Introduction: How to Make Your Own Permalok Needles

Picture of How to Make Your Own Permalok Needles

Those of you messing around with paracord probably know what these are already.
If you don't, they're basically large diameter needles that thread from the back, parallel to the needle body, so they don't create extra thickness from threading them on large diameter stuff ( paracord, leather...).

Although not essential, they can make your knot related work much easier and enjoyable.
I thought these needles were gadgets, and have always been able to make all my fancy knots without such tools.
But I must admit that since I began using my first homemade needle, the hobby went even more enjoyable than it was before,
give 'em a try !

My problem is that where I live (France) these are impossible to come by.
Buying them online was the obvious alternative I've considered for some time, but I would end up paying three times as much in shipping costs than I would for an actual set of these.
So this is where DIY kicks in.

There's nothing really complex about these, and if you have a slightly equipped shop, it should only be a matter of minutes. ( My first try probably took me 20-30 min, half the time being spent looking for the right tools.

But since I wasn't able to find any resource online concernig making them yourself, I decided I might just publish my own attempt at it so others could benefit from it.
( Actually I've found some instructions on making lacing needles by hammering and filing brass pipes, but did'nt like their aspect at all.Also, it limited sizing options too much for me .)

These are easy, cheap, and work awesomely well !
What are you waiting for ?

Oh, and there are also a couple other advantages in making them yourself:

- You can quickly make a new one for most sizes of cord, string or anything.
- You can make them the shape, the length, the size, and nose form you need.
- This includes curved ones for works on coverings etc...

I will be covering the making of a needle designed to fit standard 550 paracord in this Instructable.

Have fun !

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need

Here are the few tools you will need to do this.
You might get away with less tools and more ingenuity, but this is the "basic" toolset that will make the whole process a breeze.

- One brass rod , ( For 550 paracord, I used a 6mm rod, which seems to be just perfect )
- A drill press ( This might be the hardest to source for some of you, but it will allow you to drill a nice straight hole down the rod easyly.)
- A dremel tool for the cutting/finishing of the needle.
- Various cutting, grinding and polishing bits.
- A set of threading taps matching the diameter of your rod. For paracord and a 6mm rod, I used 4X0.70 mm taps. 
- A drill bit, choose it accordingly to the kind of tap you're using. I used a 3.2 mm bit. It should have been 3.3, but that's close enough.
- Optionnally, a bench grinder

That's it !

If you choose alternative ways of construction, you might also find usefull to have:
- a hack saw 
- sand paper
- a lathe ( this would surpass the whole drill press thing on any aspect, but most of you won't have the privilege of owning one, so I will describe the "poor man's" drill press way here, as they are way more common )

Once again, this is only one way of doing it.
Depending on your tools or skills you might find many more.

Step 2: Cut the Rod

Picture of Cut the Rod

This shouldn't be to hard :)
Pick up your selected brass rod, and cut it to desired length, maybe just leave a Cm or so more than you need.
This will help should you mess up the shaping process.

For my first needle , I used 6mm diameter plain brass rod and cut it to a ~8cm ( ~3 Inches ) blank.
Dont bother making the cleanest cut yet, this will be ground down later anyway.


Step 3: Clean It Up

Picture of Clean It Up

I tried a different technique for cutting the rod while taking these pictures... It ended up ugly.
If this happens to you, just run one of the ends ( the threading one ) on a bench grinder to clean it up.
Don't worry about the other end, you'll be shaping it later.

Step 4: Drill the Back of the Rod

Picture of Drill the Back of the Rod

This is the only tricky part of the process, drilling a nice straight hole along the needle's length.
I will show you a trick I learned on hackaday that will make this really easy .

If you're lucky enough to own a lathe, you'll probably know how to achieve the same result with it.
But since drill presses are way more common, I'll show how to use one for the same purpose.

So basically:

1) You put your drill bit in the press chunk, only in reverse ( the cutting part inside the jaws) 
2) Don't tighten it to much, light hand-tight is enough, you just want it to stay there, without crushing it.
3) Without running the press, lower the reversed bit down to the jaws of the vise.
4) Grab the end of the drill bit in the vise jaws, and then fix the vise to the working area as appropriate.Take care not to move the bit around while tightening.
5) While holding the press down ( don't let the whole thing jump back on itself ), gently release the chuck, freeing the bit, and let the press go back up.
6 ) Put the brass rod in the chuck, tighten it good, and then drill your hole with this setup.

