22 June, 2009

Cestari Wool Mill Tour: from Wool Bale to Pencil Roving

This series of photos takes you through Cestari's wool mill process of turning baled wool into pencil roving.

Cestari, located on Chester Farms, is a family-run business outside Staunton, VA.

Here we start out at the scale and a rack of spare parts for the carding machines. Cestari's machines are from the 1940s and parts are no longer made for them, so the company buys existing used parts for spares. Whatever parts they need and cannot buy, they get machined.

Here is a bale of wool. This particular bale is from their own Columbia sheep (which you can see in this post). Cestari also mills sock yarn blends that are made with other wools. Some of the wool they buy is raised in the area. They send wool out of state for cleaning and get it back in bales.

Wool goes into this picker and from there it is blown into a room. The wool goes through this process twice to separate the fibres well.

The fibres are fed into the back of the coarse drum carding machine.

A thin batt comes off the coarse drum card rollers.

The batt is automatically lifted and transferred to the fine drum carding machine.

The batt is separated into thin strips.

The strips come out the other side as pencil roving, which is rolled and ready for spinning.

One of the carding machines has a bar that crushes the fibres with great force to pulverize any bits of vegetable matter in the wool. This mechanical process is used instead of a chemical process called carbonization, in which larger milling companies use chemicals to dissolve vegetable matter.

The safety fence catches small wisps of wool that are flung into the air by the rollers. Our guide Joanne told us that the floating wisps are much safer for the workers than wisps in a cotton mill would be: cotton fibres in the air are a fire hazard.

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