Valkyrie Combs Comparison
The following information is a page from Rhonna Robbins-Sponaas's blog (aka "Trenchwork"). The review was conducted in 2012, and the page is used with permission; technical information has been silently updated.
The combs are named according to the type of fiber they handle. The finer the fleece, the finer the combs. A comb mounting pad is available separately and hackles (also available separately) may be matched to comb fineness.
DOUBLE ROW VIKING COMBS
2-pitch. These are traditional, larger style combs, and are recommended for long and medium staple sheep’s wool such as Wensleydale and Lincoln, as well as llama and angora goat. Tempered steel tines are firmly set in a 5″ wide hardwood handle.
Weight per comb: 12 oz.
Pitch information: Tines are 11.45cm (4.5″) tall.
FINE COMBS (ORIGINALLY “REGULAR”)
2-pitch. These are all-purpose combs which can handle a wide range of fibers. The tines are more openly spaced and are especially effective with medium wools and longer wools (keeping in mind that the curly longwools such as Wensleydale and Cotswold really benefit from a full-sized rather than mini comb). These combs can indeed be used on finer fibers such as Cormo and Polwarth, but the process will require more passes and more care than the finer combs. The recommended micron count range is 24–higher.
There are two sizes of this comb.
Weight per comb. Mini/4": 190g (6.7 ounces). Regular/5":
Pitch information. 7.75cm (3″) width of tines in 10cm (3.93″) wide head.
Tines are 10.5cm (4.13″) tall.
2-pitch. These combs were designed especially to handle shorter, finer fibers, but they are extremely versatile and are significantly larger than other mini combs. The tines are both finer and more tightly spaced than the Regular mini combs, and are effective on medium-fine fibers (e.g., a medium Romney). They are not at their best with coarse fibers, and curly longwools need to be flicked or picked open before combing. However, the combs excel with fine fibers such as Merino, Polwarth, and Cormo, and work brilliantly for blending with superfine fibers such as silk. They excel with shorter fibers because the tine depth (from the front edge of the first row to the back edge of the last row) is just under 1/4″. These combs debunk the traditional notion that you can only comb locks which are longer than 3″. The recommended micron count range is 18–35.
Weight per comb. Mini/4": Regular/5": 265g (9.3 ounces)
Pitch information. 10cm (3.93″) width of tines in 12.5cm (5″) wide head.
Tines are 10.5cm (4.13″) tall.
3-pitch. These combs were designed with superfine fibers in mind. This includes the very fine lamb fleeces of medium-fine wool breeds, such as Corriedale. However, they excel at fibers with micron counts under 20, and particularly those which have a silky handle, including superfine Merino, a finer-than-average Polwarth, Alpaca, Suri Llama, and Angora. The recommended micron count range is 20-18 and under.
Weight per comb: 230g (8.1 ounces)
Pitch information: 7.5cm (2.95″) width of tines in 10cm (3.93″) wide head.
Tines are 7.4cm (2.91″) tall.
Preface. I typically flick locks before I comb them, but doing so makes the job easier for the combs and many people do not take the time to flick before they comb. Therefore, in order to predict what most people would experience, I lashed the locks directly onto the combs without flicking, but rather opened them slightly as I pulled the lock back during the lashing-on process. This does make the combing harder on the combs, and thus really puts them through a more challenging test. —RRS
NB! The following table assumes the fleece is the standard, mid-range type for that particular breed. In reality, Note 1 applies to the entire table.
|Fiber||Estimated Micron Count||Superfine||Extrafine||Fine|
|Huacaya Alpaca||15-35 (varies widely; cria may be even finer)||Excellent||Good||Fair|
|Suri Alpaca||15-35 (varies widely; cria may be even finer)||Excellent||Good||Poor|
|Llama||16-45 (varies widely; dependent upon guard hairs)||Poor/Fair (1)||Good/ExcellentSee note 2||Good/ExcellentSee note 2|
|Suri Llama||est. 15-25||Excellent||Fair||Poor|
|Mohoair, adult (Angora goat)||31-35||Fair (1)||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent/Good (1)|
|Blue-face Leicester (BFL)||24-28||Fair||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent/Good (1)|
|Border Leicester||33-38||Poor||Fair (3)||Good|
|California Variegated Mutant (CVM)||21-25||Good||Excellent||Fair|
|Gotland||varies; lambs can be 18+; adults can be up to 40.||Poor||Fair (3)||Good|
|Gulf Coast Native||26-32||Poor/Fair||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent/Good (1)|
|Icelandic||tog: 27-31,thel: 19-22||Poor||See note 2||See note 2|
|Karakul||25-36 (under: 20s; outer: 30+)||Poor||See note 2||See note 2|
|Merino, fine or superfine||under 22||Excellent||Good||Fair|
|Montaldale||25-31||Fair||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent/Good (1)|
|Navajo Churro||under: usually 20s; outer: 35+||Poor||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent/Good (1)|
|Shetland||primarily 20-30; emphasis on finer end of scale although outercoat may be coarser.||Fair/Poor||Excellent/Good (1)||Excellent|
|Teeswater||30-36||Fair (3)||Fair (3)||Good|
(1) Comb effectiveness will depend greatly on the fineness of this particular fleece. The finer the fleece, the more effective the finer combs.
