How do you make a Turkish Spindle?

By Amelia © September 1, 2013

For several years I have been toying with the idea of manufacturing inexpensive Turkish spindles. Something like my Bellwether spindle, an excellent spinner at a very reasonable price. My recent post showed the current prototype, and a commenter asked how it was made. 

The most recent type I've been playing with is not unique to me. In fact, it is so easy, you may be able to make one with parts on hand. Especially teachers -- and Turkish spindles are a fun tool to teach with.

You know me, with several hundreds of spindles having gone through my hands, I want to make one that spins well. My standing collection now is probably a smidge under a hundred ... only the best or oddest remain.

Partly, it's about spindle weight. Made from No. 2 pencils, this spindle is too heavy, over 2 ounces. Made from 1/4 dowel, it is a little light at 19 grams. Great for fine spinning, but I like spindles that are an ounce or close-to.

Partly, it's about dynamics. Rim weighting -- at the ends of the arms -- is almost mandatory when shaft and arm materials are the same. I spent some fruitless time searching for 1/4 purpleheart dowel. Doesn't exist. Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but two good woodworkers and tons of google-fu failed to turn any up. I ordered every wood of 1/4 dowel there was. All of it tested out within a few grams.

Also, it's about balance. I tried chopsticks, but those I could find were warped and frustrating. Wood was too light, plastic was too heavy.

So, directions:

Tools: hacksaw (a chopsaw will do fine too if you are tool-endowed); a pencil sharpener; sandpaper; woodcarving tools (a dremel if you like) (optional).

Parts: 3-foot length of 1/4" dowel, small rubber bands or hair bands, 2 1/4" inner diameter nuts, superglue

Cut the dowel into 5 pieces: cut off a 10.5" length for the shaft, then cut the remaining length into 4 equal lengths (they will be about 6.5" long) for the arms.

Did I play with lengths? Yes. I started with a shorter shaft, but didn't really like it. I actually like the arms a little longer, but was willing to take off a 1/2" so that you could have one spindle from the standard three foot dowel length at the hardware store.

On one end of two of the shorter lengths, glue a nut. I've looked for more aesthetic items to glue on or attach but so far nothing has popped up that can be purchased for a reasonable amount. That pops the weight just over an ounce. If you glued nuts on all the shafts, you'd have a heavier spindle. I tried nut-caps, which are cuter, but they are quite a bit heavier.

Sharpen the bottom end of the shaft to a point with the pencil sharpener, and sand the top end round. You might want to carve out and sand a narrow neck just below the top as well, for better finger-flick time.

To assemble the spindle, use the rubber bands at the ends of the arm pieces. Band together the two with nuts, putting a nut at each end. Band together the two without nuts. Push the shaft between the pair of banded dowels, then push on the other pair. Set the two arm-pieces to be perpendicular to each other, to make an X. I place the arms about 2/3 down the length of the shaft.

Now you're ready to spin :-) my book Productive Spindling has directions on using Turkish Spindles, as do Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle, Wanda Jenkin's Learn to Spin on Turkish Spindles, Connie Delaney's Spindle Spinning, and others. I've posted a youTube of winding on a Turkish spindle here: and there are many YouTube videos of Turkish Spindling.

Teachers ... No need to break out the hacksaws. Although No. 2 pencils are too heavy, colored pencils are "just right" and colorful to boot. I saw a 72 pack of colored pencils at had my head swimming with the possibilities! Here is a simple colored pencil version of this spindle your students could assemble and spin:

©September 1, 2013 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at


Iris said...

Thank you so much for this idea! I love turkish spindling, and this would make it so easy to teach everything from just plain spindle spinning, all the way to ply-on-the-fly, and those neat wind-ons some spindlers do. I plan to play with this design a little, adding a small cup hook at the top (like the Majacraft Turkish spindle has).

redrumwriter63 said...

Love this! This now seems to be even easier to make than the toy wheel variety (because most people don't have toy wheels just sitting around their house), and i love the concept of turkish spindles.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

And another terrific Turkish tip: How to start a Turkish Spindle without a leader.