Saxony Wheels


Click on a little photograph to see it full size

Akehurst wheel Malcolm Akehurst, a furniture maker in Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty, made several of these large kauri wheels in the mid 1970s. The design is based on a Canadian Production Wheel made a hundred years or more ago in Quebec. These are large graceful wheels which spin very fast: the ratio is often 20:1 or more.

One wheel was made for a customer who wanted it for his wife, and specified that it need not be a working model. He was firmly told "If it comes from this workshop it will work." Some time after he took delivery of the wheel he saw Mr Akehurst and said it was the worst thing he had ever bought. Why? "Well, my wife is there spinning at lunch, dinner, and so on; I have to get my own!"


Lazy kate by Tom AlexanderSaxony by Tom Alexander Tom Alexander of Christchurch made more than 50 wheels in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Initially his wheels were sent to the US to be sold by furniture companies, but some were also sold in New Zealand. He also made an upright model.

Alexander wheels are generally of oak, quite heavy and beautifully finished with carving around the edge of the table. Lead weights are hidden under the finials to help preserve the momentum of the drive wheel. The carving and brass bindings on the lazy kate match those on the wheel.


Second Ashford wheelFirst Ashford wheel The first Ashfords (February-March 1942) were double drive wheels like the first one at right, which still spins remarkably well. About 150 of these may have been made. From April of that year the design changed to a Picardy style, with the whorl between the maidens and the flyer in front of them, projecting out towards the spinner, as in the second photograph. There is now a "pigtail" instead of an orifice.

Third Ashford wheelAt the beginning of 1943 the whorl appears combined with the flyer, a new invention which has become characteristic of most Ashford wheels. The rather battered wheel shown here has had a crude strip of wood added between the tips of the maidens, but this is not original. The spikes to hold bobbins may also be a later addition. These wheels sold well till the end of the war in 1945, after which demand fell off and Ashford produced no more wheels till the advent of the first Traditional in 1965.
More on Ashford and their wheels

Hal Atkinson wheel
Hal Atkinson (1895-1975) of York Bay, Eastbourne - across the harbour from Wellington - made spinning wheels as well as toys and rocking horses, and built several boats. Atkinson family members recall that his wheels all had the concentric circles on the treadle.

This wheel is made of kauri, a beautiful but rather soft native timber that Atkinson also used for his boats, and it shows the grooves of long use.Flyer of Atkinson wheel It has tilt tension and an unusual fine corkscrew pigtail instead of an orifice. There is a stamped mark underneath the table, and another Atkinson wheel has almost the same stamps. When the two sets of marks are compared it is fairly clear that they say

Atkinson Marks
The first letters are probably like a serial number for each wheel, which would indicate that at least 19 were made. An old photograph shows 12 lined up in his workshop. The Roman numerals below the maker's initials are 4 and 2, which I believe means the date 1942 though strictly speaking 42 should be XLII. This fits with Dorothea Turner's description of Hal Atkinson's wheels as among the aristocrats of wartime spinning wheels.

Butcher wheel
Ken Butcher of New Plymouth made half a dozen of these around 1970. They have no markings. He used a lot of honeysuckle wood but this one has kauri felloes (the rim of the wheel) honeysuckle spokes and the rest is probably tawa.

Butcher wheel
E.R. Cole of Glendowie, Auckland, made a group of Karure lookalikes in the mid 1970s. They are slightly larger in most of their dimensions, and have a straight back edge to the table, whereas Moore's Karure (see below) has a curve almost matching the front. The Cole has a more squared-off treadle, 4 grooves on the whorl instead of Karure's 2, and the bobbins have a metal shaft.

Easycraft wheel
Easycraft wheels were made by M.D. Johnson of Christchurch in the 1970s, and probably earlier. Another is known that has 9 spokes in the wheel.
Mr Johnson also made the upright A-Line wheels.

Small Easycraft wheel
A smaller Easycraft was also made by M.D. Johnson.


