Hamilton wheel again

My Hamilton wheel is still mysterious, even more beautiful, and no longer troublesome.

How many differences can you spot in these before-and-after photos?
First, there’s now a serious amount of yarn on the bobbin. Spun with no throwing of drive band!

The second difference is what made that possible – the mother-of-all (MOA) and flyer assembly are no longer on a wonky angle, but straightened so that the whorls line up with the drive wheel.

The third difference was part of that process – the little brass pin you can see sticking out of the MOA.

And lastly, there’s the difference that a good clean and wax makes (though admittedly the second photo was taken in a different light). Kauri wood responds wonderfully to polishing.

The repair needed an expert so I sent this to Mike Keeves, maker of Grace wheels.

All these parts were solidly glued together – MOA, MOA collar and screw block. (And the back maiden but we weren’t worrying about that.) Carefully packed, it arrived safely. Mike sent me some photos:

The first job was to use a Forstner bit to drill right through the MOA and destroy the wooden pin securing it to the MOA collar. He said the MOA didn’t appear to have been glued originally, but stuck on at a later date.

Once the MOA was freed, he had to separate the screw block (the piece the tension screw goes through) from the collar, by drilling out the rest of the well-glued-in pin. In the picture above the screw block is still in the clamp. Then he had to drill out the remainder of the pin from the screw block, so it could be replaced with a new one and everything lined up properly.

He was concerned about the cracks in the screw block, and the damage that has at some time been caused to the screw thread where the tension is adjusted (he thought by a drill or a nail). We both believe the screw block and the tension peg that screws into it are, like the rest of the wheel, made of Kauri (recognisable by its tiny dark flecks) – it’s a lovely wood for spinning wheels, except for these vital little functional parts.Nothing can be done about the thread, but I find if I keep it well lubricated with candle wax it works smoothly. And Mike did a great job of glueing the cracks. This was one of those rare times when glue should be used to fix a spinning wheel – when something has broken apart that was originally one piece of wood, or that was originally glued when the wheel was made (or of course in a kitset wheel, if the maker’s instructions say to glue).

Many wheels have been ruined by well-meaning people using glue to fix something that wasn’t originally intended to be stuck together. And that’s what had happened to this Hamilton wheel: at some time in the past, the MOA perhaps was a little loose and twisting around. So he (it’s usually a he, but that may be unfair) stuck the MOA and its collar in place with glue. Only unfortunately he didn’t stick them quite right. I guess he had never heard of shims.

Anyway, then it was time to put things back together. Mike suggested a dry joint rather than glue to hold the mother-of-all to the collar, and putting a removable pin through the MOA to hold everything together, in case any adjustments have to be made. I was happy to agree, and that is why a little brass pin has appeared in the second spot-the-difference photograph at the top of this post. I do like to keep things original where possible, but with spinning wheels function comes first.

Here’s another before and after pair.You are looking from underneath at the end of the screw block with the bottom surface of the pin very visible (oddly, the hole for the peg widens at the bottom). Behind it is the bottom of the MOA collar, and behind that the bottom of the MOA.

The most important change is that the screw block is now perfectly in line with the MOA.

The shiny white on the surface of the collar is three thin plastic removable shims that Mike put in, in case the collar didn’t fit snugly to the table. He didn’t have the entire wheel to make sure everything fitted to it exactly. I could remove some or all of the layers if I pulled out that tiny brass pin, which you can just see the tip of at the top of the collar, but I left them in because it fits perfectly as it is.

In the second picture you can hardly see the little blemish at the right-hand end of the MOA. There were several spots of such damage – dog? small child? They are much less noticeable now, after I stained and waxed everything.

We’ve noticed several things that we feel are design faults, but none of them seem to matter much. First, there is no retaining pin to stop the tension knob from screwing right out – but it’s very easy to keep it in place when adjusting the tension. Also, Mike pointed out that there’s no clamping or holding piece under the table that keeps the MOA assembly in position – it stays put just fine, though. And there’s the use of Kauri for screw threads, which it isn’t really suited for.

Mr Hewison(?) was creating wheels under wartime conditions of urgency and shortage of materials. Was he an expert spinning wheel maker? Perhaps not, though he was a fine craftsman. The ‘faults’ don’t make the wheel any less a joy to spin with.Like other Hamilton wheels I’ve seen, it has 14 spokes in the drive wheel – not a common number. Their spacing isn’t completely even. This wheel was made in a workshop, not a factory!

I am very grateful to Mike for his skilled, knowledgeable work. The best wheel-makers and wheel-repairers are also spinners. He doesn’t spin so much these days, and remarked ‘spiders spin webs on my wheels as if to say, this is how it’s done you idle fellow’. (How wrong they are!)

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