Adventures with Painted Spinning Wheels, part 1.

I felt sorry for the neglected, JUNKY old wheels…. down on their luck.  Long time stuffed in closets, garage, or dusty sheds.  All forlorn, in dilapidated condition with broken or missing parts.  But a spark of hope to rescue and return them to functionality persuaded me to bring a few sad little wheels home for recovery efforts.  A bit of a fool’s adventure perhaps… and with a great deal of unexpected effort ahead.

The Junky Shellacked Wheel.

Junky Shellac wheel  IMG_6432

Degraded shellac

Old wheel with ancient, degraded shellac all crackled and flaking off wheel.  It was horridly ugly and rough to touch.  Filthy oiled parts.  Dried mildew in places.  Shattered top of a wheel post with many little nails.  Had a flyer & whorl, but missing bobbins (forgot to photograph flyer).

Looking on the bright side, I knew I could have a bobbin made & wheel post repaired.  Thought I could just use denatured alcohol to remove icky shellac and hopefully, reveal the wood’s beauty underneath.  Apply a new coat of oil & call it good, right?   WRONG.  Really, it all went so wrong…

disassembled shellac wheel   discolored maiden

1st lesson learned:  Use chemical-resistant gloves otherwise it goes through thin gloves and causes seriously dry cracked skin.  I literally had to sandpaper my own crusty fingers, then apply thick lotion & socks on hands overnight to recover soft skin.

Denatured alcohol nicely removed old shellac, revealing pretty wood underneath.  Unfortunately, it also removed the black paint bands.  How unexpected!  Worse, UNDER the black bands were stubborn remnants of really ugly orange paint – which simply would not come off.  No wonder it had been covered up with black.  So here was a dilemma.

A friend recommended Soy Gel Paint Stripper, which I slathered on the paint bands.  BIG mistake.  She had no personal experience!   I learned it not only failed to remove the paint, it BLEACHED those bands of wood.  The result was blotchy, discolored wheel components.  Some parts still had bands of nice old wood between bands of ugly bleached wood with paint remnants.

I was SO terribly discouraged….  after all, the wheel itself was quite attractive with the old shellac gone.  Here you can see the spoke bobbles still have smooth remnants of bark – great character I wanted to keep.  Ditto for the interesting iron bands on the rim.  So HOW to make the wheel appealing again, yet cover the blotchy areas while keeping areas of pretty wood?  Truly, you are not seeing the wheel parts at their worst, cuz I was too sad for photos.  My dismal wheel failure was set aside – ignored for months.

wheel minus old shellac  bark on spoke bobbles

The disaster plagued me though I remained determined to revive this wheel.  There HAD to be hope.  One is compelled to think creatively.  I finally had the inspiration to apply WIDER paint bands to cover the accidentally bleached areas.  There just wasn’t another option.  I didn’t want paint on the entire wheel to hide the pretty rim & spokes.  I gave careful thought to the deep green color, feeling it would marry best with the natural brown wood. Scattered leaves were added to cover smaller bleached spots.  Vines are a whimsical touch trailing the leaves around uneven band edges.

before   Rescued wheel -after

The reassembled wheel had wee crack in hub strengthened, a few loose spokes pegged, posts shimmed, and splintered corner smoothed.  A woodturner friend is creating a trio of bobbins.  The mismatched distaff was discarded, and it’s slot will instead hold a custom carved & matching leafy-Vine spinning wheel Hook.

The advantage of (historically accurate) Milk Paint is how nicely it differs from latex paint.  Instead of a rubbery latex coat, the powdery Milk Paint is easily scuffed and lends itself well to RE-creating a vintage, worn appearance normally attained through years of use.  The natural wood already bore the marks of time, so scuffing areas of Milk Paint greatly helped to ‘age’ it and marry the two surfaces together in a harmonious manner.  A final coat of pure tung oil improves the wood and seals the paint.

Rescued wheel finish  full view

IMG_6989  IMG_6994


The Vine Wheel






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