I live in Southern Alberta where the winds are wild and there is not a spinning wheel shop to be found. The nearest shop is a 2 hour drive each way so I did most of my research into choosing a spinning wheel online. I found many, many positive reviews but not many that spoke to negative aspects. I thought I would post a few things that i’ve noticed with my wheels that you may not realise while trying out a wheel for a few minutes in a LYS (along with a few good things so you don’t all think i’m a terrible person).
My first wheel was an Ashford Joy DT that I bought used. I had never tried spinning and didn’t want to invest a lot of money just in case it wasn’t my idea of a good time. I got a fantastic deal and have been mostly happy with it.
The good: It’s light, folds up quite small, and is super portable. It has great ratios for a travel wheel. Very, very, very easy to treadle. This is a fantastic wheel for beginners.
The bad: Since purchasing this wheel a year ago, 4 of my 8 bobbins have come apart. The bulky flyer vibrates quite a lot and if you ply too quickly it can catch on the brakeband and destroy the springs on either side (I’ve replaced them at least 5 times, only about $2 to fix but a pain none the less). It’s quite low. I’m fairly tall so having a low wheel makes me hunch over to try to get level with the orifice. It does make a bit more noise than a sidekick but not enough to be bothersome.
Over all i’m quite happy with my Joy. It’s a bit slow, I havn’t had it off the highest whorl in ages, but the convenience and portability makes it worth it.
My second wheel was a Schatt Matchless DT. My husband bought me this wheel for Christmas and i’ve only been spinning on it for a few months. I don’t particurlarly like this wheel, we don’t get along at all so i’m a little biased towards it, okay maybe a lot. I also had a terrible experience with my dealer which hasn’t helped matters. That being said a lot of people love their Matchless and use nothing else, so take this all with a grain of salt.
The good: It’s fast. Not crazy fast but most spinners will not outgrow the high speed kit for this wheel. It’s tall. This makes it less portable but I have much better posture when I have to spin up to something rather than leaning down. It’s quiet. Even on the high speed whorls, it’s still very quiet. It has different tension modes. I use DD for spinning and had the most luck with ST for plyng.
The bad: There is A LOT of adjusting when it comes out of the box. It took me 2 weeks of phonecalls to Schacht (who was very helpful) and a drive to my dealer to get it working and i’m still not sure it’s quite right. The quick change bobbins are not quick change AT ALL. Please, please, please, when you try this wheel CHANGE THE BOBBIN. This alone would have made me not purchase the Matchless. You have to unlock the orifice, take off the band/s, pull out the flyer, take off the whorl, take off the bobbin, and do it all again to put a new bobbin on. I’ve also dropped the flyer a few times during this process (i’m very clumsy, you may not have this issue). If you want to use the bulky flyer, you have to go through the entire bobbin change as well as unscrew the front maiden, try to thread the bolt back in through a hole in the side of the maiden that you can’t see, make sure it’s tightened enough, and put it all back together. You also need several different drive bands if you want to use the high speed set and the bulky flyer. And don’t forget that the drive bands wear out quite quickly. Schacht recommends changing them every 12 hours or so (mine last about 2000-3000 yds). Also, the bulky flyer is less than fantastic, a lot less. It makes a lot of noise, doesn’t have very strong take up, and has VERY heavy treadling (I cannot ply over 200 yards with it, on my Joy I can ply 1000 yds with ease). It feels like an afterthought when you spin with it. The treadling is also very heavy with the regular flyer. Try to sit and spin for at least 10 minutes to get a feel for it. It doesn’t bother me unless i’m using the bulky flyer but for someone with joint problems, this could be a big issue. This is also more of a problem with the high speed whorls, if you don’t spin fast, you probably won’t have an issue with the treadling.
I don’t hate the Matchless, I do still use it for 99% of my spinning. I just think if I had known about some of these issues going in, I may have been able to find a wheel better suited to me.
My last wheel was the Hansencrafts Minispinner. Not a lot of bad things to say about this wheel, more just things to consider before purchasing.
The good: As far as espinners go, this baby is quiet. It’s fast. It can handle just about anything you throw at it. There’s no treadling so plying is a breeze. It can spin any thickness of yarn thanks to the infinetly variable speed.
The bad: It’s not that quiet. Don’t get me wrong, if you need an espinner, I would hands down choose the Hansen. I don’t “need” an espinner (meaning I have no physical limitations preventing me from treadling) so I would rather use a good quiet wheel for general spinning. I found I had to turn up the tv if I was plying with it. That being said I use it with the WW on the highest speed (the WW makes a bit of noise and the motor gets louder the harder it has to work) so it’s “tapped out” for volume. The WW does not work fantastic for thin yarns. They have a lace flyer for this. If you make mostly lace yarns you will most likely need this (though many people happily use the WW for everything). I’ve havn’t tried it because I bought my epsinner specifically for plying and don’t have a huge need for it, yet.
And those are my wheels. Now to put everything into perspective…I sell handspun, this means I spin more than most people (about 2-3 hours a day, on average). The bobbins on the Joy lasted thousands and thousands of yards before they started having issues, I also don’t store them very well (in a drawer, all mixed together). There’s a good chance you won’t have this problem. Since getting my Matchless, I barely ever take out my Joy. I prefer the Matchless because it’s faster (this is incredibly important when you spin for profit), taller, and quieter. The time to change the bobbin is more of a problem for me than most people because I change it everyday, sometimes several times a day. Despite the problems I have had, the wheel can spin and spin well. I am still looking for a wheel that’s a better fit for me, but in the meantime, I happily use my Matchless everyday. However, I don’t use the bulky flyer, EVER. I spin because I enjoy it and when that bulky flyer goes on, I don’t enjoy it, at all. That’s assuming I can get the darn thing on. I ply exclusively on my Hansen. I can sit on the floor, on my couch, on my table if that’s what i’m in the mood for. I don’t have to sit in the same position the whole time so I don’t get pains in my shoulders or knees and my bum doesn’t fall asleep. The Hansen is the first thing i’ve bought in a long time where I thought, wow, this is exactly what I expected.