Ghosts of Christmas Present #2 - Purpleheart Knitting Needles

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Project by scottb posted 01-04-2009 02:51 AM 1881 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My niece is into knitting. Really into knitting. In addition to having several projects going at all times, socks, hats, scarves and what have you – plus emergency needles and yarn in the car – she’s co-producing a podcast which is getting good reviews.

(apologies to Matt and Marc, I know how they feel over at WTOL about the woodworking vs knitting podcasts)

Anyhow, a while back (a long while admittedly) she asked if I could make her a pair of needles. This Christmas she was surprised, and thrilled with this purple pair.

I’d been looking around the shop and yard for something to use, from saplings to offcuts to the firewood pile. Nervous of checks and splits in the firewood, my thoughts turned to finding something with nice straight grain for strength in such a slender turning. Christmas this year was going to be a very homemade affair (read – free, or darn near), but when I spied a 1/2” thick purpleheart board at Woodcraft, I knew I found what I needed. Straight and stable grain aside, she really likes purple.

I tried making the first one in excess of 12 inches on the shopsmith, and it split in two nearly straight away, just one catch with the skew and it was well beyond repair. I’ve made spurtles before, but those slender turnings were still far beefier than what I was attempting with these…, so I got creative with a combination of chucks and centers on my Jet Mini lathe, before I managed to pull off a matching pair.

Getting them cut perfectly parallel was also a challenge. but with calipers and sanding blocks they match perfectly. Nice and straight. These clock in somewhere around 8 or 9 mm in diameter (I can’t remember the size), and are about as long as I could make on my Jet Mini lathe. (I based the size of needles my mother-in-law had – length and diameter, as well as the angle of the pointed end. I tried turning, using a pencil sharpener, and in the end, the disk sander was easier, and more accurate by far, for getting the business end pointed and ready for use.

These are sanded super smooth to 2000 grit so as not to snag any yarn, and finished with BLO. I wanted a finish that could easily be reapplied as needed.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

5 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4425 days

#1 posted 01-04-2009 03:09 AM

Scott. A great pair. Nice job. I could see the problems in making something so long and slender.

A buddy has a tool that he uses in making Shaker spindles. It has a gouge and it fits over the shaft. The shaft going through the middle You turn on the lathe and slide the tool down and it cuts it round. A one step job. I don’t know what they are called or the sizes available. We used it to make some 3/4” dowels round when we were making some wooden clamps at the woodworkers club workshop.

I’t’s kind of similiar to the tool to make tenons on log ends for rustic furniture but the hole in the middle allows you to feed the wood al the way through.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14173 posts in 4007 days

#2 posted 01-04-2009 04:09 AM

nice work, very thoughtful gift … how many board feet did you use ? >grin<

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4088 days

#3 posted 01-04-2009 06:00 AM

Nerves of steel, M. Blanchard, nerves of steel! Lovely gift.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3552 days

#4 posted 01-04-2009 06:16 AM

Wow, that whole project was exciting. Figuring it all out and then the real danger involved. Nice result though. Custom knitting needles, how cool is that? Women love that stuff!

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View wood_wench's profile


89 posts in 3456 days

#5 posted 01-04-2009 07:22 PM

Great turning skills! I’ve tried to turn hair-sticks and have always ended up with very expensive tooth-picks.
I hope she cherishes them – definitely something to be handed down to the next generation of knitters.

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