Monday, January 31, 2011

A new week

It is  a new week and we are back at it.  Ok, we were at the mill on Sat and Tim and I were there on Sun (doing things other than running machines).

We had a better day on the spinner today.  In fact, it barely needed us. 

We are in the path of the storm that is affecting many, many states.  We are supposed to get .25 - .5" of ice sometime between tonight and tomorrow am sometime.  Then 1 - 3" of snow.  And tomorrow night looks iffy as well.  We are all tired as all be of this winter....Of course, it was about 1 year ago that Snowmageddon (sp??) hit.  Everyone is skittish.

I am planning on staying home and working on the website if the weather does what they think it will.  School has already called a 2 hour delay. 

Craig made some nice rug yarn today.  I do not have any pictures of today's product but you know I will get some soon! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Day - still more learning curve

OK.  We were ready to tackle the spinner again today, having taken yesterday off.  We decided to try some black and some brown fiber that Craig had washed and picked in WV close to two years ago. 

Just when we think that we have thing pretty well figured out, we learn a how bunch more.   The first thing we learn is not to make assumptions!  We started with 3 pounds again, about half of each color.  The picking, carding and pin drafting went beautifully.  The pin drafter (which I think Chuck calls it Eeyore) had an A+ day.  No problems at all.  Humming along nicely at 18.0 ( we were on 11.0 earlier this week).  Higher number, faster drafter. 

It was the spinning that got us.  Again.  Now, we have a point where we know we should leave well enough along and we push that limit every time.  We had the brown spinning along well - it was a little dry and was a quasi-pepe day.  Then we decide, well, the spinner is working, why not add the black?  Why not?  Because white and brown and black have different qualities.  The spinning speed for the brown and the spinning speed for the black were different.  The black turned out overtwisted where the brown was happy as can be.  Now, I do know this from my handspinning days but sometimes the memories move to the front of my brain a little slowly....

So we did most of 3 lbs in less time than on Wed but still had some moments that we are eternally grateful there were no witnesses for.  Well, except for the three dogs.   Maybe just two - Claire was pretty much out, sleeping in front of her personal space heater all day. 

Where do we go from here?  Tomorrow we return to white.  Mon and Tues we will do black and brown. 

We are getting there!  Even though we are having isues, we are thrilled with the quality and consistency of the yarns we are producing.

Cover of the Magazine - Who is sporting a baby bump?

Well, it is not exactly what you might think if you read a lot of tabloids.  Yesterday we decided to revisit the rug yarn maker.  All the poofs from the spinning machine, rovings that pepe lepew'd and would not go thru the pin drafter were bagged up and put in "Rug Yarn Heaven". 

Now, every time we  think a machine will be easy to learn, we find it has little glitches as well.  We learned that the bumps were not sliding off because the lead line we were using was wound to tight.  English, Barb, english - put that in layman's terms!

The rug yarn maker works using a core yarn.  You thread the machine with twine or yarn and the fiber coming off the carder winds itself around this core.  But you need 2-3 yards of core line to thread it completely.  This means 1 yard or so is beyond where the fiber attaches.  And this yarn, if it is the wrong one, can wind so tight around the metal bobbin it refuses to come off.  Some people use jute, some use twine, some use bakers cotton, etc.  We had used one spool of cotton Jeff brought with him so when it ran out, I attached 8/4 cotton rug warp.  Oops.  Also, we were getting a fairly inconsistent product. 

I had a revelation and switched to a much larger alpaca yarn for the core and what a difference!  The inconsistences are all but gone.   Why use yarn or twine?  Twine or jute gives the yarn a nice stiff quality which many rug makers want.  Yarn has a softer effect.  The core also allows you to spin some less quality fibers that may not survive the pin drafter and spinner.  Plus, it is for rugs.  They do not have to be your best yarn to make a great rug.  And all those poofs from the spinner can be reused here instead of wasted.

The rug yarn maker will also make a coreless yarn.  We have not experimented much with this yet.

So here is your baby bump px:

Proud papa

Which bump is not like the others....

Making batts on the battmobile

Can you guess whose new felt matt this is?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time trials

The goal of today was to see just how fast we are processing fiber at this point in time from washed fiber to skeined yarn.  Also, we need to know how much ends up on the floor instead of in a skein (and this is why it is an industry unwritten standard to charge for weight of finished product, not received weight). 

