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A Guide to Wheel Overhaul

I make a point to overhaul my spinning wheel(s) once a year.  To keep track and make sure I do it each year, I do all my overhauls around the time of Maryland Sheep & Wool.  Of course, I clean up the moving parts throughout the year after I spin a pound or two of fiber and replace drive bands as they go, but this is a different thing – my annual overhaul involves disassembling the main parts, cleaning them, oiling all the wood, checking drive bands for fraying and replacing them, checking all my spokes, etc.

It’s important to maintain them so they last another hundred years or more and to keep them in spinning condition. No Spinning Wheel Shaped Objects here!  And it’s not complicated. The first time I did it I was nervous – what if I messed something up? But of course, I made it harder in my head than it was in reality.  It’s really a very simple process.

I keep several rags, my favorite wood oil, a trusted and gentle all purpose cleaner, cotton swabs, toothpicks, drive band and footmen connector materials (appropriate to the wheel), and wheel oil handy as I do this. For these photos, I overhauled my Watson Marie, which remains in fine trim and did not require the toothpicks.

Watson Marie, pre-cleaning
Say hello to Eleanor, before her annual overhaul.

My first step is to disassemble the wheel – take the flyer off, pull the maidens, mother of all, and the drive wheel, inspecting each part as I go.  Then I flip the table, inspect the treadles, table, footmen, and legs, removing them if applicable. Most treadles are attached to the wheel – I don’t remove those, but I will disconnect footmen to inspect and replace the connectors.    

The major wheel components disassemble easily.


It may look scary now, but it will all be fine!

I will clean and oil the table, legs, footmen, and connectors.  This is an ideal time to replace the connectors and make sure that all the screws for the treadles are secure.  

Next up I inspect, clean and oil the drive wheel and return it to its customary position, setting the drive band – which I replaced if needed – in place.

Now we process the mother of all.  Clean and oil the mother and maidens, inspecting them carefully looking for any questionable wear on the leathers, felts, etc. While you are unlikely to find a need to replace these, now is the time to replace them if they are failing. 

Next up – the flyer assembly.  You got it: clean it, oil it and reassemble, inspecting the hooks and the flyer arms as you go.  

Cleaning the flyer

Finally, reseat the drive band and make sure the wheel is properly aligned.  This is normally an issue in antique wheels, but some modern wheels can be easily knocked.  Stand behind the drive wheel and watch the drive band as you move the treadle with your hands,  if it bobbles, adjust the position of the drive wheel (this may require some toothpicks on the uprights or legs for antique wheels).

Clean and back together!

That’s all there is to it!  Go forth and spin all the woolz for another year!

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