Setting Up the Indian Charka

By Joan Ruane

The Indian book charkha can be a challenge to open and set up and even more of a challenge to close it down so that the latch will snap close. Each piece has a special spot and if it is not in correctly then the book charkha will not close. First let’s open it and put it together so we can start spinning.

Charka Open

1. Set the book charkha upright with the latch on the top. Open it carefully and lay it flat on the table with a foam pad under the charkha so it does not slide around. Have the wheel side to the right and the spindles to the left.

Assembling Charkha

2. Remove the seat hook from the front edge and set aside. Now remove both wheels and check the posts they sit on and make sure they are wiped clean and have no rust on them. A little steel wool will smooth them out. Then, put a tiny bit of Vaseline on the posts. Check the bottom of the wheels also.

3. Loosen the wing nut on the small wheel tension post so it moves freely. Take the drive belt and loop it around the bottom of the small accelerator wheel and around the outside edge of the big wheel. Put the wheels on their posts. Move the small wheel forward toward the front and tighten the wing nut.

4. Unlatch and remove the silver handle from the backside. With the post on the top side, catch the groove under the small screw on the large wheel and down through the center, catching the back screw throw the hole and swing the latch around to hold the handle tight to the wheel. Now remove the triangle piece of wood from the back corner and put it on the handle post. Your wheel crank is now ready to use. Rotate the crank clockwise, making the wheel go around. A little drop of oil in the center of each wheel will make them move smoothly and easily.

5. On the left side, lift up the spindle holder and put down the kickstand so it stands up straight. The heavy cotton cords on each side of the spindle holder are the bearings to hold the spindles, make sure they are in place. Take one spindle out of its holder and have the leather disk on first and then the sliver yarn holder next.

6. The approximately 11-inch thin drive belt goes around the outside of the small accelerator wheel and over the whorl on the spindle. Release the kickstand and push the spindle hold back a little and set the whorl end of the spindle into the string bearings. Release the holder and it will hold the spindle tight against the bearings.

7. Move the leather disk and silver yarn stopper back so it just about touches the spindle stand but NOT touching the wood. A little drop of oil on the cotton bearings and making sure the top of the drive belt goes to the back of the accelerator wheel and you are ready to start spinning Z, clockwise as you turn the large wheel. To spin S, counter clockwise, have the top of the belt go to the front of the accelerator wheel.

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