First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 1

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 1

This past Christmas I received an electric needle-felting tool. This one was made in Ukraine using 3D printing. It had a small motor driving a single needle. Glenn found it on Etsy after he notice I had been having long online chats with a representative, (Amy), of the brand XianDafu, sold by William Wool Felting Supplies Store. Who manufactures a different style of hand-held electric Felting machine from China.

Poor Amy, I spent a long time asking questions, mostly about their needles, what gauge, shape, and how many barbs per side. They are using needles with the crank and part of the shaft cut off (there are a couple of hand-held needle holders that require that the crank be removed too, but they’re not common). Ann’s very kind husband has cut needles for her before but I thought it sounded a bit intimidating so had been hesitant to buy one.  Amy was excellent to chat with, being quite familiar with the machine but didn’t have as much background with commercial felting needles.  So I went into teaching mode and likely overwhelmed her with details and info on needle shapes, gauges, barb placement…… and finally manufacturers I suggested checking out both the Chinese manufacturer Doer and the German Gross-Brecket. I passed on her information to Ann who decided it sounded interesting and placed an order.

By the time Ann’s order arrived and I got the chance to check it out, I decided it might be useful to have a second style of machine) the price had gone up! (Stupid fluctuating dollar value). The positive was that now there were a few options for accessories; I could order extra needles and/or extra screws. (They are tiny screws, so I thought it might be a good idea to get extras)

Ann’s Unboxing of the Chinese needle felting machine. opening the box, the parts are well packed in foam, vile of cut needles, the speed control with adapter for the plug1) Ann’s Unboxing 1

Ann’s unboxing 2 retractable guard. the guard retracted and extended.  2) Ann’s unboxing 2 retractable guard     

You can see my unboxing here  The synopsis, in case you don’t want to go back and read the post, for the packaging from China it was amazing in its use of extreme layers of skid wrap, over Bubble wrap,  over shrink wrap and inside the box, lots of good foam. I suspect the Ukrainian machine was also well packed for shipping, but it was not wrapped for shipping when I was given it, in Christmas wrapping. (I am pretty sure it did not arrive through the mail covered only in Christmas wrapping paper)

The concepts of having an electric needle-felting machine are:

  • reduce strain on your body (reduce repetitive strain injuries or tendinitis irritation)
  • increase the speed you felt at (the machine can poke holes into wool far faster than I can.) you can also adjust the speed of the needle in both the Ukrainian and Chinese machines that we looked at)

other things to think of, Mechanical considerations:

  • Ergonomics: Is it comfortable to hold and use?
  • How difficult is it to change the needles?
  • Both have a limited run time for the motor then it will have to rest and cool down. We seemed to work for up to 5 minutes then pause to adjust or add wool. The suggested run time is 10 minutes for the Chinese version, so well over what we had been doing. It would be important to adhere to the run times so you don’t burn out the motor which would not let you enjoy the benefits of the machine
  • Vibration, noise and Kick back should be considered.
  • How many needles can the machine hold and effectively work?

Ann and I have been trying to meet on a Monday before a social at the local guild to try out your new felting tool.  We had a few things we wanted to test with both machines. My pre-test suspicion was that the Chinese machine would be best for pictures and the single-needle Ukrainian machine best for sculpture. Let us see if I am correct and what you think from our initial test runs.

Let’s start by looking at the Silver Metal Electric Needle felting tool from China first. (The script on the box seems to say “Zendaifuku fibre moulding machine”)

Let’s start with how to add needles, since if it is not reasonably easy to change needles then you will be less likely to use the machine.

Ann Adding needles to the machine using a small allen key and inserting the needles that have had the crank removed.3) Ann adding needles to her China-made machine

This machine requires that the top of the needle (the crank and part of the upper shaft) needs to be removed. This can be done with needles you already have or you can purchase precut needles from the manufacturer of this machine. This is an extra step that the Ukrainian machine does not have. On the other hand, being able to use up to 4 needles gives you more options than a single-needle machine.

