Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wool Comb and Hackle Set Part 2: A Comb for Every Fleece

The comb and hackle set was made for those who process their own fleeces and want to comb larger quantities at one time....what I call "production combing". The combs were designed to be held with two hands when combing to make it more comfortable to comb for a longer period of time. The handles, which are all of one piece of wood, are designed and shaped not just for comfort but for maximum control, much like a good hammer, so that even without looking the comber can tell which way the head of the comb is facing. This also makes it possible to flip the comb when reloading the hackle without looking at it so you don't lose your rhythm.

As Eric has told me many times it's the stationary hackle that really does most of the work when combing. However, one must take into account  what type of fleece is being combed, staple length, condition of the fleece such as amount of vegetable matter, any matting of the fibers, etc , the amount of fleece you intend to comb in one session, and any physical limitations the comber may have. The answers to these questions will help you decide which comb is best for your purpose. I would like to say that all of the combs will comb ALL types of fiber equally well. The difference between combs comes in when you ask how many passes do you want to make to get your fiber spinnable and do you, as the comber, have any issues with your hands or wrists that could be aggravated by combing?? 

ROMNEY/BFL--is slightly matted with dry ends and is of medium fineness LLAMA--very little VM but what is there are larger pieces, lots of short cuts, fine to medium fine softness ALPACA--short cuts, fair amount of vegetable matter of all shapes and sizes, very fine and soft MERINO--very small chaff like VM, shortcuts and nepps, fine in softness
I chose 4 different types of fleece to get a variety of of staple lengths, vegetable matter content and type, fineness, and "fleece conditions". I combed a hackle full of each fleece with each type of comb and recorded how many passes it took to remove vegetable matter and second cuts to make a nice smooth spinning fiber.  All of my fleece has been scoured/washed.........I NEVER put raw fleece on my combs and hackles.

Note: 1 Pass = combing off the hackle and reloading back onto the hackle one time.
When loading Alpaca only load the hackle 1/3 full when pressed down gently. Wool tends to be springy and puffy where as alpaca is not, therefore if you load the hackle with as much alpaca as you would wool you will have to much on the hackle and will have a hard time combing as well as an excessive amount of waste no matter which comb you use.
The type and state of the fiber you are combing will significantly effect how many passes it will take any comb to produce clean fiber.

4 Pitch Heavy Comb

 4 pitch HEAVY comb has 50 tines 1/8" dia., 5" tall in rows 1 & 2, 4" tall in rows 3 & 4, placed 1/4" on center spacing, length end to end approx. 11 1/2" .

The Heavy comb was able to comb all 4 fibers clean and spinnable with one pass removing all VM and second/short cuts. 

I like being able to comb fiber clean in one pass, it's almost instant gratification. Unfortunately, me being a fun sized person, I cannot comb with the Heavy comb very long due to it's weight (20-21 oz). It is a must if you have matted for felted fleece. In one of our earlier videos Eric actually combs out cria alpaca that felted some when it was washed into a gorgeous spinning fiber. I also prefer this comb when combing alpaca and other fine non wool fibers.  One of my favorite things about this comb is I find it almost impossible to bend the tines and believe me if they can be bent I'll find a way to do it.

4 Pitch Hybrid Comb

 4 pitch HYBRID comb has 12 tines 1/8" 1st Row; 5" tall and 13 tines 3 3/32" 2nd row 5" tall; 25 tines 3/32" rows 3 & 4 4" tall placed 1/4" on center spacing, length end to end approx. 11 1/2" 

The results for combing with the Hybrid were: the Llama and Romney/BFL required 1 pass, the Merino and Alpaca required 2 passes. 

This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE COMB!!! I use it for most everything. I've combed everything with the Hybrid from super fine Cormo to coarseish Border Leichester with an 7" staple. There are many reasons I love this comb; it is light enough I can comb for hours if I want but heavy enough to add a little "umph" when I'm combing off the hackle, the front two rows of tines are the large 1/8" so I rarely have to stop and bend tines back into place because these don't bend easily,and it's the "middle of the road comb" as far as passes needed without all the weight of the Heavy comb. It's my "happy medium" comb:)

4 Pitch Light Comb

4 pitch LIGHT comb has 50 tines 3/32" dia., 5" tall rows 1 & 2; 4" tall rows 3 & ; placed 1/4" on center spacing, length end to end approx. 11 1/2" 

The results for combing with the Light comb were: Llama required 1 pass, Romney/BFL required 2 passes, and the Merino and Alpaca required 3 passes to remove VM and second/short cuts.

This is Eric's favorite comb. I think it's because he designed the Light comb first so it has a special place in his heart;) The Light comb is perfect for combing out nice clean fleeces that have very little to no vegetable matter and few second cuts. Due to it's light weight, you can comb for a very long time with no discomfort. This is also the comb I recommend to anyone who has problems with arthritis, carpal tunnel or any sort of hand or wrist issues that the weight of the comb could cause a problem physically. The tines do bend easier as they are the 3/32" versus the large 1/8" but they are easily bent back into place.

2 Pitch Comb

 The 2 pitch large comb has 27 tines 1/8" diameter, 1/4" on center spacing, 5" tines, 2 rows, length end to end approx. 11 1/2" 

The results of combing with the 2 Pitch large comb were: Llama and Romney/BFL required 1 pass and the Merino and Alpaca required 2 passes to remove all VM and short/second cuts.

As you can see the 2 Pitch comb had similar combing results as the Hybrid due to having the large 1/8" tines but with the weight of the Light comb.  The 2 Pitch can handle longer staple lengths but is very good for short ones (3 1/2" and less) since the pitch of the tines isn't "swallowing" up the staple of your fleece and leaving nothing to comb as the 4 pitch would do if you were working with 3" or shorter. This comb is also good for dealing with matted/felted fleece and for those with wrist/hand problems in which weight is an issue. The 2 Pitch comb is sort of the "little sister" to the Heavy Comb and will do pretty much the same thing with the added bonus of being able to deal with shorter staple lengths and not weighting as much BUT you will not be able to load as much on the hackle since the 2 Pitch comb cannot hold as much fiber as the 4 pitch combs which can hold as much as the hackle. In short, the only drawback is you can't comb as much fiber at one time as you can with the 4 pitch.

llama and alpaca combed in this tutorial, spun and plyed together and dyed purple

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