Fixing Blunted Supported Spindle Tips

I’ve read online recently that some people who spin supported avoid spindles with wooden tips because the tips blunt with use. This is true, but wooden spindle tips are also very easy to fix. Mike and I put together this quick tutorial on how to re-sharpen a blunted tip on wooden supported spindles, using two of my saddest looking Russian lace spindles.

If you want to skip straight to the tutorial, jump to 2:40.

The supplies you will need to fix your spindle tips are: 100 grit, 220 grit, and 320 grit sandpaper; quadruple ought (0000) steel wool; and beeswax or shellac-wax mixture for the finish. If you are handy (or know someone who is), you probably have ready access to these supplies. The actual process of fixing the spindle tips takes mere seconds.

If you would rather read than watch, here is the full transcript:

TJ: Hey, everybody! This is TJ King. I’m the host of The Peahen’s Ponderings podcast. In this video, Mike King of the Spanish Peacock is going to share with you how to fix a blunted wooden supported spindle tip.

There’s been a lot of discussion online recently about the best kind of tip for supported spindles: wood or metal or glass. Personally, I primarily use wooden supported spindles so I can’t weigh in on the question of whether one type of tip is better or worse than the other. What I did notice though is that a lot of folks claiming they never use the wooden spindle tips because they get blunted over time, and they feel like that negatively impacts the spindle’s performance.

From a technical perspective, you could definitely say that a flattened spindle tip would slow down the speed and momentum of the spindle in motion because by definition it’s increasing that surface area friction between the spindle and its bowl. In practice, I’ve never noticed that blunted spindle tips impacted the performance more than other factors, such as the spindle’s balance.

To be honest, I’m probably harder on my spindle tips than most spinners, because I have a very bad habit of dropping the spindle slightly. When I flick the supported spindle it’s almost always a little bit up in the air. And once I let go after the flick, there’s this little “tink” as it falls and hits the spindle bowl. That extra drop, however small it may be, further blunts that spindle tip.

Another factor in the sharpness of a spindle tip is the hardness of the wood. So in this particular picture, you see here there’s a holly Russian lace spindle on the upper left, a zebrawood on the upper right, bloodwood on the lower right, and cocobolo on the lower left. And you can clearly see that the holly spindle is much, much more blunted than the other spindles. And this is a factor of holly being the softest wood shown in this picture.

Also, if your spindle bowl is harder than the wooden tip of your spindle, you’ll see additional wear and blunting of the tip over time. For instance, a ceramic bowl is going to be inherently harder than a wooden bowl would be.

Spindle tips can also get blunted if the spindle accidentally gets dropped on the floor.
Luckily, the Spanish Peacock knows how to fix spindle tips, in just a few seconds, with just a few supplies. Today, he’s going to share this information with you too, and now nobody needs to be afraid of supported spindles with wooden tips.

Mike: So a real quick lesson on how to fix the tip of a spindle. I use three different grits of sandpaper. Use 100 grit, 220 grit, and 320 grit. And finish with a little bit of quadruple ought steel wool.

So depending on how bad the damage is – on this one (low enough?) – it’s a little bit messed up. Basically you take your sandpaper, and just pinch it on the tip.  And then rotate it back and forth on your thigh. It doesn’t take a lot with the heavier grit sandpaper; it chews it up pretty quick. Get it down to almost a point. Switch over to the 220, 240, 260 grit – whatever you have. Same kinda thing. Just back and forth until you get the tip you are looking for. Some people like sharp, some people like a little bit duller. Go to your 300 plus grit, 320, 400 – it doesn’t really matter. At this point you’re just trying to take out the scratches. Trying to take out, make a little blend line. After that’s done, take your steel wool. Polish up your tip. After that you can use beeswax or some kind of shellac and wax mixture to finish it.

This one: a little bit rougher. Looks like it actually hit the floor. Same thing. Start with your 100 grit… down to a 220… 300 plus. The blend line isn’t even near the tip. It’s further up on the head.

[And then the audio died, so we don’t know what he said at the very end! Probably something like, “And there you have it!”]

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