Meet Alexandr McIntosh

He is a handsome fellow, showing very few wrinkles for his age, considering he was born in 1867.  He is of slight build and heavy for his actual size, which would be the dense hardwood that makes up the bulk of his body.   Although he may be heavy, he is delicate at the same time.  Lovingly carved spokes on his drive wheel, curvacious turnings on the maidens and legs, remind me of Marilyn Monroe…perhaps “He” is a “She” after all.  Ah…there you go, I have found her new name.  Marilyn.

I discovered Marilyn when I was least expecting her.  I usually cruise the kijiji listings for spinning wheels just to see what is out there.  Mostly large CPW’s (Canadian Production Wheels) as well as European and Scandinavian models that are quite striking in form and function and liberally scattered throughout Ontario.  But a couple weeks ago, I stumbled across the McIntosh wheel which happened to be located in the city next door to me.  I answered the ad immediately and later that morning, picked her up so she could join the rest of the herd.

She now joins the stable with Beth, Blanch and The Grand Dame.  Unfortunately, when Marilyn entered the household, someone had to go.  Blanch was the logical choice as she was the most recent acquisition, but her large size was a hindrance in our downsized existence.  With a wee bit of sadness, I let Blanch go to a new home, to someone that will appreciate her quirks and put her through her paces to spin some fine yarn.

A brief history lesson on McIntosh wheels:  Alexandr McIntosh (not a typo, the “e” doesn’t appear on his maker’s mark) and his family, came to the East Coast of Canada in the 1700-1800’s.  Father and son (presumed son, information is sketchy about  the family lineage) made spinning wheels in Nova Scotia.  A lot of really good looking wheels of that era were made use of every day.  Prized for their well-built construction and small stature, they were very popular wheels along with F. Young, McDonald’s et al.  Seems a good amount of wheel makers came from Scotland seeking their fortunes in the New Land.  A lot of these wheels then moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario as they were easily transportable due to their size and the ease of which the drive wheel came off.  Hence, why there seems to be a good amount of them here.  This one came from a well known collector just outside Hamilton, and when he turned ill, his collection was sold off.  The woman who purchased this wheel had the intention of learning to spin, but upon realizing it wasn’t for her, she decided to sell the wheel.  My lucky day indeed!

20160404_112200_medium2Marilyn needed an intense spa session when she first came home.  After a good bath in Murphy’s Oil Soap followed up my 3 liberal coats of Howards Feed n’ Wax (marvelous stuff, can’t say enough about this product), she now shines and doesn’t look a day over 100.

DSC04364 DSC04369Hubby worked his magic in reaming out of the bobbin and cleaning up the pitted flyer rod, which he has had to do on all my wheels, he’s a definite keeper.  She now spins like the day she was born and its’ time to get down to business and see what gorgeous yarns come from this fine example of old Scottish workmanship.

Now, about cruising kijiji for spinning wheels, I think I can stop looking  😉


20 thoughts on “Meet Alexandr McIntosh

  1. So my question is…. Do the different wheels really make that much difference in the yarns you get? And what a beautiful transformation indeed. That’s a piece of furniture now as well as useful.

    • For the purpose of the 3 wheels I have, no. All 3 will spin fine or thicker yarns, but thicker only up to the diameter of the orifice. There are bulky spinners for bulky yarns and ‘art yarn’. What I did want was one for the condo and one to keep up north. The Spin-Well (square shaped wheel) is my wheel for plying yarns on as the bobbins are a lot larger and therefore hold more yardage. So each will have their own specific purpose, albeit they will all spin yarn the same way 🙂 Long answer I know 🙂 and it certainly is a gorgeous piece of furniture now. 🙂

  2. I have an identical spinning wheel marked Is McIntosh 1874

    I am hoping to find a buyer for it. Can you offer any advice?

    • Hi Elinor

      Depending on your location and demographics it shouldn’t be that difficult to find a buyer. Best advice is to clean and polish the wheel up so she sparkles and take lots of photos, especially of the flyer from different angles. I habeen successful selling wheels and looms on Kijiji, price the wheel fairly and it should sell. If you have a guild near you, ask around if anyone is Interested in buying it.

      Also, if you are a member on Ravelry (, there is a marketplace to sell fiber items there as well as Facebook fiber equipment groups to list the wheel as well.

