Respooling Stainless Steel Thread

For various reasons, I needed a smaller quantity of that stainless steel thread / yarn, so I mooched an empty spool from Mary, ran a bolt through it with washers + nut on the far end, chucked the bolt in the lathe, and ran the spindle backwards at the slowest speed:

Stainless steel thread - smaller spool

Stainless steel thread – smaller spool

I started by letting the big spool unroll from the side, but that produced horrible twists in the slack thread. Remembering the lesson from our previous thread spool adventure, I put it on the floor and let the thread pull from the top:

Stainless steel thread - unwinding spool

Stainless steel thread – unwinding spool

It still accumulated a huge twist between the two spools, even while guiding it hand-over-hand onto the rotating spool. Either the factory lays the thread on the large spool with a built-in twist or, more likely, a multi-strand steel thread behaves like a spring, no matter what anybody wants, and comes off the spool with a nasty case of inherent vice.

Memo to Self: don’t let stainless steel thread slide through your hands under power, because some of the fuzz visible in the top picture will stay with you.


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  1. #1 by Jason Doege on 2016-12-14 - 12:07

    Were you AR enough to use the saddle feed to lay the threads on the spool precisely? (They look suspiciously pretty.) :-D

    • #2 by Ed on 2016-12-14 - 13:41

      Nah, all the ugly layers are buried deep inside: by the time the spool filled up, I was pretty good at the hand-over-hand thing!

  2. #3 by scruss2 on 2016-12-14 - 15:29

    It’s hard to tell if spools are end wound or otherwise without spooling some off and seeing if it’s twisted. Cross-wound lay certainly doesn’t guarantee end winding, as anyone who’s ever used an Ambassadeur reel can attest.

    • #4 by Ed on 2016-12-14 - 16:07

      Yabut, I tried rolling it off and pulling it off and both got twisted; are there any other ways to unload a spool? Good thing the lathe has a big red STOP button on the top!

  3. #5 by scruss2 on 2016-12-15 - 13:11

    I wonder if the fuzz is preventing the individual fibres from untwisting? Steel strand can benefit from a retensioning/straightening process when being respooled, otherwise it goes, well, haywire.

    This also reminds me that everyone should see a steel slitting works operating at least once in their lifetime. The bits that aren’t “That shouldn’t work!” are “I wonder why they’d ever do it that way?”. But they’re really good at slitting steel, and they do everything for a very good reason based on decades of practical experience. Very little CNC to keep you interested, but they tend to have neat little robots that trundle about carrying heavy coils.

    • #6 by Ed on 2016-12-15 - 13:55

      Obviously, I need a steel thread respooler with an adjustable clutch!

      Very little CNC

      That seems the rule for high-production-rate lines: single-function machines doing one operation relentlessly well at incredible speed, with their output fed into the next machine. That fancy CNC stuff works fine on production lines where you count the output, not weigh it.

      Long ago and far away, I saw (pictures of) the aftermath of a steel rolling mill feed jam. Not a pretty sight; maybe they have better sensors these days.

      • #7 by jim oslislo on 2016-12-16 - 12:13

        Maybe you had a chance to take the tour of Bethlehem Steel before they turned the blast furnaces into slot machines. It was amazing to feel the heat 50 yards away from a rolled I beam as it zoomed back and forth.

        A friend of mine started his career in a steel mill which rolled rebar. I believe the term he used was a “cobble” which was during rolling when an orange hot rebar would hit an obstruction in the mill at high speed. All souls unlucky enough to be nearby would haul ass to save their skins as the loop reached the height of the overhead bridge cranes.

        • #8 by Ed on 2016-12-16 - 12:48

          tour of Bethlehem Steel

          My dorm room had a great view of Mordor:
          Bethlehem and The Steel

          Guy I roomed with had a summer job in the shops that roughed raw castings into, say, generator shafts: a vertical lathe several stories tall with arm-size cutting bits throwing blue-hot swarf that would slice you in half. Kept him focused on his studies during the rest of the year, it did.

        • #9 by RCPete on 2016-12-30 - 13:51

          I worked a couple summers at a fabrication subsidiary of Inland Steel. At times, I’d have to go into the Ryerson (another subsidiary) plant to check stock and heat numbers for the special customer jobs. The overhead cranes would carry 3/4″ plate in a couple of plier-like grippers. Knowing I had a hard hat on was a strong comfort knowing that several hundred pounds of steel were traveling overhead with those grippers. Strong comfort, indeed. [shudders]

          • #10 by Eric J on 2017-02-20 - 11:02

            No reason to shudder; This is why all employees working in the area should have been taught NEVER to stand or even reach under an unsupported/unblocked load… I worked for many years in a machine shop with 100T (ton) crane capacity and flipped and rolled many jobs using the crane that were in the upper double digit ton category with nary an accident. It’s only as safe as the operator and equipment make it.

            • #11 by RCPete on 2017-02-20 - 16:46

              It’s been a lot of years (1972 or so), but this was before OSHA was in place. The warehouse was set up with stacks of plate in one section of a huge bay, and workstations scattered along the bay. Friction saw for shapes, flame cutters for the plate and such. The traveling crane would pick up a piece of plate with grippers (I think they’d use a different loading scheme for the really heavy plate, but I saw the grippers on 3/4″ x 4′ x 8′ plates a lot.

              There was no “keep clear” aisle in that bay. The crane operator would get the plate up high and haul it to the work station, then set it down. We’d try to avoid the plate, but the guys at the workstationx didn’t have much choice. If the friction saw was running, nobody could hear anything else for a city block or two.

              OTOH, there was at least one jobshop in the area that used shaft and belt drives for their machinery.

  4. #12 by jim oslislo on 2016-12-16 - 15:12

    Nice picture. I wish I had kept some mementoes of my college days. All I have is knowledge taught to me which I can still draw on. Wait a minute, I know it’s around here somewhere…

  1. Respooling Stainless Steel Thread: The Knack | The Smell of Molten Projects in the Morning