Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wool Picker

Wool Picker

Due to the mountains of fleece that I feel the need to get through, I wanted a faster way of turning them into an even bigger mountain of clean fluff.

So I looked up how to do that & discovered a wonderful little (terrifying) machine called a Wool Picker.
You can buy a few different versions here:  http://www.woolery.com/store/pc/Wool-Pickers-c606.htm or you can get plans for a few dollars online (just google it).

BUT, the cheapskate in me couldn't see paying $200+ for what amounts to a wooden box with nails stuck in it when I have scrap lumber, nails, saws & screws here.  So I looked at a few different versions and picked the best one for me (the one I wasn't terrified of), and went to the basement with safety glasses on & power tools in hand.

Here is a very basic open ended box wool picker.
It's made from pine boards (that used to be the cellar stairs that broke), 1 1/2" wood screws, 3" finishing nails and a 1" dowel... 2 2" screws for the handle.
It works great, but if I ever do it again, I'll use hardwood & space the nails at 1/2" apart vs. 1" apart in each row, though I'll keep the 1" between rows.  I also wanted it to be 36" long, but the boards were only 32".

The teeth of the picker don't actually meet, they are > < this far apart so the machine moves freely. 
You aren't trying to rip the fibers between the nails, you are trying to catch & separate them.

I'm just going to upload the pictures & do the basic "how I did it" in captions.  So, Enjoy!

WARNING!!! This is NOT a toy!  Do not operate this machine around cats, dogs, children or other curious pets or people.  It WILL rip you apart.  I highly recommend wearing thin leather gloves, or failing that having an updated tetanus shot & band-aids on hand.  Also a wire tool to pull the wool out from between the nails is preferable to using your bare fingers. 
DO NOT operate this when drunk.  Not even one glass of wine.  Seriously.  It'll cut you.

Mark out nail hole placement on 3 spike boards
I used 3 so that I could change the direction of the board, not the drill.

Drilling holes on an angle. 
If you want to be particular, use a guide.
(You can also drill straight, it works just as well)
Drill into another board so you get a clean back.

Nails in from the back, so the pointy bits come out the front.

Nails coming out the front.

3 spike boards finished (3 more to go for the handle)

Baseboard, spike boards & sides.
2 more "feeder" boards go on either side of the spikes,
mostly to have something to screw the sides into.

Closeup of the angled nails.
IN, Center, OUT

Feeder boards & Sides screwed on

3 more spike boards for the top and the top runner board.
Close-up of the top unit

Base unit & top in all their spiky scariness

Top & Base unit together

Into the Maw of the Dragon
(the nails are too close, I had to add more to keep them from scraping)

Do NOT put your hands in here.

Intake side.

More scary.
Now with 1/4" molding so the nails are not touching!

The finished wool picker
Detail of the handle
I could have done a much better job, but honestly, I was tired & it works.

Wool locks.
You'll need to hand-pick these apart &
remove anything you don't want mixed in with your final product.

First pass through the picker.

After 3 passes through the picker.
The Finn took 5 passes, so not everything is this easy.

The wool doesn't come out 100% clean, but the picker removes most of the VM.  As with any wool you want to spin or felt, throw out anything with 50% or more VM in it.  It's just not worth it & it'll wreck your yarn.
You have to use clean wool for this... no spinning in the grease if you want to use this machine.  The lanolin will make a mess of the nails, so only clean, dry wool, OK?
You also have to do a bit of prep work, just like you would with hand-picking, flicking, combing, carding, etc.  Break the locks up & start to break them apart a little.  Run it through 3-5x until it looks like it'll card well.  Discard any stubborn bits.  Dump the dust out every 3rd batch or so.  
I suggest filling up your intake box because the picker likes to have enough wool to grab onto... but don't pack it in because then it won't work.  It's simple, you'll figure it out.

This was MUCH faster than hand picking.  Not for every yarn type, but for a nice woolen with a stubborn fleece, it was about perfect.

To my knowledge, this is not a copyright design and no infringement is intended (certainly no profit was made).  It's a scrap wood project, that I hope will make my spinning life easier & please feel free to use this, or modify the machine to fit your own needs.


Yeshua Zur said...

Thank you for the discription and the photos! It's both simple and practical. I enjoyed reading your post. I'm making a swing one now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this...fine job!

Unknown said...

Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for this post. There was so little info on building one of these yourself, and a commercial picker was simply beyond my budget.

Your guide was such a help when I made mine a few days ago. I lacked tools, so I ended up doing it a little differently, but it still works great - I bent the nails rather than drilled at an angle. It's ended up more of a 'city' model, as I used new timber and it has to fit into the very limited space left in my apartment :)

I also wrote a tutorial and uploaded my plans, in case it will help anyone (http://thelooseend.com/building-a-diy-wool-picker/).

Thanks again! Christine