Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hugh Ramsey

The first time I ever spun anything on an antique spinning wheel, it looked like this:

I found this sweet little flax wheel on eBay in April of 2014, and drove to Rhode Island to pick it up.  I had no idea what I was doing with an antique wheel, but the seller managed estate sales and specialized in reselling gun collections, so he had even less experience than I did, given that I had actually spun fiber before.  In truth, I was suckered in by the beautiful patterning in the wood I could see in the eBay photos.  That pattern is caused by quarter-sawing boards from trees, which produces lumber that is stable but more expensive because of the higher ratio of waste.

I took a deep breath.  I took the whole wheel apart.  Cleaning each piece and giving it a coat of lemon oil was most rewarding: the wood glowed.

Here you can even see scribe marks made by the wheelwright (those vertical lines down the center of the bench).

Like many old wheels, this one had a lovely well-worn imprint on the treadle, made by the ball of the foot of a previous owner.

As an extra bonus treat, I discovered a maker's mark!  It enabled me to unlock a lot of information about this wheel's history.  "HR" is Hugh Ramsey, who was born in Londonderry, NH in 1753 and died in Holderness, NH in 1831.  He was the son of Irish immigrants and a Revolutionary War veteran.  His wheels share many design features with those of a cluster of spinning-wheel maker families based in Londonderry in the early 19th century.

(Spinning Wheel Sleuth #48 has two articles about Londonderry makers and Hugh Ramsey.)

It was a perfect first-wheel restoration project: my HR was completely intact and needed only minimal shimming to get everything into alignment.  I added a nylon spacer to snug the bobbin up to the whorl and part of a bamboo skewer to peg the wheel axle in place, and away we went!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Herd

One of the things that has kept me busy for the past year is a sudden and acute addiction to antique spinning wheels - particularly the ones that are languishing away as decor just begging to be tuned back into the spinning machines they were built to be.  I acquired many of them in short succession, enjoying each wheel's particular details of mechanics and geometry, and this winter I decided to turn my attention to spinning a significant amount of fiber on each, to really get to know them all well.

Here are the ones I have currently up and running:

The oldest is probably in the 1810's range, and the youngest around 1920's.  They come from Canada, America, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland.  The unifying factor among these wheels is that none them came to me directly from a spinner, so they all required some restoration and fine-tuning before they were once again working wheels.

I rummaged through my spinning fiber stash and pulled out 28 ounces of fluff to spin up on these babies, and each wheel will be getting a blog post as I go - one wheel a week - stay tuned!