Part of wheel by Roderick Fraser
Roderick Fraser ("Roderick the Miller") of Waipu probably made the spinning wheel of which this is a part between about 1860 and 1880.
More on Roderick the Miller, his wheels, and spinning in early Waipu

Saxony wheel by Joe Gibson
Joe Gibson's very first wheel, made in Seatoun, Wellington, about 1970. It appears to lack the thistle which soon became his trademark (it can be seen on the swift in the foreground).
More on Joe Gibson and his wheels

Graham wheel Mr J.W. Graham of Okaihau, near Kaikohe in Northland, made this wheel and others like it throughout the second World War. It is made of kauri, has no stamp or markings and cost 4 pounds 11 shillings in 1944 (including freight to the South Island). This was his 65th wheel. It's thought that some were sent to the Islands or India.

Graham wheels have some interesting features. The photographs below show how the bobbin is changed. The spindle bearings are hardwood projections, and the front one is removable when an oval of hardwood is swivelled to release it. The flyer and bobbin can then be taken off the spindle. The spindle and whorl remain in place, being fixed together. The spindle is held by a split pin preventing it from being drawn out of the back bearing.Graham wheel

The pictures also show the method of drive band tension: the mother-of-all is hinged to the table, and has a slotted wooden projection. Into it fits a threaded bolt fixed in the table. The mother-of-all is tilted by turning a nut with a washer, above and below the projection.

Hamilton wheel Hamilton wheels is the name usually applied to these. They were apparently made in Hamilton during the second World War, in a workshop set up by the Hamilton Returned Servicemen's Association, or more likely the Disabled Servicemen's League. It has been said that the chief maker was a Mr Ewison but efforts to trace him have so far failed. Research by Lyndsay Fenwick suggests that he may have been Edward Hewison, a cabinetmaker/carpenter who had a workshop in Hamilton. He would have been in his 70s at the time.

Another Hamilton wheel Unlike most older wheels they are designed to run equally well either double drive or scotch tension - this one is set up for scotch tension, using the original guide and peg. These are a feature of every Hamilton wheel I have seen, and I am sure that they are an original part of the wheel, not a later adaptation. Hamilton wheels are made of kauri, and held together with wooden pegs. The crank which connects the axle to the footman is curved, a feature also found in some of the best norwegian-style wheels, which some spinners believe makes for particularly smooth treadling. Modern wheel-makers, however, say the curved crank is a purely aesthetic feature.

A Hamilton wheel features in this little wartime film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZfzYpzEfuM

Nees Homespinner
The Homespinner was made by "Nees, The Furniture People" at a factory in Hanover St, Dunedin, in the 1970s. They may have been a very old family firm, as cabinetmakers and furniture retailers called Nees are listed in St Andrew St and George St, Dunedin from 1865 to 1896. The Homespinner is made from rimu, and was sold as a kitset. Nees also made the upright Eclipse wheel.

Jenny wheel by Sleeping Beauty
Jenny by Sleeping Beauty was developed by Ray Chisholm and continued to be made in the Omana Industries era of the company, apparently in the hope of competing with the Ashford Traditional. Its timber (like that of other Sleeping Beauty wheels) is tawa, though the drive wheel is made of veneered fibre board.
More on Sleeping Beauty wheels

Detail of KarureKarure by John L. Moore Karure wheels were being made by John L. Moore in the early 1940s (and very possibly earlier) when he was living in Havelock North. They are double drive, tilt tension wheels, with the flyer assembly on the right, as shown in the second photograph (a back view). The number and placing of bobbin holders can vary. Similar but cruder wheels with different dimensions are occasionally seen, presumably copies.

