To make a Knitting Needle

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

I will be filming more videos of Ed at work. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to add music. πŸ™‚


Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle used in weaving Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing a fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays are set aside for worshiping God with our small Quaker meeting.

7 thoughts on “To make a Knitting Needle”

  1. That is simply amazing!

    Er, isn’t he concerned about catching his beard in the lathe? (I kept seeing flashes of beard!)

    Whatever you charge for needles, it’s NOT ENOUGH!

  2. Wanda, that was a great little video! I’m thinking it smells really good in his workshop :^)

    It really was amazing watching him, his hands, that needle flexing… Well done, Ed!

  3. Wow. That’s a great video — thanks for putting it out there! What an amazing process! (It really makes me appreciate my spindle even more than I already do!)

  4. what an amazing video – Ed is a genius (but we knew that) The true artist at work, creating those beauties that we love.
    thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Nice to watch an artist create! Thanks for inviting us into Ed’s workshop πŸ˜‰

    I treasure my Bolivian Rosewood needles all the more. can tell he loves what he does…hope you make more videos (with or without the music, they are great!)

  6. Hi Wanda,
    Thanks for visiting my blog! I watched your YouTube videos yesterday – both Ed’s needles and yours on Turkish spinning. I used to have a Turkish spindle, but no one in my guild knew how to use it and I eventually gave up and sold it. After watching you do it so easily, I regret that! I haven’t had my shoulder replacement yet, although I should find out about it next week. In the meantime, I’m spindling for short periods of time and trying to get the scotch tension working on my ancient Lendrum so I can finish off some Coopworth before I go in hospital. I’m also going to try Andean plying some Jacob this afternoon. I guess I’d better get another blog for fiber stuff! πŸ™‚ Thanks for your kind remarks.

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