The discription says it is a spinning wheel … but I think it might be a yarn swift . http://cgi.ebay.com/Authentic-Antique-Original-Spinning-Wheel-Click-Reel_W0QQitemZ7376846386QQcategoryZ1217QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
I bet the original use was to wind yarn into hanks, but it probably could be used as a swift to unwind hanks, so to speak.
That makes more sense!
The click reel is a measuring tool, used to wind amounts of yarn after spinning. This reel has a circumference of two yards and a forty-to-one worm gear reducer such that a click is heard after forty turns of the reel. This quantity of yarn-eighty yards-some-times is called a “knot.” In the click reel, the wooden screw acts as a continuous wedge turning the worm gear. It is one of the most unusual applications of threads in wood.
(This is actually from an article on wooden screws and their applications, but it mentioned the click reel)
Definitely not a spinning wheel, but used in conjunction with one. It’s more like an elaborate niddy noddy, and takes the plied yarn off the spinning wheel and wraps it so you can make a hank. Ashford makes something similar and markets it as a skein winder.