This is a guest post written by Spencer:
Spinners have some interesting gear. They come with their niddy noddies, they come with their lazy Kates, and if you pry it turns out they have various carders stashed away. And then, of course, there are the spinning wheels — and from what I can tell, no two spinning wheels are alike, which means that every spinner needs three or four.
After seeing the prices for some of this equipment, I decided to try my hand at making what I could. I’ve long known that builders need spinners, but this was my chance to prove that spinners need builders.
First I built a niddy noddy, and then a lazy Kate. They seemed to work well enough, so I thought I’d take a crack at a drum carder. Hand carders are nice, but when several fleeces are kicking around the house, a drum carder seems to be essential equipment that functions in the interest of moving things along. If we had a drum carder in the house, I found myself thinking, I might be able to see the kitchen table once in a while, and maybe even the floor. As it is, I only see raw wool.
The first thing I did was examine the drum carder Melissa had on loan from her spinning guild. It appeared to have quite a few miles on it, but the design seemed sound enough for the purposes of copying with some slight variations. Looking online, I found that most drum carders are constructed more or less along these lines. Here are a few pics of the model carder. You can see it had a metal tray, leather belt-drive, and a relatively low TPI for the carding cloth. These features were changed.
The next thing to do was to draw up some technical diagrams on the back of a cereal box. This took about five minutes and, unfortunately, the diagrams were always either forgotten or misplaced during the actual building of the carding machine. But the sketches were drafted nonetheless. Here are the technical diagrams:
With the plan in place, the next thing to do was to send out a cry for help to our friend Steve. Steve has extensive experience building one-off machines. He’s also no stranger to precision, and this was a time for exactly Steve’s kind of experience. Most of what follows is thanks to Steve.
Steps in Our Build:
I built the frame while Melissa ordered some carding cloth. She wanted the licker (small drum) to be 90 tpi and the swift (large drum) to be 120 tpi. This resulted from some research I did not understand followed by long paragraphs about micron count that I also did not understand. I nodded and agreed with the decisions about tpi, as that was a wool thing. I was just building the machine. By far the most expensive part of any DIY drum carder is going to be the carding cloth, so brace yourself for that cost: it aint cheap.
For our drums, Steve and I cut out two series of plywood discs using Steve’s CNC router. We could have used the bandsaw, but the CNC router makes perfect circles. Steve likes perfect circles. Here’s a pic of what we came up with, along with a video of the CNC router in action:
The circles were then punched out of the plywood sheets and glued together using the shafts to keep them straight. With the two drums (licker and swift) assembled, we got to work sizing the shafts, installing and fabricating various shaft collars, and fashioning a handle. This was done with left over materials from Steve’s shop, so not too many new purchases had to be made.
Here are a few pics of the drum carder in a nearly-assembled phase. This was taken after about 5-10 hours of work. At this point, we were just about to nail on the carding cloth and assemble the belt.
I should mention that we considered adding a motor to power the drum carder, but figured that, since it’s more of a prototype, we’d keep it simple and go with a hand crank. (Also, Steve only had about a dozen motors on hand, so we didn’t want to diminish his stock.) If we wanted to add a small low-RPM motor in the future, that would be an easy change.
Here are some final pics taken in the dim light of our wool den (formerly known as the kitchen). The serpentine drive worked out well, I think, as we haven’t had any slippage issues yet. Also, you’ll see that we went with a simple plywood tray for feeding the raw wool into licker, and that seems to be working well, too.
And, finally, here is a YouTube video about the anatomy of our DIY Drum Carder. Melissa had a recently washed fleece from a Corriedale sheep lying around, so we carded up a few batts and she was spinning it into yarn by midnight. Thanks again to our buddy Steve, who is the only reason this thing ended up 1) functional, 2) made from un-rusty parts, and 3) completed in 2015. Steve, you make great machines happen.