How this for a pretty picture? I really like the simpler, cleaner lines of the older model Ashford Traditional wheels. They're so much more elegant than the new ones that have the fussier turnings.
Emma's new old wheel cleaned up beautifully- finally. It was a long road. Sadly, I neglected to take any "during" pictures. Sorry.
Its spa treatment included complete disassembly (except for the drive wheel; I didn't take the spokes out), then a good hard scrubbing with hot soapy water and a green kitchen scrubbie. This took two evenings. I doubt this poor wheel had ever been cleaned since it was first put together 35 years ago. The water in the dishpan turned black. It was disgusting.
The scrubbing helped a lot, but there was still a remnant layer of varnish or polyurethane or something that had embedded dirt and had gone somewhat sticky. Whether the stickiness was from age or from the hot soapy water I don't know, but either way, it had to go. So the next step was sanding. I used three grades of sandpaper: 220, 320, and 400. I used a light hand and didn't take it down to completely raw wood, just enough to get the dirt and varnish off but keep some of the patina. Sanding took two long afternoons and an evening. Sanding all the spokes and curves of the drive wheel was a royal pain!
And then...then came the oil. I love Danish oil as a finish. The wood was so beautiful after it was sanded, all velvety and smooth, and I almost hated to do anything else to it. But I've seen the oil transformation before and in any case, the wood needed to be protected. Danish oil penetrates the wood and hardens, and makes a beautiful satin finish. The silver beech wood is gorgeous, and several pieces on this wheel show a lovely wavy grain pattern. I tried to take pictures of this, but it was overcast today and nothing showed up well in the photos. I'll try again when the light is better.
I put six coats of Danish oil on the wood, and it sucked it right up. I just kept adding more oil every half hour until it finally stopped soaking in right away. When the last coat still showed a bit of an oil sheen on the surface after an hour, I called it good and gave all the parts a hard buffing with a piece of an old towel. I let everything dry for two days, then put the pieces back together and let it sit for another couple days to make sure the oil was completely cured.
Tonight I tied on a drive band and a brake band, lubricated all the moving parts well, and spun a test skein. It's lovely to spin on, and almost silent; just a bit of whirring from the brake band. I spun and plied 70 grams of Corriedale, and after I adjusted to the slow ratio and remembered to spin thicker than my laceweight default yarn, it was effortless and relaxing. It's a different feel than spinning on my Schacht, but wonderful.
I think this 200 yards of yarn is going to become dark green fingerless mitts.
I really hope Emma is as excited about her wheel as I am. I'm thrilled with this purchase, and can't wait to give it to her.