Spinning Wheel: Medley


I should clarify that the spinning wheel is finished and on its way home. The posts I’m writing are reflections. And to avoid boring you to death this will probably be the last one. I’d intended for this series to be about things that are universal with any project and not necessarily about making a spinning wheel. But I’m ready to move on, so I’ll just wrap this up briefly. If you have questions or want to know more leave a comment and I will be happy to reply.

Jigs & Templates

I think I made at least ten jigs or templates to get this project accomplished. Jigs don’t have to be complicated but when working with power tools and machinery are the best way to ensure that your fingers remain attached to your hand. I don’t believe that jigs have to be furniture quality, but they should be accurate. If it is something that you can use repeatedly like a doe’s foot or bench hook, it should be well made. Other than that, they are special purpose devices intended to be used and tossed. Back in the day I collected templates like trophies. They make good wall hangers for people to ooh and aah at when visiting your shop. Now space is at a premium in my garage, so they had to go to the burn barrel.

I made a jig to make a template to make the piece. 

Full-Scale Drawings

I tend to get this weird lump in my throat that causes gagging and lurching when someone gets dogmatic about something. If you’re the same way, I apologize in advance. But making drawings and story sticks might be the easiest things to do to take your woodworking to another level. Working in the round is only complicated because your reference point is the center of a circle. This is true even if you are creating an arc. And sometimes the center of the circle may not exist in reality (like in a piece of curved casing or handrail). This is where full-scale drawings save a lot of trouble; they can be used to accurately locate pieces and take measurements for jigs or templates.


Unusual Methods

I’d saved making the wheel “round” for one of the last tasks. When I made the prototype, I used a less-than-perfect jig on the router table. It worked, but it didn’t work as well as I wanted. When it came time to perform this operation on the real thing I took it to the table saw. I can’t remember where I learned this technique, but I’m sure that I read about it somewhere, so I can’t take credit for it. To make it work you need a jig that will allow the wheel to spin. In this case I had a piece of plywood that served as a base and a way to register against the fence. The center axle I turned on the lathe because store bought dowels are never the right size and I wanted a tight fit. The next step is to find the center of the blade and mark that location then lower the blade all the way. Make sure that the center of your wheel lines up with the center of the blade and place a stop block. Set the fence to the diameter you are cutting, raise the blade until it just begins to cut and slowly spin the wheel. Repeat this process as many times as it takes to cut all the way through. If you’re hands shake and sweat around machinery this probably isn’t something you should attempt.


This didn’t work like I wanted. It didn’t have enough support under the wheel. 
This worked much easier. Notice the stop block at the back and the spacer just under the left side. 

The Finish

The original finish was orange shellac. I used orange shellac and applied it with a ½” artist’s brush. In a few years when the wood and finish ages a little it will be an exact match. The thing I like about using shellac is that it builds quickly and is easy to correct. I applied about five coats to get it to the right color and shine then knocked the shine back with #0000 steel wool then applied some paste wax.

This was after the first coat. 

Packing & Shipping

Do you listen to the “Against The Grain” podcast? It’s three guys (Guy Dunlap, Justin Dipalma, Freddy Roman) rambling on about various topics related to woodworking or business. In one of their episodes they talk about shipping large pieces of furniture. Freddy mentioned that he builds a crate and then throws it down some stairs or off a cliff or something to make sure it will hold up. I probably should have done that. I did pack both wheels in a heavy corrugated box and surround them with Styrofoam.

I felt pretty confident when I shipped them out last Friday (2/9/18). The package was supposed to arrive at the destination on Monday (2/12/18). It didn’t. I didn’t get there Tuesday either. Or Wednesday. All week long I tracked this package. When it no longer updated on the USPS site I began to worry that the truck (turtle) carrying it may have been abducted by aliens. Just yesterday (2/16/18), one week later (not the two days I paid out the arse for), did the site update and say that the package is ready for pick-up. I have no idea how it looks at this point or if it survived the trip from Indianapolis to Colorado, but it’s out of my hands.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. DR_Woodshop says:

    Given you paid for 2 day, did you at least get the difference in shipping refunded?

    I loved following this build. I want to build a flywheel treadle lathe and so want to steal this design.


    1. Eric Key says:

      Thanks! Steal away. And if you need someone to bounce ideas off of I’m happy to help.


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