The first wheel shown belonged to John Moore's niece, and may well have been his own wheel before that. It has no maker's mark. Another is known which has underneath the table the partial remains of a paper label that says:
THE KAR...
Spinning wh...
A Toop and Son
Manufacturers
Havelock North.
That wheel is said to have been used in Hawera during the Second World War to spin wool for socks for sea boots. A. Toop and Son became business associates of John Moore and manufactured these wheels to his design.
More on John L. Moore and his wheels

Kintyre wheel
Kintyre wheels were made as kitsets in the 1970s, by Rotorua Woodcraft Ltd. They were designed for people who wanted a lighter wheel than the company's upright Bressay. The wood is kiln-dried radiata pine, and the mother-of-all is hinged to adjust the drive wheel. Some Kintyre wheels have spikes to hold bobbins at the left-hand end of the table.

Macalister wheel
Mr Macalister of Wainuiomata, Lower Hutt made these wheels in the 1970s.

Old wheel back view Old wheel
Harold S. Martin of Fendalton, Christchurch made this old wheel that belonged to Dorothea Turner. It still spins well, though it is best suited to finer yarns.

The mother-of-all swivels to adjust drive band tension. The drive wheel was possibly from an old treadle sewing machine, or may have been cast specially. Like all Harold Martin's wheels, it has three scallops of "pie-crust" decoration at the back edge of the treadle.
More on Harold Martin and his wheels

Mason wheel
Mr Mason of Invercargill made this double drive wheel which was bought new in 1967. "Mason" is stamped on each end of the table.

Maxwell - see Sleeping Beauty, below.
More on Sleeping Beauty wheels

Small Mecchia
Small Mecchia is the name surprisingly given to these rather substantial saxony-style wheels: presumably they are small in comparison with the norwegian-style Mecchia wheel. Aldo Mecchia and his son Jim began making wheels in 1960, and from 1967 they made small production runs in their Hamilton workshop, Waikato Turnery. Until his death in 1981 Aldo still assembled every wheel himself.

Detail of Small Mecchia The second photo shows the two screws on either side of the tension screw handle which adjust the alignment of the mother-of-all with the drive wheel. Mecchia saxony and norwegian-style wheels both have the distinctive cutouts in the left leg, and the bobbin-holder (rod missing on this wheel) suspended below the table. The tips of the maidens are also the handles of orifice hooks. A few upright Mecchia wheels were also made.



Miro by John L. Moore Miro wheels were made by John L. Moore, and seem to have been developed later as a smaller, lighter, cheaper wheel than the Karure.
A former owner of one remembers that she was given it by her father in 1942-3 when she was 12 or 13, so that she could spin for the war effort. Its construction reflects wartime shortages - the corkscrew-shaped orifice appears to be made from a cuphook, and the legs were broomhandles.
More on John L. Moore and his wheels

Saxony wheel by Istvan Nagy
Nagy wheels are still sought after. This one has a metal plate that reads 1976 BY I. NAGY WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND. It has two interchangeable whorls of different sizes, each with a single groove. Like almost all his wheels it is made from kauri, a beautiful New Zealand native timber.
More on Istvan Nagy and Nagy wheels

Napier saxony wheel
H.H. Napier had a small factory in Takapuna, Auckland, in the late 1960s. He also made upright wheels.
More on Mr Napier and his wheels

Nicol wheel
Mr J.A. Nicol of Doonside, Nelson, was an engineer who took up spinning with his wife on his retirement. At the age of 80 he decided to make spinning wheels, and eventually made about 8 - 10 in all. This one dates from the late 50s or early 60s.


Saxony wheel by Nicolson Mr E. Nicolson of the Hutt Valley made these wheels including a number for Miss Aileen Stace of Eastbourne. The name "La Paloma" is associated with the first wheel pictured, but no markings are now visible. The wood he used was dunnage from the Korokoro tip.

Saxony wheel by NicolsonAnother is known which is marked "E. Nicolson" underneath. It was bought new in 1942 for 5 pounds.

The wheel in the second photo illustrates the range of variation that can be found - the maiden tips are much more tapered, 3 planks instead of 2 form the treadle, and there are slight differences in the shaping of the mother-of-all and the wheel rim.

