Note: This was originally published by Beth Smith on her blog, and is used with permission. See Beth’s latest work at bethsmithtextiles.com.
Today I want to talk a little about choosing a productions wheel…or rather what I like about the wheels that I use for spinning a whole bunch of yarn. Of course those wheels aren’t with me because of my impromptu trip to Pennsylvania yesterday. The wheel I did bring is the one I rely on for a lot of things. It’s my fall back wheel. It’s my trusty Schacht Matchless.
Let me go back a little bit. I started spinning around 2001ish. Since then I’ve owned and sold a lot of wheels. In every price range. My favorites may not be your favorites but I do know why I love the ones I love an so that’s what I’m going to try and explain today so that on your search for your favorites I can help.
And I’m good at helping people find their perfect wheel regardless of their budget. If you know me you know I don’t often say that I’m good at something but wheel shopping, I have a talent. When I had the spinning store I always had at least 8-12 wheels on the floor at all times for people to try when they came so they could find the perfect fit.
But I’m getting off track here.
What is a production wheels anyway? This can be a different answer for a lot of people. For me, it’s a wheel that I can comfortably sit at for at least an hour and sometimes up to 3 hour before I get up and walk around – you know, potty breaks. It’s a wheel that will add twist to yarn quickly which means that I can get more yarn on the bobbin faster. There’s no waiting around for twist to build up. These two things will be different for different spinners based on your body and also how fast you can spin.
My Matchless – at one point I had three, I currently have two and am looking to sell one of those – anyway, 10 years ago I would have called my Matchless a production wheel. The drive wheel is 19.5″ and with the fast whorls and lace bobbins it can add twist at a pretty good clip. The ratio on the super high speed whorl is 21:1. I love my Matchless. It’s the wheel I go to for sample making and for relaxing spinning but it can’t keep up with me anymore when I’m in real production mode. I’ll always have one on hand though.
My Schacht Reeves 30″ Saxony is another one that I super love. I started out many years ago with the 24″ version then added the 30″ and when I was super comfortable with that big boy I sold the 24″. If you follow my Instagram or Facebook posts you’ll often see the SR in the photos. I currently wish it were a tad faster. The High Speed whorl can go up to 38.5:1.
I love how this wheel treadles. Super smooth. I have the double treadle model but I can spin with only one foot if I want. If I want to get her going pretty fast two feet are best. I can sit in almost any chair to spin with this wheel.
The other go-to production wheel that I have is a Watson Martha. This is an accelerated wheel that was originally built for Amy King who also loves to spin like the wind. When her order was almost finished she asked if wanted it instead and I jumped at the chance. Then a friend of mine talked me into selling her which I immediately regretted. But now she’s back to my house thanks to my friend’s kindness. And the fact that sadly Mr Watson died and won’t be able to finish my order for a replacement.
This wheel is equivalent to a spinning wheel with a 42″ drive wheel but instead I have this little wheel that takes up very little space. She has a top speed of 48:1 if I remember correctly.
This wheel is a bit heavier to treadle and it’s better if I sit on a chair that is a tiny bit higher than my couch, like a dining room chair.
I have two Norm Hall wheels which could be considered production wheels. One is a castle style wheel which has a 24” drive wheel and the other is a Saxony that has a 22” drive wheel. These wheels have ginormous bobbins. Both of them have a lot more take up than I like even after changing the drive bands to something fine and a bit slippy. So I add some pipe insulation to the bobbin cores and it helps a lot if I want to spin a finer yarn for weaving.
All of these wheels have their own personalities and needed some time and attention so I could figure out their quirks, what drive bands work on them, which way to adjust them to get the super low take up I like and at the same time keep them spinning at top speed. Some need to be oiled every 45 minutes and some can go a couple of hours between oiling. Some are fine with me in a semi reclined position and some are better if I am sitting up straight. The feel light and easy or heavy and require a little energy to get going. I love them for all different reasons but they are all fast and I can spin a whole bobbin in a day (around 4-6 ounces of finer yarn)