Monday, November 7, 2011

How to make a wool comb and hackle set

So, last year my wife and I decided to invest in a spinning wheel so we could learn to spin our own yarn. We bought it at the Taos Fiber festival, then it sat in the corner and started to gather dust. We tried to use it at first and each time it ended in frustration. More swearing more dust gathering...

When a year rolled around and the Taos Fiber festival came around once more, money was tight and we decided not to go. So instead of going, I sat down and decided to spend that weekend learning to SPIN or BUST. Well, I did learn and I discovered that I enjoyed it so much I couldn't turn it off. So, night after night I sat down to spin, until I ran out of available roving. Normally it wouldn't be a problem except that the drum carder we had was borrowed and the lender requested it back a month before. I was inspired by some other folks who make their own prototype tools so I decided I might be able to construct my own comb and hackle set for much less than the store price. I didn't really have a lot of wood working skill but in the end I really like the results.

Here is the ingredients list:
1 box of 16d ("16 penny") 3.5" long finishing nails.
1 box of 8d ("8 penny") 2.5" long finishing nails.
8 inch dowel
1 tube of epoxy (the type with two connected plungers).
2 pieces of 2" x 2"x 20" maple, Hemlock or poplar.
1 bottle of wood glue. (optional - I used it to connect the wood handle).
1 small can of walnut finishing stain

You will also need access to a saw, drill with 1/8 bit and 2/32 bit, ruler and either sandpaper or an electric sander and a light hammer.

First, I went to Home Depot and found some Hemlock wood in 2" x 2" sticks that where 20" long. I cut two blocks at 5 inches and glued them together and held them with a clamp for 24 hours. Then I started to work on the hackle.

I cut a 15" stick from the hemlock and drew out two lines a 1/2 inch apart then marked alternating dots where the nails would be added. It was pretty tedious bit it really payed of. Next, I drilled the marked dots about 1/8 of an inch in until the were all done. Now for the messy part. I took out the epoxy glue a squeezed out a bit and mixed it up. Then I dipped the head of each nail and tapped them lightly into place in the pre-drilled slots. I used a total of (20) 16d nails. Let dry for 24 hours. That hackle was pretty easy.

 The next day I went back to work on my comb and Marked out the general shape I wanted for the comb. Then I began marking out nail holes in a alternating pattern. I had four rows to mark. I started with (12) 16d nails in the front row, (11) 16d nails in the second row, (10) 8d nails in the third row and finally (9) 8d nails in the back row. For a total of 42 nails.

 I cut out the triangle shape with a table saw and then used a sander to round off the corners and rough edges. Then I drilled the holes.

At this time, I also drilled a hole for the dowel/handle to slide into snuggly.

 Now everything gets finished with a nice coat of walnut stain. I neglected to stain the hackle first so I did it along with the comb and handle. Let it dry for a few hours. When everything is dry, glue in the nails by dipping the heads in the epoxy and tapping them into the paddle lightly. Last glue in the handle. I used wood glue but you could probably use the epoxy for this as well.

I gave it a test run with a diz I made with a hole punched into a milk carton lid and the results turned out well. (In the pic below I used some nice alpaca blanket I had processed myself). I'm really happy with how it turned out. I could have created another set of combs and hackles but I was short on 16d nails.

So, I will soon have roving and more hand-spun yarn available on our website at You can also like us on Facebook at  Happy spinning!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gearing up for the Renissance faire

We've been gearing up the do the Mancos Renaissance Faire this weekend. I've never done one before. I'm excited!! We have to try and create a sense of stepping into the past as they step into our shop. So we've had to make a few alterations to the tent. Yesterday we did a dry run of how the tent shall be set up. The walls will be silky fabric of green and burgundy. Note: I really should be sitting in the red chair sipping tea in the hot sun, but verily, time is short and there is much to accomplish before the seventh eve. (I'm practicing my Old English). This week we will be working on our outfits, a Fairy (with wings) and a shepherd/ alpaca rancher.

My wife and I are combining our shops into one booth for the first time as well. A jeweler and a fiber rancher/artist.