We started with 3 lbs.  The carding went really, really well.  Pin drafting went fairly well.  There are a couple of rough places in the machine that snag fiber and cause an uneven roving.  We had to stop a couple of times to work on that.  We did not include that time in the trial overall time.  The second trip through the pin drafter is supposed to go better tham the first.  It took about the same because of the mechanical issues. 

The spinner is where we ran into real issues.  We got it up and running no problem - three bobbins going, making yarn, while we still had fiber going through the pin drafter.  We thought we had worked out a lot of kinks with our spinning yesterday.  And we had.  just not as many as we thought.

We can not explain it but all is going well can go straight to you know where in a heart beat at the spinner right now.   We must have used at least an hour and 12 ounces of fiber in ways we did not anticipate or expect or want.  But we finally got it working as we wanted (there were some mechanical issues as well but we stopped worrying about the time. 

We ended up with about 1300 yards of 2 ply yarn.  Unfortunately, we "lost" about 12 ounces, mainly on the spinner.  You can see why in a second:

The roving travels overhead.  It comes down, goes under the red roller at the top.  Then it goes behind the grey belt and under the grey wheel.  Where the fiber gets "lost" is that it wraps on the green wheel while waiting for you to get the yarn going.  These little poofs or tribbles (if you are a trekkie) get removed and not made into yarn on this machine.  This poof was bad and wrapped on the grey wheel.  It has been cut to remove it.  It comes off nice and pressed and straight. We had a lot of these poofs today....

So, we will do another time trial in the next day or so.  Please do not think that we are never going to get it right, or it will take forever or we will lose a lot of your fiber.  This was our first real attempt to do everything in one day.  We are happy and we will improve!

Now, after yesterday's bump incident, it was decided I must have threaded the bobbin incorrectly.  But look at what happened to Craig's today:

Craig's bump.  Someone did not have the
patience to work it off in 1 piece!  So, see,
it was not how I threaded the bobbin!
But the pieces make excellent

Tuesday silliness

I did remember the camera this evening.  Here are some pics and explanations of yesterday.

The plier working well!  The two bobbins
behind my head are being twisted
together to make one yarn.

Have you met Yogi? 
This is Craig and Bill's new dog.
No, he didn;t do that! 
But that speed bump did slow him down.

OK.  This is not working.
It was just supposed to sllide right off.
It didn;t.  It took me 15 mins to get
it off the bobbin!  But I got it.

The bump in my left hand (your right) is
what correct size.  See a problem?

So, Craig talked to Jeff today to see if we were doing something wrong.  His response "Did you try car wax?" rug yarn is not a specialty of ours!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two good days in a row

Things went well again today.  Well, we had some moments with the spinner but that is mainly due to learning curve. 

We had some research to do and a couple of other chores that needed to be done midday, so we were not in the mill all day.  We got the pin drafted rovings spun and were fairly pleased with the 2 ply yarn we made. 

I am sorry that I forgot to bring my camera home, because there was some extreme silliness that got the better of us around 4:30.  Craig was doing some mechanical work on the pin drafter and I decided to try and set up the rug yarn maker myself.  I had not threaded it before.  I was thrilled to make a beautiful 50 yard bump of rug yarn.  We have fiber we need to make into rug yarn to weave some special order rugs out of and I made the mistake of saying that I thought we had the process down!  Then I tried to take the bump off the bobbin.  15 mins, a lot of laughing and crying (all in good fun) later, I did manage to get the bump off.  Not intact by any stretch of the imagination....apparently I threaded the bobbin wrong.....Px tomorrow!  I have not laughed that hard for over a year (it occurred on Christmas Day 2009, reading Pg 132 of Berkely Breathed's Flawed Dogs novel). 

Monday, January 24, 2011

A new day

Cold, yes.  Productive, yes.  For whatever reason, things went beautifully today.  It would have been nice to have had more time.   The 2 hour delay this morning ate into some of the work day. 

We were using an anti-static but we also needed a little cohesive agent.  Alpaca can be a bit slick.  We got a combo mixture from RI late on Fri and didn't get much of a chance to work with it. 

