Full Chisel Blog

March 18, 2010

Early American Spinning Wheel


I am not sure the exact number but I would imagine I have repaired nearly a hundred spinning wheels, not to mention clock reels, kniddy-knoddies, bobbins, whorls and fliers, &c. And I really enjoy the challenge because all of these needed to be restored to usable condition. Although several are just sitting looking pretty in someones home, most of them are made to use.

I feel the same way about old tools they were made to be used and if no abused can last for several lifetimes. This particular wheel probably dates from the early 1800’s and was very well made. It has been used and in later life suffered a bit, but I am putting it in good order.

There are several ways to repair a flyer, the U shaped part that plies the yarn to the bobbin. I have repaired fractures with pegs and also with wire, I contemplated doing that to this one, but because the fracture was near the mandrel, I decided against pegs and the wire repair just didn’t seem right in this instance. So I decided to do something completely different.

I have shown pictures of the repairs in progress to the whorl and bobbin, here they are completed. The whorl fracture has been glued back together after some work to the joint. The metal mandrel had caused the wood to swell and it the maple break. I had to carve away some wood in order to get the break back together again, then glued with hide glue and allowed to sit overnight.

This repair I deemed causing the least amount of damage to the original and is easily reversed, unlike some other repairs I have ran into in my career. I cut two small pieces of very thick maple veneer and prepared the surface for gluing by gently scraping off the finish just where the external splines will be glued with hide glue.

Hide glue doesn’t stick to old finishes, which can come in handy for most repairs, but because this is a finished area I removed and roughened the old wood underneath to accept the glue. I glued the maple splines with the grain going across the repaired crack in the flyer.

I noticed that I still need to repair a strut on the upright and I completely forgot I have to make a pitman to replace the metal rod replacement. Hope to get that done today.

I would like to thank Michael D. for saving the text of the original post, to which I have added these photographs and have finished the wheel.



  1. Stephen

    I noticed that the two “posts” holding the wheel are of various tones. Is that from wear, or were they made with that colorization? I am also curious what your feelings are about distressing the finish on a new piece of reproduction furniture?

    Comment by Wesley B. Tanner — March 19, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Wesley,

    Welcome and the posts are about the same color any variations are from the photographic representation. I usually make the new parts match, especially if they are next to old work. The pitman on this was finished with hand planes and hand tools, then stained yellow with yellow ocher and linseed oil and glazed with burnt umber pigment and shellac. By the very nature of the finish, it looks old.

    Most of my work goes unnoticed and that is alright with me.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — March 19, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  3. My wife has a spinning wheel that looks very much like the one you have pictured here (Early American). The only identifying mark on it appears to be cut by a knife on the bottom side and is “1770”. The Social Security Number of the precious owner is stratched on the bottom. We are wanting to sell it, but have no idea how old it is, where it came from or what it is worth. Can you help us?

    Comment by Ken Henderson — September 10, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  4. We recently purchased what looks to be a pretty old spinning wheel. It is missing the distaff for flax, but other than that, it is useable. I am wondering if there is any way to try to figure out where it came from and approximately how old it is. Some of the pieces seem to be smoother and more “machined” looking than others, so it may have been repaired already at some previous time. Also, there are some minor repairs which could be done for it to function more smoothly. How would we go about getting a price for repairs?



    Comment by Becky Commean — May 10, 2011 @ 11:25 am

  5. Ken,

    For some reason I just saw your post. You can do a comparable check on the Internet to see what others are selling for. Values vary, but if it is American with that date it should have some value. You can send me an email with particulars. Sorry about the late response.


    Take photographs of the wheel from all sides and any interesting features. Send them to me and I can give you an idea of the cost of repairs.



    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — May 10, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

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