      List the great attributes of the wheel and I can’t stress enough about the importance of good photos. Good luck and I think it’s amazing that you messaged me about your wheel, I had not seen another one since I had mine

  3. Hello Elinor, A lady in one of my facebook groups just got an Alexandr McIntosh and she is trying to find out which way the whole turns to remove it from the flyer. She says it is stuck and she doesn’t want to put to much pressure the wrong way. So does your whorl spin righty tighty, lefty loosy like most screws and jar lids or lefty tighty, righty loosy, like most spinning wheel whorls?

  4. Hi Deb,
    I found you when I was doing some research on my newly inherited 1876 McIntosh Spinning wheel. It was my great grandmothers from Mabou, Cape Breton N.S.
    It’s missing the bobbin, I was hoping you could guide me in the best direction to find a replacement. I’m thinking about taking up spinning as a new hobby.
    I may just call mine Marilyn to. If that’s okay.

    • HI Deb!

      THanks for your message, if you are on Facebook, look up Bobbin Boy. He is in the U.S. and the only great source for making new bobbins for old wheels. You would have to send him your flyer so he can make new ones. Not sure on cost, but he has a huge following and comes highly recommended.

      Congratulations on acquiring your heirloom! And by all means, go ahead and use the name 😉 I ended up selling my McIntosh as I have 4 wheels as it is and it wasn’t seeing the love. I also have 4 floor looms…whole other rabbit hole! Lol. Spinning is easy to learn, and if you already knit, we’ll, it’s a boon to use handspun yarn.

      Best of luck with your wheel!

  5. Hello Deborah,
    I have recently been given my grandma’s Spin-well. I know 0 about spinning. I wonder if there is a part missing as the flyer sits very lightly on the tension device, or does the tension of the string on the wheel hold it in place? No manual, I understand. Is there a special way to put the string on the wheel? Are there Spin well owners in Sask I could contact? Thanks Carol

    • Hi Carol

      First off, congratulations on obtaining your grandmother’s Spinwell! These truly are workhorse wheels and I am lucky to have 2 of them. The flyer rod sits in a little groove on the tension tablet, which is a sliding piece of wood secured by a wing nut. Once you place the flyer rod in place, the driveband does keep it secured. To install a new driveband, take a 6 foot long piece of kitchen twine or sturdy string and wrap it around the drive wheel once, then around again (like a figure 8) and wrap it around the end of the bobbin. This is called a double drive tension. Once you wrap the string around both the wheel and the bobbin end, snug up the 2 ends and tie a sturdy knot. Make sure to have the sliding tension tablet located about halfway of its range before putting the string on. When the driveband is on correctly, you increase the tension on the string by loosening the wingnut and sliding the tablet up, then tighten the wingnut.

      If you sew, knit or crochet and are on Ravelry (, I moderate a group in the forums dedicated to SpinWell owners. There are folks from all over Canada and the U.S. that own these wheels and you may find someone near enough to you to help you figure out the wheel. SpinWell wheels started in 1930 in Sifton, MB and but was sold to MadeWell in the early 80’s and subsequently went out of business shortly after.

      If you join our Ravelry group here: we would love to be able to help you out. 🙂

  6. Hi. I have an Alexr McIntosh 1824 spinning wheel that I have had for many years. Thinking of selling. Recommendation on how to price? Thanks.

    • Hi June. There are several factors that play a role in the pricing of antique wheels. First would be condition, is it in great condition? Good? So-So? Also, geographical location of where the wheel is also good parameter. Where I live (Northern Ontario and the whole Province is pretty much the same) doesn’t put a high price on antique wheels. I actually sold my McIntosh wheel about 5 yrs ago for $375.00 (CDN). Different areas of the country (countries) will set a base price an then condition will then be factored in. In areas of the U.S., the East Coast tends to see higher prices, specifically the northeast. But I have also seen higher prices in the South-west. I would suggest doing to research on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc to see what antique wheels around the same age as your have sold for (or what they are asking for them) and then go from there. Antique wheels (and other fiber related tools like looms, etc.) are very much like real estate, location, location, location is the first thing to consider when pricing one. Hope this helps and good luck! 🙂

  7. Hello I just purchased a spinning wheel which I was told was a country but then found out it is actually a Macintosh with 14 spokes in the wheel! Apparently this determines who son or father produced it! I am so happy with my girl!

    • I am thrilled you love your Macintosh wheel! Sorry for the late reply, life has been hectic lately. I sold my Macintosh wheel several years ago due to downsizing and still miss it. But I do have another to use which is just as old as the Alexandr and from Nova Scotia. Happy Spinning! 🙂

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