And whaalaa.  wonderous.  The carder and pin drafter were both working splendidly.  We did not make it to the spinner but we will first thing tomorrow.  And we have some rug yarn to make as well.  And maybe some batts.  Gee, i must be plannign on an actual full day!

 So we are aiming a a new goal:  two productive days in a row.  Seems very doable to us. 

I did not get any pictures today.

As an aside, Craig's friend Jen accidentally sent an alpaca sweater through the washer.  The result was, of course, felt.  She gave Craig the sweater to give to my daughter but it was way too small for her (and she is tiny for a teen).  So I decided to make something out of it for her.  I decided on a purse, but I wanted to try to retain some semblance of the original sweater.  I had to hand sew it as my machine was being tweeky but it should hold together.  I enjoy doing blanket stitching.  I got the idea for the purse from this site 
Their purse was felted after all the pieces were cut, so I do not think their use of the collar would have resulted in a pocket.  I did not line my purse.  If you enjoy felting with old wool sweaters, there are plenty of sites to help you out.  
Pocket made from back neck area.  Left the tags on as a reminder...

This is the front of the sweater.  it was a zip neck.  Now it is a water bottle pocket!

Do you all remember Claire, my 12 year old doxie?  Well, I found a site where the woman makes doxies out of old sweaters.  Her blog site is  .  Weinermania! 

Someday, when I am not standing at the pin drafter 10 hours a day, I might get to make more stuff!

And since I am qusi-off topic and putting links in, if you need a good laugh, check out  I wish I had this type of comedic timing in my writing.

More cold

The weather is really not cooperating these days.  Not unusual for SW PA in Jan.  It can be problematic thru Feb as well.  Mar has been know to be interesting.

Thurs night to Fri am we got a lot of snow (well, 5-6").  Not generally bad but the ice under was a little problematic.  So no school on Friday.  The the temps dropped.  I think my thermometer at the house said -5 on Sat morning.  And it is no better today.  2 hour delay for cold called at 5:15 this morning.  We are in the negatives again.  Just to make it worse, it is not a clear crisp morning. It is cloudy out there.  I can nto even imagine how cold it would be if it was clear.  It is supposed to warm up this week.  I think the high for today is supposed to be around 30. 

Mechanical things hate this type of cold.  It is  not going to be warm in the mill today initially.  But the machines will warm up with running.

We are still not to much success but are hopeful for today.  Fri we did not get started till mid afternoon due to a number of things and Sat we were there but not runnign machines.

We got some new stuff to help with static and cohesion on Fri afternoon.  Now we need to adjust for the changes it made to the fiber.  Sat, Jeff from Belfast brought our rug yarn maker.  We had no idea it was going to be an all day project to hook it up to the carder.  Jeff is a wonderful guy and resource, so talking to him was well worth having the machines inactive. 

So today was and is going to be the day we got back to rolling but it may be a couple hours later than anticipated.  Hopefully, there will be a positive report later today adn some pictures of wonderful progress. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where Did It Go?

We are hoping for success every other day at this point!  Today was not terrific...tomorrow is another day!

We are hoping to replicate the experiment that worked yesterday tomorrow.  It requires 20 - 24 hours to prep for. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We Got It!

We have no idea what changed but something did.  The last of the three experiments went well.  We still had to take some great care with the first set of rovings through the pin drafter but the second time thru went well. 

We have learned a bit about the mechanics of the machines.  The pin drafter is a refurbed machine and we have some modifications / adjustments to make to it.  The ones we did today helped with the way it works a lot.  Who knows what we have to do tomorrow but that is ok.

We got 1 pound through the carder and the pin drafter and it is sitting on the spinning machine waiting for us to come back tomorrow and play with it.  We did spend about 15 or 20 mins on the spinner trying to play with the controls and see how we change things.  But I still have kids moving in different directions at different times - at least for another week or so.  Then they will be moving the same way at the same time until the school play is over at the end of Feb.  Then they can start helping otu at the mill.


I am never going to look good again, given the new dress code at my new job.  Covered in fuzzys and a mess in general.  Sigh. Maybe I should start wearing a hat also!   Of course, taking a picture of yourself at arms length doesn;t work well either.

