My Refurbished Old Orkney Wheel

I have been wanting an original Orkney wheel for a long time. Then back in the summer I saw one on Ebay which looked to be what I was after. I bought it, and it came home in September.

Orkney wheel 01 as it came-0001

I took it straight over to Granville Swanney, the only person making Orkney wheels today, who happens to live on Flotta! He agreed to do the bits of work needed to get it back into a working state. The main problem was that someone had put the wheel on the wrong way round, and the wheel rim and flyer whorls didn’t line up:

Orkney wheel 02 not aligned-0002

There were also some little things which needed doing, like straightening the hooks on the flyer:

Orkney wheel 03 bent hooks-0003

I met Granville in the shop yesterday and he said the wheel was ready. And this is what I brought home:

Orkney wheel 04 refurbished-0004

It has the three characteristics which, together with elegant lines, denote an Orkney-derived wheel. The treadle is chamfered:

Orkney wheel 05 treadle-0005

The spokes are thickest at the rim:

Orkney wheel 06 spokes-0006

And most importantly, the wheel rim has two deep grooves for two separate drive bands (not one figure of eight):

Orkney wheel 07 two bands-0007

The wheel is now aligned with the flyer and bobbin whorls:

Orkney wheel 08 realigned-0008

The hooks are straight and the orifice has been cleaned out:

Orkney wheel 09 flyer-0009

And just to show the size of the tiny orifice:

Orkney wheel 10 oriface-0010

Since I brought it back, I have been oiling everything in sight, and setting the wheel up to spin. Like all old Orkney wheels, you have to get used to the best speed to treadle and the best position EXACTLY to have your foot. Once I worked that out, I started spinning – and it immediately produced a nice. fine yarn!

I am very busy on other things at present so am being very good and not spending all day spinning. But once I get this other stuff out of the way, I am going to thoroughly enjoy using it. Meanwhile, my friend Cathy got to know it, supervised by two dogs!

Orkney wheel 11 Cathy spinning-0011

Then, when the Heritage Centre on the island opens, the wheel will go down there and will sit in the corner, ready for me (or others) to use to demonstrate spinning.


15 thoughts on “My Refurbished Old Orkney Wheel

    1. How wonderful to see that old wheel come to life! Chamfered treadles aren’t just Orkadian; the Polson wheels have chamfered treadles. I think it’s a sign of a good woodworker.

      1. Yes, some Shetland wheels have the chamfered treadle, just as some Shetland wheels have the spokes thicker at the rim. If all three are present, though, it is an Orkney wheel! The other two will tend to mean Northern Isles somewhere!

  1. I do so hope Mr Swanney is training someone to do these rescue operations in the future. Imagine this lovely piece just sitting in a dusty corner unable to do its work.

      1. Though I do not live in Orkney I am studying and drawing up plans to continue the craft of those beautiful little wheels.

  2. wow, you are joking! We had a wheel like that in our house… unfortunately, it was beyond repair… I always thought it was originally Dutch, but originating from Orkney… Wow! Wish I had put my foot down on keeping and restoring it… 😦

  3. What a wonderful, beautiful thing your wheel is! Have fun with it! Elizabeth, a friend told me about your blog because I love all needle work and textiles. She also thought you might be able to identify something for me.I am wondering if you could look at my blog and help shed some light on a particular piece of lace work my great grandmother made. I have inherited a treasure of all her needlework and I am now blogging about it, piece by piece as well as writing about my own needlework etc. Could you read my most recent blog and see if you know any information about the kind of needlework I posted yesterday? How was this lace made? On first glance it looks akin to filet crochet. Maybe you or some of your readers might know. Thanks so much and happy spinning on that little beauty!

  4. What a lovely little wheel. I am presently doing up the drawings to build an Orkney wheel. Not extremely common here in Wisconsin USA.

  5. I’ve just found this and have been looking for a spinning wheel for spinning dog wool. Would an Orkney wheel be suitable? I have the opportunity to buy one.

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