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Out with the new, in with the old

May 16, 2010

Part One – The Tale of the Hoard
Once upon a time in Genesee County, Michigan, there were two brothers named Mott. They started a hardware business in the 1940s, but apparently they had a sideline as an informal pawnshop, giving people cash for stuff when they were in need. Thus they accumulated an eccentric mass of miscellaneous stuff. When they died, their large and eclectic estate went up for auction.

Oddly enough, it seems a lot of people brought them spinning wheels of Canadian origin. A collector in central Michigan ended up with a barn full of these. They were partly disassembled, jumbled up, and very dirty. There must have been another batch that ended up somewhere else, as will be seen.
When a couple of these wheels turned up on eBay, a member of the Ravelry forum for lovers of Canadian spinning wheels investigated and found out about this cache of wheels that needed cleaning and sorting to be made saleable. Before too long, five spinners (and one kid) from Baltimore were making a spring break drive to central Michigan to help the owners of the cache sort and match parts and see what was to be seen.

Two days were spent at what became known as The Hoard. By the end of the second day, the wheels and parts had been sorted – yellow tables and yellow drive wheels in one place, orange ones in another, screw-tension wheels in a third place, large wheels with cast-iron fittings somewhere else – so that at least matching had a fighting chance of happening. Some wheels that were fully put together were tried out by the five spinners, and five wheels came back to Baltimore. Other wheels just could not be put together. Sometimes, a very attractive table just could not be matched to a wheel that was the right color and also fit between the uprights. Sometimes there was no flyer that would go between the maidens. We could not escape the feeling that there was another Hoard someplace else, and that Hoard included dozens and dozens of FLYERS.

It made for an interesting vacation. Here are a few photos from the Hoard itself.

But what I know YOU want to see is – what’s the wheel that came home with ME?

Bordua wheel

This is a marked wheel made by Frederic Bordua, and probably dates from between 1890 and 1910. It was a dirty little bird – half the shellac was pretty much gone, and the remnants of it were decayed to a dark dark brown. There were some cracks in the table that probably came from drying and climate extremes, and rust and dirt coated the iron parts. But it spun. We threw a driveband and some oil on it and a makeshift footman, and I spun a whole bobbin of singles in a couple of hours. The flyer on it probably wasn’t the one the maker originally made, but it was definitely a flyer from the same size wheel, and it fit fine.

Maker's mark - covered with crud but intact

Wheel spokes - very little finish!

There were some cracks in the table, but there was no weakness – the cracks evidently were very old and may have come from the use of insufficiently dried wood.

Underside of table

Following the lead of other antique wheel lovers on Ravelry, I bought a bunch of rags, a jug of denatured alcohol, and some Danish oil, and went to work on it. The denatured alcohol dissolved the old shellac and probably left a thin uniform coat of it in places there was any to get off. The Danish oil coated and sealed the wood without changing the color. After a month or so, it looked like this.

Frederic Bordua wheel after cleaning

Maker's mark after cleaning

Hub and front upright

Spokes and uprights after cleaning

If you like this kind of thing, the before and after photos are all here.

I’m not a wheel namer like some people. My cars don’t have names either. I call this one Fred just because that’s the name stenciled on the table! This wheel is identical to the one in the last entry, photographed at the Merlin Tree booth and refurbished by Dave – the only difference is, I believe that one has the original flyer. And, Dave takes a more conservative approach to finish preservation. I had no finish to preserve!

Fred has been spinning a pound of Corriedale I had lying around.

There was a wheel I wanted that I had to leave behind – no flyer could be found to fit.

Amable Paradis - no flyer

It was a little screw-tension saxony wheel made by Amable Paradis, who lived from 1811 to 1893 and was the first of at least three generations of wheelmakers in St-André, Quebec. Waah. The one that got away. I still want one like this.

