DIY Drum Carder

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.

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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:

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photo 1

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:

carder

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.

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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.

photo 1

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photo 3

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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.

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This entry was posted in carding, DIY, fiber, instruction, technique, tips. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to DIY Drum Carder

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  6. Sonya says:

    Hi this might sound silly but I’m wondering, what is beneath the carding cloth on the big drum? Is it a large cylinder or is the cloth just nailed to the ends of the cylinder? I hope I’m describing properly what I’m asking. Thnx

    Like

    • lissymail says:

      Hi Sonya–I missed your comment! Sorry about that! Under the cloth is a drum made out of slices of plywood that have been glued together to form a tube. Hope that helps!
      Melissa

      Like

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  9. good day, I am from Czech republic and I am trying to build this carder for hobby carding. Can I ask for dimensions of drums and gear wheels? Thank you for your answers and this page.

    Best regards
    Ing. Jiří Vašíček

    Like

    • metaspencer says:

      Hello Ing. Jiří Vašíček,

      Here are our dimensions. Good luck with your project!

      Large drum: 7 inches diameter (17.75 cm), width is determined by the width of carding cloth that you are able to buy
      Small Drum: 2 inches diameter (5 cm), width is determined by the width of carding cloth that you are able to buy

      Note that the drive cogs are that same size: 7 inch cog on the small drum and 2 inch cog on the large drum.

      WE’d love to see pictures of your project once you complete it!

      Spencer

      Like

  10. Becca says:

    I was worndering about how long did this take you to make? And how much did it cost to makenit in the end? Amazing tutorial btw and I’m excited to try!

    Like

  11. metaspencer says:

    Total time was probably around ten hours: that includes a couple hours for planning, then two sessions working on the actual carding machine. That’s kind of an estimate and I’m sure you could spend more or less time. As for cost, if you were to buy all the components, you’d probably spend around $200. That’s another estimate, as the only thing we bought was the carding cloth (which you can find online). All of the other components were things we had around the shop: some pine for the frame, some plywood for the drums, screws and glue, the shafts, shaft collars, and then the various other small components.

    This project was a lot of fun and our drum carder is still going strong!

    Like

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  13. fairylix says:

    Reblogged this on fairylix and commented:
    Hmm… I think this has a lot of potential.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. George says:

    If you cut this on cnc then I wonder if a Cad drawing was made and might be available?

    Like

  15. metaspencer says:

    I Will check my files …

    Like

  16. Patti says:

    Wow!!! This is fantastic and so appreciate the video of instructions to “dyi”!!

    Like

  17. deb tweedy says:

    This is the weekend I attempt to build a drum carder- I’m so thankful for your diy information!!! Now, let’s see what happens!

    Like

    • metaspencer says:

      Good luck with it! And let us know if you have any questions as the build come together. Soon you’ll be carding like mad! 🙂

      Like

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  19. Linn Currie says:

    Awesome informative video, my eternal THANKS!

    Like

  20. metaspencer says:

    Are you gonna make one, Linn?

    Like

    • Linn Currie says:

      I asked my DH to make me one When I told him the price of a store bought one, he said he will make me ten for the price of that! 🙂 He is a mechanical engineer so he should be able to do it. Will definitely share a picture if he does get around to making it – which is another thing as he likes to stall things unless it is for himself!

      Regards
      Linn

      Like

  21. Bekka says:

    What is the length of the two cylinders? I’m turning them on the lathe and trying to figure out their dimensions. Also, great tutorial/instructions overall! Thanks!

    Like

    • metaspencer says:

      The drums on our DIY drum carder are both exactly 9.25″ long. This was entirely determined by the width of our carding cloth. I’d suggest you measure your cloth before sizing your drums, just so the size is right.

      It’s cool that you’re making your drums on the lathe! I had considered that and think it will make for a great machine.

      Like

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  23. meggory84 says:

    I want to thank you for including the picture of the original drum carder you used as inspiration; I have this exact antique drum carder and the belt went missing during our recent move. The pic was exactly what I needed to order a new custom leather belt! Thanks! I hope you’re enjoying your DIY drum carder. How is it working for you, a year on?

    Like

  24. vicki huddleston says:

    I purchased one just like this and would like to get it converted into an electric car do to my health issues. Do you have a way to do that or know anybody or anywhere that can make this happen?

    Like

  25. metaspencer says:

    You would simply need a small motor to run the carder. It could be converted with minimal work — what area are you in?

    Like

  26. building a drum carder is on the top of my future projects list. I’ve seen the youtube video countless times. hopefully one day I’ll have enough time to start working on it 😊

    Like

    • metaspencer says:

      Oh, you’ll get to it! Once you get started I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is … and it’s great to have once you’re done!

      Like

      • im not worried about the difficulty of the project. After doing a lots of research, i was surprised how simple the mechanics of the carder actually is. that’s why i decided to make one myself. the biggest problem I have is the time or the lack of (with a toddler and soon newborn running around the house)😊

        Like

  27. metaspencer says:

    That’s very familiar! First build machine to stop time. Then build drum carder. 🙂

    Like

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