Buying An Antique Spinning Wheel
As with any purchase, the first consideration is going to be your budget. Antique wheels can vary widely in price due to details in the woodwork, completeness, or even just the market that is selling it. Buying a wheel in an antique shop that is frequented by decorators or that specializes in a rustic style is probably going to be more expensive than finding one in an auction or estate sale. It also may lead to the heartbreak of finding that these wheels are not often complete as they are just being sold for their aesthetic. I have purchased one of my wheels from a decorator shop. It was fairly expensive, but it was also complete and had a known history. I have spun over 20,000 yards of singles on it without needing a repair, so I think it was worth it.
The detail in a spinning wheel can truly affect the price. I have seen some that are such works of art that they appeal to anyone with eyes, even if they never plan to take up spinning. The elaborate wheels may not be ideal as far as drive ratios or bobbin capacity, but if they inspire you to spin, they are worth the learning curve. Be sure not to exceed the level of repair you are willing to undertake. Have some cotton cord, oil and a bit of roving with you, and ask if you can test the wheel. This will give the seller the signal that you are a serious buyer, and give you a chance to see if there is anything that would disqualify the wheel from being one you would like to buy.
Like many people, I love to go to auctions. My family and I pour over the ads in the fall then during the very few fall Saturdays we have free, we take in an auction or two. The spinning wheels at estate auctions usually have not seen much recent use. It does help to make certain the wheel is either complete and ready to be used, or within a range of repair that you can take on or source easily. Most parts can be repaired or replaced by someone who is handy with a wood lathe. Also when bidding in an auction, don’t be afraid to eavesdrop. As you are waiting for the wheel to be bid upon, stay near it. If others are looking at it, watch them closely not only to see how much they may want it, but they may also see a flaw or feature that you might have overlooked. If they give away what price they are willing to bid, all the better.
There are also used and antique wheels available at fiber shows. In my experience, vendors selling wheels at shows start out with higher prices, but as the show continues are more willing to make a deal. The used equipment sales that some fiber shows include are frequently a great place to find rock bottom prices, as the seller usually wants to have some extra cash to spend at the show. Any way that you find them, antique wheels are worth the adventure.
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