As I mentioned in my Rhinebeck Roundup, I picked up a new little spinning gadget – the Electric Eel Wheel (EEW). I had heard about the Eel Wheel online, but had yet to see one in person. I was able to meet the inventor, Maurice, and try one in person. It was great! I also met several other Eel Wheel spinners and they shared their enthusiasm for their little Eel. It has certainly developed a cult following.
Maurice was kind enough to agree to a blog interview to discuss the EEW…
Q: How did the idea for the Electric Eel Wheel develop?
A: A little over ten years ago my girlfriend (now wife) was talking to me about spinning wheels and how she wanted a new one, but they were too expensive. I looked into it and decided I could make an affordable electric spinning wheel for her. After making her one, her friends wanted one so I made a few more. Then I started working on a new version and setup an online store where I started selling them to more people. As the years passed my spinning wheels have slowly continued to get more and more popular. From the beginning I knew I wanted to keep the price affordable and I have valued the feedback from the spinning community. That feedback from the community has allowed me to continue improving the EEW with many new versions over the years. The community that has formed around the EEW is really amazing!
Q: What is your technical background? How much of your background played a role in the development of EEW?
A: I have a degree in computer engineering and worked at some large tech companies for about 15 years. I was successful in that job and really enjoyed it, but by the end I was starting to get burnt out. Since at that time, I already had a side business selling spinning wheels I quit my job. Most people thought I was crazy for leaving that dream job. After quitting my tech job I focused more on the EEW and had a very successful Kickstarter for the EEW Nano. Sales have been good and while I don’t make the amount of money I made in the tech industry, I am happier since I have full control over what I’m making.
Q: How do you feel about the response to your wheels?
A: Most people are very happy with my EEWs, but talking about my five star ratings would be boring in an interview like this. Online when you have thousands of members in your Facebook and Ravelry groups, there will always be some having issues and I do my best to help them out. Being an engineer, I am open to negative feedback because often helps me make the product better in the future. Even when the problem turns out to be user error it helps since then I can start looking for ways to change my product to prevent those mistakes in the future.
Q: What is on the horizon for EEW?
A: I have more ideas in my head than I’ll ever get to, but I’ll mention two of my favorites here.
I released some free 3D printable files to make a lazy Kate that fits together like puzzle pieces. People have loved that design and some other vendors have already copied it. Just a note that I released the lazy Kate as open source so it is perfectly legal for others to copy that design and I even encourage it. I don’t sell this myself because making 3D printed parts to sell is slow and relatively expensive, but I used this as a way to gauge the interested. Since there has been a lot of interest in it I’m looking into making a design for these lazy Kates that can be mass manufactured and then start selling them.
Another long term project of mine is making a level winding spinning wheel. This is one where the yarn hooks move automatically. I only know of one solution for this on the consumer spinning wheel market right now and it is both expensive and has some downsides. I’ve been working on a version that is both affordable and eliminates some of the downsides. It’s been a really difficult problem, but it is one of those things where I focus on it for a few weeks and then let what I learn sit in my brain for a while and then I try again. The last attempt I made at it was by far my most successful and I’m hopeful in a few more iterations I’ll have something good enough to start selling. I have several videos on YouTube about my attempts if you are interested.
Q: What is the best way to reach you?
A: There is a “Contact Us” link on the bottom of my dreamingrobots.com website which will send me an email if you want a private conversation. However, if you want a public conversation I’m active in the Ravlery EEW and Facebook EEW groups.
I hope you enjoyed the chat with Maurice. As I start to use my Electric Wheel more, I’ll post my progress!