Tuesday, March 31, 2015

J. Owlet

This is the first antique wheel I ever bought.  Like many spinners with an undeveloped eye for antique wheels, I grabbed it without fully comprehending its mechanical problems, and for months felt resentment towards it simply because it needed more rehabilitation than I could provide.  A year's experience with other wheels enabled me to come back to the table with a better attitude and some new ideas.

Original flyer on the left, replacement flyer on the right

The biggest problem, one which I willfully overlooked, was a flyer that was really too beat-up to be fixed.  I loved the old repairs, and knew that a break at the neck of the flyer arms could probably be professionally repaired with the original materials, but I failed to notice that the metal at the orifice was so worn that it deformed easily with very little pressure.  At one point it was crushed in, but came back into round solely from centrifugal force when I spun the flyer as a test - that's how thin and pliable the steel was!

The wheel started to look like it was salvageable when I was lucky enough to find a replacement flyer in a box of parts at an antique store in Quebec.  I did some tune-ups over the winter and got almost all the clunks and rattles out of the wheel, but discovered another problem: the crank of the drive wheel has the tiniest bit of play at the hub.  This problem would get worse over time, until the crank hole was stripped and would no longer turn the drive wheel.  Nails of various sizes were driven into the hub at this spot, indicating that the problem had been present in the past, but at this point the crank seating needs professional repair.

When I first brought the wheel home, I was especially tickled to see that it was marked, with JO stamped on the butt end of the table.  Jeremie Ouellet was wheel maker who lived in Quebec from 1845-1903.  His family continued to make wheels into the 1970's, when Guy Ouellet, Jeremie's great-grandson, was stamping his wheels "Famille Ouellet depuis 1796".

When I think beyond the cries for attention, I am pleased with this wheel.  Like Big Louie, it is a Canadian Production Wheel - though with a 26.5" drive wheel, it's one of the smallest sizes that can still be considered a CPW.  Tilt-tensioning here is achieved with a U-bolt holding the mother-of-all to the table, and a handle to adjust the angle.  The table, uprights, and treadle - all the wood parts, really - have beautiful grain and patina.  Coming back to the JO after a year of experience with other wheels represents a neat full-circle for me, and once its drive wheel hub is properly repaired, I look forward to learning how this wheel was really meant to spin.


  1. I recently bought a wheel, like you mentioned i am also new to the spinning world and was blinded by excitment I fear the flyer needs work but with very little images and info on the "JO" wheel I am having a hard time. I just stumbled on your blog and was thrilled to see you have gone through the exact same things. If you can offer help, tips or some more images or your flyer that would be amazing!

  2. Hello, would it be possible to ask you some more questions? I just inherited a JO wheel and know nothing about it! There is no string attached from big wheel to flyer first of and then big wheel keeps falling off when I use the threadle.......

    1. It is missing the little stick/handle that is coming out of the flyer attachment at a 45 degree angle - what is that for and can it be easily replicated?