When I got into fiber art, I didn't realize how expensive of a hobby it would be until much later. I was drawn deeper into the fiber art world after learning to crochet because I loved the idea of taking a raw material like wool, and learning all the processes to turn it into a piece of clothing that someone could actually wear. Knowing people have done this for hundreds of years really grounds me, after spending all day staring at a screen.
There are a lot of ways to make slap-dash tools to process wool but I've found that the better the tools, the better the end product, like with everything else. I'm also in love with getting new tools, especially when they're made well, so deciding to make my own hackle wasn't made lightly. This project has given me so many more options with my spinning now though. A hackle is also a great piece to have if you can't afford a drum carder (like me) and if you have well made combs, your hackle will be well made too because it's the combs that do the work. We're just making a base to keep them together and steady.
At first, I tried to figure out how to make my own combs too, but without a good grinder to sharpen the stainless steel points, I decided it was impossible. I wouldn't be able to settle for combs or a hackle with nails for the tines, so I had to give in and buy a set of combs, even though I don't have a lot of money to throw around.
I settles on Indigo Hound Viking combs for a few reasons. One, they were the cheapest option and two, my fiber art books spoke very highly of them, especially for the kind of wool I needed to comb.
Side note: be very careful with wool combs. They are incredibly sharp and dangerous. I already speared my hand once and I really hope I don't do it again. I will be grabbing these instead of a baseball bat if I ever think someone is trying to break into my home though.
This instructable will assume you already have the combs (but hopefully I'll figure out how to make those too soon).
Step 1: Supplies
None of the supplies are particularly expensive, especially if you already have a drill.
- spade bit the same size as the handles on your combs (mine were 1")
- thin dowel/skewer/tiny knitting needles you don't mind cutting
- drill bit the same thickness as the thin dowel
- sand paper
- a piece of wood a little longer than 2x the width of one comb (I had a 2x4 cut the long way left over from another project)
- a bandsaw or some sort of wood cutting device
- a rounded wood file if you need to clean up the holes you cut
Step 2: Measurements
You're going to need to take a few measurements. The first set depends on whether you have extra wood on the edges of your combs that would cause a gap between the teeth if they were laid next to each other. If you do, measure the space between the tines and take an average of the spaces. Mine weren't exactly the same, so you'll probably have a little wiggle room. Draw a line and cut that extra wood off using a band saw or whatever you have. A power tool would probably be the best because the wood will be some sort of hardwood. I think mine were made from maple. You can cut only the edges that will be touching when they're placed next to each other but I cut both sides so they'd be weighted equally when I use them as combs. I had a hell of a time figuring out how to make this cut without the tines or handle hitting the bandsaw but you should be able to do it if you have the handle sticking up and the tines pointing away from you or toward you depending on which side you're cutting.
Next, you're going to measure from the bottom edge of the handle to the bottom edge of the comb piece so that when they're placed in the block, the front of the comb is touching the table but the handle is raised enough to make it parallel with the surface you're going to clamp it to. It's kind of a tricky measurement to get. It helps if you put something under the handle to hold it level, get down so the bottom of the comb is at eye level and place your ruler like you see in pic 2. (Or if someone knows a better way, please let me know in the comments!)
That measurement is going to be how far the edge of the hole is going to be from the edge of your block of wood. Write that down and add half the diameter of the handle to it and you'll know where to put the middle of your spade bit for the first hole.
(To find the diameter of the handles, use a flexible measuring tape and measure around the handle. Take that number and divide it by pi. Or use this handy thing on google)
The second hole will be the distance from the inside of one handle to the inside of the other handle (when they're lined up next to each other) plus half the diameter of the handle and the same distance from the edge of the block of wood that you just figured out.
Step 3: Drilling Your Holes.
Take the correct spade bit (I used 1 inch for my Indigo Hound combs) and start drilling your hole. The trick to using spade bits is to get the drill going fast before you start pushing downward to make the cut. Then, once you get going, push in bursts, not with a constant pressure.
If you've never used these bits before, it might help to practice on a space piece of wood.
Once the holes are cut, you'll probably need to clean them up with some sandpaper or a file.
Push the combs through the holes. They should slide through easily but still be snug.
If the combs don't want to fit next to each other, sand or file off the bits that are preventing it from the edges of the combs. Mine were cut close, so I had to take a little off.
Step 4: Last Bit of Stability.
To make sure the combs don't wiggle free or fall out when you decide to move your new hackle, you're going to need a piece of dowel (I used tiny wooden knitting needles I found on ebay and cut them down to size) and a drill bit that matches the diameter of the dowel. It doesn't even really have to be a dowel. You can use tiny knitting needles like I did, a wooden skewer that you use in cooking, or anything else that's handy, as long as you have the matching drill bit.
The bit will also have to be long enough to drill all the way through the top of the block, and at least all the way through the handle and into a portion of the bottom of the block, if not all the way through.
Put your combs in the holes and clamp it down, on top of a scrap piece of wood if you plan on going all the way through, and drill downward, perpendicular to the table, through the handles and the block.
You might have a hard getting it perfectly perpendicular because of the tines (like I did) but it doesn't have to be dead on. As close as you can get it fine. We're just creating a pin to keep everything steady. If you did everything else right, there shouldn't be much stress on the dowels.
Push your dowels down through those holes, making sure to keep a bit sticking out so you can grab it later. That's what I liked about using the tiny knitting needles. They have a built in cap that's smooth enough not to get the wool/fibers caught on it but I can still grab it easily.
If you're using a dowel or skewer, sand it nice and smooth with fine grit sand paper. If you're having a hard time getting a grip on it, you can try to use a tiny drill bit (I got a set from dremel that I use all the time) and drill a hole through the top and put a piece of wire through it. I did this when I needed pins for my loom, making the wire into a sort of key ring. Then I was able to hang them on the side of the loom when I wasn't using them too.
Step 5: You're Finished!
Use the C-clams and clamp your new hackle down to the table and get your fiber and diz out! If you don't have a diz, a large washer works well.
There are a ton of videos on YouTube explaining how to use a hackle, so I'm not going to explain here.
Have fun and be careful with those sharp tines!