Spinning Wheel Flyers and What to Look For (or Not)

This is one of an occasional series on evaluating an antique or vintage spinning wheel. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, you need to know what to look for when dealing with one of these babies. They can be excellent options over a newly-manufactured wheel, if you know what you are looking at.

We discussed flyers in a previous post, but as this is probably the main working part of a wheel, want to delve a little deeper into the topic. This is an example of an antique flyer in excellent shape:

flyer 2

This, unfortunately, is not:

vezina flyer 01

These are both flyers from Canadian Production Wheels. The upper flyer is a probable Bordua, the lower is one of the Vezina family. The Vezina wheel is dated from the 1870s, so this flyer has been around somewhat longer than the one above it, hence the additional wear. While you could still spin on it to some very little extent, it is an accident waiting to happen.

The flyer hooks are all a potential tetanus hazard:

vezina flyer 02

If the rest of the flyer was in good shape, all these hooks, on this arm and the other, would need to be pulled and replaced.

The bobbin and whorl also showed signs of being dropped, or being dropped on:

vezina flyer 05

Not fatal flaws, but not perfect specimens. And the chip in the bobbin could interfere with the amount of yarn spun on.

The most glaring deficiency is the functional repair holding the arms of the flyer together:

vezina flyer 03

And the other side:

vezina flyer other side 04

Functional repairs are a part of the piece’s history. This wheel, which is an excellent spinner, was obviously well-used by someone who wanted to keep it going. But eventually, most repaired areas give up the ghost and that is exactly what happened with this flyer. It had been lashed together for who-knows-how-long but when the whorl and bobbin were removed, the spine would drop out of the flyer base. If the spine is loose enough to turn by itself and does not turn the flyer, the wheel will not spin yarn.

The saving grace here is that the original spine is available to use as the basis for a new flyer, and that is exactly where this flyer was packed off to. It is currently in the hands of a wheel restoration expert who is building a new flyer that will use the existing spine, bobbin, and whorl. This is not as expensive as having a missing flyer assembly built from scratch, but it still is an added expense over the original cost of the wheel.

If you are buying a wheel with a flyer in similar condition, you need to calculate the cost of a rebuilt flyer against the asking price. If you are selling a wheel with a flyer in similar condition, you also need to calculate what someone will need to spend to bring the wheel back to working condition so you don’t overprice the piece.

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