I am a creamy puff, no?

Yesterday was what we are referring to as a Pepe Le Pew day at the mill.  I refer to the "I am a creamy puff, no?" scene on the cruise ship.

Everything that came off the roving deck immediately puffed up exponentially!  Looked like Pepe when he came out from under the hair dryer.  And the pin drafter hates that. 

So we bagged up some experiments in nice, neat 1 pound quantities and will try them later today. 

We had weird weather overnight.  It was something like 29 degrees and rained, which means ice.  And we are talking significant thickness here.  But it is over freezing at this point and heading to a 39 degree high.  The school district we live in called a 2 hour delay at 5:00 am and extended it to a 3 hour delay at 8 am.  They did actually go to school.  There are a lot of rural bus routes and I guess the back roads were not de-iced enough.   We had a snow day last week that was made up yesterday and I guess they really, really do not want to have another to make up at this point.

We have humidifiers running at the mill but we are not sure what the magic % is.  We will find out soon enough.  I know when I used to weave linen (or tried to weave linen) that 85% and up was nice.  I actually used to get up in the middle of the night during thunderstorms to weave.  I think we had it to 70% yesterday but not enough!  And I am not getting up in the middle of the night to run over there during storms!  Older and hopefully wiser than that!  No snickering......

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Post training

Tomorrow is Day 1 on our own, the first official work day.   Today is post- training talking (and maybe a little machine running).

Given my background as an educator and trainer, it will probably come as no surprise to some of you that I started typing up information on the machines this morning, while thoughts are fresh.  Taking notes during training does happen, but it is amazing what you think will be retained at least 24 hours that may or may not....I noticed some true black hole areas in information when I reviewed what I thought were good notes taken in Mi!  I take almost verbatim notes when at a meeting.  No so much when I am learning and doing at the same time.

But in this case, it is not just a matter of me having good notes for me.  This is a business and it will have employees other than Craig and I at some point.  Everyone does not learn by listening (auditory learning).  Some learn by doing and others by reading.  Generally, a combination of all three is needed.  Safety is essential in this type of setting.

So today we meet to go over the info collected in various brains to try not to lose too much.  And I need some photos geared towards control panels adn the mechanics, not just our wonderful work crew having fun!

The one thing that really is an over all concern is consistency.    Consistency starts at the carder and is the theme at the rest of the machines.  (Yes, the picker needs some as well but not to the same level.) Without it, the end product, whether it is roving, yarn or felt, will not be of a high quality.  And we are aiming for high quality.

There will still be blog posts.   I am not afraid to let you know about our oops moments. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day two training

Wow.  I did not think I was tired until I came home tonight.  We basically were at the mill from 8 am - 6 pm.  We had some down time and a couple hours of cleaning. 

The static issue is under control.  We spent a great deal of time fine tuning and fiddling with the pin drafter.  Lots of hints and ideas for making it work better.  It is kind of the key to a great end product. 

The kids had play practice today so it was basically an adult only event.  Brigid showed up later when we were cleaning after a shopping excursion with girl scouts. 

Chuck and Deb were wonderful during the last two days.  Thank you both so much!  Straight alpaca is not their favorite thing.  From a processing point of view, we completely understand that.  They have done so much adapting of machines and processes during our visit to their mill in July and coming down here.  Both Craig and I hope they know just how much we appreciate it.  Their equipment is wonderful and we look forward to many year using it. 

Eloquence is leaving so here are some pictures:

Spinning three at a time
4 skeins (800 yards)

Winner of the Fluffy competition!

More Day 1

Sorry - having issues with the photo logger.  And if I only have a limited amount of patience, i am not sure this is where it is needed the most today!

Sewe, they can work!
Lunch break (hummus head!)

Safety first

Whee haaa

Day 1 Training

Day 1 went along about as expected.  We were all in good spirits.

The big problem we had was static.  It is dry out and in, the machines create static.  We know this.  Based on this we spent most of the day on the picker, carder, felter.  We need to get the static reduced to deal really well with the pin drafter.  And if your pin drafter is moving slowly, so is your spinner! 

The first part of the morning was spent readying machines.  The safety cages and some wiring needed to be done to the carder.   There was a trip to Lowes involved but when isn't there?

