Frank Williams Spindle Maker

A worldwide following on hand spindling

A spindle is generally a straight spike used for spinning fibres such as wool, flex, hemp, cotton, or yarn. A part of the apparatus is weighed by a whorl, a circular or spherical appendage, or by the thickening of its shape. Though its origins are uncertain, early historians believe that its invention dates back as early as 10,000 BC.

Culturally, the spindle has been associated with many mythological goddesses: Germanic Holda, Norse Frigg and Freya, Egyptian Isis, and Greek Artemis and Athena. The object has been connected with the concept of fate along with many woven threads. Think Disney’s Hercules.


“There’s quite a large following worldwide on hand spindling”


Retired Carpenter Frank Williams has made a robust business out of his hobby of crafting spindles. It stemmed from his active participation of a woodturning club. Coupled with his background in carpentry, it was only natural that Frank would craft objects out of his passion.

“Long story short, my physiotherapist is a spinner,” says Frank. “She asks, ‘So why aren’t we making this?’”

The basic products are spindles with styles and shapes in different ranges. His Etsy page, where he sells his creations online, shows a Turkish Flatback, a Russian Support, and an “Aussie” Plying Tool to name a few all in different shades of wood. Sometimes customers seek exotic timbers, which Frank imports. Each model caters to various preferences – by hand, pedal wheel, and many other ways – of spinning the fabric.

“There’s quite a large following worldwide on hand spindling,” says Frank. “The bulk of my orders are from overseas.”


“I’m surprised how in my retirement, this has taken over my life”


The demand comes from various parts of the world, mainly the USA, with countries from Europe and Asia following closely. One or two spindles are the usual quantity per order though bulk is still an option. As is the norm of being a part of the worldwide online market, it’s about getting used to the fact that the orders can come from anywhere.

“I’m surprised how, in my retirement, this has taken over my life,” says Frank with a laugh. “I fill the order and hope they have fun spinning.”

Thankfully, the demand hasn’t been overwhelming. If what’s ordered is ready in the shop, then it only takes about three to five days to ship whereas custom orders can take at least a fortnight.

Frank has occasionally gotten feedback from his customers who were more than happy to express how much they liked the product whether it’s in regard to the style or the balance. “It makes it worthwhile,” says Frank.

The Canberra Wool Expo this 19 & 20 May will be Frank’s third year of being with the Old Bus Depot. Feel free to drop by and browse his new and standard models of spindles. See his products and make an order through his online shop on Etsy.


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