November 10, 2009

Short History of a Made-Well

I've been wanting a drum carder for some time now.

What is a drum carder?  It's a piece of spinning equipment that is used for combing and aligning fleece into batts that can be used for spinning, felting or even for quilting.  I spend too much time drooling over the batts some people create on etsy- incorporating different colors, textures and fibers.  When these get spun up... gaaaa! so beautiful!

Anyway, I found a second hand drum carder this weekend, for really cheap.  I have never even used one before, but I bought it anyway. I have been trying to figure it out ever since. I don't think there is anything seriously wrong with it.  Just one major thing:  the teeth are rubbing against the feeder tray; not only does this prevent it from working properly, it makes a godawful noise (metal on metal type deal- see 2nd pic).  After several different arrangements, I think I finally have the belt on properly:

It was incredibly dirty and full of all sorts of who-knows-what fibers.  I've been giving it lots of TLC and it is starting to look much better.  But I haven't really got it working yet.  This whole experience reminds me of when I got my first spinning wheel- actually a borrowed antique one from a colleague who had no idea how it worked or what was missing.  It turned into a research project of sorts for me, and now I have a working spinning wheel, (and returned the antique one as, sadly, it's destiny is probably more of the aesthetic life) and I have much more knowledge on how spinning wheels work (and don't).  This drum carder is inevitably turning into a research project; I've been scouring the internet for the past 2 days; googling, ravelry-ing, making phone calls, and wandering the halls of the hardware store looking for parts that could possibly fit.

If you are looking for information on old drum carders, it is not easy to come by.  Sure, if you want to buy a brand new ashford that costs upwards of $500, there is plenty of $information$ out there. I finally got some clues after watching a few hilarious youtube videos (especially the one with the beaver).  In one of the videos, someone had almost the same carder as mine- proving that mine was not homemade.  Throughout my searching, the name "Pat Green" kept coming up- I saw some pictures of carders that looked just like mine that apparently were the Pat Green brand. I now know that Pat Green is an actual man who lives in Chilliwack, BC who has been making these drum carders for some years now.  Pat and his wife Paula still run the business and they even have a website!  but the only thing was, I couldn't find the Pat Green Logo on anything on my carder:

People on ravelry said I should phone Pat Green and that they would be able to help me.  So I phoned there and I'm pretty sure his wife, Paula answered (cute).  I explained my drum carder and once I mentioned it had a leather belt, well, that was it.  "Well it's not one of ours then- it must be a Made-Well".  A Made-Well?  so then I did a search for well made and stumbled onto DawningDreams blog.  Apparently a Made-Well is a drum carder that was made in Sifton, Manitoba.  She also found a bit of history on the company on ravelry:

“The company was started during the depression by John Weselowski, it later became the Make-Well Manufacturing Company and was famous for it hand-operated drum carders as well as it’s wheels. Several of the stylistic features of this wheel were borrowed from the traditional Ukrainian wheels. Wheel and Flyer spindle are arranged vertically. The inner maiden bearing is a hole drilled in the wooden upright. Tensioning is accomplished by raising or lowering a tablet on the outer maiden. Hallmarks of the Spin-Well wheel include a solid drive wheel, pre-cast metal flyer, treadle-system using a fixed treadle bar, footman placement in front of the wheel and provision for extra bobbins.”

“These wheels were made in the 60’s and 70’d during the rebirth of the handspinning and weaving crafts. They are well built wheels made of maple and solid core maple plywood. At 27.00 they were prices well below the better New Zealand wheels which sold for 80 to 100 at the time I’ve had two in maple and one in walnut. Paula Simmons used their wheels.”

And there you have a full circle.  Paula Simmons is Pat Green's wife. When I talked to her, she wasn't too enthused about Made-Well's, so I'm not sure about the comment above.  Paula said that that John Weselowski has been deceased for a long time now, and wished me good luck in finding parts for my Made-well.

