Sunday, March 24, 2013

DIY Blending Board for Fiber (lots of photos)

With a plethora of fiber tools out there, I try to save money any way I can by making things myself. In many ways, I feel like I am the antithesis of today's use-it-and-throw-it-away mentality. I love to reuse things in new ways to make them useful again.

With many tools, I have no problem purchasing them straight from manufactures like spinning wheels and drum carders. However, I love to make the simple tools myself. I have a number of handmade crochet hooks, knitting needles, spindles, and so on. You don't think women of the 1800s ran off to Walmart to buy a set of knitting needles, do you?

I already have a DIY Triangle Loom tutorial. Recently, I decided to buy a blending board to take on the road. My drum carders range from 10 to 60 lbs. No way am I hauling those bulky, babies around while trying to keep them (and me!) safe.

After looking around through the various blending boards offered from Clemes & Clemes, Howard Brush, and Etsy. I decided the $160-$250 price tag just wasn't for me. So I decided to go the DIY route and make my own.

1 ea - 12" 72 TPI blending Carding Cloth from Natural Fiber Yarns on Etsy ($65)
1 ea - 15" x 22" cutting board from Walmart ($17)
1 ea - can of 3M Super 77 spray on glue from Walmart ($7)
1 ea - medium grit sandpaper ($3) had on hand
7 dozen - 1/2" staples for my air compressor nail gun had on hand ($3)
Polyurethane spray can had on hand
1 image for transfer (optional)
1 sheet of fabric transfer paper (optional) had on hand
1 - DIY attitude

Air compressor with nail gun
Iron (optional)
Computer with Inkjet Printer (optional)

Sand lightly over entire board. This allows for better bonding with the glue. I choose a larger heavier board, so when I lay it on a table, it doesn't scoot around much. You can have a smaller one of you want or even buy more carding cloth to cover more of the board. It's your choice.

Optional Image Transfer :

 Print the image you want to transfer onto the special Iron Paper by following the instructions provided with the packaging. A couple of notes on this... Make sure you do not buy the type with either the white or black background. It should be clear. Otherwise, you will have a white block around your image. Also, the transfer is not 100% and has an aged look to it. I choose an image that is all black and simpler in design because I knew this would happen. You can look up other ways to transfer images to wood, but I had these supplies on hand, so it didn't cost me anything.

I cut around the edge of the image and placed it on the board where I wanted it. With my iron on the "Cotton" setting, I heated up the image until I could easily peel away the backing and all the ink was transferred to the board.

I repeated this again on the back side with a larger image, so that I have one on the front and one on the back. After cooling, I sanded to left over glue residue around the images off.


Now, for the carding cloth.  You have to prepare the cloth before stapling it onto the board. when it is created and cut, they do not remove the staples on the front and back cut edges. You have to pull a row or two out beforehand to give your staples enough room to fit. I used a metal nail file to take these out. It's really quite simple and only takes about 10 minutes to get done.

See, now there is a nice pile of dead staples.

I placed my cloth on the upper portion on my board. When you add fiber to the work area, it will hang off the bottom a bit. I rationalized that I should leave some room on the lower edge for this. 


Now, it's time to glue. Read and follow directions on the can. I sprayed the back of the cloth and the board itself. (1/18/14 NOTE: I have recently been informed that gluing the entire clothe to the board has been know to disrupt the stability of the tines. If this is an issue for you, please only glue the edges of the clothe down, not the entire surface. I have not had any issues, but it may be better to be safe than sorry.) When they were both tacky, I placed them together for an initial bond and then set a flat medium weight box to add some pressure for better bond. You have to be careful to put enough weight over the entire area to firm hold it together, but not too much to bend the staples. I let this dry overnight. 



The next day, I pulled out my air compressor and staple gun. Using the 1/2 " staples, since these would not go all the way through the board, I stapled around the edge of the carding cloth, spacing the staples 1" apart. The glue will keep the cloth from shifting and the staples will keep it secure. Remember, this is a tool, we want to to last and only doing glue or stapling is not good in the long run.  



I lightly sprayed a polyurethane coat over the exposed wood parts while cover the carding cloth to make sure it didn't get any on it. This seals the wood and protects the images from damage. 


Enjoy your new handmade board! I'm not going to go into how to use it in this blogpost. I think you should just play in to beginning and see what happens. It will not replace my drum carder, but its a great tool that I can take to fiber festivals and on the road.

Also, the cutting board I purchased has these wonderful groves around the edges which work great for placing my dowel rods in so they don't roll away. The only thing I wish it has is a handle and maybe a brace underneath to hold it in my lap like some of the more expensive ones. That's okay though. If you have the tool and gumption, I'm sure you all could do it to your own boards. I sure am happy with the way mine is.

 TOTAL COST: ~$90 since I had some of the things on hand. That's $70 cheaper than the least expensive board online. Actual time I spent on the piece (-drying time) 30 minutes. It's kind of like cooking, if your willing to put some time into it, you can save yourself some money by buying the ingredients and making it yourself.

If you like this or any other DIY tutorials, feel free to donate directly to me using the link below. I truly appreciate anything you can offer to keep me creating.