Don’t laugh. You might be surprised at how well they do actually work to help process the fiber. Unfortunately, their handles are designed for ease in working with angel food cake, not wool, so they aren’t entirely efficient, the tension of the wool pulling on the wool as you comb it can bend them ever so slightly, and the movement is not ideal for your wrists. So, I started looking around online for a pair of wool combs. I went back and forth about whether to just plunk down the money for a brand new pair, from a place like the Woolery. Eventually, I found a pair up for sale on Ebay. Though they weren’t brand new (the seller got them in the 80s), they hadn’t really been used much since then and looked like they were in excellent shape. I won the auction and waited excitedly for my combs to arrive.
And they are terrifying.
Looking at the pictures above, the cake breaker actually looks like it is sharper. However, you can safely handle the tips of the cake breaker tines without fear of serious injury. Not so, the wool combs. Those f*ckers are SHARP! I’ve already cut myself twice (impaled is probably more accurate), and I didn’t even notice when the worst of those two injuries happened! That’s right, folks, my combs are so sharp I didn’t even feel when one of them went a millimeter into my thumb. Thankfully, neither nick was serious – I’ve actually had worse, following an incident with a piece of plastic boning, a broken sewing machine needle, and my lip – but they were enough to make me slow down a little bit. These are some serious textile tools, and need to be handled with attention and care.
[It’s really important to remember that they are sharp tools of wool preparation, and not an excuse to pretend to be Wolverine. You’ll soon be sorry. And no, I didn’t get injured pretending to be Wolverine…I just know that I was tempted when I first picked them up.]
On the plus side, these work so much better for my Shetland wool than the cake breakers did! I feel like the alpaca does a little better with the cake breakers at the moment, but holy crap! Just a few passes on the combs, and the Shetland comes out so super fluffy!
I was already about halfway through processing the alpaca, with the combs. I’ve got a nice box of the fluffy alpaca sitting by my workbench and I started spinning a little of it the other day. I’ve decided that all of the fleece I buy at festival and process myself will be spun on the Ashford, and all of the commercially processed stuff will be spun on the Lendrum. I figure that I haven’t gotten my wool as clean as the professionals do, so this is a little bit like having a wheel for “in the grease”** spinning, and one for things like combed top and mill-processed roving.
**in-the-grease spinning refers to spinning wool that has not had the lanolin removed.