Robin Wheel 03-01-19 04

Robin Wheels No More

My amazing Robin Spinning Wheel had a minor breakage this past weekend.  The flexible connector from the pedal to the treadle arm broke.

Amazing Design

Gilbert Gonsalves designed a most amazing spinning wheel for his wife Robin.  She needed it to be sturdy and portable, and he went far beyond that in his design.

I was speaking with him at Rhinebeck once.  I made the mistake of comparing my two wheels (the Robin Wheel and a Louet wheel I own).  As a result, he spent five minutes showing me why his wheel is a much better wheel.  He wasn’t bragging…just showing me the differences.

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This past weekend, I was finishing up the plying of my Tommy Yates Preferred Blend yarn.  I’m hard on my spinning wheels, but plying demands more of my wheel than any other activity. So, this little piece broke (see read circle at the bottom of the photo).

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This is a cylindrical piece of flexible vinyl.  It’s 1/4″ in diameter.  The piece of vinyl is inserted into the drilled-out hole inside the treadle arm.  It’s held in place with a little tack.

I didn’t have anything that would perfectly replicate this critical piece to my spinning wheel.  It needed to be durable and flexible and allow a small nail/tack to go through it.  It also had to be 1/4″ or less in diameter.

I decided to contact Gilbert at Robin Wheels and ask if I could purchase a replacement.

Gilbert has never been easy to get in contact with.  I had no business phone or e-mail.  So I did a search and believe it or not, I found his personal phone listing.  So I called.  Fortunately, he sounded delighted to hear from me.

A Library Burns

We arranged to get my 1/4″ vinyl cylinder piece replaced.  But I also found out that due to health reasons, he’s no longer making Robin Wheels.  I was very saddened to hear this.  Even sadder, he hadn’t been able to find anyone to take over his business.

He sounded so sad to know that his design and years of expertise would not live on.  I am sad too.

It made me want to take a crash course in woodworking to see about saving his lifework somehow.  The best I could do was to let Gilbert know just how much joy his work had brought me.

Now that I’ve completely depressed my readers, I will show you the amazing work his wheel helped me accomplish.

Current Spinning

I had two bobbins with sufficient singles spun. So, I decided to ply them up.

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This hank of yarn turned out to be 3.8 ounces (or 108 grams) and approximately 500 yards.  Which is a light fingering weight yarn.  Interestingly enough, this is the perfect amount and weight from my sock knitting machine, so I may just try and make a pair of socks with this.  The blend of silk, bunny, alpaca, corriedale, merino and lamb’s wool should make an awesome sock.

Tommy Blend Spinning 02-24-19 02

So, hopefully my homespun will work in the old Gearhart.

4 comments on “Robin Wheels No More

  1. I,too, have a Robin Wheel which I purchased a few years ago when gilbert was still making them. I was spinning at a local festival yesterday and the little plastic connector piece broke! I have placed a call to him in the hope he will be able to send me a replacement piece, I love this wheel I,too, am sorry that he will no longer be making them

    1. You may want to get a supply of 1/4″ vinyl splining to replace it – eBay sells it rather cheaply. Or even cheaper still is 1/4″ vinyl tubing which you can get at your local hardware store.

  2. Huh. At the time of this writing, I was apprenticed under Gil. I had even sent him an email, asking for more time and a formal schedule in the shop, and the wheel I was building was in the last finishing stages. He even had several buyers lined up for an auction for the production wheel I was helping with.

    The apprenticeship did peter out, as he was thinking about moving, and I had no desire to move in with him (that did seem to be a sticking point).

    It was a shame, he was a good wheelwright.

  3. Love, love, love my Robin Spinning wheel and just had the same thing happen to me. Thanks to Joe Wilcox for identifying what exactly what I need to make the repair. It is so sad that Gilbert Gonsalves fine harp tradition will not be passed on to another artisan. He was so fond of his work and so willing to share it.

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