I picked up a new old spinning wheel last week in Cocoa, FL, about 2 1/2 hours north of where I'm staying with my parents for the holidays. Picking it up was a complicated family drama, but the patience of the kind folks at Cocoa's Vintage Village make it all go smoothly in the end.
The wheel is a standard American double flyer type similar to those made by Solomon Plant, Sturdevant, the Sanfords, and others, mostly in Connecticut roughly around 1790-1840. The wood is beautiful, mostly oak with striking grain and a rich patina, with some other hardwood for the heavily turned parts. The flyers are both original and functional, although the bobbins both have cracks, and one bobbin was glued after having broken into several pieces. One arm was replaced on one of the flyers, and the repair is seamless, clearly done by a master. Both flyers have grooves in them from heavy use, and these grooves are deeper than any I've seen on other antique wheels, traversing both wood and metal. I've been removing corrosion from the flyer hooks and orifices, and one flyer is now working perfectly. This is one of the smoothest, most beautifully engineered wheels that I've used! The maker really knew what he was about. The table has the maker's mark carved on two sides - AL. Sadly, while we know the names of most of the makers of this type of wheel, AL seems to be unknown other than initials. I've been joking that it wasn't A.L., but some dude named Al who made the wheel - got my gran half-convinced, too!
I didn't set it up for the photos, but the wheel came with a complete original distaff! I set it up once and tied some wool to it so that I could try two-handed spinning. The flyers both snagged too much at the time to do it for long, but what I did was daunting and yet great fun. I couldn't make good yarn two handed, but I could make passable yarn, which was better than I expected for my first time, and it felt just like milking a goat! I imagine that this will be one of the wheels that I will use the most, since it is such and easy and pleasant spin. I had coveted one of these wheels ever since I got to treadle a friend's American DF, so I'm delighted that I have the opportunity to honor the work and skill of this great wheel builder by spending my time and energy with his stunning creation.