Part Two – The Winder’s Tale
Having lined up a buyer for the Prelude, I wasn’t feeling bad about bringing Fred home – he cost a bit less than a Prelude costs. I had been coveting an antique skein winder for some time, but not seeing any that were the right price and accessible to me. Then one popped up on eBay that was just about the right price even taking shipping into account, and was different from the ones I’d been looking at. I pondered it for nearly a week, and then about 2 days before it was going to end I emailed the link to Jan and asked her opinion. The opinion came back: “BUY IT! It’s worth more than the seller is asking! New England style, as opposed to the more common six-armed Pennsylvania style.” So I did. When it arrived, FedEx ground in a HUGE box from upstate New York, it was stunningly gorgeous.

Antique click reel

Although it is in really good shape (maybe refiinished?), it’s really old. It’s pegged together everywhere. A peg holds the two arms onto the axle, pegs hold the legs into the base, pegs hold the top assembly onto the base, there are even pegs holding the ends of the arms on.

Reel arms and handle, pegged onto axle

The clicker clicks, and is held on with old-looking nails.

Gear assembly and clicker

It clicks every 40 turns and has a two-yard circumference, so 40 turns is 80 yards. Apparently, a knot was created every 80 yards, and 7 knots was a full 560-yard skein.

It creaks a little as you wind on it, like an old ship. I love it.

Part Three – The Tale of the Goodies
I didn’t buy much at MS&W, partly because I had just done my out-with-the-new-in-with-the-old shopping, but there were a few lovelies I couldn’t pass up.

I bought a nice big sturdy bag from Merlin Tree – they are meant to haul Hitchhiker wheels around in, but they were willing to sell it to me by itself. I promptly put my inconvenient backpack into it and was much more comfortable for the rest of the day. I also love the maker’s mark that is very like the mark on my Cadorette wheel.

I bought two skeins of sock yarn from the booth of my LYS, Cloverhill. Every year they bring in loads of wonderful stuff from indie dyers for MS&W. I got very lucky and got a skein of Three Irish Girls sock yarn in a color I loved (there was not much left there by the time we arrived at the booth at something like 10am…), and a skein of purple from Serendipitous Ewe. Finally, 8 ounces of sky-blue bluefaced leicester/tussah silk top from Bullen’s Woolens. I have never really noticed that vendor before although their name is always on the list of vendors. But this year, they had a big rack of top on the outside of their booth, which took great advantage of the fact that they were on the end of a section next to a side exit door from the main building. They had beautiful top in it, the blend that I bought but also merino/bamboo and a couple of other luscious things, and gorgeous colors. As you walked up that aisle of the building, it caught the eye and for me it was like a magnet. I wanted a lot more than I finally bought. I hope they do it again!

Part Four – Of Knitting
Socks were knitted amid all this.

This was Socks That Rock mediumweight in the color ‘Rockstar’ that I was lucky enough to snag, with no effort, lines, or waiting, at MS&W last year. I used Cat Bordhi’s Upstream architecture and did some garter stitch stuff in the gusset area.

I’m nearly done with Vilai from Cookie A.’s book. These are beautiful socks and you really have to pay attention to the chart and directions or you will end up doing a lot of frogging. The yarn, I’m editing this to add, is Shibui Sock in the color ‘peony’.

I’m also half done with Azami from the spring/summer Twist Collective. I am using Creative Focus Linen, which is 50/50 linen and cotton. It’s working up really nicely. I had to raise the neckline a little by making the armholes shallower, and I don’t want a hood so I faked up some mitered garter stitch for the back, which looks nicer on than it does lying on a table. It was the lace neckline that made me fall for this sweater.

The other thing I knitted this winter was Cable and Lattice pullover from Vermont Fiber Designs. I have wanted to knit this for a long time and it was just the thing to start in January. I don’t have photos of it yet, but this entry is long enough as it is! Emmy wants a hoodie in her school colors (orange and black, meh), and I need to make teacher mitts as the school year is, unbelievably, ending. So there will be some knitting of obligation going on once I finish those socks, which should be today or tomorrow. The next knitting I want to do for myself is this (Ravelry link)….

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie K permalink
    May 16, 2010 11:46 am

    Wow, thanks for sharing all this!

  2. Linda permalink
    May 17, 2010 11:41 am

    I love the spinning wheel story, fascinating find and wonderfully restored.

