After our success with an up-and-down plunger-style dasher, we set about to test another design which would allow for a spinning dasher. Our hope was that the spinning dasher would further reduce the time needed to make the butter, without adding too much time to assembly and clean-up of the churn. By using a bamboo spatula (found at a thrift store for fifty cents), an old wooden clothespin, and a bamboo skewer we set about forming a dasher that did not have any metal parts. Though the handle of the spatula was probably long enough to have reached the bottom of the jar and extended up through the lid, it was a flat, rectangle shape, so to use it as it was would have meant having to make another lid assembly or figuring out how to make the handle round. The third option was to attach it to an old wooden clothespin which was just the right size to go through the existing shaft. The last option seemed the least labor intensive, so I held the spatula up beside the jar to mark where the handle would need to be cut to fit into the clothespin.
After he had cut off the excess length of the handle, my son began to whittle it down to fit into the opening of the clothespin. Once it fit snugly into the slot, he drilled holes through both pieces that would accept pegs he had formed from the bamboo skewer. By using the bamboo skewer to attach the two pieces together we had avoided the need for any metal parts, with the added benefit that when the wood swelled with the exposure to the liquid in the churn, the join would become tighter. However, to help protect it from swelling and to allow for less friction inside the shaft, I coated the whole spinner in vegetable-grade mineral oil.
The design that we had in mind for this churn required some trial and error before it was perfected, so rather than tell you all the things that did not work, I will be skipping to the final design. Since it is difficult to present this in an orderly sequence, please consult the photos for clarification. For this churn a picture is truly “worth a thousand words”! 🙂
The whole idea behind this churn was to have the “dasher” spin back and forth inside it and agitate the cream. In order to accomplish this, we would have to get the spatula to spin. We determined to use a simple cord wrapped twice around the clothespin at the top so we could pull it back and forth. I had some nylon cord on hand (found in the crochet department of craft stores), so I cut a section about twenty-two inches long and tied each end to two more old-fashioned clothespins. This allowed the user to lengthen or shorten the cord some by wrapping the excess around the pin and passing it through the slot on the bottom as shown in the photo by the pin on the right.
Trial runs of our original design revealed the need to reinforcement the lid and spread the pressure of the spin out over its surface. To do this we bought a metal washer that was large enough to go around the PVC pipe and fit under the upper end cap. This meant cutting a slightly longer piece of PVC pipe in the center of the shaft to accommodate the added width of the washer. We also noticed that the washer wanted to slide around on the top of the lid so we cut a second “washer” out of an old plastic lid to go between the metal lid of the churn and the metal washer and prevent scraping. A third problem that became evident later was that the nylon pulling chord was moving so fast that it cut into the top of the plastic end cap beneath it. This was solved by the addition of a smaller metal washer that sat on top of the end cap and protected it from the movement of the cord. The second smaller plastic “washer” seen in the photo was cut from another plastic lid and added to protect the chord from a nail we added at the top of the clothespin, which is explained in the following paragraph.
It did not take too long in the beginning stages to discover that the spinner wanted to move around vertically. We had to prevent it from sliding up-and-down. To accomplish this and keep the spatula in place in the churn, we added another bamboo pin just under the clothespin, extending out past the edges of the bottom plastic end cap. We used bamboo because this would be on the inside of the churn in contact with the food. To prevent the spinner from sliding down into the churn, we added another hole at the top and slid a slightly bent nail into the hole. The bend in the nail was to keep it from flying out with the centrifugal force of the spin when the churn was in use, but we only put enough of a bend in it to keep it from flying out. We still needed to be able to remove the nail later so that the churn could be disassembled for cleaning. It was because the nail wanted to get caught in the pulling cord that we had to add the smaller plastic “washer”.
It also became apparent from our trials that there needed to be a way of anchoring the jar so that it did not move around in the churning process. Since both hands were required to provide the spinning motion, it was a puzzle, but we finally found an acceptable method. By driving a small brad into the top of the clothespin that extended up from the surface just a little bit we could use a loop of more nylon cording to go around the nail and anchor it to a fixed point. For us, a cup hook attached to the lower window sill above the kitchen sink (used to hold onto jewelry and watches while hand-washing things) turned out to be the perfect external anchor. By setting the churn in the sink, wrapping a large bath/beach towel around its base, and attaching a loop of cording from the hook in the sill to the nail on top of the churn, we were able to use the churn without it moving around. I simply wrapped the pulling chord twice around the clothespin between the upper metal and plastic washers and went to work. I learned that I had to occasionally slide the anchor cord around on the nail to keep the spin of the nail from wearing it through, but other than that, it seemed to work smoothly. The effort required to run the churn was minimal and the jar still allowed for me to keep track of progress. The downsides to this churn were that the fixed point required that the laborers stand the whole time they were churning and that it definitely had more components to clean. In the end, however, our work paid off! Thirty-five minutes from our start time, we had butter. We had reduced our best time by twenty-five minutes!
As we continued to use the spinning churn, we made one change that made it easier to use. The biggest problem that we had experienced was in the anchor chord wearing through if you did not constantly move it around to keep it off the nail for more than a minute or so. This broke up the rhythm of the churning action and added time to the effort. The solution my son and I came up with that seems to be working is to use picture-hanging wire attached to this flat metal hook piece that we found while rummaging through our supplies. I am not even sure what to call it! By replacing our brad with a wood screw and slipping the hook over the neck of the screw, we no longer have to shift the anchor chord around, and the churning is able to continue uninterrupted. A drop of oil on the screw further reduces friction. When the cream is allowed to come nearer to room temperature before we churn, this churn style allows us to have butter in about seven to ten minutes!
I guess the thing that the churn pictured so definitively for me was the usefulness of adversity in my life. While cream by itself has many uses, it must go through the agitation and beating action of the churn in order to give us the twin blessings of butter and buttermilk. This is the promise of Romans 8:28-29: that “all things work together for good” in the lives of His children. In all the events of my life that seem to be so difficult I know that my heavenly Father is using these things to purify my heart to be more like His. When everything seems to be difficult or out-of-control, I can take comfort in this promise. I want my attitude to be one of trust in Him as Job’s was of old. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” Job 23:10.
Update 1/16 – This churn, while churning butter very quickly, the pull cord would go so fast that I was constantly wearing it out and having to replace it. I did this for a time, but when the lid finally gave way to the pressure placed on it, I was forced to use one of the previous two styles. The design has promise, but needs more work. 🙂