Build Your Own Fiber Tumbler

Build Your Own Fiber Tumbler



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Processing Wool & Fiber at Home

If you have ever worked with raw fleece and fiber, you will know that the fiber cleaning process usually entails hours of picking, pulling and sorting, removing every last seed-head and bug.  It’s a dirty, yucky and very time-consuming task.  The FAB Fibre Tumbler speeds up that process a thousand times. Even if you only clean one fleece a year, you will worship the ground upon which your tumbler stands!

We developed this machine over a period of years, after experimenting with various designs of threshing screens, willowing tables and wire baskets. Nothing has matched the speed and efficiency of this tumbler, especially when used in combination with a leaf blower.

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 concrete mixer, a few bits of wood and a length of wire mesh.  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.  That’s a lot more complicated to build, which defeats the object of FAB’s Build-Your-Own series of plans. Not only does the cement mixer already have everything you need to drive a fiber tumbler, but you also still have a fully functional concrete mixer.

These plans contain detailed step-by-step instructions on how to build the willowing drum and convert a concrete mixer to power it.

The plans shows you how to select a suitable concrete mixer, build the drum, put it all together and how to get the best out of the completed machine. To assist you, there are twenty nine CAD (computer aided design) drawings plus over thirty photographs, as well as links to videos.

Multi-purpose Machine

If you already have a concrete mixer, it’s unlikely to be in use for more than one week a year.  I love versatility and this simple conversion allows you to transform a small concrete mixer into a fiber tumbler …and back again when required.

If you intend to do a lot of processing of fleece or fiber 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-$400 for a concrete mixer, if you don’t already have one that’s suitable.  A leaf blower is also very useful, which might set you back another $75 if you don’t already have one to play with in the garden. These are Canadian dollars, so Americans can expect to pay a lot less.

Fiber Processing

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 usually 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, you could end up paying much less for the cleaning process!

All funds received from these plans go directly to help the rescued animals in The Llama Sanctuary

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Lynne Milsom

Lynne Milsom

Owner of FibreArtsBootcamp

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147 shop reviews

5 out of 5 stars

Adam 06 Oct, 2020

5 out of 5 stars

I found the directions simple and easy to use. They are in metric, so a few minutes with a computer to figure out inch equivalents will save you time. I spent 5 hours making this picker, and it has greatly reduced my carding time. Use real solid wood! The directions say you can use plywood, but my attempts with plywood did not stand up to the wear and tear the tool produces. I made adjustments with real wood and it works beautifully.

Purchased item:

Melissa Goulet 05 Jan, 2021

5 out of 5 stars

This box was a great project and I’m happy with the results. I will say that the instructions related to materials needed and cut sizes was very straightforward. As the build went on, there is less detail particularity related to the 2 wedges. I also had to watch the video and look really closely at the pics to determine the angle orientation of the nails. I also didn’t have a band saw, so the handle geometry would have been difficult to cut for me. So I made a custom handle out of some round stock and 2x4 pieces . Works great and is very comfortable. So maybe a little more detail about wedges, and nail angle orientation of bottom and top pieces would have been preferred but overall, a great build.

Purchased item:

Riki 05 Dec, 2019

5 out of 5 stars

I love this yarn. This was my 3rd order and just put a 4th in. For this order I made a giant knit baby blanket (6 skiens) and wow did it go over well. It was passed around the party and everyone commented on how soft it was. Also, this yarn is very affordable and I love the pre joined option.

Purchased item:

Donna 15 Jul, 2019

3 out of 5 stars

The CAD diagrams were well done but lacked some details and left me scratching my head more than once. Photos of the finished product would have helped a lot. I got it built and it works well. I appreciate that my funds went to a good cause.

Purchased item: