Drum Carder Dilemma

Pat Green Three Drum Supercard

Pat Green Three Drum Supercard

So I’m having a dilemma. I’ve come to a crossroads.

My goal this year is to work the Fiber side of my alpaca business. To that end, I have tried new things. I have begun to knit again. I’ve learned to dye my fiber and yarn, and I’ve even tried Spinning. The idea was to try the different things and see what I liked and what I could live without.

I’ve discovered that I LOVE dyeing fiber the best, and wet felting it the least. In my fiber dreams I would love to create beautiful, colorful batts the way that Loop and Hobbledehoy do. Only my batts would be alpaca because alpacas are my life! *Sigh*
I thought I was well on my way to doing this when I learned that:

  1. I have the wrong kind of drum carder. Mine is not designed for fine alpaca fleece . (I cluelessly bought it about 9 years ago from an alpaca breeder and never used it.)
  2. I need a picker. Badly. To help with the process.

I did learn to wash the fleece, and that’s good. I also found this cool drying device that allows me to dry fleece indoors quickly.

I love it and it was 75% off!

Triple Picker

Triple Picker

Before I go much farther with my tale, I have to mention that we harvest at least 300 lbs. of fleece each Spring at Fairhope Alpacas. I have been advised by my friend and Fiber Artist Sherry that I really need commercial equipment.

I know that I will need that. When we relocate the farm I will set up a Fiber Studio where I can have all the equipment and fiber, but for now, space is an issue. So we’ll hold off on investing in the big machines.

First I will get a picker. Then I want to get a drum carder. My dilemma is whether I should just fly way ahead to the Supercard (which will require some saving too) or if I should start with a smaller fine toothed drum carder.

A few of the smaller/non-commercial ones that have been recommended have been Deb’s Delicate Deluxe and those made by Strauch.  Strauch even has a page on their website – Which Drum Carder is Best for Me? Alpaca Meadows sells carders on their website.

Strauch Motorized Drum Carder

Strauch Motorized Drum Carder

Sherry recommends a chain drive over a belt drive. I am seriously considering a motorized version. Hmm. That almost takes me back to the Supercard. But then space is an issue again…

While I hem and haw, please chime in and let me know your thoughts. I welcome all the input I can get! My biggest questions are:

  • What drum carders have you used that you liked/disliked?
  • What (if anything) can you do with a smaller carder that cannot be done with the larger ones?
  • What benefits do you see to the various carders?
  • What else do I need to keep in mind?

Comments

  1. I have an old Mark V drum carder with brush (manual, fine tooth). Now, maybe I’m just picky, but I don’t like Louet anything – wheels, drum carders, none of it. Their so-called fine-tooth drum carders have half the TPI of any other, and that just does not equal “fine” to me.

    As far as I can recall, there’s not much benefit to a smaller over a larger drum carder. If you go with a manual over a motorized, look at a couple of things –

    1) *BIG* – make sure all drive wheels and belts are on the outside of the carder! May seem obvious, but the picture of the Mark V here ( http://www.weavingsouthwest.com/items/images/spinacc_lg.jpeg or http://tinyurl.com/nrdofw ) shows clearly that the drive wheel is inside the tray. I end up cleaning out the gears frequently.

    2) Consider one that maybe can be motorized later, if you know someone who’s handy at that sort of thing. I recall at least one webpage talking about motorizing the carder you have.

    Also, for a brand recommendation, have you done any research into Duncan carders? I have heard of several people using them who have been very happy with them. I believe Grafton Fibers ( http://www.graftonfibers.com ) prepares her batts on a double-wide motorized Duncan. It was considerably less than a PG Supercard last time I checked.

    Last but not least, if you haven’t seen a PG Supercard in use, try to find one to observe. The motor speed is surprisingly slow. I have yet to observe a Duncan, motorized or not, in action so I base my recommendation solely on word of mouth reputation.

    Hope this is helpful! Please feel free to email and ask any other questions you come up with; I’ll answer any that I can.

  2. I totally agree about avoiding a belt drive. I use my old Clemes & Clemes drum carder, but the belt gives me fits. I have the regular tooth one (I think at the time they only had one density of teeth) and it works fine for alpaca. Nevertheless, I’d love one with finer teeth.