We both found that adding or changing needles to this machine was not difficult. Because the screws are tiny, those with reduced eye acuity or essential tremors in their hands may find this a bit more challenging but it should still be achievable. Caution: if you want to run this one with less than 4 needles, I would suggest taking out the empty place screws and storing them in the little screw topped vile holding your needles. I would also suggest ordering extra screws they are so tiny and likely to disappear if you don’t keep your eye on them while changing needles. (Sneaky screws!!)

4) Needle holding vile with screw top (these are Ann’s, mine has extra screws in the vile)4) Needle-holding vile with a screw top (these are Ann’s, mine has extra screws in the vile)

Ann lost one of her screws while running the tests for this machine. She took out two of the four needles to see if fewer needles would create less resistance and less kickback. She had left the two screws in the machine without the needles. She noticed one of the screws without a needle was missing and we used a tool I have shown you before to look for it. (Princess Auto has these, extendible-handled-magnet-with-light. Very handy for picking up needles, screws or pins from your weaving)

Using the extendable magnet with light tool to look for the missing screw under the table and close up of tool 5) Extendable magnetic with light

We started with the different felting surfaces we had with us; Firm foam pad (yellow), pool-noodle-type garden kneeling foam pad (green), and medium firmness wool pad (charcoal).

pool-noodle-type garden kneeling foam pad (green)

   6) My accessories and felting machine on the green foam with extra needle cases, Allen keys and tiny screws. Back of 100% wool felt base with Ann’s machine with only 2 needles.   6) My accessories and felting machine on the green foam with extra needle cases, Allen keys and tiny screws. Back of 100% wool felt base with Ann’s machine with only 2 needles.  

The green kneeling pad produced some kickback, but the Chinese machine did embed the fibre into the green wool felt base. Though it did work better with Ann’s machine with 2 needles rather than mine with 4 needles.

Firm foam base (a piece of the kneeling pad) yellow

    7) Firm foam base (a piece of kneeling pad) yellow7) Firm foam base (a piece of the kneeling pad) yellow

The yellow firm foam had the most resistance to the needles and had the most kickback. Holding the machine on an angle helped the needle barbs engage the fibre.

Wool mat (medium softness) (I have one that is thinner and firmer and one that is thicker and softer)

8) 2D and 3D on wool mat with Chinese machine8) 2D and 3D on a wool mat with the Chinese machine

On first impressions with this tool and this wool mat, Ann liked the 3d more than the 2d felting.

 9) Increasing Speed using dile on cord 9) Increasing Speed

Increasing the speed improved felting in both 2 and 3 D but she is still having some kickback with 4 needles.  She also found that working on an angle worked better than vertically. We again suspected that the lower angle might be engaging more of the barbs with the fibre, than when held vertically. With the amount of resistance felt with this surface, we may not have the speed, gauge and number of needles set up to optimize for this machine. We will investigate further.

Ann held the tool at an angle and found it worked better. We think that the surface may be too resistant to the needles in use. We suspected finer gauge needles or fewer needles might improve the felting.  For a second try, Ann switched to two needles instead of four this reduced the kickback but didn’t remove it.

10) Ann reduced to two needles and tried the wool mat again. it was more effective.10) Ann reduced to two needles and tried the wool mat again. it was more effective.

11) We also tried a 3-D object, using 2 needles and without an armature.11) We also tried a 3-D object, using 2 needles and without an armature.

This caught and entangled fibres into the felt successfully. As you can see, Ann was running it with the guard locked in the retracted position.

After checking the mats we had with us, we came to the conclusion that there may be too much resistance and maybe we needed something more like the clover brush pad to allow the machine to work to its best potential. Neither Ann nor I have one and they are so small a work surface. We needed to come up with an alternative. I found my red kitchen scrub brush and Ann went to a hardware store and found a bristle scrub brush and a driveway brush. So we now had 3 brushes of different stiffness, height of bristles and bristle density to try next.

