How to Build Your Own Alpaca Fleece Tumbler

© Ted Yurkon, 2009


    In the spring of 2008, my wife had been looking at fiber tumblers for alpaca fleece. She breeds alpacas, and we have quite a bit of fleece to process. She had been looking at fiber tumblers and, because of their high price, asked me if I could build one. What the heck, I figured, I needed some welding practice so I could do a more professional job on restoring some old Saabs. Well, to make a long story short, the result turned out pretty good, and my wife has received praise from our fleece processor for the fine condition of the fleeces she sends to them for processing. A friend of hers has made good use of it, and she also has a high opinion of its results and has offered valuable feedback for some improvements, some of which I have already made, and others which I will make in the future. Anyway, it's working so well at this point that I thought I would share what I have done so that others might benefit from what I have learned and accomplished. Please bear in mind, however, that this is not an official, detailed "instruction manual". I have tried to provide all the information you need to proceed on your own, but many details are arbitrary and can be customized to suit your needs. Further, I used some old, used parts such as a mid-1960's dryer motor and other stuff laying around in my barn. These are not commodity items, and there would be no point in providing detailed instructions for their use and installation. Still further, I make no guarantees as to the suitability of the described tumbler for your needs, and I make no warranty that the described tumbler will work as well for you as it does for us.  And finally, I make no warranty about the safety of the construction techniques or the constructed tumbler. Please be careful and take care of your safety at all times. And please be aware that I may have made mistakes in preparing this how-to.
    If, after reading this document, you decide you just must have this tumbler, but you don't want to build it yourself, I am willing to build one for you. See Contact and Purchase Information at the end of this document.

1. Building the Tumbler Cage (Welding Required)

    I might note at this point that I used a Hobart Handler 187 MIG welder which I purchased new for this job. I am sure that smaller welders would also be more than adequate. I was able to achieve good (in my opinion) results by simply following the instructions  provided with the welder. I chose to use an Argon/CO2 mix and solid wire rather than the flux wire that came with the welder. This produced very clean and smooth welds.
    The instructions below do not provide many dimensions because some of the dimensions will be selected by you to suit your needs. I have, however, provided a pdf document with drawings and the more critical dimensions for the tumbler described here. Please note that the drawings are only approximately to scale, and not all details are shown. Just click the image below to view/download the pdf document.
Tumbler drawings

