Monday, July 11, 2016

My Spinning Wheels Part I (Or How to Repair a Broken Flyer)

Let me introduce Caroline. She is a 1970s Country Craftsman I recently bought for $45.
She was being sold by a family cleaning out their basement. The wheel had belonged to the man's mother; although he doesn't think she used it for spinning. He just remembers it as decoration. It was made by Rooney and he retired in 1982 so it is older than my oldest son. Caroline is missing the last piece of the distaff and the flyer was broken. The family were thrilled that we would be fixing it up and using it as a spinning wheel.
Now that she is all repaired she spins like a dream. I can spin so much finer on this wheel than on the Louet.
My husband Alan will now take over this post and explain his repair.

The flyer came repaired with hot glue and was not only a mess but was drastically out of alignment. Removing the glue was easy as all I had to do was reheat it and wipe it off. A mild wire brushing removed most of the visible residue. There were small pieces of the flyer missing and since there was old dried glue soaked into the joint it was doubtful a simple new glue-up was going to hold. The real solution was to remove enough old wood to glue in a sizable block of new wood and re-drill the hole for the spindle.

I selected hickory from a previous project to use as the fill-in block. Hickory is a great wood for this application since it resists splitting on the grain.

First thing is to make a template. Align it as best as possible and establish a square reference line, in this case its the long axis between the wings, that will be used later to find the center for drilling the spindle hole. The template will also be used during the glue-up.

Squaring off from the reference line and marking the flyer pieces for trimming out the bad joint.

The new wood block glued in place. The block is oversized at this point as the excess will be sanded away once the glue has set. There is a small piece of parchment paper under the joint to keep it from being glued to the template. Any clamping arrangement will work as long as it puts adequate pressure on the glue surfaces. Fit it up before applying the glue to make sure your clamping arrangement will work.

The glued-up and sanded flyer. (the yellow color is due to the lighting/camera)

Not knowing how the flyer was broken in the first place, I thought reinforcing the joint with a 1/4 inch wood dowel would be a good idea. The flyer is set up in a jig for drilling the 1/4 inch hole. A useful tip to know is that soft wood dowel from a home center or hardware store is actually smaller than the  advertised size. This drill bit is just under 1/4 inch to make sure the dowel will be snug. After the hole is drilled support the flyer well, dribble glue into the hole, and gently but firmly drive the dowel through. Later when the spindle hole is drilled it will intersect and go right through the dowel.

Back on the template to find the center line for the spindle hole. Taking half the distance between the wings of the flyer and making a right angle line through the joint shows where the hole will go.

Squared up on the drill press and well supported for the through hole. The spindle is a precise 1/4 inch but has slightly over sized splines at the end to hold the flyer so it's important the hole is drilled to exactly 1/4 inch, clean and true.

The completed assembly ready to go back on the spinning wheel

And now a little dissertation on the repair versus replacement philosophy. Though it would not have been very difficult to replicate the whole piece or have it replaced by a professional, I get a great sense of gratification that comes from restoring what one craftsman has painstakingly made with the expectation of lasting for generations. Saving the original from an early demise brings continuity to the project as a whole and is also by proxy a communication from one craftsman to another. It shows appreciation and respect for both the piece and it's creator. Also, the ideology of repair delays the universal law of decay, which will destroy all things given enough time. A pleasant afternoon in the shop becomes in a small way a defiance of the universe itself. How about that!