Timely Topics: Wheel Care & Maintenance

I’m not sure where the notion of “change your oil with each season” originally came from but over the years I’ve found it’s an easy way for my otherwise easily distracted brain to remember to schedule oil changes and maintenance for my car.

The same idea translates well to spinning wheels — regular care and maintenance every few months ensures you and your wheel will have many happy and trouble-free hours of spinning.

I like to start by setting my wheel on a kitchen counter or table and removing any removable parts like the flyer assembly and any onboard accessories like extra pulleys, bobbins and tool bags.  After that I’ll vacuum everything with a soft brush attachment.  I have a micro vacuum attachment set for cleaning areas the larger brush attachment can’t get into like under the treadles.  Getting rid of dust, fiber and pet fur often goes a long way towards helping me see what areas may need special attention like dirty treadles or oil on maidens. 
After vacuuming I’ll use a soft, slightly damp cloth to wipe down the wheel to clean dirt and dust off.  If your wood is especially dirty you may want to check with your manufacturer for deeper cleaning products.   (I used to use warm water and Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean my wheel but have since read in woodworking forums to use water sparingly in cleaning fine furniture so I no longer use this product.)  Oil and grease on plastic and wooden parts should be wiped off.

After the wheel is clean it’s time to make it shine.  Check with your manufacturer to find what type of finish your wheel has if you’re unsure.  If your wheel is finished with polyurethane or a lacquer buffing with a soft cloth will likely be best.  Wax finished wheels can be re-waxed if needed with products like Goodies Unlimited’s Wood Beams or a beeswax or paste wax of your choice.  If your wheel is oil finished and the finish is dull even after buffing or worn through in spots you can add a fresh coat of the oil finish.   If you aren’t sure what kind finish your wheel has try buffing with a soft cloth.  And if the wheel is older and the wood feels dried out consider asking a woodworker or a clerk at a woodworking supply shop (like Woodcraft near West Town Mall) for treatment suggestions.

Once your wheel is shiny you can give it a light tune-up.   Put the wheel on a table and treadle it with your hand so you can move around and listen to pinpoint noisy areas.  Use tools as needed to tighten up fasteners if you notice noise or wobbling.  You may need to lubricate or condition moving parts like the treadle hinges.  (Check with your wheel’s manufacturer to get their suggestions for proper care of those parts since they can be made from a variety of material types including metal, nylon and leather that require different types of care.)
Now it’s time to look over the flyer(s) and bobbins.  Wipe old oil or grease off the flyer orifice and shaft (and off the wooden parts too in case they’ve gotten dirty) and clean your flyer and bobbins as you did your wheel.  Check your bobbin’s drive and brake grooves and clean out any oil or grease that may have made their way into them. (I like to use the fold of a soft cloth or q-tips to get down into the grooves.)  Lubricate the flyer shaft as per your manufacturer’s recommendations before putting a bobbin on and remounting it on the wheel.

If you have an old drive band this is an ideal time to give it a checkup.  If it’s a polyurethane band wipe it down with a little cleaner on a soft cloth and check it over.  If the band material is turning brittle, shows signs of wear or is is stretched out it’s time to get a new band.  If you have a cotton or fiber based band go ahead and replace it — they wear and stretch out quickly.  I discovered a recommendation for chalk line refills on Ravelry and found it works perfectly for drive bands.  You can use anything from cotton twine or yarn or even pony bead lacing.  Try a thicker band material for spinning thicker yarns and a finer band material for finer spinning.

Once you’ve finished reassembling your wheel you’re all set for another season of spinning!

Some wheel care and maintenance links:

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