Have you ever wanted to watch Ed as he turns a needle? It’s really quite fascinating, but also dangerous. The stick of wood is turning at a very high revolution and it doesn’t take much to launch one into space with the slightest wrong motion. Being in line of the trajectory of a small, slender piece of wood could be deadly. I don’t hang out much in the shop though I enjoy watching him work. For the past month he’s been working on a huge order of small needles. The shop owners have been quite patient but understandably wondering when the 119 pairs will be finished. That’s 238 individual needles each needing to be cut to approximate size then turned on the lathe.
If Ed’s making maple needles the process takes a different route at this point, today we’re looking at the fine, small needles made with exotic hardwoods. After turning all the individual needles is completed Ed makes little forms, using a mold he designed, to insert in the cable end. The join helps ease the transition from cable to needle without too much wear and tear on the very delicate wood edge. After the glue dries the needles get a final buffing then come to me for inspection, smoothing down any catches and writing the sizes and our name. If the wood is light colored I’m able to use a specific type of ink that dries very quickly without feathering. With the dark colored woods I have to use white ink and a calligraphy nib. It’s not the best solution for it does wear off with use. If anyone has knowledge of a form of ink that would not be time-consuming to apply, quickly drying to a hard, non-removable surface, please share.
During a conversation with the yarn store people I realized they thought Ed used a computerized lathe. Umm, not exactly. He uses his hands, chisels, files and sandpaper. At the high turning speed the thin piece of wood whips about on the lathe. The longer it is, the more whipping action. The thinner it is, the more it whips. The whipping causes the piece to bow out and it snaps. This is one of the reasons for the high price of a pair of hand-turned knitting needles. Many simply snap just at the last minute as Ed is cutting down the final needle point taper, and the exotic wood is not cheap. Because of the force of the whipping action on these little needles Ed must use his hands to stabilize the needle. Can you imagine holding your fingers against a rapidly spinning piece of wood?
Maybe you’d like to see for yourself:
This is a very shortened version of the entire turning process. Please watch and let us know what you think.
I will be filming more videos of Ed at work. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to add music.