Norwegian Style Wheels

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Norman Aston of Levin made several of these in the 1970s and 80s. They are said to have been modelled on the English-made Dryad wheels. This one is made from recycled kauri and has no maker’s mark.


The second two pictures show a wheel commissioned by a Wellington spinner, who picked it up from Aston in Levin nine months later. It is made from kauri which came from an old warehouse on the Wellington Wharf. He also handmade all the pieces that go with it from the same kauri.

Aston also made a smaller upright spinning wheel.

Ken Bartlett of Christchurch began to make wheels in the Scandinavian style in 1963. This one is inscribed underneath in pokerwork “Handmade by Kenneth Bartlett Christchurch NZ May 1970.” The turning and the shape of the small treadle are almost identical to those of a Husfliden wheel from Norway.

Later he adapted the style to please his New Zealand customers, making several changes including a larger treadle that can be used with two feet.
More on Ken Bartlett and his wheels


Alan Brenkley made a few horizontal wheels. This one, while not precisely a double table wheel (as there is no lower table, and it’s scotch tension) fits better in this category than anywhere else. It may owe something to his Norwegian ancestry.
His upright wheels are here.

This Beauchamp wheel dates from before 1979. Unusually for a norwegian-style wheel, it has scotch tension and no facility for double drive.
More on Beauchamp wheels


J. W. Chapman-Taylor the architect made these wheels in his furniture workshop near the top of Molesworth St, Wellington. They were called “Lady Liverpool” wheels because the first one was made about 1915 when Lady Liverpool, wife of the Governor (the title was not changed to Governor-General till 1917) held a competition for a spinning wheel to encourage people to take up spinning for the war effort. The wheels cost six pounds each, a lot in those days, and it seems that Chapman-Taylor later altered the design so that it could be sold for five pounds. Production continued for years and in all as many as 100 may have been made.

Apparently Chapman-Taylor copied a wheel “borrowed from an experienced spinner” to create his prizewinner. It looks as though the borrowed wheel will have been a fairly standard double table (Norwegian-style) wheel, but it shows typical Chapman-Taylor workmanship: close examination, for example, reveals adze marks. The wood is jarrah, a heavy, hard Australian wood which was Chapman-Taylor’s favourite. It appears to be a double drive wheel but could also be set up with scotch tension, with one end of the brake fastened to a cord running between the tips of the maidens, a not uncommon system in earlier times.

It has been said that Aileen Stace, founder of the Eastbourne Spinners, bought the first one after the competition (she would have been in her mid-teens at the time) and eventually owned two. However, she cannot have had any spinning wheel at the beginning of the Eastbourne Spinners’ work in 1940 or 1941, as she recounts that she “borrowed a spinning wheel with some difficulty” for Mr Nicolson to copy (Twists to Treasures p.32). The archive held by the Eastbourne Historical Society contains a number of photographs taken in her studio in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and none shows a wheel like this.

These two old photographs were, until  recently, the only secure evidence we had for the appearance of Chapman-Taylor’s wheels.

Several people have helped in finding and recognising this wheel: Lyndsay Fenwick, Valerie Robinson, Margie Hatrick Smith, and Judy Siers whose splendid book The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor (Millwood Heritage Productions 2007. A summary on Chapman-Taylor can be found here) provided much information and (with her kind permission) the second early photograph.

James Colthart made wheels in his workshop for many Christchurch women. Some are scotch tension and some are double drive. It can be quite difficult to distinguish wheels by Colthart, Rudhall and Wing, and they seem to have influenced each other. Wing was initially inspired by a Rudhall wheel, and Rudhall and Colthart were neighbours in Weka St, Fendalton, Christchurch for a while in the 60s and early 70s.
More on Colthart, Rudhall and Wing Wheels.

