Machine to find new life in the hemp industry

Lawrence Creswell says there is still a few wheels and cogs to put into place after the machine is moved to its new location. Photos: Bridget Jochems.

Deep in a dark shed in rural Waikato is a monster of a machine, which with the help of the local community and Lawrence Cresswell has been lovingly restored. It’s ready to be reinvented and start a new life.

Nancy King, who owns the Cross Lapper Carding Machine, has a vision of it being used as a part of the regenerative farming movement to create hemp fibre products that can be used to insulate and build houses.

The machine has been out of action for the last couple of years but formerly was used night and day processing sheep wool. Most recently it has been used to turn daggy wool into weed matting.

Nancy bought the machine 18 months ago with the dual purpose of saving it from being sent overseas – where many of our old no-longer-used machines end up – and wanting to see it be put to good use in a New Zealand community. 

“My passion to see hemp used as a building material is not a new thing and in my opinion hemp is a vital way forward, as it doesn’t need pesticides to grow and it can consume and break down environmental pollutants,” says Nancy.

“I think that growing hemp will help to rejuvenate and create a quality resilient agricultural economy.”

A variety of wood-like products such as fibreboard, roofing tiles, panelling and insulation can be made from hemp – and many of these products are virtually fireproof.

It has taken Lawrence the best part of a year to bring the machine back to life. “Because it’s in a storage facility I couldn’t use a water blaster to clean it.

“It took six months to scrape and clean the dags and lanolin off,” says Lawrence.

The Lapper Carding Machine has been repainted as close to its original colour as possible. “Resene paint specialists came out to give me some advice on how to paint it and what to paint it with,” says Lawrence.

They had to make the colour specially, which they have since named ‘Lawrence’. 

Nancy is not sure where the machine will go to just yet “as the industry is still very new in New Zealand and due to the machine’s massive size it will have to go where the plant is being grown”.

“But the machine is ready to go and I’m delighted with what Lawrence and all the other people involved in this restoration have done,” says Nancy.

Lawrence is going to a seminar in Wanaka next month to learn more about how to make earth houses and he’d very much like to be a part of this machine’s new life and see where that takes him.


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