~Rio Grande Spinning Wheel

by Rio Grande Wheels

Designed by Rachel Brown, manufactured by Rio Grande Weavers Supply.

The Rio Grande® Wheel is the first significant improvement in spinning wheel design in many years. It combines speed, versatility and ease of operation to an extent unequalled by any other spinning wheel on the market today. The large wheel with a plain spindle driven by a treadle came about when Rachel's husband built her a wheel in the late 50s. Knowing very little about spinning wheels at the time, they came up with this design not realizing it had never been done before. This wheel has been improved over the years by Rachel and various woodworkers until in 1978 it was first marketed by woodworker Bob Easton of Santa Fe as the Rio Grande Wheel. Rachel bought the business from Bob in 1985 and now has Ron Moore build the wheels in Taos.

At first glance one might confuse this wheel with the antique great wheel. It does have a large wheel, which allows tremendous wheel-to-spindle ratios, and it has no flyer, but there the similarities end. Since the spinner sits and treadles, a quick hand movement clears the yarn from the tip of the spindle and allows winding on as fast or faster than a flyer wheel, without stopping and reversing the wheel as is done on the great wheel. (This disadvantage of the great wheel is one reason for the invention of the flyer.) Treadling is so easy that one can spin all day without tiring.

Wool spinning on the Rio Grande® Wheel is particularly efficient when the true long draw technique is used. This is a very fast technique in which the fibers are drawn into a length of loose roving and then further drawn out and spun until the desired thickness and twist is achieved. It produces about 4 feet of finished yarn at a time. And spinning from the raw fleece can be done with little loss of speed because the length of yarn that is spun in this long draft allows the spinner leeway to deal with unprepared fibers as they are being spun.

The spinning of jumbo novelty yarns of 25 yards per pound are quickly spun with no flyer interfering with the winding on.

Soft twist yarns are spun with the spinner in control, not the flyer. Extremely fine, short fibers such as cotton or cashmere can be spun into a very fine yarn with a nice soft twist. Lynn Teague, an expert cotton spinner, in a letter to Spin Off (Dec. 1989) says, "Historically, using a spindle wheel while seated has been the classic choice for handspinning cotton, not just in Asia, but in Europe and England as well. . .The Rio Grande is a superb tool for producing fine yarn from cotton or other short-staple fibers, much better than the flyer wheels that are available."...The plain "spindle assembly eliminates the take-up stress characteristic of flyer wheels..."

The tapered stainless steel spindle allows the spinning of a pound of yarn without ever stopping the wheel (if your fiber is ready for it!). Since there is no flyer assembly, there is no need to stop and move the yarn to the next hook, nor are there any critical tension or braking adjustments to be made as the bobbin fills. The size of the yarn and its twist are constantly under the spinner's direct control. The tension of the drive band is set once, quickly and simply, and forgotten.

Maintenance of the Rio Grande® Wheel is minimal. A very occasional cleaning and a drop of oil in the spindle bearings is all that is needed to keep the wheel in perfect working order.

Weavers will appreciate the additional function of the wheel as a bobbin and spool winder. The spindle will readily accept most sizes of bobbins and spools. Paper quills are easily used. Because of the wheel's high speed, it is competitive with electric bobbin winders.

A video and illustrated instruction booklet are included with the wheel. These are intended to help the spinner adapt to the new techniques of the Rio Grande® Wheel, as well as with its assembly and maintenance.

Wood: hard rock maple
Wheel rim: laminated & bent oak
Finish: Danish oil
Height: 48"
Length: 60"
Depth (including spindle): 22"
Weight: approximately 26 pounds
Wheel rim diameter: 37"
Spindle: stainless steel
Spindle length: 12"
Spindle height (from floor): 26"
Spindle and drive wheel turn on precision ball bearings.
3 pulley speeds
Wheel-to-spindle ratios are 26:1, 17:1, 11:1
Spindle speed range: 300 rpm to 3000 rpm
Total shipping weight (in 3 packages): 59 pounds

There is crating fee of $100 for this wheel. We will charge actual cost to ship. If you leave your zip code in the inquiry form, we can calculate shipping before we contact you.

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Rachel Brown
Rachel Brown
  ~Rio Grande Spinning Wheel
  ~Rio Grande Spinning Wheel
Winding yarn on a paper quill
Winding yarn on a paper quill
Can be used with plastic bobbins
Can be used with plastic bobbins
All spun on a Rio Grande Wheel
All spun on a Rio Grande Wheel
  ~Rio Grande Spinning Wheel