  3. Thanks Caroline! Great info. I will look into Duncan for sure, and I think I may know someone who I can ask to visit their PG Supercard and see how it works.

    Susan, I may be able to use my current carder once I get a picker. At least for a while, til I figure it out! Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. I’ve only used mine, a Strauch Petite. I would definitely definitely work with one before you invest in a supercarder! I don’t like carding near as much as I thought I would, so you might want to try a few out before you decide.

    Good luck!

  5. if you know that eventually you will want to deal with the fiber side of things, I’d be inclined to wait and buy the large one. But that’s just how I roll when it comes to big purchases.

    I love that you posted this though – because tomorrow’s post is all about spinning my fiber.

  6. Katy,
    My advice, for what it is worth, would be to go with the best you can afford. We have a Strauch Finest Chain Drive Drum Carder (non motorized but upgradeable). Zero problems or complaints.

    My dream would be to have a Patrick Green Supercard Triple Drum, so if you can save (wait) for a while, I think you would be happy you did.

    Make sure which ever you get it has a fine tooth cloth that you need for alpaca fiber.

    Reasoning behind this advice is that with the PG one pass is almost always enough, where as often a second pass with the Strauch is needed.
    Mac

  7. Mac, Thank you! That makes sense. I so value your advice.

    Dawn, I heart how you roll.

    Tara, You are a guru who has already taught me 80% of what I know about fiber from your blog and videos. I so agree to try and see what you like because some of it just doesn’t work out to be as fun as it seems like it will be. For me, um, spinning, so far. :)

  8. I acquired a LOT of corriedale and llama this year, through our 4-H group, and bought a carder, so my 14yod Diantha could open a shop selling batts and handspuns for HS credit in our homeschool (http://fluff4ewe.etsy.com). I got a manual, fine-tooth Little Kitten drum carder. I like it, but need to buy the mounted brush to burnish down the batts as we card them. I have worn out an Ashford flick carder already, in 3 months.

    I know alpaca is a lot like llama in that they take dust baths, and I will say, it is the royalest pain in the WORLD to pick and card the llama. It takes 3x through the carder, with picking manually also, to get the VM even remotely all out. Takes me about 2 hours to do 2 oz. It is so labor intensive that when I see Etsy sellers selling llama for $6 an ounce, I think they either must be sending it out to be commercially processed, or there would be NO WAY in the WORLD they could be making any money for their time at all.

    SO I would probably recommend that you get an electric machine, just to make it less time=consuming on your part.

    I agree with you on the dyeing thing. And I absolutely hate felting too.

    Nikki
    http://my7kids.etsy.com – High-end fiber recycled yarns
    http://heartfeltfun.etsy.com – recycled felted and hand knit item boutique
    http://fluff4ewe.etsy.com – Diantha’s carded batts and handspun yarns
    http://rossoaps.etsy.com – Richard’s handmade goat’s milk soaps

  9. I think you will really want an electric if you have a lot of fiber to process! Turning the drum carder crank really gets old! I dream of getting the PG supercard too!
    : )

  10. Katy: I have a picker like you show in your pics. I have found it to be pretty hard on alpaca fibre. It is fine for most sheep fleece though. I am in the process of setting up my fibre mill. I have gone ahead and purchased a picker, carder and pin drafter. I am hoping to get the spinner maybe next year.
    I have been a spinner/weaver for over 30 years now. Best of luck to you.
    By the way, you could contact Patrick Greene and see about getting a different drum sent to you with the finer carding cloth on it so that you would have cards for both alpaca and other fibres.

  11. Have you thought about getting a bench picker instead of the swing style? I have the Fancy Kitty Studio Bench picker and love it. http://www.fancy-kitty.com/benchpicker.html One thing, in particular, that I like about it is that it is adjustable. You can change it to pick lightly or more aggressively. It also stores easily when not in use, and it’s just plain not as dangerous to use!

  12. great post, love the blog

  13. The class I took on using the picker and drum carder taught that we didnt really want this kind of picker for alpaca. It was hard on it and the alpaca didn’t need that. I have the Strauch carder and am thinking of selling it to get the Patrick Green for my alpaca. It is better for finer fibers and requires less passes. I have been researching this for some time. Susan’s Fiber Shop in Wisconsin sells them. She has a customer who bought the electric and has found it to have paide for itself in a year.

