How to Use a Drum Carder

Preparing spinning wool with a drum carder is fast and fun! You can use it to mix dyed fibers of various colors.

drum carder

A drum carder has two large rotating spools that are covered with dangerously sharp needles, so you need to be very careful of any children (or pets) who might be tempted to touch (or sniff).

The smaller spool has course needles and is where you insert the wool. It teases the wool and takes out any course materials.

The larger one, which looks sort of like a drum, is covered with fine needles and this is where the batt of ready-to-use carded wool collects.

Carding Wool with a Drum Carder

Keep the properties of wool fiber in mind as you card.

  1. Wash the wool without agitating or felting, and rinse it well or do any desired dyeing.
  2. Tease the wool to open up the fibers for carding.
  3. Start slowly cranking the drum and allow it to grab a little fiber at a time -- Watch your fingers!
  4. When the needles are too full to pick up any more fiber, find the drum seam and run a doffing rod or stick along it to separate the batt.
  5. Gently peel it off of the big drum. Discard any short fibers collected on the small drum or save them for a felting project.
  6. Run the batt through again until the fibers are as smooth and blended as you desire.
  7. The finished batt can be spit into sliver or roving for easy spinning.

Carders come with a clamp to hold the machine still on a table. Using it on a picnic table works well. During the winter, I manage by sitting it on the floor and placing one hand on top with the other hand working the crank.

I do not need to oil the needles to keep them from rusting since the lanolin residue in the wool gives them protection.

I do need to use the flicker comb occasionally to clean out fibers that are stuck on the surface.

A Dirty Job

Warning: Carding wool is a dirty job, no matter how clean the fiber appears. Little bits of dirt and dust will come flying out.

If you try carding on the floor inside the house as I described above, put a towel down first. Or plan to get the vacuum out and clean the spot off the rug! (Guess how I learned that tip.)

More to Explore

hand carders
drop spindle spinning
spinning wool
spinning wheels


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