Maintenance - Heavy Duty Ball Winders by NKK

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Ball Winder Maintenance - key activities to extend the life of your equipment.

The Ball Winder needs the following activities to keep it running properly over time.

Cleaning the inside
The inside of the unit houses 4 heavy duty nylon gears. These gears accumulate fiber debris over time and when that happens, the unit may begin to create "wonky balls" of yarn. A wonky ball is one in which the yarn is not spread out properly on each rotation, but rather it is laying directly on top of the previous yarn layer below. The ball begins to look like the "rings of Saturn." The rings of Saturn problem can occur whenever something restricts the free rotation of the spindle. There can other wonky shapes as well.

The spindle rotates like a top on the spindle arm that supports it. This is referred to as "Spin" in the image below. This is different than the "Orbit" which refers to the turning spindle arm.

If any of the following items retrict the ability of the spindle to "Spin", then the ball will be wonky and will look abnormal.

  • O-ring too tight (or too loose) against the pointed shaft

  • Steel collar on the end of the spindle shaft is pressing tightly against the underside of the spindle arm

  • Ball winder's gears are dirty with accumulated fiber debris

These links will show you how to properly adjust the tension on the O-ring (not too tight, not too loose) and how to install the collar
O-ring Adjustment 1
O-ring Adjustment 2   (updated version)

The following video will show you how to clean and adjust your ball winder.
Video - How to clean your ball winder

This link shows you in text and pictures how to clean the ball winder.

Over the lifetime of the ball winder, the user should clean the unit as follows:

  • Yarn shops and small fiber businesses that use the ball winder every day - every 6 - 12 months

  • Yarn shops that do not wind very many balls each day - every 12 - 18 months

  • Knitters at home who wind occassionally - every 3 - 4 years

Notwithstanding these guidelines, you can get yarn caught in the sytem easily and unexpectedly so if you ever feel a resistance that occurs once or twice on each rotation of the handle or you hear a thunking noise on every rotation at the same spot, chances are you have a clump of fiber that got inside the unit and is stuck in the gear teeth. You then need to clean the unit out REGARDLESS of how recently you last cleaned it.

Newer units shipped in 2015 and after include a new gasket that partially seals the opening in the top of the ball winder and this significantly reduces the need to clean the inside of the ball winder out.

In addition to cleaning the inside of the ball winder, you need to check on the following:

The black O-ring that goes around the flange (the circular part that is at the base of the spindle) can crack or dry out. This O-ring must be smooth in order to work correctly so cracking, tears, dryness , etc., are all signs that it needs to be replaced.

You can order flange O-rings from NKK at this link.
The Flange O-ring is a #341 Buna Rubber O-ring (EPDM is also acceptable).

After you put the new O-ring on, wipe it off with rubbing alcohol which removes any oils or powders that may be present on the material.

Vinyl feet - you may wipe the bottom surfaces of the vinyl feet with rubbing alcohol to make them grip better.

The Wooded surface of the ball winder will develop a patina over time. This will darken the wood. This is normal so simply enjoy its character as it ages.
We utilize Tung Oil when we manufacture the units. If you decide to apply another coat of oil, do not get it on the O-rings or shafts and wipe it off of the wood after application.

Oiling the unit - as you will see in the cleaning video, we do recommend oiling the shafts where they make contact with wood, bearings or gears. DO NOT oil the gear teeth surfaces, however. They do not need oil and oiling them only causes fibers to stick to the gears.

If you have an older ball winder made during the 2006-2009 time period, you can (and should) clean off any lubricant that we may have added on the gears with rubbing alcohol. We no longer add any lubricant to the gear surfaces because of this issue.

Questions? Please email Bob at this link



The motor will run upowards of 2,000 operating hours (time during which the motor is actually turning).
Then the motor's brushes wear out and the geartrain starts to wear substantially.

The user will notice that the motor seems to slip more readily and less work gets done. The motor loses torque (power) and it doesn't go as fast as it once did.

The user will start to notice this at around 1,500 hours and it will be bad by 2,000 hours approximately.

After checking on all of the other items listed in this section, then the user can suspect the motor.

There is no test per se that the user can run to verify motor operation. They simply need to eliminate the other causes for performance issues and also be aware of roughly how many hours the motor has been used.

The easiest way to estimate the hours of uses is to calculate an avsrage number of horus per day that the motor is used and then extend that to weekly and monthly usage. If the user uses the motor 2 hours per day 6 days per week 4 weeks per month, then they are using the motor about 50 hours per month or 600 hours per year. At that rate they will need to replace the motor in about 3 to 3.5 years. At about 2.5 years they should get a spare motor from Nancy's Knit Knacks as a backup.

Motors are easily replaced by the user. Takes around 10 minutes.


Power Base Maintenance

The Power Base is an interesting product from a maintenance standpoint.

We will include the Belts and the Motor is this maintenance section as these are the only things that need maintenance.

The drive belt is a 1/4" diameter round polyurethane belt which is custom made for NKK.
Belts stretch over time . They especially stretch if they are under load. What can cause load on a belt?

  • Dirty ball winder (gears clogged witgh fiber)

  • O-ring on Ball Winder is too tight (do spin test - handle should rotate 4-6 times)

  • Shaft collar on the end of the spindle shaft is touching (pinching) the underside oif the spindle arm

  • The swift or yarn on the swift has an issue and is not freely delivering its yarn

Once a belt stretches, it has reduced capability to drive the the ball winder and needs to be replaced.
The typical frequency of belt replacement is every 6 months. However, if your unit stretches the belt more frequently, look to one or more of the causes listed above as being the culprit.

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