Monday, February 22, 2010

Large equipment

It was off to Mt. Jefferson OR, for Dave and his father, Larry during the heat of August to tear apart and move literally TONS of wool equipment.

The card was built in 1925 by Davis and Furber in Massachusetts, it came to Oregon on ship, "around the horn" and had been operating in Mt. Jefferson for 50 years. The difficulty in moving this big machine was partly due to it's size, one section weighs 9 tons, and partly due to the doorway not being big enough. Part of the building had been built after the card was in place.

Dave's Dad, Larry with one section of the card.

Same part of the card just outside the door. Notice the step-up the card had to go. Lifting inside the mill was all done with floor jacks and pipe was used to roll the machine along the floor.

Here is all the equipment we purchased loaded onto two Semi trucks. It traveled from Mt. Jefferson to Bellingham, about 350 miles along I-5, naked, with no tarps. This was on the advice of the truck drivers due to all the sharp parts on the machine. Good thing it didn't rain.

We have a long skinny gravel driveway and the large trucks could not get to our place. Dave had them go to a freinds business with a large unloading area and drop off the equipment. We then rented another smaller (but still big) truck to drive it home. Oh, also we had to rent a large fork lift.

Unloading day arrived and I had the flu. Dave and our son Andy were excited, they both love big equipment.

Tarp covered Card coming up the drive way. Our Great Pyrenees dog, Luke, watches.

Dave on the fork lift, Andy offering advice as he lifts the card off the truck in front of the shop.

Dave and I, happy to have the card inside safely.

So the big questions: how do we run this big machine and how to make it do what we want?

The first step was cleaning, lots of old wool and bug from the drive in the carding cloth. (Carding cloth is the material that covers the rolls. Simple description -leather with thousands of sharp thin metal wires poking out.) Then adding electricity and computer controls. We then had to design, and Dave had to build, attachments to fit on the end of the card which would allow us to produce a hand-spinning product, "Roving" and to produce large "batts". All that took about 3 months.

I found old books on carding and Davis and Furber equipment on Ebay. They gave us the information on setting up the distances between the rollers. Dave researched and designed the attachments, a roving maker and Batt winder.

Here is the infeed belt with colored wool going in.

This is the roving maker with the striped roving being made off the end of the card.

The batt maker in action. Batts made are about double bed size.

Next post will be a description of the process, from fleece to roving.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Too Much Fiber

After starting Ferndale Fiber processing, in 1999, I had a back log of 9 months of custom processing. What to do, get a bigger boat, er Card.
BTW the machine used for carding wool is call a "CARD" the person operating the machine is the "CARDER". So began my online research to find a larger machine. Lots of old equipment on the east coast, but heavy and difficult to ship.

Out of the blue (this is the summer of 2000) we get a phone call from the plant manager at Mt. Jefferson Woolen Mill in Oregon. We had met him while doing research on starting a wool mill and had visited the mill. This nice man had given us about a 2 hour tour of their mill. They were processing wool from the washed state through dying, carding, spinning, weaving and fulling the cloth. They made the fabric for the US Forest Service green wool uniforms, felt for lettermans jackets and the black/red check Filson outdoor coats. The mill had been in operation for about 50 years and was being closed down by their corporate headquarters. They had all their equipment for sale, including two carding lines.

Mt Jefferson Woolen Mill, just east of Salem, OR

Mill worker at the spinning frame. The white rolls with "strings" are actually the end of the card showing the "pencil roving" being made and coiled on long bobbins.
(I guess I'll have to make a post with wool mill terminology and definitions!)

This equipment was way, way, way bigger than our planned size increase, but who could pass up this opportunity. We made a ridiculously low offer on one of the carding lines plus other misc. equipment. Our thought was that we would drop the other un-needed equipment off the bid for negotiating if they didn't like our offer. At the last minute before faxing in the offer, Dave told me to cut the dollar amount in half. Totally freaking scary because by now we really wanted that carding line.

The end result- they accepted the bid as it was, low price and all equipment. The only stipulation was that we had to come dismantle the machinery and move it- we had two months....

Friday, February 5, 2010

In the beginning

People often ask how we started in the wool processing business. I'm not really sure... actually it happened after I left a previous career as a biology instructor and got a little idea in my brain. Or should I say an idea in my little brain. Dave and I discussed the idea and decided research was the first order of business.

We visited every processing mill we could find within driving distance. I got on line and researched machines with companies on the east coast. Turns out that there were a couple of manufacturers of "cottage industry" wool mill machinery, and there was a huge amount of old industrial mill equipment-all on the east coast.

Starting small seemed the best idea. Dave, being in food processing all his working life, thought that industrial machinery would be best. We found that the big mills had a machine called a "sample card" which was a miniature (to them) carding machine on which they tested color blends in very small quantities. To us a sample card looked like a great way to get started with a small investment.
So I bought one from a dealer in Maine based on photos. It came and of course wasn't usable to produce a spinning product because it had no collection attachment for making either a batt or roving. Thank goodness for Dave's mechanical skills. He modified the little card and we were processing.


One other problem- fiber needs to be "picked" before carding. I had a hand operated picking device that proved to be very time consuming and hard on the body. In steps Dave's fabricating abilities and he built a mechanical picker. Heaven!


The next problem- too much fiber. When word got out that I was doing custom fiber processing, I had a nine month backlog within the first 2 months!
Stay tuned for more of the saga...