Rotary Wool Cleaner

It starts with a steel barrel… DSC00027

…using an angle grinder I opened the barrel to allow the flow of air through the fleece once the installation of hardware cloth on the inside is complete…


…I predrilled 2″ x 4″ x 32″ bats inside to assist in both making the barrel more rigid, and to cause more agitation of fibre as the drum revolves…


…the bats will be removed and the mesh will be installed tomorrow and a plywood disc cut to close the other end.

Building A Wool Picker

Please bear in mind that I built my wool picker using scrap lumber that I already owned.  It is not necessary to built a picker to these exact dimensions.  Having said that I can attest that this design does work, and quite well.



3″ common, uncoated nails, top card (72) @ 3 sets of 3 rows

3″ common, uncoated nails, bottom card (112) @ 3 sets of 4 rows

3″ deck screws for attaching plywood sides to plywood bottom (pre-drill these) (10)

1 1/2″ screws for attaching upper and lower rails to plywood sides (26)

5/8″ Plywood

-10″ x 4′ (2) sides
-11 1/2″ x 4′ bottom
-9 3/4″ x 14 1/2″ (1 ) and 11 1/4″ x 15 3/4″ (1) upper nail card and top slide
-16 1/2″ x 9 3/4″ (1) bottom nail card

1″ Lumber

-3 1/2″ x 4′ (2) upper rail, interiour
-5″ x 4′ (2) lower rail, interiour

All-thread rod:

(2) 13 1/2″ lengths with (8) washers and (8) nuts

…refer to photos (below)…

1 – attach plywood side to bottom using 3″ deck screws, 5 per side – pre drill holes (an extra set of hands at this point is helpful) – turn box upright at this point

2 – attach inner lower rail (5″ x 4′) along each side, screwing from the outside of the box to draw the rails in tight using 1 1/2″ deck screws

3 – set 5/8″ plywood across these rails at each end and add a asher for a shim, then set upper rail in place and screw this rail into place using 1 1/2″ deck screws

4 – check to see that slide functions freely

5 – measure down and in from end tops to align holes for threaded rod, drill and attach as shown (by moving nuts in and out your can perfectly align the rails to take out any sideways movement in the slide

6 – transfer a 1″ (on rows), 1/2″ staggered (every other row) grid pattern onto your nail cards (refer to photos), then using a drill press lightly dimple the plywood at these points (this will allow the drill bit to grip at these points when drilling at 45 degrees), set up drill press to 45 degree template, drill holes slightly smaller than 3″ common nail diametre

7 – centre top card on top slide, drill holes slightly larger than bolts and bolt together as shown (I used scrap bolts from other discarded projects)

8 – set bottom card into place, drill, and bolt into place

9 – note the space between teeth when viewed from end, remove top bolted card and shim this space out using washers (not listed above) until feel almost touch









Wool Picker: Failure And Success

Yesterday I finished a wool picker that utilized 3 1/2″ nails set at 90 degrees to the cards on which these were mounted.  While the opposing teeth were set closely, this did not work, but only seemed to roll the wool back and forth among the various sets.  I worked all day on this and went to bed disgusted.  Some of the wool pickers on the internet seemed to only have vertical barbs.  This doesn’t work…


Today I cut new wooden cards.  Then I used a 1″ grid from the internet to set out a pattern on it, including an offset grid at 1/2″.


In order to drill at an angle dimple the grid at each mark first…this will allow the angled drill bit to bite where you want it to.  Here’s my 45 degree template that I made up using scrap plywood/lumber and a small drill press.


This is the result on the wooden cards…


Top cards and bottom cards need to be this far apart if possible > <…


…I may have to adjust these a bit better, but they seemed to work well as is.  The nails are sharpened on a low-speed grinder/polisher.  They are very sharp.  And it worked well!


Here’s the machine at work…

There’s a lot of difference between the loft of picked wool (top) and unpicked wool (bottom)…


And there’s the dirt and dander left behind from picked wool/fibre as well….


Everyone Has To Start Somewhere: Dyeing Wool With Haskap

I have not found any recipes for dyeing wool with haskap other than the one I posted a couple of months ago.  That post used table salt as a mordant and was based on the best information on dyeing with dark berries that I could find on the internet.  I now have a couple of books (Adrosko and Duerr).  These do not contain information on dyeing with haskap.  But Duerr’s does have a recipe for dyeing with blackberries.  Knowing from personal experience how blackberries can stain I decided to use this recipe as a baseline recipe.

