When I teach I take a lot of tools with me. I know that everyone doesn’t own every tool so I take at least three sets of hand tools for each purpose. I like to take a minimum of three sets for two reasons.
First is the one I just said: all the people don’t own all of the tools and I want to take enough to share.
Second, I have a few tool from different manufacturers and so I like to take different ones so that people can have an opportunity to try different types. Not everyone lives near a fiber shop where they can try them so this is a good second choice even though I can’t carry them all with me everywhere I go.
Everytime I teach a class where any type of processing is involved the conversation inevitably turns to what tools are best. I like to spend a little time on the topic because, let’s face it, tools can be a big financial investment. Of course if you choose well, your tools will last a lifetime.
Let me just say this about pet grooming tools and I avoid the topic in class. I know that lots of people find that they work fine. And they do for a short time but the teeth are not made to stand up to the wear and tear they will get with wool and so they will need to be replaced on a regular basis. So if you can manage to get the money together for actual wool cards you’ll end up saving money in the end.
There are three things I think are important when choosing the right hand cards. First is handle shape. Second is how the carding cloth feels and third is weight. They are all almost equal in importance to me.
I almost always use curved back cards because of the carding technique I use. A different technique is better for flat cards. We’ll talk about carding techniques in another post.
Here are the four different types I currently own.
When you are thinking about handle shape think about how you hold your hand cards. I hold my cards way up at the carding part. I spread my fingers accross the back of the card and so I’m barely holding the handle at all. For me the shape of the handle that sticks far out from the card is not important but the shape of the handle up close where it meets the main part of the card is very important.
First, here are the Clemes cards. These are my least favorite for handle type. The part where my thumb bends around is very thin and also very round so these cards have a tendency to spin around in my hands if I’m not holding tightly. Holding tightly leads to fatigue quickly and so I like to avoid it. So I avoid these cards because of the techinique I use.
Next are the Strauch cards. The handles of these cards extend over the back of the business part of the card and so there is a lump there making it hard for me to hold the cards in the way that is most comfortable for me. The handles do have a flat spot on them but not in a spot that helps me with the way I hold my cards.
Now here is a handle I can get behind. Schachts handle gets wider where it attaches to the card and it is flat on both sides. I love these cards a lot because of their handle shape.
And finally Louet. These handles do not get wider at the place where they meet the body of the carder but they are flat on the top and bottom. These cards are also ones that I use all the time because of their handle shape.
The next most important thing to me is weight. Like I said earlier, I want to avoid fatigue if possible. usually when i am carding I’m going to do several pounds and I don’t want my arms, wrists or hands to be hurting during or even after I’ve finished so weight plays a big part.
I weighted one card from each set and here’s what they weighted.
Strauch 9.50 ounces
Schacht 9.05 ounces
Clemes & Clemes 8.40 ounces
Louet 6.45 ounces
Most of them weigh nearly the same but look at how light weight those Louets are!
And finally, the cloth. I like a carding cloth that moves a bit. I don’t want the teeth to feel like they are solidly in place. I like a little movement and a little bit of a bouncey feeling.
In this case, the Louets win. The Louet cards i’m showing here are the extra fines. They have 110 teeth per square inch which is my favorite for almost every carding job I’m doing. These hand cards feel right straight out of the box.
The Schacht come in second place. they usually need a tiny bit of breaking in but I can card pertty quickly with them in no time.
Of the four types, the Strauch are my least favorite. They feel the most stiff and even after owning them for 3 years I can’t seem to get the carding cloth to loosen up.
I’ve looked and the Strauch cloth on the hand cards is the same as on the drum carders. It’s a bit confusing because Strauch makes my favorite drum carder. I truly love it. Hm.
Of course, I don’t own every brand of hand cards but hopefully this will give you some idea of what to look for when you are searching for your first pair or a different pair.
Feel free to ask:-)