  12) 3 brushes to try (since we dont own clover brushes)12) 3 brushes to try

 13) Princess Auto red scrub brush; tightly packed, stiff plastic bristles. 13) Princess Auto red scrub brush; tightly packed, stiff plastic bristles.

14) Whisk brush with handle from Home Hardware longer and softer bristles that are tightly packed.14) Whisk brush with handle from Home Hardware, longer and softer bristles that are tightly packed.

15)  Driveway brush without its pole handle also from the hardware store; firm bristles more dispersed than the other two brushes.15)  Driveway brush without its pole handle also from the hardware store; firm bristles more dispersed than the other two brushes.

16) Prefelt over the driveway brush 16) Prefelt over the driveway brush

Using the driveway brush as you would a clover brush seemed to be the most effective of the options we have tried. The other two brushes were found to be too stiff (Red) and on the other, the bristles seemed too close (Black). The driveway brush created less resistance than even the pool noodle-type garden kneeling pad foam, which was better than the wool or hard foam with this machine.

I suspect that if changed to finer needles, with the barbs located closer to the tip we would again see an improvement in fibre engagement.

If this company makes a new version I would suggest it would be nice to have the guard able to lock at a couple of spots so you could set the depth the needles would penetrate. Secondly add “Extra Fine” needles to their options, with barb placement close to the tip. (a shallow working depth but maybe not as shallow as the crown needles)

The machine itself felt comfortable in the hand, it felt safe and solid to work with. The adjustable speed worked well and we remembered not to get too excited and overwork the machine, so no more than 10 minutes on. We probably were working more in the 5-minute run times, then letting it rest as we set up the next bit of wool to work on.

Next, we will look at the “orange Fly” electric needle felting machine from Ukraine. We can then compare the two.

Ann and I would be interested to hear if you have tried the metal electric needle-felting machine from China. How did you find it?

This is the link to the Chinese Needle felting Machine. The price has fluctuated quite a bit due to the strength of the Canadian dollar.,scm-url:1007.40050.281175.0,pvid:c33f93e0-5aac-4884-bd34-54c5fe444a00,tpp_buckets:668%232846%238114%231999&pdp_ext_f=%7B%22sku_id%22%3A%2212000031240835199%22%2C%22sceneId%22%3A%2230050%22%7D&pdp_npi=3%40dis%21CAD%21206.27%21206.27%21%21%21%21%21%402101d1b516779458756708517ed103%2112000031240835199%21rec%21CA%211912286868

18 thoughts on “First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 1

  1. Very helpful information. I met Stephanie Lester late last year – she uses a needle gun and for her incredibly detailed work it is ideal. I’d love a gun – not yet sure why, but I am sure I can find a reason!!

    1. Thank you! i think the electrice tools will have a place, (saving strain on the body/ incresing the speed you can felt at) wate till part two of this chat. for fine detail you may like the Ukrainain one. since both pricese seem to flucutate with the exchange rate watch for an improvement in your dollar value and shop then.

  2. These machines are an interesting concept, and your tests and experiments are intriguing. I’m looking forward to the next instalment, but I doubt I would purchase one. Although I am now doing more needle than wet felting, I do tend to mix the two techniques and when needling use a single needle.
    You two should really bite the bullet and write a book on the technical side of needle felting and the equipment (including armatures). It would be invaluable.

    1. Hummm… Good idea maybe i can talk Ann into helping write a book! (she has contributed to a book before!!)
      if you find a working one second hand (realy cheep) pick it up and see what you think. the single needle one “orange Fly” may be helpfull on a mix of wet (now Dry) felting. i will try to get a sample for you next post. (i tend to stay mostly on the dry side of felting but i can do wet if i can talk myself into the wetness part.)