So that's where me and my Made-well stand for now.  I'm still looking for information on what the best ideas are to get it to stop rubbing on the feed tray.  I've pretty much taken apart the whole thing, cleaned it and put it back together.  I hope this post will add to the very limited bank of information out there on these vintage, Canadian-made drum carders.  Feel free to leave comments on your own drum-carder restoration experience!

Update: I have taken out the bolts, (pictured here, on the top of the carder).  I was able to gently tap the wood back away from the feed tray and now they no longer rub. It also gave me an opportunity to give the whole thing a good cleaning.  I also learned that to oil the thing, you just put a few drops down the holes you also see here between the two bolts and above the crank handle.


PrairiePeasant said...

Sounds like quite an ambitious project Ashley! I hope you find the information you need.

Gloria Patre said...

I'd love to hear how you're making out with this - my sister just gave me one in mint condition and although the teeth rub on the tray I am still managing to card fiber. Is it possible they rub to ensure they actually pick up all the fiber on the tray?

OffTheHooks said...

Gloria: you don't want them rubbing because it could bend or damage them. (plus it makes an awful noise!) You should be able to take out some bolts on the smaller drum and just tap it back a little and replace the bolts! Apparently you want the smallest space between the teeth and the tray- like the size of a credit card.

stacey said...

Hiya - was googling "Pat Green" and came across this blog entry. The carder might also be an old Leclerc carder ( - it looks exactly like the kind I've used at Cap University. It doesn't look like they make them anymore, but they might have some info about parts. Good Luck!

Heather said...

I've just purchased an almost identical drum carder, and have been wondering about it's history as well as maintenance. Thank you so much for posting this information!

Anonymous said...

I have the chance to buy one of these, and I'm just wondering how it's been working for you, now that you've had it for awhile.

Ashley- OffTheHooks said...

Hi Anonymous,
It's neat to hear that you've found a similar wheel. How much are they asking?

As for mine,it's been working fairly well, though not perfectly. Right now, the only problem I have with it is that the original leather belt is not gripping the wheels that turn the carders very well.

I have been told I should try to recondition the leather (it is pretty dry) and also rough up the wooden drive wheel. I am hoping this will work, or else I may consider getting a new belt all together.

If you look at the first picture, you can see that the belt goes around a metal axle; this originally had electrical tape wrapped around it, which i took off and put a new layer on. the belt is not gripping this very well either; so trying to figure out something there too.

I hope that helps, feel free to leave another comment here if you have more questions!

Anonymous said...

Hi Just found your blog about the drum carder. I bought mine about 10 years ago out 40ks north east of Cold Lake Alberta and I have been dragging it around the country ever since and it works great. Just a note about to Ashely about the belt not gripping - you can adjust the belt by turning the wing nut to lower or rise the wheels. A bit of oil on the small wheel bars wouldn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

I got the exact same far apart did you adjust the drum....did you let the teeth touch at all? I've read that anything from a piece of paper to a credit card should fit between the lickerin drum and the large drum.
Thank you!

Unknown said...

I recently bought one, too! We vacationed in Canada and I got it at a consignment shop, $95. Since this was just last month, I've not used it yet, but really am looking fwd to it once I can find cheap fiber. Luckily you have done all the research for a few of us. Thank you for that. Learned so much about it from your post along with the other comments. So, how is it working out for you since the belt tightening?

Akira Hanson said...

I was just checking out some information on Made-Well careers and spinners and came across your blog. In the 1970's I made a few drum careers using leather backed carding cloths from Made-Well. Everything I see in you pictures looks like one I made. Made-Well used cast aluminum flanges screwed to the ends of the drums where I welded washers onto nuts with set screws. Your crank handle also appears to be made using a nut and set screw.

Anonymous said...

I've just aquirred one of these drum carders as well. I love vintage sewing/spinning equipment and was thrilled to read all about this carder. My question is;
How long and wide is the leather belt? My drum carder worked well when I blended a trial batt of samoyd dog hair with wool, eventhough there is no belt!! I would like to get a belt made for it to see how it will run when it's complete :)