The story goes that one evening the alpaca rancher spotted a fairy creating trinkets by moonlight. He liked her work and wished she would also work for him knitting the fiber from the alpacas and inspiring him to create magical felted goods. So, he bought an enchantment spell and went out in to the woods that night. When the fairy showed up he blew the enchanted dust at the fairy. The next night the fairy came to the rancher who was felting and began knitting the most gorgeous items from the alpaca fiber and also creating beautiful trinkets by moonlight. So, it is said that is how Creations by Moonlight and Moonsong Ranch Alpacas, LLC teamed up.

It's a little overwhelming but I thinks it's going to be a pretty cool event. If you've done something like this we would love to hear any advice or things that worked well at an event like this?

Oh, and if ye are in the area thee must stop in and past time with us!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Natural twist of...

YARN! Our yarn arrived last night and Allurynn and I have been looking it over with great excitement. It's beautiful, rich and just the right weight for all the things we... (Actually Allurynn, since she's the knitter and I am the felter) wish to create for our new yarn based product line in 2011.

We are really loving this yarn and the mill that created it is wonderful to work with. SageRidge Mill & Critters run by Linda Atkinson, located is Clearmont, Wyoming. She really goes out of her way to create a great product and provide quality customer service. She even picked up our fleece in Durango, Colorado! She was driving through during the Great Western Alpaca Show and dropped done South my way to visit a friend. Thanks Linda!

We will also be listing some our our yarns throughout the weekend at our Moonsong Ranch product website so, stop in if you are interested in some rich yummy alpaca yarn!!

Here is a sneak peak of a couple of our new product ideas for 2011.

More to come!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From wild and wolley to naked...

No, no, no, I'm not talking about some crazy beach party or a wild party in Vegas, This is something a little less risque...

It's shearing day at Moonsong Ranch!!

This year the cast included Peter Connelly (the shearer) and his handler Eric Tongate from Kentucky. We also had myself, my wife Allurynn and two new alpaca breeders Wayne and Arveda.

We had a total of 18 alpacas and 3 Llamas to shear this year. We had five coming in on a trailer so we had to do it in three shifts. First, we did some animals from Wayne and Arveda's ranch, then our girls and then lastly the boys.
All in all, the transition was smooth and easy. I think back to last year and recall all the animals being a little unsettled and very resistant to being shuffled around the pens. Maybe the moon was in a better place compared to last year. We are also at a new ranch, so maybe it's better situated for the movement of animals.

Everything went fairly smooth we went through the first set of animals lickety split. We even took out a snaggle tooth out of  Wayne's large guard Llama. It was literally growing out sideways, but it was ready to go and he seemed relieved to be done with it!

Next up the Girls. I always expect the females to be a little more challenging. They have a tendency to spit, scream and carry on while the boys are generally more stoic. And I usually get covered in green, slimy, alpaca spit. We learned a little trick that seems to help. After they are laying on their side I will run a rag across their face/nose area which is dipped in a mix of water and lavender. After wards they noticeably calm down and we can get down to business without too much turmoil... And I don't get slimmed... as bad.

You can tell they really do loooove not having to carry around all that hot, heavy, fleece. But, they are just plain put out at having to be put through the perceived trauma of shearing. We had one who was shorn and afterwards was so zoned out he didn't even notice it was over and it was time to get up and leave. We gave him a moment and a gentle nudge.

Now, the alpacas are NAKED and WE have their beautiful fleeces to create with. We have an order out for yarn from last years crop so we will have more resources for the products that we SO love to dream up and create. You can see some of our creations here at

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year...

With MORE snow than you can shake a stick at! Of course you'll be hard pressed to find a stick around here due to the 18 inches of snowfall we received in a two day period. Needless to say the alpacas were mostly unhappy about their play area being socked in with snow. I think it cramps their style... just a bit.

Now that the sky is no longer dumping snow the temperatures have dropped to 20 degrees during the day and below zero during the night. The alpacas just accept it, settle in and chop on hay until sunrise.

There are a few alpacas who seem to genuinely like the snow and plow into it with playful abandon eating their own snow cones.

And there are others who would clearly prefer we move to Florida and they are quite clear about their desires.
But either way we are all Happy to be here and are ringing in the New Year with snow cones and bubbly!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR from Moonsong Ranch Alpacas, LLC