So, here is a montage of photos from yesterday:

What is not right here....
the carder fired up!

roving off the carder
roving thru the pin drafter

needle felting
Yes she does have a hat for every occasion!

Claire and i tired....


Friday, January 14, 2011

Today is the Day!

Chuck and Deb are in PA from MI and today is the day we fire up the machines!

What an excursion this is going to be:  one husband, three kids (two mine, one a loaner), two dogs, food, etc. 

On the other side of things, we have Bill and Craig and Yogi, as well as Bob and Jen.  Bob is a very mechanically minded, even keeled, wonderful alpaca owner.  His wife is unable to make training but we will fill her in later.  Jen is coming over from Bedford.

it is going to be a full house!

The fun begins around 8 am this morning.

Hopefully, there will be lots of pictures later tonight, depending on whether anyone has the where with all to post tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Ok.  Today we worked on rooms again and some of the doors are in place!

The weather has been interesting.  Snowing.  But it has flakes, rods and balls.  Very wet and slushy snow.

Yogi has joined Craig and Bill!  He is very sweet.  He is a "blabrador" - a very talky yellow labrador! I will get some pictures up of him soon.   

Monday, January 10, 2011


On Sat, Craig worked on the picker closet and I worked on the ceiling above the office. 

Craig was offsite yesterday and today to pick up his new dog, Yogi.  I was in the store yesterday.  Rob and I worked on the website and created some internal use forms.

Brigid was under the weather today so going over to the mill was not an option.  Since Craig was not around, there was not much that was goign to occur construction wise.  I am not talented enough to cut 4 x 8' luan board on a table saw alone!

Here are some pictures from Sat:

Nasty picker teeth
Closet will have door and be
enclosed to keep fluff inside!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How do you fund a fiber mill?

Someone sent a good question to Craig's email about how we managed to afford putting up the mill.  I covered some of this briefly at the beginning of the blog but it is a good question and worth going over (yup, I am an ex-teacher!).

Just some reminder:  Craig and I are business partners.  Not life partners.  Not spouses (to each other).  Not relatives.  Just friends.  With common interests.  With common goals.

I left my last real job 2.5 years ago.  I needed a break, went back to school for a while and was heading towards owning my own business.  I love working with fiber but it was not something I felt was a viable profession for me

Craig left the health care field 4-5 years ago and has been focusing on managing the alpaca farm and shop that he and Bill own. 

Through a weird twist of fate, a mill we used unfortunately closed.  Initially, I was looking at investing in it but it was not a good fit (too far away to be really involved and they were not looking for real involvement!).  Craig and I decided that starting a new mill at 84 Alpacas was a good fit.  So we started researching equipment and buildings.  There was not a good building available on the farm with the space needed. 

We decided to purchase equipment from Stonehedge Fiber Milling Equipment in Michigan.  We took a trip up there (very northern lower penninsula), working in the mill for a few days, and decided we like their equipment.  We had seen other equipment but this was our choice.   If you really want to know the number, for set of equipment, sans washing system (which we are doing ourselves), it is about $130,000.  This includes a tumbler, picker, carder, pin drafter (refurbished), spinner/plyer, needle felter, coner, skeiner, splicer, and rug yarn maker.  They are not all from one place. 

There is a 3-4 month lead time on getting ordered equipment, so we ordered around the end of July / beginning of August.  Keep in mind we had to put 1/2 down and we did not have a loan or anything.  My big part was finances.  I knew it was very possible the entire project would be funded by me as opposed to loans.  So putting down the deposit really locked me in one way or another!

Ok.  Not the normal way to do business!  And based on the advice from the lawyers, we are actually two (well, three) separate companies:  1)  Barb Kearns-Jones Fiber Equipment, 2) 84 Alpacas Fiber Mill, LLC (the actual operating mill) and 3) 84 Alpacas at Linwood Farms, LLC.  Company 1 owns the equipment and the building, company 2 lease the equipment and the building from company 1 and company 3 owns the property and leases land to company 2.  Confused?  You are not alone! 