Characteristically Colthart’s wheels have little brass knobs on the tips of the maidens and the wheel support posts. The first wheel illustrated also has brass bindings on the ends of the horizontals – the treadle bar, the support that runs between the upper table and the wheel posts, and even the flyer tips. The handle in the end of the table does not turn and there is no obvious way to adjust the drive band tension, though this would seem to be necessary given the wide range of ratios available. The little ring visible in the centre of the flyer is the end of a pin which is pulled to release the flyer from the spindle.

Some Colthart double-table wheels are a little different: the wheel above, for example, has 3 posts supporting the upper table. The one at right, made in 1972, has 4. This second one (unlike the first) has a screw that moves the mother-of-all away from the wheel to adjust drive band tension.
Mr Colthart also made upright wheels.

Joe Gibson of Seatoun, Wellington, made this norwegian-style wheel in 1976. It is made mostly of rimu, and stamped under the table “No 34 JWG 76”. His characteristic thistles can be clearly seen at the top of the maidens and the posts.
More on Joe Gibson and his wheels

H.Henderson made this wheel, and judging by the number on the attached plate, at least 14 others. We don’t know where he lived. This one is double drive. The two wooden knobs on the MOA hold the maidens in place, and must be removed to turn the maidens and remove the flyer for bobbin-changing.

Large Mecchia was the name given to these double-table wheels by Waikato Turnery in Hamilton. Like the saxony-style “ Small Mecchia” they have a distinctive bobbin-holder suspended under the table, but this is sometimes missing. The elaborate left leg, and the slope of the table (unusual in a double-table wheel) can, however, provide instant identification.

The original information that would have come with a Mecchia wheel can be downloaded here.

Mitzi wheels by Rappard of Dunedin were named for Maria (Mitzi) Rappard. They are very graceful, and smaller than many Norwegian style wheels. Each has an image on the treadle: this one has a tulip. Mitzi does not appear in Rappard catalogues till after 1981. In 1986 the price is $380.

The original information that would have come with a Mitzi wheel can be downloaded here.
More on Rappard and Rappard wheels

Reg Rudhall was a Christchurch maker in the 1960s. His wheels were previously attributed to Wing but we now know that Wing did not use the copper binding at the ends of the treadle bar and the horizontals from the upper table where they join the wheel post.

These bindings are characteristic of many but not all Rudhall wheels. The second wheel, shown at right, is securely attributed to Rudhall (it was passed down in the family) but has no metal bindings, and its turnings are different. Apparently Mr Rudhall also made upright wheels but one has not yet been identified with certainty.
More on Rudhall, Colthart and Wing Wheels

Charlie Tyler of Korokoro near Wellington had at least one norwegian style among the eight basic ones he made: this particular model can be distinguished by the unusual shape of the upper table, though each individual wheel was slightly different. This wheel’s name is Ariana, and it was made in 1970. He also made saxony and upright wheels.
More on Charlie Tyler and his wheels

Sidney Wing of Redcliffs, Christchurch, made norwegian-style wheels as well as a popular little upright model. Several wheels formerly attributed to Wing are now thought to have been made by Rudhall, because of their copper bindings at the ends of the treadle bar. The bobbin-holder, which can be swung out for plying, is a distinguishing feature of Wing and many Rudhall wheels. Sometimes it is missing but the rod on which it pivoted remains.

The detail photos show how a little metal flap is lifted to allow the back end of the spindle to slide backwards, so that the flyer can be removed for bobbin changing.
More on Wing, Colthart and Rudhall


Woodcraft Industries (not to be confused with other users of the name “Woodcraft”) was a small company run by Harry Rees at Spring Grove, Wakefield (near Nelson). Mr Rees was a skilled wood turner, who said he liked to make things that were useful and not just pretty.

In the 1970s he made a number of these, copies of the English Dryad wheel with some modifications. Some were pine (like the one pictured) and some mahogany. He also made an upright, called the Adam. All his wheels have a distinctive turned ball in the centre of each leg. Some of the later ones have a brass flyer.