It might be a bit early for shearing, but it is never too early to be prepared. One thing that we have struggled with over the years is getting a shearer out to shear our small flock of 40 Rambouillet/Suffolk ewes. We have that rectified now that our eldest son took a shearing course last spring and can shear ours when it fits into his schedule. The problem that then cropped up was how to pack the wool. When a shearer comes to shear the flock he or she brings a wool packer stand with them. So we were faced with a massive pile of wool to stuff into unmanageable seven-foot tall bags.
Many years ago our shearer had brought a wooden frame wool packer stand along for our small flock. Then our second oldest son would stand in the wool bag, attached to the wool packing stand, in sock feet, and jump up and down on the wool to pack it taking away the need for hydraulics. We found a ready-made packing stand at Canadian Woolgrowers Cooperative for $175. It seemed simple enough, so we decided to make our own.
We built a metal frame because we had the parts available. Wood we would have had to purchase. Ours is all made from a recycled fuel tank stand and four angle-iron rails from two old bed frames. We had one in the basement and my oldest son found one on the side of the road on his way home from work. The blue plastic ring on the top is cut from a plastic 50-gallon barrel. We had used the bottom of the barrel for a water trough. We also saved the metal rim from the barrel and use it to hold the bag on the stand. The hardware was 5/16-inch by one-inch bolts, which came from the stand once it was dismantled. So this project’s cost was close to nothing and it fits Canadian seven foot sacks — unlike the $175 one that fits New Zealand bags, which are $6 each instead of $5.50 for the Canadian ones.
Here are the dimensions of our wool bag packing-stand. From the side, notice the angle iron butts right up again the barrel ring. We bolted the angle iron to the barrel, using old sickle knives as washers. Total materials cost for this stand was next to nothing.
For tools, we used a drill press (3/8-inch bit), a hand drill (3/8-inch bit), ratchet with 9/16-inch socket, a 9/16-inch combination wrench, carpenter’s square, a five-inch angle grinder with a cutting disk to cut the metal, caulking gun, tube of silicon, and a jigsaw to cut the plastic barrel. We also used four old knife sections from our sickle style hay mower for washers on the inside of the barrel.
My husband carefully took the bends out of the old fuel stand pieces with a hammer and anvil. To fix the most stubborn bends, we put one end of the leg into a piece of box tube metal on our hay wagon and bent them back using human weight.
Before assembling, place a bead of silicon around the barrel-fastening ring to help hold the bag. When this is dry, assemble the stand.
To assemble stand, start by placing the bedframe pieces to form a square around the barrel top. It is easiest to use sawhorses to hold the barrel top and then lay the metal pieces, in a square, around it. Bolt the metal pieces together at each corner. You’ll need to mark the location of each bolt hole, and then use the drill press. Also, you’ll need to drill holes at the midpoint of each bedframe piece, lined up with corresponding holes on the barrel top. Bolt through these holes to hold the barrel top in place, using the washers made from the knife blades. Use a carpenter’s square to make sure the top is as square as possible. This is important for the stability of the rest of the stand.
Then mount the channel irons from the fuel stand (piece on diagram/ pictures across the front and back top), to the pieces of the bedrail that run across the front and back top of stand to make them double thick for strength.
Then mount the legs, which we made from the legs of the fuel stand. Then add the cross brace across the bottom front and back to keep it from sinking in soft ground. Then add cross braces and diagonal braces on the back and sides only. The front cannot be diagonally braced because you have to be able to swing the full bag out.
INSERTING THE BAG
To use the stand, feed the bag inside of the barrel and bring the lip over the edge and put the metal ring back on the barrel to hold it there. The packing person stands up on a secured ladder next to the stand and puts wool, handed up to them, in the bag. Once there is enough wool so that the packing person’s head will be above the hole, they get into the bag with sock feet and jump on the wool. Be careful to tuck in your arms when you go in the bag for the first time because sometimes you go lower than expected and it hurts. As the wool is packed solid a helper hands the packer more wool. Pack until you can’t get any more in but don’t fill the wool level above the barrel or wool will have to be removed in order to remove the bag from the stand.
Make sure to have your sewing needle and twine (not baling twine because you can’t have plastic particles in your wool) ready and get it sewed while the bag is still standing, leaning against the stand. As soon as you stop packing the wool expands again so if you have to go to the house and back it will be spewing out the top of the bag by the time you get back.
It is important to use proper wool sacks for storing and shipping wool. Feedbags break down and leave little pieces of plastic that get mixed into the wool decreasing its value. We order our wool sacks from Canadian Woolgrowers in Lethbridge, Alta. Their phone number is 1-800-567-3693 and website is www.wool.ca.
I am sure that if you decide to make one of these, you will be happy with the results. Ours worked perfectly and we had all our wool packed in a short amount of time this year for very little input cost.
Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.
Email her at [email protected]