Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Distinguishing Characteristics – Spinning Wheels

March 28, 2008

Just as you can tell a time period on antique furniture from the style, turnings, adornments, wood types etc. spinning wheels also show such distinctions.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to come across signed and dated wheels, other times there are no concrete signs of where, when and by whom a wheel was made. Still, some makers are soooo  distinct in their woodworking that certain wheels can be attributed to them with assurance.

Some things that can suggest where a wheel has been made are:

Wool Wheels:

  • wheel diameter
  • number of sections in the drive wheel
  • grooves in the drive wheel, and how many
  • turnings on drive wheel spokes
  • tension devices
  • knob on top of drive wheel post
  • table decorations  ( beading, chip carving )
  • number of legs ( some Wool Wheels have four legs  instead of the usual three )
  • arrangement of legs
  • shape  of foot on legs
  • turning on legs
  • bands of color on legs, spokes, spindle post
  • width of the rim  of drive wheel ( they can vary from 1 ” – 4″  )
  • Whether or not the table  is a hewn plank of equal dimensions or split from a tree with one side wider . The side that comes from the center of the tree  is wedge shaped
  • tool marks on the underside of the table

With saxony wheels, many of the above characteristics apply with a few others:

  • axle post supports between the posts and the table
  • types of tensioning devices
  • double drive bands,single drive
  • double flyers, double treadles, double wheels
  • turnings of the posts, maidens, legs,spokes 

This accounts for the tremendous amout of variation among spinning wheels.

 In looking for a NY Wool Wheel, a barrel tensioning device is indicative(though they have been found elsewhere) A  drive wheel with 5 grooves also indicates a NY wheel, more specifically  – Owego NY.  A double wheel, double treadle chair wheel is a good indicator of NY as well, particularly Greene County.

Pennsylvania Wool Wheels often feature a “sliding table” tensionind device, and are  attributed to Eastern PA.

 Elaborate  Drive Wheel spokes on Wool Wheels indicate a possible connection to Berks County PA.


Museum Loom I’m Currently Working With

March 8, 2008

This loom is located in the Chenango County Museum, NY.

It’s  interesting for a few reasons. 


It is a four poster style, well constructed with tight mortise and tenon joints and well shaped wedges that remove any potential for wobble.

A point  of interest is the lower position of the warp beam.   Above  the warp beam is a supplemental not found on most barn frame looms.  This particular warp beam is set in holes in the two back supports – also unlike most barn frame looms which have some type  of cups fitted into the two back supports. The axle of the warp beam would rest ON the cups.

In the case of this loom the axle is fitted INTO the support posts.

The breast beam has a cut-out for the woven fabric  to travel THROUGH as it gets wound onto the cloth beam. Again, not a feature on most barn frame looms.

Clearly these adaptations indicated a specific use for this loom, and it’s my opinion that  the loom was built to weave linen cloth.

Linen thread requires a much higher tension than wool or cotton, necessitating the supplemental beam to provide more distance from warp beam to breast beam and serving  to increase the tension.

For the same purpose of high tension, the warp beam is fitted into the back supports so that it won’t pull up out of the usually cup supports, when the  high tension required for linen is applied.

The extra attention to the tight fitting mortise and tenon joins, and wedges also points to a desire to accomodate that linen tension.

Finally, the cutout in the breast beam to allow the cloth to travel through, rather than over it serves to keep the fine linen cloth from being abraided by the weaver as he or she rests against the breast beam.

Upon close inspection I found evidence of ridges in  the supplemental beam, that may have been left  there by a long gone linen warp under high enough tension that it literally cut the wooden beam.

In support of the linen theory, this loom came from an area of NY where other linen looms have been discovered, among them, the Newark Valley Linen Loom restored by Bill Ralph.

It’s typical that you see a cotton warp and rag rugs on looms of this type and this one is no exception, as most people assume that was what they were used for.

I will be replacing this warp with a linen one and weaving linen cloth on it in the near future.

Please feel free to drop into the Chenango County Museum in Norwhich, NY and see this beautiful example of a wellmade 18th century weaving loom.