More On Replacing Flyers


 In keeping with the current theme of restoring old wheels and replacing flyers, today’s post is reprinted with permission from a post made on Ravelry. The poster is someone who restores antique spinning wheels and who has similiar views to mine on the issues of replacing flyers. He writes:

“See here’s the thing – people ask for spare flyers and bobbins, without realizing how scarce, and non-interchangeable these parts are. For the dozens of CPWs I’ve worked on, and many of the Saxonies as well, I’ve discovered that each maker had their own particular size and shape of flyer, and each bobbin was engineered to work with that particular flyer. Some of the more “popular” common makers (like the Bordua group) made pieces that were interchnageable (they had to, since they were advertising replacement parts) but for the older makers especially, each bobbin was fitted to each flyer. So – even if there were a box of flyers under the bench (and there isn’t – only parts) it’s very unlikely that any one would fit.

The second point – and the more important one – is that the spindle is the most vital part of all. It has to be the right length, (so it fits between the maidens) and in the case of a CPW it has to have the left-hand thread at the correct point, since that’s where the whorl sits, and the whorl has to line up with the wheel, and the bobbin has to fit correctly between the whorl and the flyer… you get my point. I have maybe three spare spindles at the moment, and I’ve been scrounging for three years. I never see them. I never see flyers for that matter, which is why it’s so difficult (and expensive) to replace a flyer/bobbin assembly for a CPW. (Like $200.00 and up). If you see any lying around at a flea market, (cracked/chipped/broken or not) grab them. They’re not making them anymore.

In March, I had a machinist friend give me an estimate for reproducing a Cadorette spindle. He said $45.00 – for a 9” spindle, with some step turnings, orifice and threading. It’s a complicated piece of work, requiring a number of lathe and drill settings – and there was no reduction in price for ordering by the dozen.

When you ask (very nicely, I must allow) “Oh do you have a flyer/bobbin for a (fill in the blank) wheel?” – my answer is “I wish”.

IF there’s at least a spindle on the wheel (and it fits) then we have a chance, even if the flyer is mangled and the bobbins missing.

No spindle? It’s going to be very difficult to match.

Now – maybe somebody out there HAS a box of spindles/flyers (like a recent post from Abbotsford). Grab ‘em – and send us the bill. Any of us in the repair line will gladly take them off your hands. (Or am I being too generous with other people’s money?)

And there’s my point exactly. Don’t buy a wheel for a low price because it “needs a little work” – if that involves a missing flyer you have probably added a minimum of $250.00 to the cost of getting the wheel running.

I guess my desire in restoring wheels is exactly that – restoration. Getting the wheel close to what it originally looked like – which means finding or making a replacement part that it suitable for that particular wheel (think of a Bordua flyer on a Bisson wheel – to the uninitiated, it might work fine, but for those of us who know and love M. Bisson’s work, it’s a travesty). And if it means doing the work with hand tools and single point threading (thank god for a treadle operated Murray machine lathe) as opposed to buying something out of Home depot and bodging it together, then that’s what needs to be done. ( and when you work it out, you’re getting $3.50 an hour!).

Getting a wheel to work again is only half of the reason we do this. I keep reminding myself – how is someone going to judge your work 50 years from now?”


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