Full Chisel Blog

February 19, 2014

Walking Wheel Spindle Head Repair II

I started talking about this restoration here.   I made a drawing for making a new maple whorl [head or flange] on the spindle.spindle head4

This is the whorl temporarly fit to the metal spindle, I will later roughen the spindle slightly, etch with garlic and glue in place with Fish Glue.  spindle head7

Here is what the mother-of-all looked like when it arrived, I discussed replacing the obviously newer maiden with a proper one.  My client said that would be fine but insisted as much of the original should be maintained, music to my ears.

spindle head1

Here is the new replacement in birch to match the original.

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In order to get the finish to match the original it took several steps, the first is a mixture of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil and yellow ocher dry powdered pigment.

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The next step is a coat of shellac with some burnt umber dry powdered pigment.

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Then a bit of black iron oxide dry powdered pigment with shellac to get near the final color.

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Then some abrasion of the shiny finish and a coat of wood ashes makes it a good match to the original, there is no way to do this in one step to match the old finishes.

Here is the damaged pulley on the shaft together with the replacement part and the pattern that matches what is remaining on the original.

spindle head8

Having fit up the two pieces, I etched them with garlic and glued them in place with Fish Glue.  It was impossible to clamp so I held it in my hands for 10 minutes then set it aside to cure.  A little work with a chisel and I gave it a coat of shellac with burnt umber pigment.  I will add a bit of black later.

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I still need to braid up a couple of corn shuck bearings and tie them onto the maidens.  This is an unusual method of attaching the bearings, most are secured through a hole and fixed with a wedge.

spindle head5

I was able to fit the pieces back together to determine just how they were tied on.  This job is nearly complete.




  1. I recently purchased a walking wheel with maidens like these, with no holes. It has corn husk braided bearings, one of which was missing. The other one had a piece of metal with the bearing. Adheres a link to pictures:

    A couple of questions. How do I make corn husk bearings. Is the metal part crucial?

    Also, the wheel wobbles about a half inch. Will that be more than just an annoyance? Thanks so much. It’s difficult to find good information.

    Comment by Marian Herman — October 7, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Marian,
    the corn husk bearings are twisted then braided. Soak them in water for 20 minutes, then make them into strips then twist and brade. The metal part needs to be smooth and not bent. The slight wobble will only annoy you and probably won’t interfere with the spinning.

    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 7, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

  3. Thanks so much for your quick response!

    Comment by Marian Herman — October 7, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

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