Example: For Navajo Churro, the Extrafines work very well on a fine or lamb fleece, while the Fines work very well on a somewhat coarser grade. With a finer fleece, the Fines will need an extra pass or two.
(2) Effectiveness of the combs on dual-coat fleeces will depend on a number of factors, but two in particular: fineness of the fleece, and whether you want the two coats blended or separated. If your intent is to separate the coats, then the finer combs will work better. If your intent is to blend the two coats, then you want the coarser combs.
Example: Blending the dual-coated Karakul fleece works very well on the Regular mini combs. Those combs are, however, not so effective at quickly and easily separating the coats. It can be done, but takes more passes, and will not necessarily open or eliminate places where the undercoat has been tightly packed or lightly felted since these sections are more likely to slip through the more coarsely-set tines. On the other hand, the Extrafines do an excellent job of separating the coats, but a poor job of blending them because the tighter spacing catches and holds the undercoat.
(3) The curly longwools are problematic for certain combs, and benefit from the stronger tines. If the locks are flicked fully open before they are combed, the Extrafines will work very well. If they are not, however, and assuming the fleece is not a particularly fine (micron) example, the Fines or Vikings will be more effective. Note, however, that a finer fleece will do better with the Extrafines—and would indeed do nicely with the Superfines if the locks are opened first. Longwools actually do very well indeed with the Extrafines if the locks are opened up a bit. One thing we tend to forget is that the more slippery the fiber, the less grip those fibers have in the combs. If, therefore, you’re working with a finer and very silky longwool, you may find you like your results better if you shift down one degree of fineness in your combs (from Fine to Extrafine), flick the locks open, and then comb. The primary reason why I have noted the Fines as better for longwools is because of the issues with the curl. Flick or flick-brush the locks and you’ll have an entirely different scenario.
A Word about the Names and Sizes
The names reflect the nature of the fibers for which they are designed. The “Fines” were originally simply called “mini combs,” but there seemed to be some confusion among buyers about where they fit into the scheme of things. Given that the Fines are finer than many other mini combs out there and are on par with what many other makers think of as “fine,” Chris chose to adopt that term for his normal mini combs in order to provide some degree of consistency within his own line of combs as well as in comparison with other combs. In 2012, he also started making the larger Extrafines in a smaller size: the same size as the Superfines and Fines. That may be helpful for folks who need the smaller size, but will still give them the advantage of the comb itself.
A Word about Fleece
Getting started with fleece can often be a challenge for a spinner first venturing into the realm of raw fiber, and an adventure even for the more experienced. Understanding that every breed of sheep has its own unique characteristics and that those characteristics lend themselves to different purposes and different preparations is an important starting point. There are a number of resources both online and in print which can help you research your chosen fleece or fleece type. In print, I can strongly recommend the following two books. While there is a certain overlap in their content, they work well together, and their information can be invaluable for helping a spinner gain an understanding of a new fiber.
- Robson, Deborah, and Carol Ekarius. The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook. MA: Storey Publishing, 2011.
- Fournier, Nola. In Sheep’s Clothing. CO: Interweave Press, 1996. (In reprint.)
Similarly, you may find the following general information sites helpful. Note that the information on the first two sites is not necessarily perfect, but will give you a starting point for your research or a general overview.
- University of Oklahoma’s Breeds of Livestock website: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/ for sheep and http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/ for goats.
Sheep101.info website: http://www.sheep101.info/
- Breed organization websites can be particularly helpful since they often include the breed standard as well as history, and should generally be considered more authoritative sources than either the Oklahoma State or Sheep101 sites. Sites are, however, often initiated and maintained by volunteers, so may have an unpolished or amateurish appearance. Again, it is always a good idea to cross check information between sources.
last update: 18 July 2023