Natural v's Lacquered

by Pinky Wittingslow October 12, 2018

Natural v's Lacquered

You’re probably here because you have noticed that we sell a lot of our wheels and accessories with the option to choose either a natural or lacquered finish.

Why is this?

Well it is so you can choose natural so you can stain it, finish it of paint it to your own liking. Spinning wheels tend to sit pride-of-place in living spaces and it’s nice to have them match your furniture. Or with the accessories, you might want them to match the colour of and existing wheel or loom.

You will have noticed that the natural is slightly cheaper than the lacquered version of each product and that is simply because for lacquered you are paying for that extra bit of processing done in the factory to seal and finish your Wheel or parts.

You may have bought the natural because you prefer that matt finish over the glossiness of lacquer. But take heed; wood needs to be sealed with a protective barrier to stop atmospheric temperatures and humidity degrading the timbers over time which could result in squeaking, splitting and your wheel just not working as smoothly as it should. The lacquer applied at the factory protects the finished wheels and accessories. So what can you do  to protect your Natural items?

Ashford Finishing Wax Polish

As we mentioned before you can stain your wheel or accessories with colours from the hardware store and then finish with a coat of lacquer, furniture polish or wax, you can paint your wheel or you can just apply a finishing wax to protect the timber but still keep that natural matt look. We sell a wax specifically for the job: Ashford Finishing Wax Polish.

Finishing Options

Lacquered at the factory: This will last many years and protects well against dirt and stains but over time lacquer does sometimes discolour, getting yellower over time. Bumps can chip the lacquer. It can crack and peel in extreme temperatures and humidity changes which is most of Australia.To enhance and prolong the beautiful lacquered finish, apply Ashford Finishing Wax Polish annually.

Bobbin comparisions

In the image above the TOP bobbin is a 10+year old lacquered bobbin that has taken on a golden honey hue over time. The two bottom bobbins are brand new; the left one is Natural while the right one has been lacquered at the factory.

DIY Lacquered: For a new wheel, apply finishes before you put it together making sure you don't fill grooves and holes up with lacquer that need to slot together when you construct your wheel (See tension knobs below, one old and one new, you can clearly see where the lacquer finishes to prevent the knobs getting stuck when turning). You may also consider not applying lacquer to your bobbin stem so that the leader grips better. Applying lacquer takes a bit of skill if you DIY as it is hard to get a lovely finish without drips, streaks and bubbles. At the factory it is sprayed on evenly with purpose built machinery and equipment for a perfect finish. to achieve a smooth surface at home, apply lacquer or varnish with foam rollers or foam brushes instead of a traditional bristle brush which tends to leave streaks. Apply 2 to 3 thin layers, letting each layer dry in between and lightly sand in between layers for the smoothest finish. Apply Ashford Finishing Wax Polish annually to prolong finish life.

Peg age and natural ends

On the left is a brand new Tension knob lacquered at the factory while the right knob is a 10+ year old knob also lacquered at the factory but has yellowed over time. You can see on both knobs the lacquer stops where the pegs fit into the hole on the mother of all. The natural surface has a bit better grip than lacquer for fine adjustments and also doesn't get stuck like lacquered parts tend to do sometimes.

DIY Stained: This is the best way to match existing furniture or decor in your home. You can buy stains to match your existing furniture, hardware stores usually have swatches so you can get the best match. Follow the application instructions from the stain manufacturer, then you can apply varnish or lacquer and/or Ashford Finishing Wax Polish  to seal and maintain annually.  

DIY Painted: This is a great way to really customize a wheel that is full of character and matches your own personality. You can apply paint in any way you want in order to achieve your desired finish. It is best to do this while the wheel is in parts and avoid areas of high wear like the drive band groove on the wheel, and bobbin shafts that receive a fair amount of fiction and will wear down the paint. As with lacquering and varnishing, making sure you don't fill grooves and holes up with lacquer that need to slot together when you construct your wheel. Talk to your hardware store to get help with selecting the right paint and finishes for your project. Apply Ashford Finishing Wax Polish  to seal and maintain annually. 

DIY Wax finish on Natural only: This is much quicker and easier to do that any other process. You don’t have to worry about drips and bubbling or with the finish interfering with the running of your wheel as it is a thin coat that is absorbed into the surface of the timber. With this finish we recommend applying Ashford Finishing Wax Polish  twice a year or even every 3 months by rubbing in with a clean cloth and then buffing with another clean cloth. One downside to this finish is that if you don't polish your natural equipment regularly enough, grey wear-marks or discolourations can build-up on the surface, especially on the treadles of wheels, edges of shuttles, on knobs and anywhere else you touch regularly. See the carder handles below that haven't been polished at all; after processing one home-washed alpaca fleece they have grey wear-marks.

Dirty handles on unprotected carder handles


To re-finish old wheels you will need to pull them apart if possible (this isn't always practical), sand back any stains, lacquer, varnish, paint or waxes well. You can then follow the advice above for your desired finish and finish off guessed it... Ashford Finishing Wax Polish.

It really is wonderful stuff and it keeps your wheels and other equipment as beautiful as they are useful. 

Finishing a flyer with Ashford Finishing Wax Polish

Have you ever applied a finish to your equipment? Perhaps you've painted it or done some etching/branding? We'd love to see your custom work! And if you need help and advice on maintaining your equipment drop us a line in the comments below or via social media.


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Feeling Inspired?


Love Aunt Jenny xo

Pinky Wittingslow
Pinky Wittingslow

Pinky is a serial crafter who has devoted her life to making and teaching all things textiles because she truly believes we can craft ourselves to better health and a better world.

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