Carding Your Wool

Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing.  This is achieved by passing the fibers between differentially moving surfaces covered with card cloth.  It breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibers to be parallel with each other.  In preparing wool fibre for spinning, carding is the step that comes after picking.

Commercial Carding Machine (big $$$)

The carder shown above is often referred to as a cottage carder.  The cost of units such as this are often $10 thousand or more, and not practical for most small, self-employed producers.  The volume they can process is far in excess of what a smaller producer would need, and this leads us to the most practical solution; namely the drum carder.

The simplest machine carder is the drum carder. Most drum carders are hand-cranked but some are powered by electric motor. These machines generally have two rollers, or drums, covered with card clothing. The licker-in, or smaller roller meters fibre from the infeed tray onto the larger storage drum. The two rollers are connected to each other by a belt- or chain-drive so that their relative speeds cause the storage drum to gently pull fibres from the licker-in. This pulling straightens the fibres and lays them between the wire pins of the storage drum's card cloth. Fibre is added until the storage drum's card cloth is full. A gap in the card cloth facilitates removal of the batt when the card cloth is full.  Some drum carders have a soft-bristled brush attachment that presses the fibre into the storage drum. This attachment serves to condense the fibres already in the card cloth and adds a small amount of additional straightening to the condensed fibre.

For Sierra Wools we chose an electric carder manufactured by Southern Comfort Products (SCP).  Their gold triple pic has three rollers and does more volume than a double drum picker.


The other essential ingredient for us was the reversible, electric motor.  We produce roving as the next processing step, and having an electric carder allows better production using whats called a "diz", which is a small orifice that is used when pulling the fiber off the carder.  

The SCP carder costs about $2 thousand, which is a sizable investment, but much more practical than the cottage industry carder described previously.  For a cottage industry small business such as Sierra Wools being able to card our own wool will give us a return on this investment many times over a period of just a few years.  Using outside mills to card is very expensive, and timeliness of processing is also a major factor.  Across the USA we hear horror stories from small producers who are working with small mills.  They take months to process our fibers, and the quality isn't always the best either.  With our own carder we can control the quality, timing and match production with the other processes, including spinning and other products.  We made this purchase in June of 2017, and will be reporting our success here, including videos and other helpful tidbits over time.  To keep informed subscribe to our Sierra Wools E-Newsletter on the home page.





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