Single drive vs. Double Drive

Can anybody tell me the difference between a single drive wheel and double drive wheel and why would I want one over the other?

I know virtually nothing about spinning wheels, but I’m looking to get started. I’m watching wheels on Ebay to see if I can get a used one at a good price. I’m thinking I may want a double drive since, if I’m understanding this correctly, I can convert it to be a single drive and then have the best of both worlds.

Also, I’ve heard that it is easier to learn to spin on a Louet, but I really have my heart set on the Ashford Traditional as I like the aesthetic look of it better. Any thoughts on that?


I got an Ashford Traditional for free, and it’s great to learn to spin on. Now my children all want to be spinning at the same time so we’ll probably get another wheel, dh is buying stuff to make spindles as well. My 12yods tried the wheel, got very frustrated, made himself a spindle and worked on that for a while and now he’s back on the wheel with no problems. I think it’s a REALLY good idea to learn on a spindle (ie a drop spindle) because it’s slower, and you don’t have to coordinate your foot along with everything else!!


Most single drives can be converted to double drives.

With a double drive you have a bit more control with wheel speed & direction.

I have both single and double drives and use the double drive wheel more.

You don’t [I]need[/I] to use both treadles if you have a double drive.

I am thinking of buying a used wheel on Ebay and most of the Ashford traditionals our there are single drive. I’m seeing where it is recommended to start with a single drive because it is easier to learn. I’m also seeing where I can purchase a kit to convert my wheel to a double drive. Is my feeling correct that if I can get a good working (based on what the seller tells me) wheel for $200 from ebay, I would be just was well for learning and then I can upgrade the parts to make it what I want it to be as I’m ready?


Ashford sell a kit for converting single drive to double, so yes you could do that, but check prices you’ll have to pay to do that before you decide.

Single and double drive wheels should not be confused with single or double treadle wheels, they’re two different things. A single drive wheel can have two treadles and a double drive wheel can have one treadle. A single treadle wheel has one foot pedal (treadle) while a double treadle has two.

A double drive however is where the drive band is looped in two and goes over both the flyer and bobbin whorl turning them both at the same time. The flyer whorl however is smaller than the bobbin whorl so it turns a little faster than the bobbin, winding on.

In a single drive wheel, the drive band goes over only either the bobbin or flyer with an adjustable cord or band (the brake band) going over the other one.

A single drive wheel where the flyer is being driven and where the brake band is over the bobbin is called scotch tension.

A single drive wheel where the bobbin is being driven and where the brake band is over the flyer is either called bobbin lead or irish tension.

Most Single drive wheels are scotch tension though all louets with the exception of the victoria are bobbin lead.

The advantage of double drive is that they like spinning even yarn. Since both the bobbin and flyer are being driven at different speeds, the takeup is smoother and it almost forces the spinner to spin even. The downsides are that the takeup tension can’t really be adjusted: you can loosen or tighten the drive band a bit, but loosen it too much and it won’t work. It’s also hard to spin anything other than what the wheel wants to spin, which is thin and even.

The Advantage of single drive is that the tension is adjustable, so you can set it light when spinning slippery or short staple fibers and give it more takeup when spinning bulky. Single drive wheels are much more novelty yarn friendly. It also tends to be easier to change the bobbins on a single drive wheel than it is on a double drive.
The disadvantages are that it sometimes takes alot of fiddling to get the right tension and that single drive wheels don’t force you to spin even like double drive wheels do, so it takes more practice to spin even on one.

All double drive wheels can technically be converted to single drive by affixing either a rubber band or a cord with a spring on the end, over the bobbin, but that doesn’t mean that all double drive wheels should be converted. I personally wouldn’t convert one unless the manufacturer gives you the option.

While ashford does sell a kit to convert a single drive traditional to double drive, AFAIK they are the only ones to do so.

I know that there are alot of people who loathe it but I personally have a single drive single treadle ashford traditional and I like it.

Thanks, Iamthewalter! That is a wealth of great of information. A single drive, single treadle Ashford Traditional seems to be the most economical option to start with…particularly on the used market. And since Ashford does sell the conversion kit, that is what I’m leaning towards.


I stand corrected, Iamthewalter. My eyes read drive and I thought treadle instead of band.

The newer Ashford Traveler has the options of being single or double treadle PLUS single or double band driven.

Both the bobbins & flyer for these offer two whorl sizes so you can adjust take up and twist speed.

I vote for the traditional as well. Its a beautiful wheel and there are so many parts to change it as you grow in skill and experiance. I love my Traditional wheel. Just be carefull when buying on ebay. I got mine and even though I love my wheel it was sold as an Ashford, only later to find out it was not made by Ashford. The only thing that saved me from feeling really cheated is it will fit Ashford parts.

Good Luck!

I have both an Ashford traditional single drive and a Kromski Sonata (single drive, also). I am about to put the Kromski up for sale and buy another Ashford trad, but double drive this time as I want to spin fine lace weight yarn (cobweb for Shetland knitting) and the single drive Scotch tension is just too fiddly for me to do a good job. Please understand this is strictly personal preference and experience and you may have different results. I was hoping to get to SAFF this year where I would be able to try out a double drive wheel but since I can’t do that, I will go with my experience with the single drive Ashford.