Click Image for PDF Drawings

The first step in building the cage is to fabricate the hexagon ends. You will need a flat surface to get good results. I don't have welding tables, or even a good workbench, but I had a nice flat concrete floor to work on. However, I didn't like the idea of welding on concrete, so I used a sheet of 7/16" OSB (very cheap). I drew an accurate representation of the perimeter of the hexagon on the OSB so that I could lay out the 6 pieces accurately before welding (those highschool geometry classes were useful after all). I used 1/2" square steel tubing which is available at places like Home Depot, and there are many other sources, possibly at more economical prices.
    I don't have band saws or plasma cutters or such, so I decided to use a metal-cutting abrasive blade in my circular saw, and a hacksaw occasionally. A quick Google tells me that they now make metal-cutting circular saw blades that cut cleaner than the abrasive blades, but I've never used one. I just clamped the tubing in a heavy vise and cut away (keep all gasoline and flammables very far away!). Each end of each piece will form a 60 degree angle. You can either draw a line at that angle, set the saw at 90 degrees and cut along the line, or you can draw a 90 degree line and set the blade at 30 degrees which leaves a 60 degree end on the piece. Check dimensions after cutting, and grind off any excess (small shortages/gaps can be filled by the welder).
    One quick note about cleaning the tubing prior to welding. The tubing is invariably coated with oil by the manufacturer to prevent rust. I cleaned each piece prior to cutting (or after cutting) by a quick spray of brake cleaning fluid, followed by wiping with a paper towel. You may have a better method.
    With the clean hexagon segments laid out accurately on the OSB, I weighted them with heavy objects so they wouldn't move, and I welded the
upward-facing joints. I then verified that the hexagon shape was still true, turned the hexagon over, and welded the opposite-facing joints. After checking the accuracy and flatness of the shape again, I finished welding each joint completely around. I repeated these steps to create the second hexagon end.
    Because the cage cross pieces will be welded to the hexagons at the joints, it would be advisable to grind the welds flat on at least one side of each hexagon so that the crossbars mate well, and the cage dimensions are not affected by a raised weld. The next step is to cut the crossbars to length (46") and weld them to the hexagons. Alternately, you may find it easier to add tumbler shaft supports to the hexagons now, rather than later as I did. They are described a little further down.
    In the figure below, the tumbler cage crossbars are being welded to the hexagons. I used corner clamps to hold each crossbar to the hexagons, and to ensure a 90 degree angle. You need to be very careful here so that you don't end up with a distorted cage. However, you don't need expensive clamps. The ones I used are equivalent to the $2.99 clamps available from Harbor Freight. They are a bit difficult to use but did the job nicely. I am sure that more expensive clamps would be much easier to use, but with care, the cheap clamps produce good results. Conveniently, the clamps have a gap just where the weld needs to be made. When you clamp the first crossbar in place, lay another crossbar in place on the OSB to make sure the hexagons are parallel to each other before welding. Weld the second crossbar on the side opposite to the first, then weld in the remaining crossbars. With care, you will end up with a nice, true hexagon cage frame.
    One note however: You will preferably place at least 2 consecutive crossbars so that their nearest surfaces directly face each other, rather than being at an angle to one another. This gives you at least one rectangular box shape, and this is where you would place a door.It's not absolutely necessary, but it makes door installation easier.

Welding the tumbler cage crossbars

Welding the Tumbler Cage Crossbars (Click Image to Enlarge)

    The figure below shows the finished cage. Well, it's not quite a finished cage just yet. I learned later that the door creates a noticeable imbalance which affects smoothness of operation. The door weighs approximately as much as 4 crossbars, so you may want to add 4 crossbars directly opposite where you will install the door. Placement is not critical, but leave at least a half inch space between the existing crossbars and the nearest counterweight crossbar so as not to interfere with hook assembly installation later. You will see 4 counterweight crossbars in photos further down. Also, tumbler shaft supports need to be welded into the hexagons, as described in the following paragraph.

Finished tumbler cage frame

Finshed Tumbler Cage (Click Image to Enlarge)

    The tumbler shaft supports can be added now. They could have been added earlier as mentioned above. I used 1/2" square tubing as shown, and created a rectangular box area in the center onto which I welded a steel plate. I rummaged through my garage and found several 7.25"x8.25" plates, about a 10th of an inch thick. These made nice solid platforms onto which I could mount bearing shafts and bearing shaft supports. The dimensions here don't matter much, just make it big enough to hold a good bearing shaft support. Photos further down show these bearing shaft supports. I hadn't decided yet on what to use. Later, I found an unused fan pulley from an old Saab 96 V4 engine which worked great for the driven end, and I found a bearing shaft support from the 1960's era dryer for the non-driven end.

Shaft support added to cage

Shaft Supports Added to Cage (Click Image to Enlarge)

2. Building the Frame/Chassis (More Welding Required)

    The first step here is to build the frame ends. The process is similar to building the hexagons above, except that I used 1.25" square tubing here. I drew the frame design on the OSB, cut the segments to match, laid them on the design to verify fit, put weights on them, and finally welded them using a procedure similar to the hexagon welding. Note that the pillow block bearing in the photo below is not installed at this time. I just placed it there to make sure that it would fit, and that the 2 bolts later securing it could be accessed in the open triangular area below each end. You will notice some pretty nasty gaps here due to the lack of precision cutting tools, and the lack of skills on my part, but a good welder (err, the welding machine, not me) fills these gaps with no trouble.

