Spin-off collected names and contact information of custom wheel makers. I sent them two Washingtonian makers ... Betty Roberts (see this post) and Doug Dodd.
Added 10 March 2009: I've been hearing that Mr. Dodd's website is down. His contact information was published in Spin-Off's Spinning Wheel Round-up, available from here. Click on "Download" there, not the Adobe PDF icon. You do have to make an account to get to that page, but that's free, and you needn't be a subscriber. I don't want to put it on this page, to save him from unwanted spam-bot mail.
Added 10 March 2010: Jon has taken over making the Pocket Wheel. His new website (linked above) is http://www.pocket-wheel.com/home.
Doug's Pocket Wheel had a big thread on the spindlers Yahoo group recently, I suppose because it is such a portable wheel, at just over 6 pounds.
I own one of these -- or I should say, my daughter has claimed it for her spinning. It's a great little travel wheel, very light. It has its own flyer/bobbin -- the shaft is similar diameter to Ashford shafts (smaller than Majacraft shafts), but the bobbin is larger than Ashford's, it fits a good 4++ ounces on it -- I have 4 oz. of about 20 wpi singles on mine (don't tell DD -- I borrowed it for a cafe craft night) and it isn't full yet. The flyer is released by twisting the orifice (which is shaped a bit like a padlock -- big metal sturdy at the bottom, delta opening at the top, more delta than the usual U of a padlock, though) -- it's a pressure screw, not an actual screw. You give it 1/2 a rotation and then the flyer comes off, similar to the Fricke style (though they have a pressure screw separate from the orifice itself). Then you take the bobbin off the shaft.
You can take it apart -- the treadles and stand come off, and it fits in a grocery-bag sized tote. I just keep it together and use my wool-show-buyin' tote for it, or carry it as-is.
It is a similar idea to the Hitchhiker in that it is a direct-drive wheel. Rather than changing out a set-location wheel for the ratio, though, you move the drive wheel up and down a metal rod to set the ratio -- so there isn't a "set list" of ratios, just anything you care to get, between a minimum and maximum (about 3:1 and 12:1, in the standard model). He's working on a new model that goes up to 15:1, as well.
And I think they're showing up more on blogs and other places, as he gets more made and out there. Mine was #7, purchased last year :-) I guess you'd call me an early adopter.
The Pocket Wheel isn't bobbin-led, rather, it's direct drive -- it uses scotch tension. A wheel rotates the flyer shaft (not the bobbin) by rolling against the big wheel that your treadle rotates. Louets' basic wheels are bobbin led, with a drive band that goes around the wheel and the bobbin. There is very strong draw-in on wheels like that. The Pocket behaves just like the scotch-tension, flyer-driven wheel that it is.
The Scotch tension is around the back of the bobbin, so it's pretty hidden by the bobbin in pictures of the wheel that try to take it all in.
Comparing the Pocket Wheel side-by-side to the Hitchhiker (thanks for asking, Jessie!):
Hitch: direct drive, 3 ratios of 7, 9, and 13:1 by changing out the drive wheel
Pocket: direct drive, officially any ratio from 3.5:1 to 10:1 (or so, mine goes a bit higher) by sliding the drive wheel along a shaft.
Hitch: flyer rod/hooks comes out and stores in the foot.
Pocket: flyer stays in place generally (when you remove it, just the flyer comes off, the flyer rod (aka spindle) stays on the wheel. You can undo the nuts that hold the treadles on and take off the treadles, stand, and flyer for more compact "tote-bag" storage.
Hitch: about 9 pounds
Pocket: about 6 pounds
Hitch: on-board bobbin storage
Pocket: no on-board bobbin storage
Hitch: standard Ashford bobbins, has been modified by Woollywormhead to take an
Ashford Jumbo Flyer.
Pocket: has its own bobbins; Ashford and Lendrum bobbins also fit. To use Victoria or Majacraft bobbins, you need an eight dollar sleeve that fits around the rod; Doug has them available, and I believe you can find them at the hardware store too. I expect you could ask for one to be made with a larger flyer to fit their plying bobbins, but I've found this one to be a healthy size. The rod is usually too short to fit Schacht bobbins, but you could request a longer flyer rod (since it is a custom wheel...)
Hitch: bobbin size about 2-3 oz of fiber generally
Pocket: bobbin size about 4-5 oz of fiber generally
Hitch: hooks on flyer arm (standard Ashford style)
Pocket: slider on flyer arm (like Majacraft)
Hitch: tube orifice; has an on board orifice hook
Pocket: delta orifice; no orifice hook needed
Hitch: screw-in flyer (fair amount of twisting ... I have RSI, so this is something I take note of generally)
Pocket: tighten/loosen bolt for removing/placing flyer
Both: present bobbin at an upward 45-degree angle, about the same height (my knees) if memory serves me okay.
Hitch: either left-treadle or right-treadle.
Pocket: double treadle. You wouldn't want to wear a long skirt and spin on it ... but I haven't had and problems in my jeans.
Both have their own particular treadle considerations ... I find with any wheel, I need to learn its rhythm, and then I can simply treadle without thinking about it. The Pocket is fairly similar to my Majacraft, I've also heard it compared to a Jensen Tina. The Hitchhiker is heel-toe like the Journey Wheel.
Hitch: standard footman leather (I think) connector of treadle to drive wheel.
Pocket: has bearings that ride back and forth under the treadle, no footman connector used.
Hitch: standard woods used.
Pocket: variety of woods used ... he takes some requests, but mostly is re-purposing woods. I love the patchwork of mine, but I realize others like consistency.
Hitch: $278 standard with 3 bobbins
Pocket: $450 standard with 3 bobbins
These are current prices as I write this, "subject to change" as they say.
Now, disclaimers ... I have only ever really played on a Hitchhiker; maybe filled 1-2 bobbins, and took some videos of how to put one together and take one apart. So it's not a wheel I have studied in depth. I've used my (DD's) pocket wheel a fair bit more.
My new pocket wheel has just arrived!! (August, 2008). Pictures on flickr here!!
Whew! Let me know if there's some attribute I've missed ... I'd be happy to expand this review. And if you have blogged about your pocket wheel, please post a link in the comments of this post so the world of spinning blog readers can find out more! Thanks!
posted 24 May 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/ Last edited March 10, 2010.