I wrote two business plans (for companies 1 and 2) and started loan shopping.  The real loan was for company 1, the leasing company.  There was no chance anyone was going to give me a loan, even with almost no debt, a credit score of 820 and a fairly healthy Schwab account.  We heard a lot of reasons for no - SBA will not give loans to leasing companies (which I have since heard is not true exactly); I was paying for a building that was not on my land; come back when you are successful and then we can talk (oh, really??). 

The only way we could get a loan was a secured loan (1 for 1 value collateral).  Schwab will let you use some stock and mutual fund accounts as secured collateral but only if you have a balance of $1 million plus.  I was a little shy.  Then we went the route of a single premium whole life insurance policy but it was a rushed effort and it fell through.

So this is being completely funded the way most small businesses are (and as many of you know):  through personal financing.  Luckily, it did not require putting my house or Craig and Bill's farm up as collateral.  Everyone will still eat, go to college (which my girls are pleased about!!) and live the lifestyles they are accustomed to.  We are lucky.  It also means that we are not locked into loan payments, which is very good for a start up.  It means the mill will be paying lease payments to BKJ Fiber Equipment and 84 Alpacas but they are understanding folks and if the first payment or two are late, well no hard feelings and no interest or late fees. 

For those of you thinking starting a mill of  your own is a good idea, it is.  There is business a plenty out there.  The funding is a different issue though.  If you own your property and are not too maxed out, you may be able to get a loan, maybe even from SBA (my personal opinion, which does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of the three companies listed above,  is they talk alot about helping small businesses but do next to nothing for really and truly small business). 

The other option is to get someone you know who is interested in owning a leasing company to purchase the equipment and lease it to you.  This puts your expenses at about $1000 - 1400 a month depending on the interest rate over a 10 year period as opposed to $130,000 up front.

Chuck and Deb McDermott at Stonehedge Fiber Mill and Stonehedge Fiber Milling Equipment have been an invaluable resource for us.  Their website goes into fairly detailed start up and operating costs based on their experience (go to Business Planning and then Monthly Expenses).  We will be providing similar  information on our site once we have a better idea of what it really costs to get up and running (I wonder what that first electric bill will look like...) 

The new building, well, we are not done adding up the costs.  Let's just estimate and say another $90,000 or so for the building and utilities.  I can detail that more later.  If you own a farm and a pre-existing space (we were told a minimum 1000 square feet to start a mill) you may need to update your electric (we have three 220 machines and the rest are 110) and deal with water issues (we are not able to tap into city sewer so holding tanks it is), so costs would possibly be less. 

And that is probably more than you wanted or needed to know!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Work with heat

Boy, are we gonna be spoiled now...lights, heat, what next?  It was something like 45 or 50 in the building today (and 25 outside with lite snow flurries).

The projects today were buying lumber for the picker closet and working on the ceiling over the spinner.  If we do not show up at Lowe's daily, they call to ask where we are...You may recall that the flooring in the 2nd story was only down the middle, due to the construction of the trusses and the fact that this is a glorified pole barn. 

We have been using leftover lumber to put ceilings over the pieces of machinery we would rather not have things fall into, like the carder and the spinner.  The picker is hard to hurt (but capable of really hurting you!), the pin drafter, skeiner and coner are under the part that is plywood, and the felter rolls where ever.  So Craig did the ceiling over the carder Wed and Thurs and I started on the area over the spinner yesterday.  I still have some work to do but I am getting there.  We can also use these areas for storing lightweight boxes.  Oh, for the day we have so much product we need to store it in the truss areas! 
Ceiling over carder
Ceiling over spinner

View from 2nd story and reason for ceiling!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Happy, happy day!!  Allegheny Power stopped by yesterday afternoon to make sure we were ready and we were!  They were here about 10 am this morning.  And by noon, we had power. 

I am not sure you know how thrilled we are.  This means training can occur when it is supposed to (at the end of next week).  Please may the weather hold so the trainers can get here.  We did work on this equipment back in July, so this is more a refresher course than a training course. 

Now all I have to do is keep Craig from plugging in things that should not be turned on until Chuck gets here to make sure all is well.  No easy task :) 

In an effort to keep from freezing to death, we bought some small heaters and are going to go with electric heat for the moment.  Who knows when the gas line is going in.  We can live with that though!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

He just couldn't wait

Oh, Craig.  He gets so excited.  We have played with the tumbler and the needle felter.  But there were other machines, sitting idly, asking, nay, begging to be turned on....