Frame end laid out for welding

Frame End Laid out for Welding (Click Image to Enlarge)

    Once the ends are finished, the frame crossmembers (also 1.25" tubing) can be added. Take care here to get the frames square and parallel to each other. The tumbler is a close fit, and you don't want parts hitting the frame during operation. A carpenter's framing square helps a lot here. I didn't do this, but you may find it advisable to used some 2x4 lumber and clamps to set and hold the frame ends accurately in position while welding. Just spot weld each crossmember at first, and then check trueness before finishing the welds (and after).
    The frame braces can be added after the crossmembers are welded in place as shown in the photo below. I used 3/4" square tubing for the crossmember bracing, and 1/2" square tubing to brace the frame ends so they don't twist when moving the tumbler. Dimensions are not critical here, but make sure the frame is adequately braced. The crossmember braces should start near respective ends and meet near the center to make a strong chassis that can take abuse when the tumbler is being moved on rough terrain.
    You will notice that I added a motor mount to one frame end using 1.25" tubing, braced with 1/2" tubing. It extends about a foot. Adjust this dimension and position to suit the motor you are using. You will also notice that I welded some steel plates on the bottom of each frame leg to serve as feet if wheels aren't to be mounted, i.e., for stationary use.
    You will also notice that I welded in axles at this time. I used commonly available 3-ft long, 1/2" diameter, zinc coated rod for the axles. Use hardened steel rods if you want a super tough axle. I drilled 1/2" holes through the legs (maybe 9/16"), passed the rod through, and welded it in place. I left the excess rod until the wheels were installed, and then trimmed the axles to length. The finished farme is shown below.

Welded frame

Welded Frame (Click Image to Enlarge)

    I primed the frame for painting at this time, along with a good portion of the barn floor. See below.

Frame primed for painting

Frame Primed for Painting (Click Image to Enlarge)

    I then painted the frame a nice green, again getting a good portion of the barn floor. See below.

Painted frame

Painted Frame (Click Image to Enlarge)

3. Building the Cage Ends

    First some important comments are in order. Please read this paragraph fully. I first constructed the cage ends using 1/2" OSB, and I spaced the pulley (bicycle tire rim) the necessary amount using glued-on pieces of OSB. This was a mistake for several reasons. First, the rim is screwed to the OSB, but the OSB isn't nearly as strong as plywood, and the spacers deteriorated quickly, and the screws started pulling loose. Secondly, OSB is rather rough, with catchy splinters here an there. We found that alpaca fiber is drawn to splinters like a magnet, and sticks like it is glued to the splinter. Walk away for 10 minutes, and you might come back to find your fleece wound into a very expensive, but useless, alpaca fiber cord (we did). The inner-facing surface must be very smooth to prevent this. Therefore, I used 3/4" plywood and sanded the inner side before coating it with polyurethane. This provided a smooth surface that doesn't catch tumbling fibers. Further, the 3/4" plywood is holding the pulley screws very well. The only catch is that, due to the extra thickness, the mounting screws were interfering with the frame so I counterbored each hole just enough to get the head of the screw flush with the surface of the plywood. Later photos show these revisions. You can follow the instructions below, but bear in mind that I used 3/4" plywood, and not the 1/2" OSB shown in the photos.
    I first drew a nice hexagon on the plywood. I made it larger than the cage hexagon so that it extended approximately 1/2" beyond the cage hexagon for strength. That is to say, it is 1" wider, face to face, than the metal hexagon end.
    I then accurately located the center (where lines drawn corner-to-corner intersect. Before cutting the center hole, I used the center point to draw a circle the same diameter as the pulley/rim so that I could accurately mount the rim later. I then cut the center hole big enough to accommodate the bearing shaft support that would pass through the hole. I then glued 8 pieces of 3/8" plywood spacers (any other suitable material can be used) at equal spacing around the rim circle.
    Please note that I erred in the photo below. The spacers can extend inward as far as you want, but you won't want them extending far outside of the rim. A little is okay, but too much, and you'll find them possibly interfering with your belt-tensioning apparatus (depending on what you use). I had to cut and chisel off the excess.