We're basically emulating a lathe here. A fixed tool, with a moving working piece.

I've found that center punching the hole might help if you have a cheap press, but you shouldn't need this with this technique

The depth of drilling isn't critical at all.
I made mine somewhere around 1/3 of the total needle length deep.

Don't panic if you don't get it perfectly straight.
Alignement isn't that much critical anyway. As long as the hole doesn't pop out of one side of the needle, it should remain totally usable.

Got it right ? Good ! Let's move on.

Step 5: Threading the Inside of the Needle.

Picture of Threading the Inside of the Needle.

The next step is to thread the inner walls of the needle.

Your taps should come in sets of 3.
- A taper Tap ( for beginning the work )
- A plug Tap ( for the main job )
- A bottoming Tap ( if your tap needs to precisely go to the bottom of your hole, our doesn't)

We'll be only using the first two.

Begin with the taper tap, to set the thread.
Then , make a second pass with the plug tap to make it nice and smooth.

When doing this , turn the tool back 1/4 turn every complete turn down, this will help "cleaning" the path, and avoid chips clogging the way.
Also keep in mind that taps are very hard tools and therefore equally brittle. Take care not to put any side pressure on the tool while using it, he'll be thankful for that.

I didn't go all the way to the bottom. Actually, I also only passed the plug tap on the first 2/3 of the tread, so the size of the hole would reduce down the needle, I've found this helps to trap the cord inside, but feel free to experiment there.

While we're at it, how do you choose the appropriate drill for any given set of taps ?

If your tap reads 4x 0.70 like mine does, simply pick up a 4 - 0.70 = 3.3 mm drill .
It's that simple :)


Step 6: Testing It

Picture of Testing It

At this point, test if the thread is correct for the intended use.
Pick a length of paracord, and melt one of the ends if not already done.
Any shape that tightly fits inside the needle should work, from the leather working trade, most people recommend you cut your cord to a 45° angle to ease the setup.

Then just screw the end of your cord in the needle as far as it will go whitout requiring excessive force.
Your cord should now be trapped safely in the needle, and not come out whitout a significant amount of force being applied.

I've found that the melted plastic ball at the end of the cords just perfectly adapts itself into a neat thread to follow the one on the needle.

Should you find the grip too loose at this point, just try making it all again with a smaller diameter hole.
If you followed the sizes I used, it should hold perfectly strong on regular paracord.


Step 7: Shaping It

Picture of Shaping It

If you're satisfied with the grip of the needle on the intended material, proceed to shaping it's head.

I initially planned on sticking it inside my dremel tool, and running It against a grinder wheel to get a smooth perfectly round shape.
But I didn't have the proper dremel chunk at the moment.

So I just stuck the piece in the drill press again, this time threaded end up, ran it, and worked the needle head with grinding bits on my dremel.
If you have a set of small flat files, they might be more appropriate for this step than the Dremel tool.
It would probably be easier to shape the tip evenly with filesthan with a thin cutting disc.

Please note this is not actually the intended use of the drill press,which is not meant to support side pression, so dont use too much force when working this way, just in case.

This part is up to you, make the head the shape the way you like it.
Just remember to keep the point a bit rounded, so it doesn't pierce your cord when you're working with it.
Unless of course this is the feature you're looking for for any particular application.

When finished, I got the needle out of the press, put it back in reverse, and also clean shaped the thread end of it, just to get off this "cut from stock brass rod" look.
This is just a matter of putting a small angle on this end.
It also helps when pulling the neede out of your ropework after a mistake.


Step 8: Finishing It Off

Picture of Finishing It Off

When the desired shape is achieved, it's just a matter of giving it the desired finish.
I chose the easy/lazy way, and went on as I did so far.

I kept the piece turning in the press, while finishing it off with various sanding/polishing/finishing bits on my dremel.

Step 9: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

You're done !
You can now thread this little fella on the end of some paracord and enjoy it changing your life. Well...maybe not, but at least the tricky knot tying part of it :)

Here are some additional thoughts :
- I'm only showing one way of doing it here, you might find some better ones according to your skills/available tools
- Using a lathe would be a better substitute for the whole drill press if you own one.
- Since It's all home made, don't fear experimenting with various head shapes. Round, diamonds, dull, sharpened...
- You can make it as long as you wish for any particular purpose.
- You can adapt the process for various sizes of ropes/cords...Smaller ones make many splicing jobs so much easier :)
- You might find it useful sometimes to have a curvy needle for some work , just so it can go in, and pop out of your work near it'e entry point. Try bending some once you've done a few.

