How to make a spinning wheel from bits and bobs

Every time I take my spinning wheel out in public I am asked questions. Admittedly, many of them are ‘what are you doing?’, but when the questioner is a spinner it’s generally an enquiry about what the fibre is. This is almost always followed by ‘…that’s a very – er – interesting wheel. What is it?’

Well, it’s not an Ashford, a Lendrum (though it is friendly with both), a Timbertops or anything like that. It’s a Brian.

My neighbour was an excellent spinner. She died about fifteen months ago, and I’m now using her wheel. It was made for her in 1982 by her husband, a great woodworker and expert recycler. A couple of days ago I seized the chance and asked him for some details (and now I have to – ahem – blur some of them myself).

The wheel itself is made of sixteen offset segments of teak taken from some old lab benches from a Midlands university. The hub was also originally a lab bench, as was the frame – the latter was made from bench legs. The discarded benches provided a lot of the rest of the wood, but not all.

The shaft through the centre of the hub, which is metal, was part of a TV stand.

Inside the wheel are nylon bearings. Surprisingly these were not part of a lab bench. No, they were discarded offcuts from a major aerospace firm. The tension screws came from the same place – from some scrapped lab scales this time.

The treadle plate is a bit more prosaic. It’s oak, broad enough for me to use both feet if I wish, and was a piece of substantial planking found washed up on the beach. Continuing with the sudden nautical theme, the treadle connecting rod is a tiller extension from a Fireball racing dinghy. But of course.

Many people do make their own orifice hooks, often from wire coathangers. Nothing so predictable for this wheel; no, the hook was made out of a wheel spoke from a 1930s motorbike.

Alas, the flyer and bobbins were bought. The Recycling King did try and manufacture both, but they’re ‘not easy to make’ – quite an admission coming from a man who managed to make the whole wheel before he even had a lathe (he used a ordinary electric drill clamped in a vice; sometimes you really don’t want to know what people get up to in their workshops). But he did make the lazy Kate and the niddy-noddy – the latter from a wooden deckchair and a metal rod.

And she does spin up a treat.

This has the lowest wool miles I can imagine. The fleece came from a farm in between here and the next village, and originally belonged to a sheep named Martha. Gorgeous colour, but sometimes you just need a break from natural undyed fleece – and this is my next project, for when my hand improves enough:

A merino/silk blend from Wingham Wools. Yum.


4 thoughts on “How to make a spinning wheel from bits and bobs

  1. ohdebs

    What a great history that wheel has! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see that merino/silk. I have just started spinning a few days ago and am already longing for color! Not that I am complaining about all that practically free alpaca mind you!

    1. kate Post author

      Wheel now gone back into its original family – we’ve converted another normal person into being a spinner! Oh, it’s a slippery slope….


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