Cage end assembly

Cage End Assembly - Later Modified (Click Image to Enlarge)

    The photo below shows detail of how the rim is attached to the cage end. I drilled holes on the side of the rim and attached it to the spacers with deck screws that were as long as possible without penetrating the plywood. Note again that the photo shows the OSB which I later replaced. Additional photos below show the updated attachment to the plywood.

Cage end assembly detail

Cage End Assembly Detail - Late Modified (Click Image to Enlarge)

4. Mounting the Bearing Shafts and Bearing Shaft Supports

    Unfortunately, I wasn't in a photo-taking mood when I mounted the bearing shafts and supports. The photo below shows the finished tumbler cage already mounted to the pillow block bearings mounted on top of the frame ends. I will describe how I assembled these. I'm not saying this is the best way to do this, but it worked for me. I'm sure those of you more mechanically knowledgeable know better methods.
    The first step was to cut a piece of 1/2" round, zinc-plated rod to a suitable length, one for each end. Leave plenty of excess which can be cut off later if desired. I drilled a 1/2" hole in each steel plate such that the axle rod was a tight fit. I put the rod through the hole so that the end of the rod was flush with the inside of the plate. I tack welded the rod at one spot on the inside of the plate, made sure that it was square with the plate, and completed a circular weld around the rod on the inside. I did the same with the other axle shaft rod.
    At this point, prior to mounting the axle shaft supports, I made sure the axle shafts were square. I have some sawhorses which include a V-shaped attachment for holding pipe. Using 2 sawhorses, and 2 V attachments, I supported the cage with each axle shaft sitting in a V. I put each V as close as possible to the base of the respective axle shaft. I could now manually rotate the cage and look for wobble in the end of each shaft. I eliminated all signs of wobble by gently tapping each shaft end with a hammer. I then slid each axle shaft support (e.g., the V4 fan pulley) over the respective shaft, and welded the support to the steel plate. Before welding the shaft to the small hole in the respective support, I again checked for wobble. Once welded at the small end of the support, each axle shaft felt very solid, with no signs of axle-end wobble.
    Finally, I slipped a pillow block bearing onto each shaft and set the whole assembly on the frame as shown. I then bolted each pillow block bearing to the frame with carriage bolts which passed through holes drilled in the frame. At this point, the cage should rotate freely when motivated by hand.
    I should note that I used pillow blocks that included locking collars for locking the bearing to the shaft. The bearing should have either a collar or set screws to keep the cage from shifting in the bearings. Final positioning can be performed later when installing the belt tensioning device and the drive pulley. At that point, I ensured that the cage bearing shafts wouldn't shift in the bearings by cutting 2 appropriate lengths of PVC conduit and slipping each onto the appropriate bearing shaft between the shaft support and pillow block bearing, thus blocking any axial movement of the cage. Later photos below show the short length of PVC conduit.

Tumbler body assembled

Tumbler Body Assembled - Later Modified (Click Image to Enlarge)

