A few words about spinning wheel cleaning and maintenance

Good morning, and happy Saturday! Although it’s a day early, I’ll wish you all a happy Father’s Day and happy Solstice too. Even though we have no human children, we still get Father’s Day cards for each other from the dogs. It’s just a “Hallmark holiday” anyway, so that’s about as far as it goes for us.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned taking apart the Polonaise to clean and oil each piece and perform a little bit of maintenance before starting my spinning for the Tour de Fleece. I finally got the chance to do that last night.

As you can see there are a LOT of pieces to this wheel. The actual cleaning and oiling of each piece of wood takes very little time compared to disassembling and reassembling everything.
Is it necessary to completely disassemble this or any other wheel to clean and maintain it? Certainly not. I’ve done so with this wheel partly for the purpose of blogging about it and partly out of OCD. Because there are so many points of adjustment to fine tune the performance of this wheel, especially adjusting the angle of the drive wheel for different flyer pulleys, or between single and double drive, I like to take the opportunity to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking, and bring everything back to square one.

With the exception of my great wheel which requires a different kind of maintenance simply because of its age, I do not disassemble any of my other wheels for cleaning and maintenance. The parts that do come off like flyers, or the maidens and the distaff on my Cardarelle are removed and cleaned individually, but no complete disassembling like I’m doing with the Polonaise. Just a simple wipe down with diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap followed by another good wipe down with a good quality lemon oil is usually all that my other wheels need. For most wheels where the wood has alreay had a finish applied, these two products are pretty much all you need for cleaning.

I believe it’s a good idea for every spinner to have an understanding of each of their wheel’s components and how it is put together. This makes the task of replacing or repairing any components much easier if something happen to break. Keeping a tool kit handy, with tools specific to the hardware that your wheel is assembled with, is also a good idea and something I recommend to any new spinner. Here’s what’s in mine.

The Vaseline is used to lubricate the flyer shaft so that bobbins can rotate freely and quietly. Some spinners use white lithium grease. I may try that once this tube of Vaseline is gone. A little bit goes a long way though, so it may be some time before I do.

I also have small screwdrivers and wrenches of various sizes, including Allen wrenches (hex wrench/hex key) in various sizes. I think I have kept every single one of these from every piece of furniture I’ve ever had to assemble, and because they fit a lot of different spinning wheels, I often give one away to a spinner in need.

The oil bottle is for any other spot on the wheel that needs lubrication. This can vary from wheel to wheel and how much or how frequently you need to oil will vary as well. Some drive wheel bearings need oiling while sealed bearings like on my Lendrum do not require any oiling at all. If you’re not sure, ask on Ravelry. There are groups for just about every manufacturer and model of wheel and folks familiar with their care and maintenance who can guide you.

The rag (a piece of an old t-shirt) comes in handy to wipe off any excess oil or Vaseline, dirt, dust, or anything else. I probably don’t wash these rags as often as I should. This rag is definitely cleaner that the last one I kept in my tool kit.

The last item is some cotton and linen yarn that can serve as a drive band or brake band if needed. It’s a little bit thick to be used as a drive band for some wheels, but as a temporary fix it usually works just fine.

This may seem like an awful lot to keep in a tool kit and for many spinners, it is. I have multiple wheels with different hardware, thus all the wrenches, and when I teach a class and a student comes in with a wheel that needs a bit of TLC, it’s nice to be prepared.

That’s it for me this morning. I’m going to get myself another cup of coffee and start putting my wheel back together. I’m going to make some slight modification as I do, which I’ll talk about next week. Until then, have a great weekend!

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