  3. As I hadn’t heard of a needle gun before, I googled it and came across this Etsy page . I don’t think I’d go for this shape as it must be difficult to be accurate about where you’re poking your work, unless you were working on a vertical rather than a horizontal surface. I can also imagine “Junior” picking one up thinking it was a toy ray gun or something and zapping his/her playmates with it!

    1. there are a number of manufaturers of the lazer printed vertions. some have had very bad reputations for overheating the moter and sezing, throwing parts after a few minits operation or other foul behavures. the one from Ukrane has much better revews and has been improved a pon so this is acutly an upgraded modle i have.
      if there are kids in the house it may be safer to ether keep it stored without the needles (remove the anmunition) or store it away from curious fingers (by a gun safe?) oh no next i will be suggesting back ground checks! and we already have a waiting period since the mail can be quite slow!! but you are probubly rite not to leave it out unattended where it may fall into unscrupulus hands or posibly impail those hands!

    1. Thank you both! we will hope to intreeg you further witht he next installment and maybe talk Ann into helping with a book.

  4. Thanks for sharing! It was neat to see your tests and learn about your results.

    1. i will let you know how the Ukrainian macheen works next and Ann just ordered one of the multie needle ones of a similer design.

      i have also got a cuple request to try both macheens with a wet felted base. i will try to get my office rebuilt so i can do that or posibly see if i can find another location. (i am moving bookcases and turning a tale so there is a gient pile of stuff in the middle of a small room. pluss a large pile of bags of wool in the even smaller room my hubby has his computer. i bot the house i could afford not one i fit into….oh well i will fit a bit better when i am done.

    1. i will definatly be adding testing the macheens felting over a wet felted base.
      since moy mackay backgrounds are more like a strong prefelt or at least thin and lightly fleted to make it easy to use with a sewing macheen we will likely try with that sort of thickness as well as a bit firmer since others tend to take a bit longer rolling or have more inthusiasum while rolling.
      when Ann’s second macheen arives we will put it through its pacese.
      i think we will need a chart to more easily compair the types. Ok have one started there may be a part 3 or 4 to this investigation it keeps expanding! (Sorry!)

    1. Thanks for your Help and hand moddleing!!! (those are mostly your hands, mine have the occational long claw at the end of a finger! moving the office around has been hard on the finger nales)
      April is only 4 weeks away so it may arive in time for a post part 3. it will be intersting to compair China, Ukrain and Gorgia(?). so far i am wanting qualitys from both macheen to make a new not yet exsising one. Lets keep investigating!!

  5. I’m not sure these will help with arthritis in the thumb or tendonitis of the wrist/thumb area, because of the way you have to hold them, but hopefully, I’m wrong. Also, for those looking for the perfect felting pad, I highly recommend the Artfelt Tackboard. It was created to use with artfelt paper, but I use it for my large wet and needle felted wool paintings. It’s fantastic! I bought the large 24 x 36″ one and I’ve used it constantly for more than 6 years. It is self healing, so it hardly looks like it’s been used. It never sheds, traps or discolors fiber and it’s very lightweight. At 17.00 it’s a bargain. You’ll go through dozens of those cheap foam things or those practically useless brush type ones before this one even looks like it’s been used. You could probably cut the large one down into several smaller sizes, or it is available in smaller sizes precut. I bought mine from The Woolery, in the US.

  6. I’ve been seeing a few more felters try out the machines, and I like it. There’s been a lot of negative views in the past about these, which is silly – a painter isn’t expected to hurl the paint on the canvas with their hands, why should a felt artist not be allowed some extra help as well?

    (Rant over :D)

    I’m hoping to hear more about your experience in another post, Jan. This sounds very interesting but I’m thinking a bit more tweaking will be necessary in future models for it to be a really great machine… Maybe you’ll be able to let us know about version 2.0 🙂

  7. A most interesting post Jan and a really thorough review. Thank you for sharing your findings.

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