I’ve become such a collector of spindles that it seemed appropriate to show them off here, as well as give them a review from the perspective of an experienced spinner. I’ve also been learning a tremendous amount about different types of wood, and while I’m not in the market for my own lathe (yet…), I’ll be adding some info about the wood(s) in each spindle as well.
I’ll start with one I received in the mail today–a Mini Turkish (measuring about 3.5″ x 4.5″) by Enid Ashcroft. I’d heard nothing but superlatives about Enid’s spindles, both in terms of their usefulness and their beauty. I particularly love her “boardwalk” designs that incorporate squares and rectangles of differently patterned woods in eye-catching combinations. One came up for sale and I snatched it up:
The shaft is redheart (which came with a warning to keep it out of light as much as possible, or else it will fade), while the arms are a mix of redheart, bocote, and spalted beech. (I’m also learning quite a lot about different woods and woodworking through this little habit of mine–“spalted” refers to a particular type of discolouration caused by fungi, usually presenting in wavy dark lines).
If I can find one flaw, it’s in the finishing of the lower arm. My other Turks have all been nicely sanded down around the shaft holes, but this one shows a few splinters sticking up. A minor quibble, but I was surprised given how highly regarded her spindles are.
As I mentioned above, redheart will fade from its starting colour (anything from true red to pink) to a more brownish colour with exposure to UV light. Check out this little experiment to see the change. Redheart (Erythoxylon mexicanum) is a hardwood grown in Mexico as well as a few countries in South America, and is highly sought after because of its colour, despite its vulnerability to sunlight. Fun facts: the nameErythoxylon literally means “red wood”, and the genus is also home to the plant from which cocaine is derived (don’t think you can get high off redheart, though, unless you’re really enamoured with the colour).
Bocote (Cordia eleagnoides) is also a South American hardwood, and is apparently becoming more popular for turning small items due to its highly figured wood (it’s rather a small tree, so best suited to more diminutive items such as spindles, handles, and pens rather than larger pieces of furniture). Other trees in the Cordia genus bear edible fruits, which are apparently a bit gluey (one is nicknamed “snotty gobbles”… yum).
Beech can refer to any number of deciduous trees in the genus Fagus, and if you live in the northern hemisphere there’s a good chance you’ve come across them whether you realize it or not. Spalted beech refers to beech wood that has been attacked by fungus (that’s what the term “spalted” means) and while it may not be great for the tree, it can create some pretty fantastic designs in the wood, if dried before it gets too soft and broken down. The process can be encouraged in dead trees but to get the stunning wood effects you have to arrest it at the right time, before the whole thing rots away. Who knew fungus could be so beautiful? (Don’t you mycologists all chime in now…)
Alright, time for a bit of spinning!