Building a Praying Mantis

Woodturning columnist Ernie ConoverIn May 2016, two of my friends — Michael Holcomb, a collector of spinning wheels, and Ed Rowe, who builds and repairs spinning wheels — stayed at our house for a week while we built three reproductions of a wheel in Michael’s collection: a great wheel built in Brantford, Ontario, about 1900. Most great wheels are built on a narrow board (the table), but the Brantford wheel has all of the parts mounted on a turned column that looks somewhat like a canon barrel. As a turner and a former artillery officer, this intrigued me. I broke into my wood stash for the 3-1/2″ x 54″ stock for the table and all the other massive parts of this wheel. Its aesthetic depends on massiveness.

Brantford praying mantis spinning wheel

Ed, who’s also a fine blacksmith, had a bending form to steam the wheel rims and also hand-forged the nails to attach them to the spokes. I turned a copy of a bat head, also in Michael’s collection, that was made by a German immigrant to Texas around the same period as the wheel. During the week we nicknamed this wheel the “praying mantis” for its looks. A daily summary of our six days of fun can be seen in a YouTube video I made by clicking here.

Ernie Conover turned bat head

This is the last week of National Woodworking Month, so please do keep your project photos and descriptions coming in! We look forward to publishing them on Woodworker’s Journal’s website in the near future!

Ernie Conover
Woodturning Columnist

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