After talking to many starry-eyed spinners at the Estes Park Wool Festival, we bought the new Schact spinning wheel model, the Sidekick. Everyone we spoke to loved this wheel, and though I only spun on it for 20 minutes, I liked it well enough. I’ve had more time to get to know it now, so as promised, here is a review.
Keep in mind, as I said when I reviewed my Kromski Prelude, my pros and cons may not be your pros and cons. What I love about my wheels, others would absolutely hate.
- Portable – If portability is important to you, then this is your wheel. The treadles (peddles) fold up, the maidens (the posts at the top that hold the bobbin and flier) fold down, and the flier stows under the left treadle. It has a carry strap that fits over your shoulder and a slim enough profile that you can tuck it under your arm like a purse. I’m told it even fits in the overhead compartments on the airplane!
- Small – I have a small house, and I appreciate the tiny footprint of the Sidekick. It is arranged vertically and takes up very little floor space when set up. If I ever stop using it daily, I’ll fold it up and tuck it behind a bookshelf.
- Heavy – This may seem counter-intuitive, but I appreciate that weight of this wheel. It doesn’t scoot across the floor when you treadle, and it has enough inertia to turn smoothly. It feels like a bigger, more robust wheel than it looks like.
- Flexible – You can get 6 whorls for Schact wheels, though I’m not sure which are recommended for the Sidekick. Each whorl has two grooves, which are like gears on a bike. That’s 12 different speeds, from very fast for super fine yarns to painfully slow for the bulky art yarns that have like, I dunno, nuts and bolts spun into them.
- Locally made – This is only true for Coloradoans I suppose, but I really like that Schact is located only 45 minutes away, in Boulder, CO. Not only am I supporting a local business, but it’s super easy to get replacement parts. Schact wheels are the norm in this area, especially the ladybug (which I dislike, but that’s another story), so nearly every yarn store carries the standard parts for them.
- Less oil – Gawd, I had no idea how annoyed I was with the oil situation. There are no leather parts on this wheel that need oil, and only two places that do need it. The treadles always peddle smoothly, the bobbin always turns properly. Black, gunky oil all over everything and fighting to get the yarn to wind on because I’ve forgotten to oil the wheel every 20 minutes are things of the past. I don’t miss them.
- Complicated design – There are a ton of engineered pieces and moving parts on this wheel. There are friction-less ball bearings and little pieces that convert the forward/backward movement of the wheel to left/right movement for the flier. I’m afraid this will translate later to more repairs, and more difficult repairs. I certainly won’t be able to do them myself, as I can on the other two wheels.
- Modern – It’s beautifully made, with lovely curves and smooth surfaces, truly a work of art in every sense, but I just can’t love the modern look. There are other, even more strange looking wheels on the market, which I like even less, but I do miss that “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale spinning wheel look.
- Complicated to set up – I’ll admit that I was surprised by how few adjustments it needs once it is set up. But setting it up the first time, making sure all the pieces are in the right spot, is daunting. If I didn’t have a fairly intimate knowledge of the mechanics of spinning wheels, it would have been very difficult.
- Complicated to re-set up- Breaking it down to travel and putting it back together again afterwards does take a while. But this is a quibble, really.
- You also have to remove the drive band, the scotch brake band, and the whorl to get the bobbins on and off the flier. It’s kind of annoying, but they’ve designed it so you can put the bands over the maidens while you remove the flier, so you shouldn’t have to readjust your tension when you put it all back together again.
In sum: It’s a true spinner’s wheel, engineered to be flexible and portable, and designed with an eye for ease of use, though the mechanics are less than intuitive. They’ve thought of everything, from a particularly accessible place for your orifice hook to hang, to a the perfect length for the carry strap.
Also, and this is so random I didn’t know whether to call it a pro or a con, but it sings. It doesn’t creak and clack like most wheels, it has this very light whirring hum, like the sound of a crystal wine glass when you run your finger around the rim.