5. Attaching Welded-Wire and Plywood Cage Ends

    Well. again I have no photos showing how I attached the welded wire. That's okay because my first method wasn't the best. The welded wire you see above has 1/2" square openings. I attached it by mounting the cage to the frame and then rotating the frame as I molded the wire to fit. Neither the 1/2" square nor the installation method were the best.
    We later decided to use 1" square openings which works much better for our huacaya fleece. We have no experience with suri, and we don't know how well a tumbler works with suri fleece, or what size wire opening would work best.
    To install the wire, this method works very well. Lay the wire on a flat surface, and place the cage on the wire, resting on one hexagon face. Place one door crossbar near the edge of the wire, with a non-door crossbar also resting on the wire. Wrap the wire at the door all the way around the crossbar until it meets itself (three 90 degree bends). You will have to trim about 1" x 1" of wire at each corner so that it fits inside the hexagon ends. Hardware stores sell 1/8" thick metal flats in 3' and lengths. Take a 1/2" wide flat, trim it to fit lengthwise. and drill about 8 holes sized so that a #8 screw slips through easily. But space the holes to align with openings in the welded wire. Place the flat on the wire, at its edge, so that it aligns with the crossbar. Drill smaller holes in the crossbar (only on one side, not clear through) so that a 1/2", #8 screw holds securely. I don't recommend self-tapping screws because you sacrifice some thread at the end, and the screw dosn't penetrate far enough for the threads to grip. Use regular steel screws (a hex head works best). I also don't recommend stainless because they are too soft and strip easily.
    After fastening the flat, the wire is locked securely. At each side, there should be about 1/2" overhang of wire. That's why the cage was 47", not 48". Fold the wire 90 degrees so that it fits nice and snug on the side. A rubber mallet helps make a tight fit. No screws are necessary because the plywood cage ends will secure the edges.
   Now roll the cage to the next flat, and try to form a nice sharp bend of the wire at the crossbar. Fold the wire overhang onto the sides as above, and repeat these steps until you arrive at the next door opening. Cut the wire so that you have enough to wrap it around the last door crossbar with three 90 degree bends just like the first door crossbar.  Trim the corners and attach it in like manner as the first end.
    Now, it's time to attach the plywood ends. Because the plywood was cut to overhang about 1/2", I found an easy way to attach the ends was to raise the frame about 1/2" by placing some thin strips under it. Now, the plywood end can be set adjacent to the end, sitting at just the right height. I placed one screw near (but not right at) each corner, and 2 additional screws along each edge. This seems to hold well. Use #8 or #10 screws having about 1" of thread length. You will only drill through one side of the metal tubing. You don't want screw ends protruding into the tumbler area where they would snag fiber. Counterbore the plywood just enough to make the screw head flush with the surface of the plywood. Also, along the door edge, there is no wire, so there is a gap between the tubing and the plywood, and you will distort either the tubing or the plywood if you don't add spacers between the tubing and the plywood. I used a couple of small, thin washers. Still further, don't use the OSB photos as reference. Scan further down and look at the plywood photos for reference.
    Finally, the plywood should be secured to the axle support area. This firms the axle supports up very nicely and eliminates any gaps. I used four 1/4" machine screws with nuts and washers. Put the screw head on the inside. It's smoother and less likely to snag fiber. You will want to counterbore the outside of the plywood just enough to keep the nut from protruding, and you will want to saw off excess thread. This will eliminate any possibility of mechanical interference.

6. Fabricating and Attaching Door

    The door is a relatively easy job. It does not need to be a tight fit, so make a rectangle of 1/2" tubing about 1/2" narrower than the opening width, and about 3/4" shorter than the opening height as measured at the tubing, thus allowing space for the wrapped-around wire. Cut a rectangle of wire that just fits the inside of the door (no wraparound required). Use 1/2" flats to secure each edge (similar to how the wire ends were attached).
    My hinge and latch assembly looks amateur, but it works well enough. I used ordinary hinges, sized and spaced so that, when the door is opened, it can be laid back over and rest on the adjacent hexagon face. The latches I used are simple slide latches (you can probably do better), but again, they work well enough. You will note that I attached springs to ensure that they stay latched during operation---very important! I also added a couple of small flat plates to act as door stops.  Photos below show the whole door, and one photo shows more detail of the latches and door stops.