  14. I have a 4 alpacas and my husband shears for small farms. I love love love spinning – and thought starting a mini mill would be heaven on earth. But a hobby is relaxing – and when you start processing for others it becomes a job and something I have to do – more of a demand rather than an escape. We started very small – a PG Fancy carder, a Fancy-Kitty bench picker and my spinning wheel. We took in 17 fleeces this year simply by gently mentioning we were going to process. I discovered it took approximately 2 hrs to skirt, 1/2 and hr to pick, 4 hrs to card into batts – and then I could start spinning. I was charging $30 a finished lb for hand spun fiber start to finish. My total profit wasn’t worth the effort. To make money you need industrial size equipment for sure.

    I would stay clear of chain driven carders. I love the PG Fancy – it is slow but does a great job. I really like my Fancy Kitty bench picker too. But again for my own animals both are fantastic – for profits I would say you need to be in industrial size equipment.

  15. Hello,
    I just bought a PG carder from Susan’s Fiber Shop. It had free shipping, they are awesome to work with, by the way. What I have found with the PG carder, the fiber really needs to be picked, fluffed, pulled apart…whatever you call it, but the fibers need to be opened or the chunks stick to the licker drum. I have a picker, but I still have to open up the fibers even more than the picker can do. At times the belts slip and the drums stop turning if too big a chunk goes through, not a big deal, just need to take out the chunk and it will run again. The licker drum gets way full of shorts and other pieces that don’t go onto the larger drum. This licker drum is a bear to clean, it does not have a seam like the larger drum, which is easier to clean. The licker drum gets loaded with fleece when the larger drum is full. This is the first carder I’ve had and my friend has a small hand crank Louet. To me, the batts look just as nice from either the Louet or PG. I’ll have to say the batts are smooth and wonderful. I’ve heard the Strauch carder’s licker drum does not get loaded because instead of pins they are litte “knives” (sounds dangerous), which prevents the fiber from loading up on the licker drum. The batts are appropximately 1.5. ounces. Sue, why don’t you like the chain driven carders? In regards to electric vs. hand, I love the convenience of having both hands to feed in the fiber and pick out small VM. Hands down the electric is better for my purposes. I realize it is a bit more pricey, but if you are doing more than 5 fleeces it’s worth your while.

  16. Elaine, what type of Strauch do you have? I talked to Mr. Strauch himself and he proclaims that his carders work excellent on alpaca. Do you find the licker drum loading up…do the shorts get incorporated into the batting? How long have you had your carder? email me at maryscottpt@yahoo.com. Thanks,
    Mary

  17. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your thoughts! Which PG did you get that you are describing?

  18. Mr Strauch makes a lot of proclamations about his high quality machines. Some I think he is spot on, others I don’t.

    I have 2 high priced carders, and 2 lower cost. Now I only use the PG Supercard and I wish I had just saved up and used hand cards until I could afford it. BUT, Fricke’s Finest has some benefits over the PG and vice versa.

    Benefits of Fricke. I like the Chain Drive better than the PG belts (they do slip needlessly) and I like the fiber brush, too. I had to buy the fiber brush separately, though. It did not come with the machine as it was supposed to. I asked Mr Strauch to replace it, but he refused. The quality of the batts were great without the brush, and stupendous with it. The PG wants me to use the burnishing tool to do the same job as the brush and there is no good place to put a brush even if I were willing to jerry-rig something. I wish it had a brush. The PG comes with something called a “roving guide”, I was looking forward to it. I was surprised and a little let down to find out it was nothing but a large diz.

