For a complete look at the subject of Wheel Mechanics and Flyers we recommend:
Guide to Making Spinning Wheel Flyer and Wheels" by
Cooper Smith Publishing.
absence of the above book, the
brief look below may help in determining
the mechanical quality of a Flyer mechanism (new or old).
Start the flyer inspection by disconnecting the
drive band. With the flyer
mounted in the maiden bearings, give the flyer a twirl and see how
freely it rotates.
(You may need to turn the maidens a bit to position the bearings a
Next remove the whorl from the flyer shaft. Most double drive flyers are
left hand thread
(opposite from a normal bolt thread) although I've noticed some mass
produce manufacturers use a right hand threaded whorl. Be careful not to
force if you are not sure which way the thread comes off. It should
be snug but if it appears it won't come off, try the other direction.
With the whorl removed, slip off the bobbin and take a look at the flyer
There should be no burrs or large machining marks visible.
Check the end that rides in the rear maiden bearing. Is the surface very
Polished? It should be very smooth with no burrs or sharp edges.
Next look at the shaft part on which the bobbin bearings (if provided)
will ride on the shaft. Is there visible wear? Run a fingernail down the
length of the shaft
to check for ridges that indicate bearing/shaft wear. This will indicate
that either the
shaft material is too soft or that the bobbin bearing
material is not matched to the shaft hardness.
Flyer Shaft Materials:
Plain Steel (Cold rolled): (NOT BAD DEPENDING)
Easily machined and threaded. Too soft for most bearing materials,
easily burred and scratched
Not hardenable by economical means so most likely will not be hardened.
Rusts easily kind of a dull metal color.
Very easily machined and threaded but very soft. Contrary to some
advertisements, brass (by itself)
is not significantly hardenable. I strongly suggest you avoid soft brass
If unsure how soft it is, try to scratch (somewhere unimportant) with
a nail file. Should not be scratchable if it is avoid it.
Probably a bright yellowish color.
Better than brass but still quite soft. There is one bronze alloy that
acceptable if using only soft bobbin material, (plastic, leather). Sorry
but you'll have to do your own homework for the alloy number.
Tools steels and drill rod: (BEST)
These are the best for long bearing wear and shaft smoothness
are easily hardened but depending on the composition type may not be
round once hardened. These are normally hard enough for most bobbin
without additional heat treatment.
These are the only shaft materials I would approve of for using bronze
bearings in the bobbins.
Common Bobbin Bearing Materials:
Some bobbins are supplied with only a close fitting hole drilled.
Avoid these. Very cheap construction method. Noisy with high friction
Bronze, Oilite: (BETTER)
These bearings are a porous sponge like material that are factory
impregnated with oil
and release the oil inside with heat generated from rotation on the
These should only be used with a tool steel or drill rod flyer shaft.
These need frequent oiling though personally I prefer these to "oilite"
Bright Orangeish color. Should only be used with a tool steel or drill
*Please note that Cooper Spinning
Wheels is an environmentally conscious enterprise and all materials
used are chosen for low impact on Mother Nature. We no longer offer (or
encourage) the use of polymer (plastic) bearings on bobbins, bronze is
now our standard bobbin bearing material. Many makers
still use these materials so the following is given for those
unfamiliar with the various compounds which are most often found on
So many varieties available though most makers and "craftsman" use the
cheaper ones which have a higher coefficient of friction (they aren't as
As follows ratings with color and appearance.
White, white with visible burrs>
Milky white with visible burrs. Not very slippery.
Mostly black or white depending. Better than NYLON but not real good for
a continuous motion bearing.
Milky white but less translucent than NYLON. Easy to tell the difference
as they are very slippery.
Any of the following colors of bearings are
most likely very good bearings
for any shaft materials (if polished).
If you are new to spinning or want more info, we recommend this site
as a starting point:
Another good place to visit is:
Woolfestival.com: get your festival fix at home!
Spinner's message board, calendar of events, guild listings, articles
and a marketplace of small wool producers offering Roving, Yarn,
Fleeces, and other supplies for the handspinner