SPA Spotlight: The Merlin Tree
Dave from The Merlin Tree says:
"The Merlin Tree began as Kathy’s small yarn and fiber shop over the garage. Its name was derived from Kathy’s view of an old maple tree in the middle a small area of wetland just beyond our cedar grove. A very old tree and now dead and fallen which was just the type of tree from which you could expect Merlin to emerge on his woodland travels.
"A few years later (2000), having taken to repairing old spinning wheels in my canoe shop, I needed a business name for my first Sheep & Wool Show. The state register of names suggested using the same name as assigned to Kathy, Vermont allowing two businesses to have the same name if owners were husband and wife. Hence, no elaborate marketing research was needed to come up with a business name.
"By 2003 I had adopted the Canadian Production Wheel as the favorite to repair and recover and before I could stop myself had begun to pursue the idea of making reproductions of these classic workhorses. The prototype reproduction was a composite of the look and specifications of the 12+ CPWs in my shop that winter. The wood components were a doable task and when I discovered the National Historic Landmark Foundry in Birmingham, Alabama there was no turning back. Schloss Furnace was able, as part of their teaching program, to produce 55 exact reproductions of the trademark iron treadles and tensioner cradles. By 2006 The Merlin Tree had produced 51 of these wheels, including 14 double treadle models and 1 mirror image model. Several of the wheels featured hand painted designs by a number of artists. One notable model featured Purpleheart spokes, m-o-a, treadle bar and table trim. Kathy retains ownership of #0, a double treadle fashioned entirely of Black Walnut. The wheels used an Ashford style flyer so that bobbins would be easy to come by for new owners.
"Before the run of CPWs had been completed the HitchHiker was born. The wheel was the result of a request by Kathy’s spinning group for a small travel wheel. The request was treated lightly at first but more seriously acknowledged as pressure increased. The features needed were put forth by group members and various design elements were critiqued over a series of spinning get togethers. There was no plan to market the wheel but inquires started coming in as blog pics and other photos leaked out. Ten wheels were sold before the HitchHiker made its first show introduction in April of 2005. Maryland followed and the members of Kathy’s group who wanted a wheel waited until August for theirs. Over 100 wheels sold that first year.
"Within one year the wheel advanced from a single speed to one with three ratios. By 2007 the bobbin size was increased and in February of 2009 the double treadle version was introduced. At the same time, a shorter version – the RoadBug was offered. In 2013 a larger flyer which could accommodate Ashford’s 90mm bobbin was made standard as was cherry for all trim pieces. To date over 2300 wheels have left our shop with units on six continents.
"The Merlin Tree travels to a least 10 sheep and fiber shows in northeastern United States in the spring and fall of each year. At these shows we offer our wheels – the HitchHiker and RoadBug to new and experienced spinners alike. If you don’t know how to spin, Kathy will teach you. As an Ashford dealer we offer our folding version of their Kiwi 2. In addition to accessories for our wheels we also try whenever possible to have a restored CPW available. At smaller shows where things are not quite so hectic we try to make time to evaluate wheels in need of repair and do quick fixes and tune-ups."