Issue #86 - October 2014

View The Highlights & Photographs From This Issue.

Large spindle wheels, known as great wheels, are the focus of this issue. We learn how one is constructed by a contemporary wheel maker in England. Then we travel across North America to learn about examples from 19th-century wheel makers in New York State, southwestern Ontario, and Oregon.


Building a Great Wheel

David Bryant has been constructing and restoring spinning wheels for many years. He describes the process of making a great wheel and explains the especially tricky steps required to form the drive-wheel hoop rim.

Great wheel built by David Bryant
Great wheel built by David Bryant

Form for bending drive-wheel rim
Form for bending drive-wheel rim

Two New York Great Wheels

After helping to set up a great wheel marked R. TOWNLEY3, made by Richard Townley in West Dryden, NY, Jean Tyler acquired a great wheel marked N. R. HILLS. She learned that it was probably made by either a father or a son, both named Nathan Risley Hills, in Gouverneur, NY. She compares the wheels and presents what she learned about these early 19th-century New York State wheel makers.

Wheel marked R. TOWNLEY3
Wheel marked R. TOWNLEY3

Townley mark on sliding tensioner
Townley mark on sliding tensioner

Wheel marked N. R. HILLS
Wheel marked N. R. HILLS

Marks on Hills wheel
Marks on Hills wheel

Ontario Wheels with Lathe-Turned Tables

Cheri Borden owns three great wheels that have lathe-turned tables. She describes this distinctive great-wheel variation, which seems to be found only in southwestern Ontario. Two are called “Brantford style” because examples were originally found in that city. One is marked W. DINNIN, and she tells us about this family of woodworkers.

Two Brantford style wheels
Two Brantford style wheels

Wheel marked W. DINNIN
Wheel marked W. DINNIN

Spindle mounts, Brantford left, Dinnin right
Spindle mounts, Brantford left, Dinnin right

Brantford in front, Dinnin in back
Brantford in front, Dinnin in back

Miles Winchester Great Wheel

A faded inscription on a great wheel sent Kay Williams on an extensive research adventure discovering Oregon Trail pioneer history. When she traced the person who made it, Miles Winchester, ca. 1848, and the person for whom it was made, Mrs. R. C. Geer, she found how they were connected and the very different lives they had.

Miles Winchester wheel built for Mrs. R. C. Geer
Miles Winchester wheel built for Mrs. R. C. Geer