When Tom and I were at San Juan National Historical Park, I learned how to spin on a spinning wheel and learned the story of the weasel. A weasel is a yarn winder. It is six feet around and has a gear that makes a popping noise when it has completed 40 revolutions. Children had the chore of winding the yarn their mothers spun, and they sang the song “Pop Goes the Weasel” to lessen the tedium.
As we move around from one living history assignment to another, Tom decided the weasel was an important part of the story. Most parks will have a spinning wheel, but San Juan Island was the first place we saw a weasel. So Tom wanted me to get one that I could carry along.
We found several weasels on eBay and at antique stores. The ones in good working order were more money than we wanted to spend. And the ones on eBay had prohibitive shipping costs. Finally we found one where the seller was located in Mansfield. We made an offer, he accepted, and we set up an meeting place.
We met the seller in the parking lot of a Gordon Food Service store. It felt a little like some kind of illicit meeting. Delivery successfully made, all we had to do was make some repairs to have a working weasel. The geared wheel had to be replaced and one of the yarn dowels was missing. Everything else looked pretty sturdy and fairly old.
Tom took off the wheel and designed a new one the right size with the 40 spokes. We bought a piece of maple the right size from the Woodworking shop and Tom cut out the wheel using a band saw. He also carved a new yarn dowel using the band saw and some sand paper. I sanded the finished pieces, stained them dark and then we put it all together.
The finished weasel works just the way it should and looks very authentic. Best of all it cost half of the price of the weasels in the antique stores. And, because Tom made it, he knows how to do any necessary repairs. Our new weasel will be a welcome addition to telling the story of spinning and weaving at Fort Frederica. And I get to lead more visitors in the lively and fun “Pop Goes the Weasel” song.