  3. Melanie permalink
    May 17, 2010 12:34 pm

    How wonderful to give this old, neglected Canadian wheel a fresh start. It’s a lovely wheel and you’ve done an incredibile job with the restoration. I wish you many happy hours of spinning with Fred.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. May 17, 2010 1:25 pm

    Oh you are so lucky!!! I want one of those wheels so badly…I think I am going to have to start going to Quebec to look for one.

  5. May 20, 2010 7:32 pm

    Oh, I am so jealous of you! I have been wanting to do a restore and just can’t seem to find a wheel waiting to be done. It is just beautiful and I love the way you decided to work on this project.
    Of course, I love all the knitting going on, too. But the wheel and skein winder caught my heart!

  6. elizabeth S permalink
    May 25, 2010 6:15 am

    loved the work on the wheel I was able to find an old norwegian wheel and similarly cleaned it but with cider vinegar and olive oil equal parts. you would not believe the differance. but love yours as well, would like another wheel dont really need it though. also love your skein winder.

  7. Joan Parsons permalink
    February 25, 2013 3:48 pm

    Yay! FINALLY! I recently purchased a spinning wheel and it is the EXACT same one you just wrote about. A Bordua. It needs some work and I don’t know how to do what needs to be done. The wheel is a bit warped but it still goes around. The bobbin seems to be a bit too tight for the stem (I don’t know how to explain it) it doesn’t freely spin on the metal rod that goes through it. Could you give me some information regarding how I can make this work? I want to be a spinner! Thank you!

    • fotyc permalink
      February 25, 2013 4:00 pm

      Hi Joan – it sounds like you need to take the bobbin off the spindle and clean all that up. The front maiden should rotate a little so that you can get the whole flyer assembly out. Then, the whorl should unscrew from the spindle – opposite direction from how you’d think it’d unscrew, so if it doesn’t turn easily one way try the other. If neither works – prop the thing up so that the spindle is vertical, and get some penetrating oil at the hardware store and drip it down into the threads, and try again tomorrow. Once that’s off, slide the bobbin off the spindle. Clean the spindle with WD-40 and steel wool so it’s shiny and clean, and muck out both ends of the bobbin with oil on a Q tip. Keep it up till you don’t get anymore gunk. There’s a shortcut to do with your electric drill and some auto polishing compound but that’s for once you’re brave… Then, get some spinning wheel or sewing machine oil and oil up the spindle really well, slide the bobbin back on, and it should spin freely (this is necessary to spin on the thing). You should join the “CPW Lovers” forum on if you haven’t already, we have posts about how to find the right repair person if you need one, how to tie on a drive band, and why a CPW is not the best wheel to actually learn to spin on…way too fast! Find someone to lend you an easy wheel, like an Ashford, and teach you the basics on a wheel like that before tackling the CPW. The other issues you have to settle are: is the wheel too warped to hold a drive band, and does the flyer actually fit the wheel. But you can’t assess those without knowing how to put on a drive band. Hope this helps.

  8. Joan Parsons permalink
    February 25, 2013 4:08 pm

    I just got on Ravelry and started looking at the CPW Forum. Thanks SO much for responding. I actually got the bobbin off and I cleaned the metal spindle. Perhaps I didn’t get enough of the gunk out of the bobbin itself. I’ll try to do that again. Put together, the bobbin does turn and the flywheel turns, it just sort of sticks a bit so it seems to “stall” in mid rotation. As for the wheel, as I mentioned, it is a bit warped, It looks like someone tried to do repairs on it at one time. I’m having questions about the drive bands. Should I use cotton butchers string or can I use the synthetic bands? And where can I purchase them? I’d really like to see if this can be a working wheel.

  9. Diane Caset permalink
    May 29, 2014 2:29 pm

    We know nothing about spinning. However, we have a signed, Amable Paradis, spinning wheel…with what probably is a flyer. Believe it to be in good, original condition and would like to sell it as we have no heirs to leave it to. We live in CA now and if anyone is interested in it we could send some pictures. Let us know. Diane Casey

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