spinning yarn

Refurbishing my old Drum Carder

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Hi everyone! As you know, I raise alpacas and I have been wanting to make my own yarn from their glorious fibre! To help with that, my grandma gave me her good spinning wheel and her drum carder. I learned to spin this summer with the help of an instructor from the weaver’s guild — God bless you, Brenda!! — but this post isn’t about spinning. It’s about the drum carder.

I have made quite a few batts with it, but I was starting to notice a lot of the teeth coming out — 3 or 4 for every batt I made with it! I was starting to really worry!

Don’t you love how the cloth is actually thick leather and the teeth look like blunt thumbtacks pushed through from the back? I wonder what year this drum carder was made? If you have any idea, leave a comment because I would love to know!

When I looked into ordering a new carding cloth — that’s what they call that spiky material that goes on the outside of the drum — I couldn’t seem to find a Canadian source for it. Since the US postal system is quite broken, I was not keen on ordering from south of the border and I prefer to buy local or at least Canadian when I can. I asked my aunt-in-law who owns Legacy Studio if she had carding cloth, or if she could get it for me. She said the best stuff comes from Europe, so I found a supplier from the Netherlands, Golden Fleece Carders. Want to hear the best part? I got my carding cloth — which is the perfect width for my machine! — in 17 days! From overseas!! I am so thrilled! I ordered something from the US in July and it took over 6 weeks!

So, anyways, I am really excited to be refurbishing the old drum carder. It’s like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle got another R: Refurbish! So, let the not-quite-tutorial begin!

I took the old cloth off using a flathead screwdriver to pry the staples and nails off.

There are so many teeth missing! Especially along that one edge. The batts always looked like they’d been to hell and back. So many holes.

So, I continued prying staples and nails until I had them all off! Avert your eyes — that’s a naked drum there! 😮

Check out the new cloth! There are quite a few more pins per square inch…

I was so thrilled that this company carried the carding cloth in the exact width I needed. The American ones were never the right width (I don’t mean to sound anti-American, it’s just true). This cloth is only 72 DPI, because I wanted it to be multi-purpose. For alpaca, some people go A LOT finer!

I measured how long it needed to be and started taking out pins so I could cut it. I took out 3 rows in total and they came out easily. Then I cut it with regular scissors!

Now here is where things start getting interesting! See how close together those two drums are? The top one, with the old pins, is called the licker and its pins are NOT supposed to touch the main drum, or maybe just barely touch. Because the pins on the new cloth are quite a bit longer, the pins on the two drums are grinding together at this point! (The old pins touched more than they should have, but I didn’t know better.) So, I had to figure out if I could move either of the drums. It turns out, my little old drum carder is pretty adjustable! I was able to loosen the bolts on the sides (you can see one on the left) and back the main drum up so that it would have more room! It was a bit of work, but I’m happy — the teeth barely touch now.

I then got to work stapling and nailing the new cloth in place. I forgot to get a picture of the stapling, but I just used an ordinary staple gun. Then, I had to nail the little nails back in where the cloth meets up. See the problem below?

You can’t nail them in because you’ll end up pounding on the pins of the carding cloth! Luckily, we had a punch, which worked great! I just carefully positioned it on the head of each nail and pounded them in.

Sorry, you can’t see the top, but it’s just flat for the hammer to hit it. This let me hammer those little nails right down snuggly!

And now my drum carder is like new, sort of!

For now, I’ve decided to leave the licker drum as is. I might change the cloth in the future, but it’s working okay, so I left it!

I have to tell you: I LOVE giving new life to old things! It is one of my favourite things to do, and probably why this project was so much fun! (If you feel the same, I recommend Laura Kampf videos on YouTube because she is the best at this, and her videography is a pleasure to watch!)

Of course I had to put the new/old carder to work! Since the new teeth are longer, it makes thicker batts. They still look a bit ratty; they don’t come off the drum as easily because there are so many more teeth! I also might need to work on my technique…

I made 2 batts and then took the next one off as a rolag, which seemed to work better. Dang, it’s a dense rolag though!

I should probably apologize to my regular readers, as this is one of those oddly-specific posts and if you don’t know what a rolag is, I don’t blame you! A rolag is a small roll of fibre that spinners can spin from. Anyways, thanks for hanging in there with me all this while and I hope it might help someone else who needs to change carding cloth on their old drum carder!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose! So many great Re’s! If you have any examples of Refubish, Repair or Repurpose, share them in the comments! 🙂