First impressions: The box was much smaller than the boxes that the Rose and Suzy come in. Here is what I saw when I opened it up, removed the top piece of styrofoam.
I lifted up the wheel and gasped. It is GORGEOUS, SOLID bamboo, and very heavy. In my opinion it is the most beautiful of all the drive wheels Majacraft makes.
Next we unpacked the pieces. The treadles are lovely, and have a curvy new look.
The spinning head has been completely redesigned. The only thing that looks the same is the shaft. There are two whorls in place of the one whorl in previous models. They rotate independently.
The jumbo flyer has the aerodynamic wooden crossbar, jumbo sliding hook, and a unique orifice called a "pigtail". It is very easy to thread and has options for threading fine or lumpy yarns. It is quite easy to spin at an angle to the pigtail.
The jumbo bobbins are bamboo! That was a surprise.
And of course the signature at the base is very important.
Here are some photos of the wheel after assembly.
And here is a close up of the spinning head with the pulleys and whorls and drive wheel connected by bands.
The white band is not stretchy. It goes from the front whorls (which rotate at the same speed as the bobbin) to a "holder" pulley (small pulley on the opposite side) and then down to a special, deep groove on the drive wheel. The green stretchy band goes from the whorl groove to the wheel, as in the other Majacraft wheels. This whorl is very large and has three grooves.
The tensioning requires a paradigm shift in thinking about how spinning FEELS. Adjustment of the white band controlls the amount of pull, or tug on the wool during spinning. The green band adjusts the speed of the takeup, and the difference in size between the first and second bands is how one arrives at the correct tension/pull/takeup for the wool one is spinning.
Here are some answers to common questions about the Aura.
Q: Will my other Majacraft bobbins work on the Aura?
A: No. The Aura bobbins have holes that fit into pins on the spinning head to keep it in pace with the first (white band) whorls. I tried to drill holes in one of my lace bobbins in order to make it work - first attempt at mod was not a success, but I haven't given up. Right now, the only bobbins that are designed for the Aura are the jumbo Aura bobbins. The wheel comes with three jumbo Aura bobbins. Additional bobbins cost $45 USD. BUT these are such large bobbins that having many extra bobbins is not essential.
Q: Will my high-speed head fit on the Aura?
A. No. The spinning head on the Aura is mounted with a bolt that passes through the head.
Q: How is the tensioning different from other Majacraft wheels?
A: Scotch tension requires tweaking as one spins. As the bobbin fills the pull and takeup change and tension has to be increased in small increments. With the Aura tension system, one only has to set it for the type of yarn and GO. No readjusting.
Q: Is the Aura only for art yarn?
A: No. The Aura can spin anything, although as it is set up now (huge bobbins, large whorls) it is perfect for art yarn, bulky yarn, or worsted weight soft singles. I was able to spin laceweight once the bobbin was half full. More about that later!
Q: Would this be a good wheel for a new spinner?
A: YES. More about that with the review!
Q: What does the Aura cost?
A: It is listed at $963 USD. It is definitely the top of the line now.
Q: Will Majacraft make other whorls/setups for this wheel?
A: Yes, but there are not dates on this yet. Glynis mentioned to me that they will probably make a lace flyer with standard orifice next, but she was thinking out loud, not announcing a fact. Right now they are busy getting the pre-orders out!
Ok, my review!
Kerry and I spent about four hours spinning, between the two of us. Kerry spun fine merino top from the fold. I spun Romney, Romney blend, mohair, merino, CVM from rolags and merino/bamboo. We spun as fine as we could and I spun fat art yarn. We took it up to speed and raced it (my job), and we tested how leisurely we could spin (that was Kerry's job). We also brought over Kerry's son Josh who is 15, and has never been able to get the hang of spinning on the family Rose. He was able to spin immediately.
It took a while for me to adjust to the new feel of the wheel. I did a lot of adjusting. Like I said above, spinning on the Aura requires a change of mindset. The side knob controls how HARD the wheel pulls against the wool, but NOT how fast it takes up. Changing the position of the green band up and down the whorls changes how fast the yarn takes up. I am not used to thinking of tension and takeup as separate functions, so...being middle-aged, it took me a while to stop breaking the yarn.
Once I got the hang of it I found my sweet spot setting and was able to spin for an hour solid making perfect, even Romney singles that would knit at about DK. I was AMAZED at how smooth the treadling and tension are. When I speeded up my treadling I was able to make consistent sockweight, laceweight singles, though this was nearly impossible until the bobbin was half full. The bobbin is so large that the slightest pull would snap those fine singles. Once the bobbin was essentially a "fat core" the fine spinning was possible and easy.
Bulky spinning was great too - no overtwisting. I didn't have to work so fast that I lost control. I could make slubs, twits, add in fluff, whatever, at a nice, steady pace. The orifice can handle all manner of blobs with ease. This wheel will make the art yarn spinners jump up and down but the rest of us have plenty to be happy about too.
The wheel is slow. It will require gearing up for me to spin lace at the speed I want to go. I can spin lace, but not fast. This would be a good wheel for a tense person (that would be me) because the pace is so relaxing.
I'm just getting used to Aura but I give her a hearty thunbs up. I know Majacraft is going to expand the wheel in time and it will be THE spinning wheel everyone wants to have because of the versatility. Right now (May 1, 2010) it is already PERFECT for 1) spin control 2) soft, even singles 3) bulky, funky, lumpy, happy yarns, 4) learning to spin/draft 5) leisurely spinning of very fine yarns, once there is a bit of a core built up on the bobbin.
Please feel free to comment, to ask questions, or e-mail me for more info. stseraphinaknits at msn.com