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spinning, the drawing out, twisting, and winding of fibers into a continuous thread or yarn. From antiquity until the Industrial Revolution, spinning was a household industry. The roughly carded fiber was at first held in one hand and drawn out and twisted by the other hand. The earliest tools were the distaff, a stick on which the fiber was wrapped, and the spindle, a shorter, tapering stick notched at one end and weighted by the wharve or whorl (a disk of stone or clay). The spindle was twirled to twist the thread, which was then wound on it. With these simple tools were spun extremely fine yarns. In India the delicate threads for the famed Dacca muslin were produced by revolving needle-thin pieces of bamboo in a coconut shell. The primitive Gurkha wheel was used to spin coarse yarns. In Europe from the 14th to the 16th cent. the distaff and spindle were gradually superseded by the spinning wheel. It consisted of a spindle set in a frame and revolved by a driving belt passing over a wheel. The great, or wool, wheel, revolving the spindle directly, then by a pulley, twisted the thread; it was then stopped and revolved in the opposite direction to back off the spun yarn, which was then wound on the spindle. The flax, or Saxony, wheel—a more elaborate mechanism operated by a treadle—drew, twisted, and wound the yarn with a continuous motion suited to flax, wool, or cotton. In England improvements of the loom in the 18th cent., increasing the demand for yarn, stimulated inventions that revolutionized spinning. John Wyatt suggested the use of rollers to attenuate the yarn, a process patented in 1738 by his partner, Lewis Paul. James Hargreaves invented c.1765 the spinning jenny, a frame capable of spinning from 8 to 11 threads at once. The softly twisted yarns were not suitable for use as warp threads, but in 1769, Richard Arkwright brought out his frame, which by means of successive pairs of rollers, each revolving faster than the preceding pair, attenuated the yarn and twisted and wound it on bobbins in a continuous action. Operated at first by horse or mule power, later by water power, and still later by steam, spinning rapidly became a factory enterprise. In 1779, Samuel Crompton, combining the best features of the jenny and of Arkwright's frame, invented the mule spinning frame, forerunner of the modern self-acting mule. Because of its intermittent action, the mule is used for fine or delicate yarns. For the mass production of coarser yarns, the ring frame, an elaboration of Arkwright's machine, invented by John Thorp c.1828, draws, twists, and winds the thread in one rapid, continuous operation.
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A turned-wood architectural element, produced on a lathe, and used as a banister or ornamental spindlework on porches and other locations.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the principal operating member of slubbing, spinning, and twisting machines in textile production. The spindle serves to twist the product of the spinning and to wind it (slubbing, yarn, cord, and so on) onto a reel, spool holder, or bobbin.

The hand spindle appeared in countries of the ancient Orient. Machines with spindles came into use in the second half of the 18th century. A distinction is made between spindles for natural fibers (cotton, wool, or linen) and chemical fibers. A spindle is a long, relatively thin, and flexible steel shaft of complex geometric form. It has two bearings, which as a rule are located on its lower part—roller and ball bearings and sliding step bearings. The upper part of the spindle is equipped with a cap whose configuration is determined by the form of packaging of the product.

The majority of spindles are rotated by a flexible transmission (a belt or strap); some are driven by helical wheels. The spindle for spinning chemical fibers rotates by means of an individual, high-frequency electric motor whose rotor is seated on the spindle. Braking of the spindle, which is necessary to remove a worked bobbin or to fix a break in the yarn, is accomplished by special brakes (mechanical drive) or by countercurrent (electrical drive). Spindles are usually attached to the beam of a machine by means of special nuts, gaskets, and springs; some spindles can be turned around by means of special arms. All modern spindles have a damper device, which decreases shaft vibration during rotation. The frequency of rotation of spindles varies in processing various fibers from 2,500 to 16,000 or more rpm.

A serial spindle for spinning natural fibers is shown in Figure 1. A paper holder or wooden spool is fitted tightly on the upper part of the shaft; the yarn winds onto it in the form of a cop. On the way to the spindle, the thread passes over a runner that slides along an immovable ring around the spindle. When the spindle rotates, the yarn is pulled and causes the runner to move along the ring, thus twisting the yarn and winding it onto the holder.

Soviet specialists have developed an original spindle for spinning-twisting machines, which has made it possible to combine spinning, slubbing, roving, twisting, and winding of two threads (Figure 2). The hollow shaft of the spinning-twisting spindle rotates on two ball bearings enclosed in rubber rings. The rings are enclosed in a housing consisting of two halves. The holder for the yarn taken from the spinning machine is seated on the upper end of the spindle; the lower end of the yarn goes through an opening in the shaft. The strand of yarn enters the interior canal of the spindle from the drawing instrument. When the spindle rotates, the yarn from the holder runs along the flange of the shaft canal and causes the strand to rotate around its axis, converting it into yarn. Throwing occurs at the top of the spindle; on the way from the top of the spindle to the winding reels two threads of yarn are twisted in reverse direction, and then the thread is wound on a bobbin.