    Benefits of Supercard. I {{{{HATE}}}} the slicker licker cloth. It is DANGEROUS and lets EVERYTHING on. Mr Strauch told me I had to use the clamp on card cloth square or a flicker to get everything out I don’t want to go into the batt. That is every single staple, ladies. I just don’t card that way, and it was really hard on my joints, too. The PG’s triple drum system is wonderful and I don’t find it difficult in the least to clean the drums. You just set the speed at its lowest level and start cleaning it off as it rotates with the provided brush. The super card takes a much wider range of fibers than the Fricke’s finest. There is an almost infinite range of speed ratios on the PG so that ultra fine merino does not stretch and snap back and cause noils. I can hand pick the fiber as it is being carded if it is not matted or too veggie-ridden and that eliminates the time taken for picking when it is performed as a separate step, except for having to stop picking and feeding to use the burnishing tool. Finally, I Have found Paula Simmons easier to deal with than Mr Strauch. He is deservedly proud of the craftsmanship of his machines, but give the impression he would rather be right, than to listen to us tell him something could be better.

    The Fricke is the handcrank model, I would imagine that the motorized version would only be better because of the having to crank instead of feed issue.

    Thus ends my comparison review between the Fricke’s Finest, and the PG Supercard. Hope it helps someone.

  19. Hello, reading all your replys. I am a newby spinner, only 3 yrs now. I am a CW reenaactor and do it for living history. Now since I have a lot of alpaca and llama given to me I want to buy a drum carder. The hand cards are hard on my hands, (I now have RA) so I need something that is not too hard on the hands and reasonable. Can anyone give me rececommendations? my email is wsgeh2251@verizon.net

  20. Thank you all for your excellent reviews of the dealers and machines. I have super-fine Australian-genetics white merinos and colored merinos so this information was great!!! Anyone with additional info on cottage-industry wool processing and equipment, advice, pricing, time requirements, or used equipment for sale – I would love to talk to you! Also looking for Romney sheep, cashmere or angora goats, angora rabbits and (reasonably priced) alpacas in the OK, MO, KS, AR border area. Registration preferred but not required. (Definitely not required on the alpacas as this is for fiber only.)

    heavensentfoodandfiber@gmail.com

  21. WOW! What a wealth of information on drum carders! I personally have been considering the “Stauch Motorized Finest Drum Carder” and, as far as I could tell, it was the best motorized carder on the market. Now it looks like I’ve got more research to do. Thank you for posting your opinions and opening my eyes to other options!

  22. Linda White says:

    I just purchased a PG Supercarder from Susan’s Fiber Shop in Wisconsin. I am TOTALLY IN LOVE. Had a Louet crank carder and the PG just is an absolute dream. I’ve got a small alpaca farm and lots of fiber to process. PG with definitely get a good workout. Been blending some beautiful alpaca with Merino / Silk / Tensel. One pass with the PG is all it takes. I highly recommend the Patrick Green Supercarder for anyone who is on the fence.

  23. I’ve got a Stauch Double Wide motorized about 10 years ago. In my opinion it is overall better then the PG and so much more affordable. I’ve used PG products before and yes Paula is very good at her craft.
    We motorized our Stauch on our own and it only costs 200.00 and thats saves a lot of money and it wasn’t hard to do. If anyone wants a picture I’ll email you.
    I can do everything from longwool, Merino,alpaca and angora rabbit on the carder also.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..WOOL TOP MERINO AND FALKLAND MIX FOR SPINNING OR FELTING =-.

  24. I have a Patrick Green electric Fancicard for sale if anyone is interested. Email me at swimmingfish5@yahoo.com for price.

  25. OK If ewe can afford it BUy the Pat Green!
    I have the elsa card and it is fabulous! :]
    I make all kinds of batts two foot wide or one foot wide.
    The Pat Green model at the top of the page is like the lil sis to the Elsa card.
    Really fabulous quality.
    Margaret
    Crystal Creek Fibers
    .-= margaret´s last blog ..Kromski Unfinished Niddy Noddy Large =-.

  26. Hej
    How did it go, did you get a carder in the end?
    I have been experimenting with carding alpaca for some time.
    Contact me at this address if you want to pick my brain.
    luddonline(at)gmail.com
    //Lena
    .-= Lena ´s last blog ..home spun alpaca =-.

  27. Karen,
    I would love to see pics of your motorizing upgrade of your carder, with some tips! I have a Duncan that I got with an Ashford Traditional wheel for an incredible price, so I’m not complaining, but the cost of the motor kits from the makers is outrageous!

    My email is whitelotusalpacas@gmail.com

    Thanks!

    Heather

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