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DIY Circulars and Double Points

I love the look of beautiful, wooden circular needles, polished to a shine.  Since most of my knitting is circular and most of my wooden needles are straight, I thought I’d try making my own.  It wasn’t hard at all.  Even if you whittle them by hand, you can easily make one pair in an evening.

So, I scanned my needle inventory (glad I took the obnoxiously long amount of time required to catalog them on my Ravelry page) and decided I needed sizes 17, 35, and 50 in varying lengths.  However, since I was going to all the trouble of being crafty, I may as well make some wooden double points in smaller sizes, too.
Let me just say, the tutorial I used, by Rosemary Thomas, is great.  That makes mine superfluous, but since I am using slightly different materials and like to fill space, I thought I’d share anyway.

What you need:
dowels in the correct diameter
a saw (I used a miter saw, but any rusty old hand saw will probably work fine.)
a sharp knife to shape the needles (or pencil sharpener or radial sander)
Sand paper in a few different grits
tape measure
beeswax or paste wax

Additional supplies for circulars:
round weed eater line for any size needle tip (works best but usually comes in garish colors) or large flexible plastic tubing for larger needle sizes (I couldn’t find a type that was flexible enough for me)
strong glue (I used Gorilla Glue)
table clamp
a drill
a drill bit the size of your tubing or weed eater line

First you need to decide what your dowel size should be to get the proper needle size.  I went with:
1″ for size US 50
3/4″ for size US 35
1/2″ for size US 17
3/8″ for size US 13
5/15″ for size US 11
1/4″ for size US 10
I knew that I wanted the larger needle sizes to be circulars and the rest for double points.  Then, I had to decide what the actual length of each double point and circular needle tip should be.  I chose 8″ for doublepoints and 4 3/4″ for circulars tips.
measured and marked my dowels, then cut each dowel into the correct length.  
 (See my manly arms?  My husband did the cutting, but anyone can use a miter saw.)

I then clamped each needle tip to a work bench and drilled about 3/4″ into the center of one end.  (A note: if you are using large tubing as your needle cord and will drill a larger hole, you may want to use a smaller drill bit first to make a “starter” hole, ensuring the larger bit goes in evenly.)

Now comes the fun part.  Since I whittled mine by hand I started shaping the cord side of my circular tips first, being careful not to whittle it down so far that it weakened the wood around the hole.  When it was almost the right size, I moved to the needle end to work.  I then alternated between the two ends trying to get a little symmetry while making the needle end sharper.  The same applies for double points, only you don’t have to worry about making the hole in one end collapse.  
I really just had to play with it to get a feel for using a knife.  I was literally on the porch whittling like an old timer.  All I needed was some chewing tobacco and to say things like “Time  was…” and “Back in my day…”

Now if you own a heavy duty pencil sharpener (for little sizes), a radial sander, or even a blade grinder, honing down your ends would be easier.  We are missing a part to our radial sander and I wanted to feel earthy with a knife anyway, so I carved my first few needles.  You can see they are not perfectly shaped due to the serrated blade I was using, but I like them.

Now it was time to use my sandpaper, from the most coarse to the finest on the needles.

I followed with a couple of coats of paste wax (beeswax would work just as well) for some shine.

At this point the double points were finished.  If you don’t want circulars, stop reading here and go use those double points to make a hat.

 If you do want circulars, however, you need to make another decision: what lengths should the cords be?  This was an easy step for me.  I always use 24″ circulars.  But having a 16″ and 40″ would be nice too.  I’m not sure what I would make with magic loop on size 50 needles, but I have tons of dowels now to find out.

When cutting my needle cords, I kept the length of my needle and the 3/4″ amount of cord that would be fitted inside each needle tip in mind.

In other words:
 24″(total length) – 9 1/2″ (combined needle tip length) + 1 1/4″ (for the bits of cord that will be glued inside the tips) = amount of cord needed for my 24″ circular.

 Or you can do like me and just stretch the needle tips and cord out next to a tape measure and guess.  Snip them with scissors.  If you are using plastic tubing be sure it is the very flexible kind.  I didn’t really like this tubing on mine.

 I, then, roughened 3/4″ of the end of the tubing by partially cutting into it with the scissors.  I used them to nick it and make the cut bits flare outward slightly. The messier it was, the more surface for the glue to adhere to.

 Next apply a bit of glue and shove it into the needle tip.  Allow it to dry.  You can always sand any bits of glue that are visible, but I found I could pick them off with my fingernails just as well.

You are now the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind, earthy, survivalist chic, handmade circular needle set.  Now bring out the bulky yarn and knit that old Twinkle pattern you always wanted.

What I learned was that I prefer weed eater line to tubing, but most weed eater line is an ugly color, and pencil sharpeners can’t handle poplar.   You can find other colors of line online.

So in two evenings, for the price of one and a half sets of wooden circulars, I have two sets of circular needles and one set of double points completely finished and ready to use, along with supplies for many more.  I also have a big callous from whittling.  I could easily cut one or two sets an evening when we usually sit outside and talk, but my son did say he’d bring the rest to shop class and hone them down as a Mother’s Day gift (Yay for wood shop!)

(my flickr and Ravelry)

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  1. Oh, thanks, Jennifer! I was worried the phone photos were kind of blurry. I'd love to see how yours turn out.

  2. Thanks, Elena! It was really easy. I remember wanting to make the Twinkle Karate Sweater so bad and having to make do with small straight needles. Well, no more!

  3. awesome. i have turned my head at many a pattern because they call for really large circs and i am too cheap to buy them. now i know how to make them!

  4. You're so crafty, Britt, yours would be beautiful! You know, knitting is such a time intensive craft that it's really nice to complete something in one evening once in a while.

  5. Thank you, Vanessa, but not if they're hand carved! That was some work. I do think they'd make nice handmade gifts with some bulky yarn, though.

  6. I hear you, Meg. I'm with the Amish when it comes to power tools and heavy equipment. But, the only real "power" tool you need is an electric drill. They're not scary. Any old hand saw would work for cutting the lengths of dowel. You should try it. BTW, I'm about to watch how challenge 3 came out on Fiber Factor. I'm rooting for your hand dyed accessories.

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