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DF2014:Silk farming

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Silk farming is the process of harvesting large quantities of silk from webslinging creatures like giant cave spiders. Several setups have been devised to farm silk quickly and safely, but successful silk farms have a few traits in common:

  1. The webslinging creature must be aggressive toward the bait, and willing to web it. Tame giant cave spiders are not willing to web invaders[Verify], while wild spiders appear to only be willing to web active military dwarves or invaders[Verify]. Various other untamable creatures remain willing to web most tame animals (with cats being a possible exception). Tame spiders are not aggressive toward animals on restraints.
  2. The webslinging creature must not be able to reach its bait; if it can, the bait (or creature) will die and no further silk will be generated. Spiders can destroy wooden doors but not stone or metal doors. They cannot pass through forbidden doors or doors that have been "tightly closed". Other silk-spewing creatures can destroy all non-artifact doors, requiring drawbridges or walls for containment
  3. Web collection cannot occur in sight of wild webslingers or invaders serving as bait; either will cause dwarves to interrupt collection. Drawbridges work well to block line of sight in either case, as webs will not prevent them from raising.

Cave spider silk farm[edit]

Cave spider silk farms are probably the easiest silk farms to set up since the spiders are so small that they don't represent a serious danger to your dwarves.

  1. Trap a dozen or more cave spiders via kennel.
  2. Release them into an enclosed area - mined out vein does the job - with access through a hatch from above. Precaution is necessary to prevent vermin hunters like cats from entering the area.
  3. Place a loom close to the access and assign it to a single weaver. Let it collect webs on repeat.

Since occasional bites are unavoidable, assigning the loom to a single weaver is important. Best use a dwarf already bitten by a cave spider and affected by the resulting dizziness. Despite the slowing effect of cave spider dizziness this farm will produce a steady stream of silk.

Passive cave spider silk farm[edit]

All cavern layers spawn webs (1). All that is needed for a modest but very safe supply of silk, is to mine our vast areas of the cavern layers. These don't need physical connection to the cavern, it suffices that they are in the same layer as the cavern. Silk webs will start to appear in them as well - that makes it very easy and safe to collect silk. If mined early after embark, this can significantly boost the early supply of silk.

Simple silk farm[edit]

+ + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + ^
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + S
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + +
  1. Dig out (and optionally smooth) a sufficiently large room (example shown is 9x11)
  2. Build a cage containing an untamed spider at the gray "S", and link it to a lever
  3. Build a non-wooden door above the spider cage, and mark it forbidden and pet-inaccessible
  4. Recommended: build a cage trap on the green "^" to recapture your spider later
  5. Construct all of the red fortifications
  6. Build the green bridge, raising lengthwise to form a long wall.
  7. Build a lever somewhere convenient in your fortress and link it to the green bridge
  8. Pull the lever linked to the cage to release the spider
  9. Order a non-ranged military dwarf to station or patrol in the room (but not on the green bridge)
  10. Raise the green bridge periodically to allow your bait dwarf to escape, then lower it again to resume production
  11. Your weavers may collect webs during production if they have sufficient discipline; if not, leave the green bridge raised while they collect the webs
  12. Set pull lever on repeat to have automatic production and collection

There is a small chance of injury if the creature gets hit by the projectile silk, but having the creature stand more than 3 tiles away from your spider seems to prevent this.

High-volume silk farm[edit]

z z - 1 z - 2
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + ^ + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + H S + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
! + + + + +
  1. Dig out the three chambers as shown.
  2. Smooth and carve the red fortifications.
  3. Channel out the areas in green and cyan, linking all three levels
  4. Build the large green bridge (retracting) and large cyan bridge (retracting)
  5. Construct a pressure plate in a well-traveled area (or a repeater) and link it to the green bridge
  6. Build a lever and link it to the cyan bridge
  7. Build a cage containing an untamed spider at the gray "S", and link it to a lever
  8. Build a non-wooden door above the spider cage, and mark it forbidden and pet-inaccessible
  9. Channel the yellow "H", build a hatch cover there, and link it to a lever. This will allow you to remove the bait dwarf and stop production.
  10. Recommended: build a cage trap on the green "^" to recapture your spider later
  11. Evacuate the upper two chambers and forbid the bridge-access doors
  12. Pull the lever linked to the cage to release the spider
  13. Station or order a melee dwarf to patrol to the blue '!'; lock the door after he enters the chamber
  14. The spider will blast the bait with webs. When the green bridge automatically retracts, the webs will fall and stack on the cyan bridge
  15. Pull the lever linked to the cyan bridge to drop the stacked webs to the bottom level for collection
  16. Remember to release your bait dwarf periodically

Note that a simple pit in the harvesting chamber will not work--the bridge is required to cause the "web objects" to drop to the next level (and stack). Because falling items are deadly, it is necessary to collect the webs on the "holding" bridge and only drop them into the collection chamber when your weavers are clear. Also, webs "tossed" by the retracting bridge can injure anything they hit, so your bait dwarf may require occasional replacement. One spider can easily keep several weavers busy, and collecting all the webs provides a great opportunity for cross-training.

Extra automation of the silk farm

  1. Station a weredwarf or vampire as spiderbait. Now your melee dwarf does not need to be replaced and can be totally locked in.
  2. Use an enemy invader instead of a dwarf as the web target[Verify]. Recapture it with a cage, similarly to how the spider is recaptured.

Notes on exotic webslingers[edit]

Farming silk from other procedurally generated creatures is somewhat more difficult and less rewarding. As level 2 building destroyers, these creatures can only be contained by bridges or artifact doorways. They are also immune to traps, making positioning in the farm rather more complicated. Finally, without a value modifier, the collected silk will be equivalent in value to common cave spider silk. They do still provide a nearly-inexhaustible source of silk thread, and with some effort their webs can also be used to cage other trap immune creatures. Also, webslingers with modified material properties (e.g. IGNITE_POINT) can produce webs that retain those properties (e.g. fire-safe or magma-safe silk).

Silk farming in China, 1700s.
"Silk farming" in other Languages Books-aj.svg aj ashton 01.svg
Dwarven: nesteth ivom
Elvish: yarare tòbafí
Goblin: egod gotåm
Human: sushsath ab