So Craig obliged the picker today.  It must be very persuasive.  It is a neat machine with a conveyor belt and really, really sharp pokey thingies.  Its job is to (visciously) rip the fiber clumps apart, before it goes into the carder to be gently ripped apart, I mean straightened out and made into rovings and batts.  It is going to have a room that it flings fiber into.  But right now it has no little room.  And Craig turned it on.  And he put fiber on the conveyor belt.  And it flung fiber.  And, knowing he should be careful, Craig caught his thumb on one of the pokey thingies (albeit, when the machine was off).  So we have had our first "accident" but the line did not have to be shut down, mainly because it wasn't even on!  Oh geez...I hope we do not need on of those signs...So many days without an accident, so many without production shut down....Oh geez. Cause I am a bit of a klutz myself!

Anyway, we need to figure out how big to make the room and how much fluff you can fit in a box that is 30 x 30 x 30 or 36 x 36 x 36.  So tomorrow we fling fluff again!!  Now, keep in  mind that the walls are either T1-11 (rough) or luan board (rough).  The fiber sticks beautifully to both surfaces.  Which is why the box will be made out of a nice batheroom type, smooth board!  Until the real room is done, we are going to make a "house of cards" using luan board.  It should be interesting.  It may require video instead of photos for your amusement.

I have no idea what Craig will try to plug into the generator next.  I am not sure he can attach any of the 220 machines to it.  So the carder, the pin drafter and the spinner are out.  Maybe the power company will show up tomorrow.  Hee hee.

Picker with fiber on conveyor

Flying fiber fluff (FFF)
Ok, we expected more fluff to hit the
inside of the box!

Office is enclosed! Now we just
need a door!

Interior walls continue

The interior wall project is going along nicely.  Craig and Bill got a lot of work done over the weekend. 

When you have the right tools, everything goes so much better.  Supposedly.  We borrowed a nail gun to put the wall framing together.  I know nothing about nail guns.  We needed nails.  No problem, I thought.  There are some in the basement left over from the redo we did there a couple of years ago.  They should fit. Brigid and I go trooping off to Lowes to get nails (with examples of what we need) for the stud work and hey, why not grab some finishing nails as well. 

Laugh all you want!  It seemed like an easy thing.  Only there is no way it could be.  There are angled nails and straight nails and different lengths and different gauges and paper tape and wire tape and galvinized versus none and so forth.  And sorry, but we only sell nails in quantities of 2000.  Let's now get into full head, notch cut, cropped and "Oh, ma'am, I am not sure you can use a full head in a notched gun..."  Some of the people who work at Lowes understand nail guns, others don't (we got the don't first....).   Our 5 min trip turned into me ready to find a bar or play bumber cars in the parking lot to relieve stress!  I have no idea how long we were there.  We finally picked out a finish nail gun (cause there are tons of different guns and of course, they do not all do the same thing or take the same nails...) and went to get the nails.  They did not have any.  AAARRRGGGHHH. 

Brigid loves to shop.  She can shop us all into the ground.  She hit the wall about 1/2 hour into this excursion.  We picked out a different finish nail gun. We actually found nails.  YEAH.

This was Friday.  Fast forward to Monday.  The gun is not working.  And apparently it was temperamental to high heaven on Sat.  If you could get it to start shooting nails, it was fine.  But it didn't last.  So we have to box it up and take it back.  Oh joy.  The good news is that the second one actually worked. 

Yup, the right tools make everything better.

This extra shopping trip definately cut into our level of productivity yesterday.  But as we are still waiting to be hooked up to the grid, what does it matter?  Rumor has it the gas meter should be installed today.  We have no idea how close to the road the meter will be.  Hopefully, the remainder of it will be installed soon as well, so we can think about being decedent and installing heaters.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Onto the interior

Now that everything is in the building, we are working on the interior walls.  There are three rooms that are to be built downstairs:  the office, the carder / picker room and the tumbler room. 

And while Craig and Bill were building, Brigid and I were playing with the felting machines.  We need to fine tune the machine timing but that is just a matter of experimentation - which B is very happy to help with!