Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Beast

The wheel I have come to call "The Beast" is a lovely double-table spinning wheel that I found for sale on Craig's List in San Francisco.  It was living a cushy life as decor in a home above the famous Stinking Rose restaurant in the North Beach district, and it came back to my hotel in an Uber car.  (The looks I got while we were waiting at the curb for our ride were priceless!)

Within a few hours of getting it, I was able to find information online about a wheel that was practically a twin, and had a complete provenance back to the original owner.  Because of that, I believe that The Beast originated in the 1860's in Denmark.  Double-table wheels are typically associated with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, though I found a reference (in a Ravelry discussion) to a Finnish text which traced the double-table design to Finland via Denmark in the early 1800's.

So I got the wheel home and reassembled, and sat down to try it out.  I had made the mistake of picking out a name for it before I had it spinning, some dainty Danish girl's name, but it was clear I needed more get-to-know-you time.  This wheel was all grabby-hands, a "feed me the fiber, you clumsy oaf" sort of machine.  I made adjustments until the drive band was so slack I thought it would fall off, and finally I was able to keep up.  Henceforth it was known as The Beast.

One of my new lessons in conquering this wheel: using a design feature that I failed to appreciate until after several tense spinning sessions.  The frame of the wheel incorporates horizontal pieces that are threaded into the wheel uprights so they can tweak the wheel into alignment if it isn't quite trued up.  With all my previous wheels, this was done by shimming the vertical uprights holding the drive wheel, which is prone to slipping out of place during use, throwing off the drive band and bringing all the spinning to a screeching halt.  Here, I was able to make the wheel exactly true, and it stayed there.

Many wheels have a built-in distaff - a sticky-up thing for holding a bundle of fiber at the ready for the spinner to draft out.  Antique wheels found in the wild are often missing some or all of theirs, but The Beast came with its distaff intact.  A few weeks ago I overheard my four-year-old son explaining to his brother, "This spinning wheel has a big horn; that's why she calls it The Beast."

1 comment:

  1. I watched a video of your presentation on Feb 2, 2016. In that presentation, you show a still shot of thinks to look for to prove a wheel was actually a usable spinning wheel. In the lower left corner is a shot of the front of a Great Wheel, you have the tensioner circled. What caught my eye was the grooves carved into the front of the Great Wheel bench. I recently rescued a Great Wheel from Craigslist that has those same grooves. If you can tell me anything about that particular marking, I'd greatly appreciate it. twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com. Pegg Thomas