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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 www.MoonsongRanch.etsy.com. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoonsongRanch.  Happy spinning!


32 comments:

  1. Doug, these are awesome! Nice craftsmanship...
    Please let me know if you decide to produce them for sale.

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  2. Wow - impressive. I love my wheel and recently bought handcarders(inexpensively) which are just waiting for me to finish spinning up all of the processed roving.

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  3. I started out using very low tech hand carders and found that I caught up with my spinning pretty quickly, that's how this idea came about. A labor of love, I guess you might say. What I like most about using the comb and hackle is that I can step up my production and create beautiful, complex rovings more easily and quickly than with my hand carders. I am also adding the completed set to my Etsy shop http://MoonsongRanch.etsy.com. If you don't have the tools or the desired to build it yourself you can buy it there.

    Cheers!
    ~Doug

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  4. Hey Doug,
    Great combs! My husband is wondering how you got the holes drilled so straight ~ did you use a drill press??

    Thanks!
    Mona

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  5. Hi Mona,
    Thanks! A number of times I wished I had a drill press, but I just clamp the wood to a small rickety bench I screwed together. It's about 2 1/2 feet tall. I sit across from it in a chair looking down on it. The I carefully mark the holes with pencils ahead of time because I know the angle will need all my attention. Then lean over it and try to drill as straight in as I can. Also the bit should small enough that the nail fits snugly. When you go to glue there is leeway to straighten nails after to gluing is done. Just let it dry in the straightest position you can get them into.

    Best of luck!
    ~Doug

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  6. Thanks Doug! My hubby had planned on making me combs but has insisted on needing a drill press to do it. He's just a perfectionist. But it certainly can be done without it! Very impressed with how straight the nails are, and it looks like the combs are working out just fine for you. Happy combing!

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    1. My hubby said the same thing " I can't do this without a drill press." well while he was out and about I cut the wood for the combs and glued it (i made two combs) and I cut the wood for the hackle, marked the holes and drilled them, all myself! I just have to mix the epoxy and set the nails and the Hackle will be finished, the holes are straight and as "inline" as they can be. No part of hand spinning was PERFECT when spinning started, why is everyone so obsessed with perfection now?

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  7. Mona, Here's the other thing to consider. Even if the nails are a bit crooked or at a slight angle they will still catch fiber and pull it. that's the main purpose. I am really enjoying the combs. I have been discovering all kinds of fun, blended rovings.

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  8. Wow, that is very impressive! Beautiful work.
    -Jaime

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  9. EEEK! I recognized myself in the first few paragraphs. I have a spinning wheel, lots of spinning how to books, but no courage. The wheel intimidates me! I am going to take a deep breath and follow your lead...I WILL master the wheel....

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  10. Have you used your hackle and comb with suri alpaca?
    I have a bunch of raw suri and can't imagine it cooperating. ;0)
    but I am going to make a set!

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  11. I have used is with Suri and Longer staple length fibers and it works very well! Good luck and please post a link to a picture of your finished hackle and comb!

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  13. Here's a link to photos of my project which was inspired by yours. The nails aren't holding very well with all the combinb so we're going to try again with a different approach. Thanks for sharing!

    http://hollyshandknits.com/2012/07/my-new-knitting-toys/

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  14. Nice job Holly! Thanks for sharing. I would suggest either drilling a 1/4 inch slice of oak to slide your times into then gluing it over the head of the comb or using a stronger epoxy to hold the times.

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  15. Yeah!!! and so excited that your need for roving will result in my ability to process my own roving!!!!

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  16. I've just discovered your blog, Allurynn,

    Thanks so much for bravely sharing your hackle project with your readers.

    I have a question: with time having elapsed since you completed the hackle-and-comb set, have you experienced any "wear" issues...as in tines gradually loosening/wobbly? I guess I am concerned about durability over time and if you find time, could you comment?

    Thank you so much!
    Elora McKenzie

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  17. Hi Elora,
    Allurynn's DH here, Excellent question. Since I created my first hackle over a year ago, I've learned a lot and created and sold over 50 hackle and comb sets!! I've changed materials and lumber and grown more sophisticated over time. The latest sets, done in Cherry wood will likely last a lifetime, but after all is said and done at the end of the day I am still left with my very first hackle and comb set. Yes, there are a couple of loose tines, but it still works great after a year of serious use. At some point I may add a smidge of 2-ton epoxy to calm the wobbly tine. :)

    -Doug

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  18. how did you nail the nails in? Meaning, how was the piece supported while you hammered?

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  19. I used a rubber mallet so the nails wouldn't get damaged. I placed the hackle wood on cardboard on the ground and sat down and held the nails with my hand while gently tapping them in. The holes should be a large enough diameter that you can almost slide the nails most of the way in. Hope that helps!

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  20. Hi, Doug!

    Thank you for this post, which I discovered a couple of months ago. In the interim, I slowly gathered all my materials, convinced my father to help me, started sanding...and sanding...and sanding...then I discovered your Etsy store, for which my father is grateful :D

    And I look forward to having one of your pretty hackles!

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  21. What is the diameter of the dowel rod?

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    1. When I made these I used a 1/2 inch diameter rod. It's easy to drill and fits nicely without shaving or altering it. But later, I found I could use a larger 1 inch diameter rod shaved and tapered slightly to fit a 3/4 inch hole and the handle is so much easier on the hand to hold for longer periods of use. Just takes a little more work and a good sander. ;)

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  22. What is the diameter of the dowel you used?

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  23. Thank you. Don't have the money to buy one, now thanks to you I can make one.

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  24. I am jus wondering how well these have held up with use? Wouldn't the constant stress of pulling fiber through the nails loosen them up?

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  25. I just found this. I too can't afford to buy them but I showed this to a friend and he is going to make it for me....thank you very mucH for sharing your great idea ��

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  26. I'm going to try this! I have a question: is your way of setting the nails in adequate for the 'pull' they'll have to resist? I was thinking of nailing the finishing nails all the way through a 1x2, then gluing-and-clamping that board to a 2x2. What do you think?

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  27. Yes, that will work even better. I later tried that and found it to be much easier and stronger. I drilled the holes in a 1/4" x 2 inch strip and drilled a second hole that the nail head would just slip into about 1/8" deep and it fit snugly. then I glue the assembled hackle with nails on the 2 x 2 and clamp it. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much! I'll be trying it tomorrow.

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  28. I just have to say how wonderful you are to not only comment so often with questions freely but provide such great instruction. Everyone should be like this!

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