7. Fabricating and Installing Removable Hook Assemblies

    Hooks assist in separating the fiber and improving the effectiveness of the tumbler. The photo immediately below shows one example of a removable hook assembly. One big advantage of this arrangement is that these assemblies can be easily experimented with. They install from the outside with just a few screws. You can experiment with the number and shape of the hooks until you get the desired result. You can swap hooks in and out for different fiber types if you find that necessary. You can see examples of installed curved hooks in additional photos below.
    You will notice in the photo, that each hook is welded to the 1/2" flat with a 90 degree bend. When installed, the base of the hook rests against the square tubing for additional support when it is lifting the fiber (the hooks are traveling in an upward direction in the photo). This relieves stress on both the weld joint and the screws holding the flat in place. I used music wire from a hobby shop (any springy wire will do). I recommend anything between 1/8" and 3/16" diameter. I tried small diameter music wire but found that, when welded with MIG, it snaps off at the weld as easily as snapping a dry cracker. If you use thin wire, braze it to the flat instead of welding it. It will lose springiness near the flat, but remember, it's supported also by the square tubing if installed as shown below. You can experiment with shape and length to your heart's content. I used 9" pieces of wire (4 pieces per 3' length of wire), gently curved up near the ends.

Hook assembly detail

Hook Assembly Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

8. Mounting Motor, Idler Shaft and Belt Tensioner

    I will have to let the photos do the talking here because you are not going to be using the same motor for sure (mid 60's dryer motor). The motor is a 1/6 HP dryer motor, and it has well more than adequate torque. Any 1725 RPM, 1/6 or 1/3 HP motor rated for continuous duty will work fine. Do not use a fan motor. They have very low starting torque and are not intended for applications requiring high starting torque. The easiest (but probably most expensive) method would be to find a universal already fitted with a motor mount. Like me, however, you may want to use whatever you have laying around, and make it fit.
    The basic idea here is to mimic the drive and belt arrangement found in a typical clothes dryer. That's basically what this is, and the rim is a close approximation to a dryer drum. The only real difference is that I used an idler shaft mounted in pillow block bearings to drive the belt. Do not try to drive the belt directly off the motor. There is not enough speed reduction and you will likely watch your fiber spin round and round like on a merry-go-round. I used a 2.5" pulley on the motor and a 4" pulley on the idler shaft. The advantage of the idler shaft arrangement is that you can easily and inexpensively experiment with ratios to find a speed that works best for you.
    Modern dryer motors are cheap and I think would work very well. However, most are an open design and should have a cage installed over them for your protection. You will, however, want one with a 1/2" shaft and a removable belt pulley which can then be installed on the idler shaft. You will want a ribbed dryer belt that matches that pulley.
    As for a belt tensioner, I used the tensioner from that 60's era dryer. They were much more robust than what they use today! You may be able to find a suitable dryer belt tensioner by browsing the online appliance parts suppliers. It might not be too hard to fabricate your own. The one I have is simply a flat piece of steel, with a bent end, that rides in nylon guides in a holder. A spring attaches the bent end to the holder. A small shaft is mounted in the flat steel with a plastic ider pulley on that.
    For wiring, I used a regular house light switch in a metal box mounted to the frame. I cut the end off an extension cord and wired that into the box. Use cable ties to keep the wire in place so it doesn't contact moving parts. And please attach the 3rd grounding wire to the box so that the frame is safely grounded. You will also see a green wire in the photo below where I grounded the motor frame to the tumbler frame.
    And, always close the tumbler door before flipping the switch!

Motor assembly detail

Motor Assembly Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Motor assembly detail

Motor Assembly Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Motor assembly detail

Motor Assembly Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Revised hooks and cage end

Revised Hooks and Cage End (Click Image to Enlarge)

Revised hooks and cage end

Revised Hooks and Cage End (Click Image to Enlarge)

Latch detail

Latch Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Counterweight crossbars

Counterweight Crossbars (Click Image to Enlarge)

Interior end detail

Interior End Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Exterior drive-end detail

Exterior Drive-End Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Exterior drive-end detail

Exterior Drive-End Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Revised hooks

Revised Hooks (Click Image to Enlarge)

Exterion non-driven end detail

Exterior Non-Driven End Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Wheel detail

Wheel Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Cage pillow block detail

Cage Pillow Block Detail (Click Image to Enlarge)

Tumbler in kid's clubhouse

Tumbler in Kid's Clubhouse (Click Image to Enlarge)

 9. Some sources for Parts

The URLs below were all active and working at the time of writing this document. One or more may become stale by the time you read this. Google is your friend, as is eBay if you are careful.

