Carding engine, 1800-1830.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The purpose of the carding engine was to loosen, disentangle and straighten the cotton fibres prior to spinning. This machine, which came from Jedediah Strutt's (1726-1797) mill at Belper in Derbyshire, resembles earlier machines made by Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) except that the framework is larger, and comprised of iron not wood. Cotton is fed by fluted rollers onto the large, fast-moving cylinder and carding takes place between it and the first and third small rollers, from which any waste is 'recycled' and returned to the main cylinder. The cotton is finally stripped by a reciprocating comb and funnelled into a container for removal to the next stage of the production cycle.