Here’s what I did:

(1) Drain Mordanted Wool – Yesterday when mordanting I could not tell if the odour that hung in the air there was because the paint was burning off of the new propane heater, or was due to the mordant.  After allowing the mordanted wool to cool in the mordanting bath overnight I removed the lid and could smell the strong presence of sulphuric acid (H2(SO4)).  I drained the wool.  Then I rinsed the wool several times with clean, soft water.


(2) Making Dye Liquor – Weighing my fabric, I matched that with an equal weight of haskap berries.  Berries were covered with water, brought to a boil, then simmered (180F) for 30 minutes.  This was then sieved and set to cool.



(3) Dyeing Wool – Once the haskap dyeing liqueur is cool, add premordanted fibre.  Fully cover the wool with water.  Bring the bath up to a simmer and hold it there for 30 minutes.  Remove the dye pot from the heat.  Remove the wool and set it aside to drain, wash with a pH-neutral soap, rinse thoroughly, hang to dry.

untreated wool (top) – mordanted, rinsed, and haskap dyed (bottom)
washed, mordanted, haskap dyed in full sunlight
washed, mordanted, haskap dyed, and rinsed wool on drying rack

Mordanting Wool In The Snow

1# dry wool
4 oz. aluminum sulphate
1 oz. cream of tarter

Dissolve alum and cream of tarter in 4 – 4 1/2 gal. of cold, soft water. Add wool.  Bring to boil slowly outdoors only.  Low boil for 1 hour.  Replace water as needed.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool overnight.

Tomorrow I dye this wool in haskap. This is the first time I am using alum as a mordant. I can compare this later branch to the unmordanted wool scraps I dyed a couple of months ago. I am preparing a weighed quarter pound of common wool, so used 1 oz. alum, and .25 oz. cream of tarter.

[*Aluminum Sulphate produces sulphuric acid when boiling. Do not breathe. Do not use indoors.]

Wool Picker Begun

After reviewing many different types of wool pickers I began to put one together. I liked the models that were longer, open ended, and with higher sides.

This box is constructed of 5/8″ plywood. It is 4′ long. The sliding top is approximately 1/3 the length of the box, 16″. Rather than dado a groove by which the slide is guided, I used 1″ lumber (thickness), 4″ lumber on the top and 8″ lumber on the bottom. The dimensions are 11 1/2″ wide and 12″ high sides, which coincided with the partial plywood sheet that I had.  At either end at the top are all-thread rods that serve both to strengthen the box as well as to fine-tune the distance along the length of the slide.  This allows it to experiences the least amount of play and to function most smoothly. As of tonight it works flawlessly. I also got the last boxes of uncoated common nails in the region, 3″ and 3 1/2″.  Tomorrow I will finish this picker by sharpening the nails and adding them to cards, and then attach these on the slide and the floor.  I am thinking that I will also add hardware cloth to the floor of the box to allow some debris to fall through during the picking process.  This box is made entirely from scraps and used hardware that I had on hand, only the nails were purchased.

wool picker frame
adjustable all-thread rod, slide, and slide track
3 1/2″ uncoated common nails

Wool Picking

This picker looks to be about a foot high, a foot across, and two-and-a-half-feet long.  I like the open ends on it, and its depth and length.  I think I’ll build one today as I await cream of tarter for mordanting to arrive from town tonight…

Washing Common Wool

Today I washed common, skirted wool in preparation for dyeing a sample with haskap.  I started with a weighed half pound.  It filled a 20 litre stainless steel pot when it was pushed down, but not packed…


…this is the same half pound set outside the pot…


Temperature set to 160F…


With Tide in the water (stir detergent in gently – no suds), the wool immediately soaked in…the pot was 3/4 full of water…


…after 20 minutes the water was filthy.  Gently push the wool down every five minutes or so, but do not agitate or it will felt…


Taken out to drain in preparation for a new change of water, here’s a pic of the first washing (right) next to unwashed wool (left)…


Second wash water…


Following two washes the wool was rinsed…but the water is still mildly dirty…


While it needs a second rinsing, the wool was set out to dry since I ran out of soft water…


…I will rinse the second time before I mordant.