Stuck whorl? – don’t panic …

If a spinning wheel comes to you that has been unused for a long while, perhaps sitting in an attic or a barn, one of the most likely problems is finding you absolutely cannot unscrew the whorl off the flyer shaft. Here’s what to do.

1. The first thing to know is that you need to be very, very careful not to break a flyer arm. That would be a major repair! (You can’t trust glue to hold a flyer together when it’s rotating at speed.) So before you do any serious twisting, put something strong like a screwdriver through the holes in the shaft so you can hold onto that:

Do not twist while grasping by the flyer arms!

2. Try to find out which way you should be unscrewing it. Many whorls screw the opposite way from what we are used to: not ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’, but ‘righty loosey, lefty tighty’. Look at it with the orifice pointing away from you. If it’s an older wheel, it’s very likely to be ‘righty loosey’– that is, turn the flyer clockwise to unscrew. My 50-year-old Norwegian is like that:


If it’s a newer wheel, all bets are off. Many will undo clockwise (it’s a bit of a tradition) but not all – for example a Sleeping Beauty unscrews anticlockwise:

If you don’t know and a gentle twist each way does nothing, try to find out the right direction from someone with the same make of wheel.

There is a very small chance that your whorl may have a tapered press fit rather than a screw thread. If the flyer shaft is round, in a round hole, the method below should still work if you pull a little towards you while also trying to twist it. If the hole in the whorl is square and fits onto a square-section part of the shaft, you may ruin it if you twist hard. But this is really rare; I’ve only heard of it once or twice.

3. Still not budging? Time for some medicine. You need two ingredients: WD40 or any good penetrating oil, and patience.

First of all stand the flyer securely on end, whorl uppermost, somewhere it won’t be disturbed. You need to protect the surface under and behind it from spray or drips. You can stand it in a container, like this plastic jug:

Or you can lean it in the corner of a room, with the carpet and walls protected by newspaper:


Spray or squirt a drizzle of WD40 or whatever you are using onto the flyer shaft where it goes into the centre of the whorl.
Then walk away.
Don’t touch it till the next day.

4. Come back to it a day later, put that screwdriver through the holes in the metal shaft, and (holding the screwdriver not the flyer arms) try to twist the whorl off. There’s an excellent chance that it will now unscrew, but don’t despair if it doesn’t.

5. If necessary, repeat steps 3 and 4. I’ve never yet had one still stuck after two repeats with WD40, but I think it would be worth trying every day for up to a week.

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