around a corner, I realised that I needed a much bigger gap between the two holes on either side of the right angle crease. When the bag is filled with hay, the two holes would otherwise be hidden within the fold.

Once I’d decided on my hole spacing, I marked out the corners of the hay bag holes with pins...

... and then cut two diagonal lines across the middle of the hole area between the pin markings.

From the front, I folded the 4 cut triangles over to the back to create rectangular holes...

... and then moved the pins to the back of the fabric ready for sewing.

With a zig-zag stitch, sew all the way around the hole...

...then cut off the excess fabric close to the stitching. 

Thankfully, fleece fabric doesn’t fray much, but as I was using a particularly fluffy fleece fabric, I used a sticky roller to remove any excess fibres that had come loose.

The hay bag holes are finished now, so it’s time to fold it over (right sides together).  I stitched a 2cm seam up either side of the folded hay bag...

...  and then turned over and sewed a single fold, 3cm hem all the way around the top of the hay bag.

Turn the bag the right way round.  To prevent the hay bag from falling open too much, I stitched down the centre of the fabric between the two holes on either side of the corner crease.

To clean it up and remove any tiny flecks of fleece fibres, I went over the whole thing again with a sticky roller.

I attached my hay bag using a combination of bulldog clips and garden twine threaded through the bag with a large wool needle.  As a guide to how high to place the hay bag, there is just enough clearance under the bag for an adult guinea pig to crawl underneath.

Making a Hay Corner Roof

I think I’d had my first hay bag for a week before I learned that I really needed some kind of roof to act as a barrier.  

We had one tiny baby guinea pig that would leap from the hay tray, straight into the top of the bag!  She was an excellent shot, but every time I saw her do it, my heart was in my mouth, worrying that she might go over the side.  After putting the roof on, she started jumping even higher - using the fabric roof as a backboard to bounce off into the bag.  As she got bigger, she stopped doing, it but I realised that the roof served a couple of other purposes too.

Guinea pigs don’t like feeling exposed and prefer corners and shady areas to go to the toilet. Adding a roof over the hay tray was one extra method of encouraging them to use it as a litter tray.  I also like to fill the hay bag until it is overflowing to enrich their habitat and encourage them to stretch and stand on their back legs.  I can pack the hay in so much against the fabric roof that the guinea pigs almost get a roof made of hay.  

As a guide to making your own, here is how I designed the pattern for my hay roof.

I wanted the short side of my hay roof to measure 37cm and the long side to measure 64cm (including 2cm seam allowances).  I added these numbers together to give me a circle diameter of 101cm that my pattern is based on.  The two sides meet at a 110-degree angle as this makes the roof arch upwards when it's attached, rather than sit flat to the cage.

To make and attach the Hay Roof I used - 

If you want to make a roof to the same dimensions as mine, you can download the 8 pattern pieces that I used here - 

I cut all of my pattern pieces out and taped them together.

To make my fabric hay roof, I decided to use some upholstery fabric that I had left over from making resin-coated fabric beads with Hillary's Blinds fabric.  I folded my fabric in half, right sides together and pinned on the pattern.  As it's based on a circle, there isn't a right or wrong way to position the pattern.

After cutting out the two pattern pieces, I sewed almost all the way around, leaving a small opening at the short side before the curve to turn it the right way round.  I snipped the corners off and cut into the curve, up to the stitching at regular intervals.

I turned my hay roof the right way round and then ironed all of the seams and the curves so that they sit as flat as possible.

I topstitched about 1.5cm along the curved edge to create a channel for the boning...

... and then hand-stitched the larger section of the opening closed, leaving the channel open for inserting the boning.

I inserted the metal boning into the curved channel and cut it to size.  I should say here that I tried plastic boning first, but it just didn't have the rigidity to hold the roof up.  Metal boning is much more robust but unfortunately much more difficult to cut.  (I find cutting a notch with wire cutters and then folding the boning forward and back on itself until the metal weakens and breaks is my preferred method for cutting metal boning.)

Once the metal boning was fully inside the channel, I hand stitched the opening securely closed.

All that was left to do was attach the hay roof to the sides of the cage using bulldog clips.

I made this little time-lapse film to show how my hay corner encourages my guinea pigs to stretch and move about more. because of the hay bag.

As you can see, hiding vegetables in the top of the hay bag makes for a great boredom-busting, enrichment activity for my guinea pigs.

Enjoy and happy crafting!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other guinea pig craft posts - 

Building a corner C and C Guinea Pig cage

DIY washable waterproof guinea pig bedding

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the guinea pig hay bag and roof. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Please be sweet and share the love. Leave a comment, like my Facebook page for regular updates or follow me on Pinterest,  Blogovin' or Instagram