Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Bundle of Joy

No, we're not going to be parents! ToolMan and I have LONG passed that stage of life! But we do have a "new baby." I found the listing on Craigslist locally last week and contacted the seller by email. Then we drove over to Gresham on Friday to see her.

She was made by the seller's grandfather, Fred McCown, in about 1960. Although Fred passed away a number of years ago, they tell me Fred was from Lebanon, Oregon, and was quite a craftsman. He built a spinning wheel for each of his children, but apparently no one in the family was a spinner. This one is solid bird's eye maple; even the table which is about 2 1/2 inches thick! She's only 38" tall, but she's solid and hefty.

Without questions, Fred was one heck of a woodworker; ToolMan was mightily impressed with the turnings; it's quite a feat to have made the flywheel and all those turnings in wood that hard. After a good cleaning (she's been in an attic for the last 20 years) and a rubdown with mineral spirits, she gleamed like Fred had just finished her yesterday. Fred put on such a beautiful finish, that even after years of neglect there were no cracks or fissures in the wood.

We think Fred might have made these as a personal challenge of his skills, because there were a few things that would have been done differently if he'd known someone who intended to spin. Notice he has used two separate drive bands, rather than a single, crossed one. And those drive bands are rawhide, rather than cotton twine. And, of course, she only has one bobbin. We gave her a proper driveband, polished up the copper and brass fittings, and oiled that long silent wheel axle. ToolMan had to take some burrs off the orifice and make an orifice hook for her.

Then I sat down and took her for what appears to be her very first spin. She has only one ratio, which I haven't measured yet; but she treadles like a dream! Fred may not have known everything about building a spinning wheel, but he sure knew how to make a wheel spin! Even with the drive band on, one push on the treadle and the wheel will spin at least 7 or 8 times 'round! And no dead spot on the treadle!

She a little slow in adding twist and even slower in takeup, which gives the spinner great control. There it is; a laceweight single on her very first time out. And so quiet, the only thing you hear is the air movement caused by that beautiful wheel and flyer turning.

Fred should be proud.


  1. Wow! I saw that CL listing and wondered if the wheel was as nice in person as it looked in the picture. I was tempted to check it out, but since I'm still working on Christmas knitting and had a garage sale going this weekend, I didn't. I'm glad you got this beauty! You and Tool Man can definitly do her justice. :)

  2. What a treasure! She's in good hands.

  3. That really is a wonderful find. I can appreciate the craftsmanship, too, and the brass fittings are an extra-nice touch.

  4. Wow, that's gorgeous! Today is one of the days I'm grateful I don't spin, or else I'd have to be insanely jealous. ;)

    How's the knit project with your hand spun yarn coming along?

  5. Whoo, what a pretty lady! Glad she finally got to spin; I'll bet she's feeling contented that she finally gets to do what she was made for. Good going!

  6. Really a beautiful wheel Bobbie! I'm sure he would be happy to know it came to an avid spinner:)

  7. Wow! Lovely wheel!! I'm glad you were able to get her.


  8. That is an amazing wheel! So beautiful and well made. How nice that you get to know the maker, too.


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