So I added another wheel to the flock. Oh, I forgot to mention that I have a “flock” of wheels now did I? Well, I guess if two can be called a flock then I did. I will tell you about the other wheel when it’s more appropriate as it needs a little TLC and that’s part of my wintertime project list.
The wheel that I added this week is a travel wheel. It’s the Capricorn wheel from Athena Spinning. This wheel first came onto my radar at the 2018 Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival. The Athena Spinning folks had a booth there and I briefly tried one between my myriad duties. I’ve wanted a travel wheel for some time now as most of the classes that I want to take these days seem to be spinning or spinning related and hauling an Ashford Traveler around (which ironically, doesn’t travel so well) isn’t ideal, especially in situations where a plane ride is required. I have spent more time trying to devise strategies to transport that wheel than I care to think about at the moment. My personal favorite was the wheel balanced on a cookie sheet on the back of a wheeled luggage carrier/handcart with about a dozen bungee cords restraining it. I schlepped that contraption up and down the stairs of multiple train stations, tube stations, and into a cab. The cookie sheet would rattle loudly as I pulled my wheel behind me, announcing my arrival to everyone around me. You wanna get some looks? Try pulling a full-sized spinning wheel behind you in the busy London tube system.
For some time I had been eyeing The Device by Questionable Origin. A couple of things kept me from pulling the trigger though. An electric spinner isn’t always the most practical thing, even with battery packs. I’ve been in many a spinning class where the person with the e-spinner had to sit off from the rest of the group due to a lack of power outlets near the spinning circle. Also, the price tag made me pause. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that The Device is overpriced for what it is. Not. At. All. I just wasn’t completely sure that it was the wheel for me and paying that kind of money to find out made me really hesitate.
Since I am on the topic, there are going to be people who think spending any money on a spinning wheel is a waste. Well, I think jet skis are a waste of money but I’m not going to get all judgemental on your ass. I enjoy spinning and I think that if the hours of pleasure that you get from a well made wheel (and mind you, there are wheels that are two hundred years old that are still perfectly functional) versus the cost, I think that the wheels would come out on top for hours of pleasure per dollar spent. It’s the same with any specialty tool, you pay for quality. A great many different kinds of spinning wheels are running well over a grand at this point in time, both electric and treadle, travel and stationary.
I did know what I wanted in a wheel. I wanted it to be packable, to be relatively light, not require an outlet, easy to set-up and take down, easy to use, attractive to look at, have bobbins that are interchangeable, parts that are not custom made, and have the ability to spin a variety of different speeds. Also, preferably, under a grand. So, you know, just your basics:-)
The Capricorn (amazingly) touched on pretty much all of those for me. It’s easy enough to pack flat. Here’s a photo of it in a Thirty-One bag that was a Christmas gift a few years ago.
Here’s a photo in the bag.
It comes apart in several pieces.
Putting it together is super simple. First you attach the upright part to the treadles. It’s one screw.
Then you click the treadles into the the holes on the wheel. They literally just pop in.
Then you slide the spinning apparatus in.
This is actually the trickiest bit as you need to line up those two little holes for the pin that holds it in place.
This pin is also a hex key that is used to adjust the ratio that the wheel spins at. The wheel can adjust from a 5:1 ratio to a 13:1 ratio and is completely adjustable in between to suit your taste.
Then you put on a bobbin and the flyer (both just slide on), set the scotch tension, and you are ready to go!
The bobbins are a generous six ounces, but I can use my standard Ashford bobbins as well. This is the view from the driver’s seat. Note that there isn’t an “orifice” so to speak so no orifice hook to lose. Another advantage is that it has ball bearings so nothing to grease, no oil can to carry around. Since this is a friction wheel, there’s also no drive band to break and to have to reset upon each set-up.
My first impressions of this wheel are of quality. The wood is all well sanded and protected with a satin finish. It feels substantial without being heavy. Some travel wheels that I have tested in the past I could feel move away from me as I treadled because they were so light weight. This wheel also has rubber/plastic feet on the bottom to keep it from sliding around on slick surfaces. It’s treadling depth is shallower than that of my Traveler, so I am adjusting to that. However, the treadles are smooth, no jerking at all. Spinning on the Capricorn is whisper quiet. Honestly the noisiest thing in the room while I was spinning on it were my jeans rustling. I started at the slowest setting (which was too slow for me) and worked my way up. Draw-up was smooth and easy and honestly spinning on it was a joy.
Buying a wheel from a new company concerned me a little bit, however, after talking to the creators at IS&WF, my fears were addressed. First, most of the moving parts are available through normal parts channels (like hardware stores). The friction bands are simply polyurethane (if I am remembering correctly) o-rings that can be purchased easily on the internet. The hex key could be easily (though not as prettily) replaced with another hex key of the same size.
I’m happy that I purchased this wheel as I think that it will work well for my traveling purposes. I feel that this wheel could be an excellent beginner wheel as well given it’s easily adjustable ratios and ease of set-up. If the folks from Athena Spinning are at a fiber festival near you, I would strongly suggest that you check it out and give it a test spin like I did.