I recently wrote about an implement I hate: the cane. The article was deeper than that and discussed something more important than my preferences, which is that it’s fine to avoid certain toys if they upset you. It doesn’t matter how iconic a part of the scene they are.
But it did inspire me to think about other toys and I thought I would write about one I love today. The Wartenberg wheel, also called a pinwheel. It’s actually a medical device used to test nerve reactions and sensitivity.Read more: My Favorite Sensation Toy– The Wartenberg Wheel
What you have is a metal handle with a spiked wheel at the end. The wheel spins freely as the handle connects to the sides. There are multiple types, so you might see them with two or three wheels, or even more, instead of just one like I have.
For those of you who sew, you will find it also looks very much like a tracing wheel. So much so, that people often use tracing wheels for the same purpose. I wouldn’t recommend it, if you have a better option, because real Wartenberg wheels are made of surgical steel so they are easy to sanitize.
I also think they spin easier and are less likely to catch on the skin. They are just made of better quality materials overall, because they are for use on humans and not paper. There are also disposable plastic versions, which I believe are more commonly used in medical now, but I’m not sure how they feel during play.
So what is the purpose of the Wartenberg wheel?
Well, as I said in medical exams it’s used to test nerves and sensitivity to make sure there’s no damage.
But in the kink world it’s used a little differently. When rolled across the skin it can tickle or cause pleasure along with light prickling sparks of pain.
Now, generally most people don’t press hard enough to break the skill. You can, and some people do for a more intense experience, but most of the time people just roll it lightly over the sensitive parts of the body.
If you do choose to press hard enough to break the skin, it will leave patterns of tiny little holes. There will likely be a bit of blood, but not much unless you press hard. Either way, be sure to clean it extra carefully afterwards, and any toy that causes blood should probably not be shared with other people you don’t share bodily fluids with.
The more sensitive the skin the more intense the sensations. Which means it pairs quite well with flogging or spanking. When the flesh is red and tingly, that is the best time to bring out the wheel and glide it across the skin.
It will send shivers through your body and cause all kinds of interesting reactions while causing minimal amounts of pain. And that’s something that people who are new to BDSM often don’t entirely understand. It’s not always about causing lots of pain. Sure, most people who bottom in BDSM related kinks enjoy some level of pain.
But pain is just one of many sensations in your arsenal. This wheel will cause multiple sensations. I’ve seen people writhing and climaxing from just a flogging followed by a long session with the Wartenberg wheel being drawn over all the red skin.
Each person is unique and how they will react to sensation play is going to differ. Not everyone is aroused by the prickling of the wheel. Some people find the tickling a kind of torture, but most people do enjoy it.
For me, it all depends on my headspace. I can find it sexual and get turned on, but other times it’s a different kind of pleasure. The kind that makes you float away from your body.
Is it difficult to use safely?
Nope, not at all. In fact, it’s actually fairly hard to cause any damage with this, as long as you’re careful, so it’s fine for a beginner. You don’t need any special skills or training.
The first thing you want to do when you get your wheel is check it over. The medical grade ones, as I mentioned, are made from surgical steel so it shouldn’t rust. But check it anyway, in case it’s made of a cheaper alloy for kink purposes.
It should be shiny and brand new when you receive it, with no marks on the metal. You may need to remove a protective coating or film from it.
Before you use it, you should sterilize, but don’t use anything that contains bleach (chlorine) or ammonia. It will damage the surface of the steel and make it vulnerable to rust. Instead, you can wash with soap and water, boil it, use rubbing alcohol, or a sex toy cleaner.
Whichever you use, be sure to dry it off well every time you clean it.
Next you want to make sure the wheel spins freely and doesn’t get caught or jammed. This is important because when you roll it over the skin if it gets caught, it can leave a tiny skin tear. If it doesn’t spin freely then it might have gotten bent, or it might just need a little oil on the center spoke where the handle connects.
If you’re into blood play and intend to actually puncture the skin with it, I would wait until you feel comfortable with its use first. And, it goes without saying that you do need to discuss it with your partner first. They might be familiar with the wheel, but expect a much lighter kind of play.
Where can I use the wheel?
Most places on the body are fine for this. Some places just need more care, since you are rolling sharp spikes against the skin.
If you’re into tickling and looking for places it will drive them nuts, the soles of the feet tend to be great spots. The skin there is thick enough that the wheel can be pressed a little harder, without puncturing and if they have ticklish feet they’ll be writhing all over—so make sure you’re ready for sudden movements. The curve of the hip, and down under the arm are also great ticklish spots.
For a more sensual experience, the inner thighs, the breasts, or any place that has been spanked or flogged. After a spanking, the center of each cheek can get great reactions. I would be very careful with the pubic mound, labia, or ball sack unless shaved. It’s easy for the wheel to get caught and yank out hairs unexpectedly.
Anything really intimate like the clit, for example, is definitely at your own risk. Sudden jerking with a spike against those sensitive spots can cause damage you didn’t intend. And don’t assume that just because your partner is familiar with the wheel, that they know how intense you intend to be with it.
Remember R.A.C.K –Risk Aware Consensual Kink means doing your research and discussing your plans with your partner before you start.
And one more quick addendum. This wheel is small, about the size of a fork in length. That makes it a wonderful tool to use on yourself.
If you’re curious about how it feels, or want to incorporate it in long distance scenes, there is no reason why you can’t try it out on your own. No partner required. Just start with an area that is easy to reach and see, like an arm or leg.
I’ve always found sensation toys like this to be great tools for adjusting headspace during long distance scenes. They are also pretty cheap. The basic one-wheel type that I have is usually less than fifteen dollars.