Pipy wheel by Poore
Pipy was one of several types of wheel made in Auckland by Philip Poore (Pipy Craft Ltd) from 1962. This is an early Pipy; later he made the legs a little more sturdy. It was designed for double drive but can be adapted for brake tension or even bobbin lead.

Closeup of Pipy flyer The bobbins have a metal shaft, and the spindle runs in metal bearings. A hook flips over to secure the orifice. A cord is used instead of the usual rigid footman. "Queen Victoria had a spinning wheel with a cord footman" says Mr Poore, "which is all that is needed for a downward foot movement and is very light."
More on Pipy wheels

Rappard Northern European wheelRappard Northern European wheel The Rappard Northern European was made in Dunedin. By the early 1980s, two styles are found - the wheel on the left was bought for $200 in 1980, whereas the one on the right, with its much more elaborate turnings and extra spokes, was bought for $400 in 1981.
Like Rappard's norwegian-style Mitzi, it has a carved design on the treadle.
More on Rappard and Rappard wheels

Saxonie by MajacraftSaxonie by Majacraft
The Saxonie, discontinued about 2005, was the only horizontal wheel made by Majacraft. It is what is known as a Picardy wheel, with only the whorl between the maidens. The flyer is in front of the front maiden.
More on Majacraft and their wheels

Sleeping Beauty wheels had a complex history. The full story can be found here.
Sleeping Beauty Maxwell wheel R.D. Maxwell was the maker of the wheel on the left, according to the paper label glued to the drive wheel. The label reads "Manufactured by R.D. Maxwell Cabinetmaker. Manufacturer of all types of high-class furniture." There is an address in Penrose, Auckland. In the Post Office Directory, R.D. Maxwell is listed as a cabinetmaker at that address from 1966 to 1971 and it is during this period that he was assembling Sleeping Beauty wheels for Baillie and Watts. The wheel closely resembles the later Sleeping Beauty saxony in turning and general appearance, though it has a screw handle and sliding tension, which was soon replaced by a hinged mother-of-all as in the second photograph. This wheel still has the plain legs of the earliest model.
Sleeping Beauty
Later still, the turning of the legs became more elaborate. By 1982 the company was taken over by Fisher and Paykel Finance and renamed Omana Industries. In 1983 it changed hands again, being bought by Ray Chisholm who continued making them till 1987. Several other styles of wheel were also produced.
More on Sleeping Beauty wheels

Saxony wheel by Tyler
Charlie Tyler of Korokoro near Wellington named all his wheels: this one is Jeannie and is signed: 'CA Tyler "Jeannie" Feb 1966'. It is made mostly of kauri. A similar one, Priscilla, is made of oak and very heavy.Saxony wheel by Tyler

The second photo is an example of a different saxony style by Tyler. Written in red ink under the table is "Made by Tyler Korokoro NZ 1973 Linda."
More on Charlie Tyler and his wheels

Tyler
Tyler also made some very small wheels as well as the large saxonies and double-table wheels he is best known for. This one has written under the table: Made by C.A. Tyler Korokoro NZ Sept 68 "Trixy". It is only 76cm (30 inches) high. I have had difficulty deciding whether to class it as upright or saxony.
More on Charlie Tyler and his wheels


Wagg wheelWagg wheel Guy Wagg who made these wheels came from a family who had been wheelwrights and coachbuilders in Masterton for generations. The one on the left dates from the early 1960s. The end section of the table tilts to adjust the tension, and is secured by a screw with a wooden handle. This is shown more clearly in the right hand photo, which is a back view of a different wheel.



Wakatipu flyerWoodcroft wheels, Wanaka and Wakatipu Woodcroft Industries Ltd (formerly called "Woodturners") of Avondale, Auckland, made these two models in the 1970s or early 1980s. "Wanaka" is on the left and "Wakatipu" on the right. They appear to be a variant of the Ashford Traditional, but the horizontal struts of the split table are parallel, the legs are nicely turned, and the drive wheels are made of fibreboard with ply facings. The rest of the wood is thought to be tawa. They were produced as a kitset and exported.



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