An electric spindle for the formation—sometimes incorrectly called spinning—of viscose fibers is shown in Figure 3. The rotor of a three-phase asynchronous bipolar electric motor is rigidly mounted on a bushing. In order to transmit rotation frequencies on the order of 6,000-9,000 rpm to the spindle, the electric motor is fed a higher-frequency current (100-200 hertz) obtained from special converters. The viscose fiber enters the well through a thread guide that moves back and forth and, under the influence of centrifugal force, it is laid out in a spiral line on the wall of the well. Twisted yarns are obtained in the same way on various types of centrifugal spindles for natural fibers. In spinning chemical fibers, there is a tendency to create electrical spindles using ball bearings with packed lubricating grease, which is changed once every one or two years. Spindles with a rigid drive rotated by a screw coupling have come into use to a certain extent for spinning wool. Their principal advantage is the stability of the rotation frequency of the shaft (constancy of the twist of the yarn), which is necessary in order to obtain high-quality yarn. Spinning machines with spindles that have irregularly shaped caps on the ends of their shafts are also used in order to decrease the number of breaks in the yarn. The caps diminish the ball of thread that forms during twisting, which leads to lowering the tension of the yarn and to breakage.

Figure 1. Spindle for spinning natural fibers

Figure 2. Spindle for spinning twisting machines

Figure 3. Electric spindle for forming viscose fibers

Double-twist spindles are used in the production of heavy threads for carpets, belting, cord, and rope. Such spindles are twice as productive as ordinary spindles, but their construction is complicated.

In the USSR and abroad, work is under way to substitute light oil for lubricating grease and roller bearings for sliding bearings, to increase the rotation frequency of the spindle and the quantity of bundles produced, to use sliding bearings made of special materials that require no lubricants and to use air bearings, and to increase the reliability and durability of spindles. A theory of spindle vibration has been developed by Soviet scientists.


Malyshev, A. P. Vereteno. Moscow, 1950.
Osnovy proektirovaniia tekstil’nykh mashin. Moscow, 1961.
Osnovy proektirovaniia priadil’nykh mashin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Koritysskii, Ia. I. Issledovaniia dinamiki i konstruktsii vysokoproizvoditel’nykh vereten tekstil’nykh mashin. Moscow, 1963.




the operating shaft of a metal-cutting machine tool. Either the tool (milling cutter, drill, grinding wheel, or the like) or the workpiece being machined may be attached to the spindle. Great demands are placed on a spindle with respect to rotational precision, which significantly affects the accuracy of machining. Thus, spindles are mounted on precision rolling-contact bearings or plain bearings; the spindles of internal grinding machines that exhibit particularly high rotation speeds (up to 100,000 rpm) are mounted on gas-lubricated plain bearings. The spindle may use a gear or belt drive, or it may be driven directly by a built-in electric motor or compressed-air turbine.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(cell and molecular biology)
A structure formed of fiberlike elements just before metaphase that extends between the poles of the achromatic figure and is attached to the centromeric regions of the chromatid pairs.
(design engineering)
A short, slender or tapered shaft.
A spar serving as a beacon.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. A slender rod or pin on which anything turns, as the shaft to which a doorknob is attached.
2. On a lock mechanism, the bar connected with the knob or lever handle that passes through the hub of the lock or otherwise engages the mechanism to transmit the knob action to the bolt(s).
3. In woodworking, a short turned part as in a baluster.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a rod or stick that has a notch in the top, used to draw out natural fibres for spinning into thread, and a long narrow body around which the thread is wound when spun
2. one of the thin rods or pins bearing bobbins upon which spun thread is wound in a spinning wheel or machine
3. any of various parts in the form of a rod, esp a rotating rod that acts as an axle, mandrel, or arbor
4. a measure of length of yarn equal to 18 hanks (15 120 yards) for cotton or 14 400 yards for linen
5. Biology a spindle-shaped structure formed by microtubules during mitosis or meiosis which draws the duplicated chromosomes apart as the cell divides
6. a less common name for a hydrometer
7. a tall pole with a marker at the top, fixed to an underwater obstruction as an aid to navigation
8. a device consisting of a sharp upright spike on a pedestal on which bills, order forms, etc., are impaled
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


The rotating shaft in a disk drive. In a regular "fixed disk drive," the recording platters are attached to the spindle. In a removable disk cartridge, the spindle remains within the drive. Laptops use spindle designations to indicate the number of built-in drives. For example, a two-spindle machine contains a hard drive and a second bay for an optical drive. Sometimes the term is used merely as a synonym for disk drive; for example, "adding more spindles will alleviate the congestion."
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