Belt Sources:

Part number: WE12X0082 (New part number is WE12X10014)
4-rib, 1/4" wide, 87.375" long

Drive Pulley Sources:
For 1/2" shaft motors

Large pulley (Bicycle rim) sources:
Approx. 24.5" effective diameter, 25.25" O.D.
Part number: Wheelmaster Steel Rim TIW 27" x 1-1/4" 36 Hole

Pillow Block Bearings
Part Number: UCP201-8
1/2" Pillow Block Bearing with locking collar or set screw

Welded Wire for cage and door:
1"x1", 16 gauge, vinyl coated, 48" wide (need approx 11 ft.)
Item# WW11165048GR at:

Currently using 1960's era 1/6 HP General Electric dryer motor
Any 1/2" shaft, 1725 RPM, 1/6 to 1/3 HP, continuous duty universal or dryer motor will do. Do not use a fan motor.

10. Some General Comments

    1. You will notice same hay in the tumbler in the photos above. That's because the tumbler makes an excellent, temporary bird or small animal cage when not in use. Darn grandkids.

    2. You may want to use larger wheels than I did. It will roll much better over gravel driveways, and will lift into the bed of a pickup more easily---set one end on tailgate, and then lift the other---easy. Just be careful, it's top heavy so don't corner too fast.

    3. There is no safety interlock on the door. Forget to latch the door before flipping the switch and you will soon say "Oh crap!" or worse, as you watch mechanical carnage occur, and the off switch is bouncing elusively out of your reach.

    4. The dimensions I used will allow it to fit through a standard 36" entrance door (if it's opened 180 degrees, not if it's opened only 90 degrees). Adjust the dimensions to suit your needs.

    5. If you aren't going to be moving the tumbler through narrow doors, you may want circular plywood ends rather than hexagons. Those hexagon corners hurt, especially if your head is in the way, after checking the latches, when you flip the switch.

    6. I am going to devise better latches if I can. I'm considering changing the door to open inward rather than outward. I may use magnetic catches to hold it inwardly open. This will eliminate the danger if the tumbler is started before closing the door---just pick your fiber up off the ground and start again.

    7. You may want to consider the use of a small fan when tumbling. When placed correctly it helps separate debris and second cuts.

    8. Please don't be offended by all the copyright notices. I'm just trying to share freely, but I don't want someone to take my work and use it as their own. I might sell a printed version of this document once I've worked out a better door design, and found a good commonly available motor and belt tensioner.

11. Endorsements

    My wife and I loaned the tumbler to a nearby breeder as a means of testing it and getting someone else's opinion. We were pleased to receive valuable feedback as a result, and the following endorsement:

I used Ted’s Tumbler to prepare a number of huacaya fleeces for processing into yarn and roving and was very impressed with the results.  The tumbler removed an amazing amount of dust and dirt, vegetable matter and even the larger second cuts.  I found the most efficient way to use it was to put it outdoors and place a fan a few feet away to blow through the fiber as it was being tumbled. 

I skirted each fleece before tumbling so only the prime would be processed and removed any large pieces of hay as I placed it in the tumbler.  Most fleeces were tumbled between 20-30 minutes each.  The tumbler helped me “save” several fleeces that would have taken hours of picking to prepare – hours I might not have spent.

The two mills that process my yarn and rovings have been very pleased with the condition of the fleeces sent to them after using the tumbler.  It definitely saved me time in preparation and I recommend it highly. 

Donna Christley
Moonlight Fibers

12. Contact and Purchase Information

    You can submit comments, suggestions, or queries to Please put "fiber tumbler" somewhere in the subject line so I don't accidentally delete it if it gets marked as spam by my email filter.
    I no longer make this first model, however, if you want a tumbler but don't want to make your own, click here for information on my latest tumbler model.