Wheel Tune Up Time

The original article grew out of a discussion that Mike Herran and I had about wheel maintenance at a CNCH (Conference of Northern California Handweavers).

For this, I suggest that you lay out some newspaper to help protect the floor, gather some rags, and collect your oil can and turpentine.

As often as I go through the whole process, this is a good time to go ahead and wax your wheel. Doing this outdoors or in a well-ventilated area is probably a good idea.

First of all, take apart the mother-of-all and clean off any build-up of grungy oil with the rags. Depending on your wood finish, a bit of turpentine on a rag will take you down to a clean surface. Pipe cleaners saturated in a bit of turpentine work well for cleaning out the bobbin cores. If you're going to rewax the wood, and you haven't done it for awhile, I would clean the whole surface of the wheel with turpentine. It will remove a lot of dirt and any built-up wax. Do test the surface first!

If you're going to wax your wheel, this is a good time to do it. Most of the wheels I have are not sealed with varnish. If you're not certain, test a non-visible surface like the bottom of the tredle. Using rags moistened with turpentine, I scrub down the wood. Then I wax it with paste wax, let it dry, buff it by hand, and repeat the process.

If you spin flax, you should reseal the parts of the bobbin that get exposed to moisture. This can be done with melted parafin.

Take the time to make new leads for the bobbins. I like to take the finest plied cotton that I have and make a loop that is ~20" long. You want to make what I think of as a double half hitch. Normally you would tend to run the end of the loop once around and then thread it through. I had a spinning teacher who pointed out that the problem with this is that it can shift when you start using a bobbin. Several years ago, some clever soul pointed out to me that if you run it around twice and then through the loop, it won't slip whatever direction you're spinning. I also recommend that you have the knot be at the bobbin end as opposed to the part that you attach your fiber too. Less to get gummed up with fiber. If you usually spin protein fibers (wool, mohair, ...) have your leads be out of a cellulose fiber (cotton). It is less likely to become incorporated with the yarn.

While you're at it, take a look at your drive band. Is it worn? Years ago when I got my wheel from Alden Amos it had a wonderful drive band out of a fairly fine cabled cotton. I was depressed at the idea of Stephanie spinning the yarn and even more depressed about my having to spin a cabled yarn for the replacement. Nope. They buy cones of it from Smart & Final. It comes in ~4 different weights. While you're at it, why don't you set aside a weaver's butterfly of extra band cord and put it in your supply basket. If you don't want to splice the band, make the knot a small as possible.

Splicing a drive band involves three hands and is very awkward. Acquiring a pair of surgical clamps (even the plastic, disposable ones) can free up your hands so that you can do this by yourself.

Re-oil every moving part. This is a variant of the military's "if it moves, salute it rule". What kind of oil? I don't care. I use the 3-in-1 oil you can buy at the grocery. I know of others who use the white silicone grease. I know of a couple of others who use olive oil. I know of one desperate person who used the 30-weight from their truck. Several manufacturers have oil holders that give you a fine tip for getting to those hard-to-reach places.

If your wheel wobbles or travels, you can get little rubber feet from your hardware store. If you normally spin on a carpeted area remember that workshops are usually on uncarpeted areas. Even if your wheel doesn't normally 'travel' it might during a workshop. An alternative to little rubber feet is a 4x6' rug that you place under the wheel and then 'lock' under your front chair legs.

An excellent book on wheel maintenance, is Karen Pauli's "Care and Feeding of Spinning Wheels".

Next week, I'll talk about the stuff I take when my wheel goes traveling.

Not every year, but periodically, I invite a bunch of my friends up to my house on New Year's Day for a cooperative wheel tune up session. We all bring a pot luck dish to share and help each other with our drive bands. That way at least once a year my wheel is in a good, clean, and oiled condition.

If you have comments, please send email to: Rosemary Brock.

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