How to Build Your Own Wool & Fiber Tumbler
It’s such a waste to have a machine that can only perform one job, especially when it’s unlikely to be used for more than one week a year. I love versatility and that’s precisely what this simple conversion allows you to do; transform a small concrete mixer into a fiber tumbler …and back again when required.
If you intend to do a lot of fiber processing at home, then even if you had to buy a new concrete mixer to begin with, this machine will quickly pay for itself in time saved. A commercially built tumbler will set you back several thousand dollars. You can build this one yourself for about $80 plus another $300 for a concrete mixer, if you don’t already have one that’s suitable. You will also require a leaf blower, which might set you back another $75 if you don’t already have one to play with in the garden.
One of the most difficult steps in the journey of converting animal fiber into beautiful yarn is the removal of dirt, vegetation and other detritus. Have you ever grumbled when you’ve found a tiny piece of vegetation in a commercially produced yarn? Instead of being upset, you should be in awe of the amount of work that goes into cleaning the fiber to make that yarn and how utterly amazing it is that you don’t find a lot more rubbish! So difficult can it be to get hay out of a fleece, that for many people, it’s simply not worth the effort and they choose to send it away to a mill for processing. For some of us though, that is not an option. Having nurtured and loved your animals, there is something special about processing the fiber with your own hands. It is also not unheard of, to receive your fiber back from the mill, mixed with someone else’s.
Tumbling and blowing is just another step in the fiber processing journey, but it can be the most significant process, taking a lot of the time-consuming, painstaking drudgery out of home processing. Commercial mills do not tumble fiber. Instead, they attempt to remove the vegetation during the washing or scouring stage. Once the fiber is dry, high powered pickers and powerful blowers are used separate the fibers. De-hairing and cleaning machines are sometimes used to remove more of the unwanted stuff. I can assure you though, that if you tumbled your fiber BEFORE sending it away to the mill, they would be extremely happy with you and you will usually end up paying much less for the cleaning process!
CLICK HERE to download the plans to build your own
For the home-processor, cleaning fiber usually entails hours of hand-picking and sorting through the fiber, removing every last straw and bug. It’s a dirty, dusty and time-consuming job. The FAB Tumbler speeds up that process a thousand times and no matter how much or how little fiber you clean each year, you will worship the ground upon which your tumbler sits!
This machine evolved through a series of experimental threshing screens, willowing tables and wire baskets and I can truthfully say that the combination of tumbler and blower is a massive improvement upon any of the non-mechanical methods we have tried.
Although the tumbler looks complicated, this is a surprisingly cheap and easy project, even for a woodworking beginner. All you need to start with, is a suitable cement mixer. If you don’t have a cement mixer, you will need to build a frame to hold the drum, as well as find a suitable drive mechanism. This might be a hand-cranked device or an electric motor, pulley and belt system. Not only does the cement mixer have everything you need, but you also still have a working cement mixer.
These plans contain detailed step-by-step instructions on how to build this drum and convert a concrete mixer to power it.
Twenty nine CAD (computer aided design) drawings plus over thirty photographs accompany the videos on our YouTube channel.
As with all of the FAB ‘Build Your Own’ plans, all proceeds from sales go towards caring for the llamas and alpacas at Llamas in the Raw Sanctuary. Thank you for caring!
This short video shows the tumbler in action and the easiest way to clean fleece:
These plans are Copyright FAB Fibre Arts Bootcamp (BC) 2013