$50 Drum Carder (for Combing Fibers)




About: I sit at my desk at the clinic for six hours a day; often, during the middle of the day, you can find me drawing a new idea on a scrap of paper. I enjoy making projects and fixing things around the house. ...

A drum carder is an efficient way to card wool to make a batt from which you spin.

I bought a piece of 120 TPI (teeth per inch) 8" x 8" carding cloth from a vendor on etsy.com for about $30.  I often spin angora and alpaca, but for recommendations on TPI for other types of fibers, see the comments below.

These supplies cost about $20 from a home improvement store:

(1) 2" PVC pipe (2ft)
(2) 2" PVC end caps
(1) 1/2" threaded rod (3 foot)
(1) 1/4" threaded rod (1 foot)
(9) 1/2" nuts
(6) 1/2" lock washers
(2) 1/4" nuts
(2) 1/4" lock washers
(1) small paint roller
(1) tube silicone adhesive

The "licker in" brush is a "regular" hand carder with maybe 72 TPI that I had on hand.


Step 1: Prepare the Drum

I bought a 2' length of 2" PVC pipe. To cut it to length, measure inside the end caps and mark it on the drum.  Don't actually put on the end caps; if you do, you'll have a heck of a time getting them off.  : )

Lay the 8" x 8" carding cloth next to that line (making sure that the margins devoid of teeth are on the outsides and not where they would overlap).  Mark the length of the other end cap and cut.  Drill holes about 1/2" in from the line to aid in sewing the carding cloth to the pipe.

Trim the carding cloth if it overlaps more than 1", but know that a layer of the silicone adhesive will add 1/16" or so in diameter to the pipe.  Don't panic if the ends don't meet completely; you can fill in the seam with more silicone later.

Step 2: Secure the Carding Cloth

Spread a thin layer of silicone adhesive/caulk on the back of the rubberized carding cloth with a plastic knife.  

Ask a friend to help you close the seam while you duct tape the cloth on as tightly as possible.  The duct tape will not stick to the teeth, so you have to pull it tight just as you stick one side to the other.  

If some silicone squeezes through the crack, that's okay; it can be trimmed down later.  If you spread it on too thick, however, and a very large glob arises through the crack, take off the carding cloth and wipe the excess off.

Set the drum aside for a day and a half to cure.  Poke it gently with a knitting needle at the seam to see if it has cured.  If the seam needs additional adhesive, run a small bead of silicone and leave for a while longer to dry.

Step 3: Drill Holes in the End Caps

Drill 1/2" holes in the caps. Be sure that you get them as centered as possible.

Step 4: Make the Wood Ends

Drill 1/2" holes in a a piece of wood.  "Wobble" the drill a bit to make the holes just a tad larger; the threaded rod needs to turn easily through the holes.  You will need two of these.

The height from the bottom of the wood to the holes should be at least 3" or so.

Cut a 2 1/4" wide strip to serve as the handle connector; I used the same piece of wood.  The length of the handle should be at least 3" (any longer and your hand might hit the board you clamp the drum to).

Step 5: Fashion a Handle

A small paint roller works great for the handle.  Cut a 1/4" threaded rod to connect the handle to the piece of wood mentioned one step ago.  Estimate the extra length you need on the end by imagining a nut and lock washer on one side, the wood for the handle connector and a nut and lock washer on the other.

Step 6: Assemble the "Butt" End

Before you start to assemble the drum, you will need to think about the orientation of the teeth on the carding cloth.  The top of the drum will turn toward you.  You can orient it so that it's either a left or right hand crank.  Mine is cranked with the left hand (and the wool fed with the right), but if you want to do it the other way, plan ahead and make sure the teeth are in the correct direction).

Thread a 1/2" nut and lock washer on the threaded rod.  Add your end cap and thread another lock washer and nut on top of that. Leave enough room to add the piece of wood and two nuts on the end.  Tighten the nut near the end cap until it doesn't turn any more. 

Step 7: Assemble the Handle End

Thread the nut and lock washer on the other side (eyeball where the end cap will fall), thread on the cap, and push securely. Thread another lock washer and nut on that and secure.

Bear in mind that once the end cap is pushed onto the pipe, it will not be removed easily. It would be best to over-estimate where the lock washer will fall (and leave a small gap between the carding cloth and the end cap) than to underestimate.  

The drum should not twist on the threaded rod; if it does, you may have to tighten the nuts more.  If you tighten the nut too much, the PVC pipe might flex a little and your drum will be closer on one side than the other due to the distortion.

Step 8: Attach the Handle

Thread a 1/2" nut, a lock washer, the handle holder, a lock washer and another nut on the threaded rod (on the drum side). Tighten.

Do the same with the 1/4" nut, a lock washer, the handle holder, a lock washer and another nut (for the handle).  Tighten.

Step 9: Mount the Drum and Licker

Clamp the drum carder to a painted board, and screw down a slicker brush or a hand-carding board to serve as the "licker in".  Test by feeding in small amounts of wool.  If it grabs a large clump, just back it up and pull some of it out.  

When you fill your drum, use another slicker brush to "burnish" the wool and brush it a little more on the outside.

When you're ready to pull off your bat, slide a knitting needle under the wool at the silicone seam.

Step 10: Store

The carder could be clamped to a table, but if you have something on which to support the carder (like this old guitar hero drum stand), you could hang the tool with a piece of rope.



    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • IoT Challenge

      IoT Challenge
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest

    17 Discussions


    4 months ago

    The slicker is an extra brush running just above the licker-in. To my eye, most producers retask a length of draft-proofing brush, secured to a batten with pivot arms at the end to lift it clear wnen removing the batt.


