Our daughter knits for her girls, for her husband, for Sandy, for friends, and for me. For a while she used a drop spindle, a tool similar to a top, to spin small quantities of yarn. But using the drop spindle was slow, so her target became to somehow get a full-size spinning wheel. As she did not have sufficient funds to buy at the time, Sandy started looking around in local auctions, hoping to surprise with a good wheel. Sandy found a little girl’s spinning wheel at a local auction, we attended and she bid and won the wheel. Sandy knew it needed a little repair work, as the leather “bearing” holding the orifice on the end of the bobbin had worn out. But it sat around for a while, due primarily to my inaction.
I finally had an opportunity to try my hand at a repair job on this wheel. Poking around the groove (a through mortise, really) where the old leather bearing sat, I guessed that hide glue was used. To test this, I sprayed warm water into the groove, waited, and moved the old leather as much as I dared. It worked, as the leather started to move! I continued doing this for 10 or so minutes, then applied a little heat with a hair dryer. The old, worn-out piece finally dislodged. Now I was able to measure the width and thickness throughout. The width was less critical than the thickness, as the internal surfaces of the mortise were shaped in a way similar to grooves in pliers, designed to grab the leather. Learning this, I carefully sanded a piece of new leather to thickness, drilled a hole, did a dry fit, and felt confident the repair piece would work if I could just get enough glue in place, and if I could get enough of the leather into the groove. The combination of proper leather thickness, the use of hide glue, and a little water to re-activate the old hide glue worked!
If you have never used hide glue in your projects, I suggest you try it. A little background is in order: I have been following Stephen Shepherd’s Full Chisel Blog for quite a while. From his writings on the blog I have learned about repairs to spinning wheels, and a lot about hide glue. In fact, Shepherd recently published a book about hide glue; I invite you to read about it on his blog.
The repaired leather bearing now looks like this – I also included the old piece I removed from the groove:
My only regret is that I did not use a dye or something to darken the leather prior to installation. I still may try to do it, but I need your help. What should I use to properly “age” this new leather piece?
And the now-repaired wheel now looks as follows – of course, I knew nothing about spinning wheels, so I used an unnecessarily thick replacement string to try out the repair:
Sandy and our daughter were quite pleased I actually did this repair. Our daughter tried it out, only to find out that it was more of a toy than a real working wheel, as it does not have the proper tension adjustments. As a result, it became another treasure to decorate the fireplace area in our living room, right next to another, possibly even older toy spinning wheel already at the far left of the brick work in the following photo:
Note: If you are not familiar with the parts of a spinning wheel, I invite you to read this page at The Joy of Hand Spinning, “…a web site for handspinners and fiber artists…”