What’s the Difference? Hand Carders, Drum Carders, and Blending Boards

There are many tools available for preparing fibers for spinning and felting. While these tools have some overlap in their capabilities, each processes fiber differently and has their own ideal uses. Depending on your desired outcome, you might need one or a combination of various tools. Let’s take a closer look at three primary tools in the fiber arts world, and discuss why you just might need all three!

Hand Carders

Hand carders allow you to card and blend fiber in smaller quantities. While hand carders are generally used by people new to carding fiber, they are also well loved by veteran fiber artists. Using hand carders to “get to know” your fiber can be an essential step to ensuring your project runs smoothly. Because hand carders only require a small amount of fiber, it is much easier to get a feel for your fiber and understand its qualities (length, crimp, color) and consistency. This is especially helpful if you are preparing a fiber, breed, or blend for the first time.

Some common uses for hand carders include:

  • Card small fiber amounts to determine how the fiber feels and behaves
  • Test blending of fibers and colors

Types of Preparation:

  • Rolags for spinning
  • Fiber clouds for spinning or felting
Quick results
Highly portable 
Easy to use 
Easy to store
Small throughput
Need both styles to process a variety of fiber

Drum Carders

Drum carders may seem like just a larger, mechanized version of hand cards, but they are so much more. In addition to providing for more throughput, they are the most versatile fiber preparation tool in existence!

Most people are familiar with making semi-worsted batts on a drum carder, but they also produce woolen batts, carded sliver (roving), and rolags. While you can also use them to open certain fleece that is 4” or less in length, we do recommend using a flicker or Lock Pop to open the fleece before processing them on a drum carder.

Some common uses for drum carders include:

  • Preparing large quantities of fleece or blends
  • Creating heathers, tweeds, and blends that are not commercially available
  • Preparing fleece or fiber for sale

Types of Preparation:

  • Woolen and semi-worsted batts for spinning or felting
  • Rolags for spinning
  • Carded sliver for spinning or felting
Processes a wide variety of fibers and blends
Creates four types of preparations
Less portable than hand cards or blending board
Relatively expensive compared to hand cards or blending board

Blending Boards

Given their name, we can easily understand why folks would think a blending board could serve as a substitute for hand carders or a drum carder. However, this isn’t quite the case. While a blending board is excellent at preparing fibers that have already been flicked or carded, it does require a flicker or hand card to process fleece directly on the board. This makes it inefficient at working with fleece – unless lots of texture is what you are looking for!

We find it helpful to think of a blending board as a mixing or layering board. A blending board is a great tool to create layers of fiber of various colors or types. This will then create unique effects in the finished yarn. Blending boards can also be helpful to blend together fibers that typically do not blend well together on hand cards or a drum carder – feathers, yarn scraps, pet hair, and more.

Some common uses for blending boards include:

  • Color blending for heathers and tweeds
  • Transforming worsted preparations into woolen preparations
  • Preparing fiber for felting

Types of Preparation:

  • Rolags for spinning
  • Semi-worsted mini-batts for spinning or felting
Easy to disassemble for storage or travel
Processes a wide range of fibers
Quickest way to prepare rolags
Not efficient at processing fleece

As with many arts, the fiber arts require unique tools depending on your situation and desired outcome. All three tools excel in different ways.

Hand Carders

  • Help you get a feel for your fiber qualities
  • Test color and fiber blending in small quantities
  • Learn to process fiber before utilizing larger tools
  • Excels at: Sampling or processing small quantities

Drum Carders

  • Preparing large quantities of fleece or blends
  • Creating heathers, tweeds, and homogeneous blends
  • Excels at: Quickly and thoroughly processing large volumes

Blending Boards

  • Mix already processed fibers to create unique blends and color combos
  • Excels at: Quickly creating rolags or punis

If you aren’t quite sure which tool would be best for your project, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions.

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