    4 months ago on Step 3

    To make a cheap centre-finder, buy four 45 degree kid's set-square triangles. Position three of them so their 90 degree apexes meet, and glue them together so there's a V-space the cap can fit into. Then glue the last on top of the others, so the 45-degree angle bisects the V-space, stood off just a tad. Running a marker down the edge of where it bisects the V finds a diameter of the pipe: where 2 diameters intersect is the centre, so shift it around and you'll see where to drill the hole.


    5 years ago on Step 10

    is it possible to use a large pvc pipe to make a larger amount of batting at a time? say 8" pvc roller for this project....

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It might be possible. I know they sell many sizes. At the time I was unable to afford much more than an 8" x 8" square of the carding cloth. That stuff gets quite pricey!


    Reply 4 months ago

    8" hdpe pipes and end caps are about as large as they go. An 8" pipe has a circumference of just a tad over 25", less 1" for the doffing gap, so you're looking for 24" fabric of whatever width. Howard Brush Outlet in Maine advertise a choice of different tooth spacings on Etsy, dependent on the fibre you intend carding - if others stock replacement carding fabrics, it would be good to know. Doing it this way means you have the same choice of spacings you'd look for in different cards, and still keep within the price of a made-up machine...
    In addition to that, using a thin brass shiv to really cover the ends of the fabric also gives something for the doffer to work against. I'd suggest 2x 1/2" strips, 1/8" thick, drilled and countersunk at 1" intervals, for flat-head CS screws, about M4 size.


    4 months ago

    Once the batt has been lifted off, it's usually far too big for hand-spinning, so although it is possible to pull chunks away from it to open up by carding, usually the fibres, now alligned, are passed through a small die, known as a diz, which reduces them to a long thin strip known as roving. That then allows far smaller amounts to be pulled away when loaded onto a hand carder, which is then used to really open the fibres up before lightly rolling into a rolag, which starts to point them in the direction of the perfect twist needed for staedy spinning.


    4 months ago

    The classic design has a 1" gap, or thereabouts, between the ends of the cloth when it's wrapped around the drum. This is for the "doffing" puller to run through - it separates the fibres wrapped around the drum at that point, rather than cutting them, so the sheet can be lifted off in a single batt (the name for that form of drum carded fibre)


    2 years ago

    It's been a few years since this was posted. How's it going/how did the carder turned out? Did it do what you hoped? Are you able to make nice batts etc. ?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi! Thanks for asking. I have since sold the carder and upgraded to a "real" carder. I do quite a bit of pet fur spinning, and although the DIY carder worked pretty well, I need something more professional for the volume that I tackle. I would still recommend the project for folks who occasionally card fiber, but if you have any volume of carding to be done, it's best to purchase a more professional carding machine instead.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for this DIY (Do It Yourself Drum Carder Instructions. I was wondering "how could I make one?" $50 sounds great compared to quite a few hundred dollars!!!! Plus the 8"X8" 120TPI Carding cloth for about $30 or a bit more now , plus postage. I will see what I come up with!
    I have just started carding my fibres so I will consider a DIY from your instructions. Thanks Karen from Barb.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi !!!

    I just was looking for this !!! Thank you. Good work !!!
    But, I don't think if I can find the stuff which has small teeths on. The one, you covered your work. What if I use very very thin steal wire?

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I needed it. BTW, I wanted to rate your 'ible but can't find where the stars went to. 5* when I can actually rate it.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I've wanted to build a carding machine for ages!  I love this! (5 stars from me!)

    Even if you someday went crazy and made a full carding machine, this drum could be re-used as a boffer, stripper, or intake drum!

    Where exactly did you get the carding cloth tho?  (I haven't been able to find a cheap source)  Also, what kind of wool are you carding and how many teeth/inch is the carding cloth?

    Finally, what are you using for the "slicker"?  Is that a pet brush or an actual carding brush?

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your reply!! I went on etsy.com and typed in "carding cloth". The teeth per inch available are generally 54, 72, 90, and 120. I generally spin alpaca and angora rabbit, so the fine carding cloth is recommended. They don't have a very long staple length, so the 2" PVC pipe is all I need. If you use a longer staple length, you may have to purchase a longer carding cloth and use a 4" pipe.

    This is according to https://www.woolery.com/store/pc/Selecting-a-Carder-d11.htm
    "Selecting Carding Cloth
    Coarse: 45-54 teeth per square inch (tpi), used for more open fibers.

    Regular: 72 teeth per square inch, Can be used for coarse and mid-range fibers such as Cheviot, Romney and adult Mohair. Useful for carding wool such as Border Leichester to get a deep batt. NOT recommended for fine fibers.

    Fine: 90-120 teeth per square inch. For most fibers, again NOT recommended for fine fibers.

    Extra Fine: 190-255 teeth per square inch. For ALL fibers, especially very fine varieties. Can be used for Cotton, Merino, Llama, Alpaca, Cashmere, Dog Hair and other exotics.

    Tpi stands for teeth per square inch. It is used in reference to the carding cloth used on your drum carder, hand carders, or flicker. How many you need depends on what fiber you want to card. Keep in mind that not one set will work perfectly for every fiber but, for the most part a pair ranging from 72-112 TPI will work on most wool."

    I used a regular hand carder for the "licker in". I believe this is a 72 TPI cloth. I use a dog slicker comb as a separate burnishing brush before I take off the bat.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Great information!!!
    So is that store where you got the carding cloth?