I hope you enjoy trying this out, and using your very own tool.


Feel free to post any suggestions of further refinements in the comments.
I'd also really like to see actual pictures of anybody ducplicating this instructable or ones of the fancy knots/ropework this might have helped you with :)
As an end note, it would be nice if you posted the exact drill/rod/taps sizes if you make it any other size , so everybody can learn from it.
I will feature any comments meeting one of these criteria so everybody can profit.

Ch5

Comments

place name here- made it! (author)2014-10-18

Thanks for the Instructable, I saw this years ago & it always stuck with me. So tonight I finally made it! The few differences were I used #4 copper wire & used a screw to tap it because I didn't have a tap set.

ch5 (author)place name here-2014-10-20

Looks great !

Nice improvisation with the screw too.

Thanks for sharing the results.

Tower guy (author)2016-12-03

I found a much simpler way was to just go get a rifle cleaning rod for 8 bucks already with hole and threads the rod I got had three ends with holes so I got three needles and with the others I sand them down so a lacing needle without the lace works great and took me about 20 30 min from buying to finished product

Daniel Dare (author)2016-09-16

Not much more I can add but thank you. I love it when someone gives me some new knowledge/technique that I can pass on to others and use myself. LLAP

ch5 (author)Daniel Dare2016-09-19

Glad you liked it :)
I learnt so many little tricks on this site throughout the years, it's only fair I give some back.
I have a couple more in an upcoming machining instructable.It should be ready near the beginning of next week.

Fezder made it! (author)2016-01-11

Made from tent spike, didn't have those screws....haven't tested it yet but can't see reason why it shouldn't work (cord are still on their way....)

borgem (author)2015-06-14

I saw a how-to a while ago where aluminum binding posts (http://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Screw-Posts-Chicago-Screws/dp/B003O9J3GG) were used. they are already threaded on one end and solid on the other (after you cut off the flat head). You chuck the threaded end (not too tightly) into a drill and use your preferred file >> emory paper to create your desired tip

CementTruck made it! (author)2015-01-20

I made 2 of these with my metal lathe last night. It was so simple, thanks in part to this 'ible, that something tells me I'll have a full set of Paracord lacing needles in 64th inch increments by this weekend. ;)

ravenzero (author)2013-03-09

InstructAble Mobile Has Horrible Keyboard, Meant Make This A Million Times Easier

ravenzero (author)2013-03-09

BuyMillion Times Easier, BuY Some Knitting Needles In A Large Diameter,Cut To Size With Dremal.

weldor (author)2012-11-29

oncenteric should read concentric. My bad. I am a horrible typist.

weldor (author)2012-11-29

Nice idea! try this trick for shaping the ends- using a hand drill, put the rod in the chuck. go over to a bench sander. turn sander on, pull trigger on drill and GENTLY apply gradual pressure of the spinning rod to the sander. the finish and poit will come out very nice. You can put a really smooth oncenteric tip on using this method. NOTE 1: Do not use a grinding stone for this. it WILL clog up your stone. NOTE 2: Same technique can be used to re-point punches. Just remember to hold the hand drill up at the desired angle and adjust the speed of the drill and the pressure against the wheel. Remember, less is more.

Alt-Horizon (author)2012-05-30

Recently had a couple made by my mothers boyfriend, instead of copper or brass rods he used some old discarded knitting needles. They are lightweight, come in many different sizes, take threads very easily and can be bought by the fistful at most thriftstores for about a buck per bakers dozen.

...note though that he is used to working with metal and lathes and stuff and I only have his word for it that they are easy to work with. I am very happy with them though.

MadBricoleur (author)2012-01-07

Wowow, that is a great idea for center drilling small diameter rods. I'd have never thought of that. Thanks so much!!

solomonhorses (author)2011-12-19

AWESOME! I love the upside down drill bit trick! Keep up the good work!

Robotic_mage (author)2011-08-21

Great Instructable. I but knitting needles, which are hollow aluminum, cut to size, then just a quick threading with a tap. I can usually find a pair of needles for $0.50.

Paul

aristide202 (author)Robotic_mage2011-12-09

you'are great !

Aaronius (author)2011-11-08

Brilliant!

micraman (author)2011-10-08

Great stuff! shoulda made one of these ages ago :D
I was thinking, since I don't have a drill press, maybe i'll get a brass tube and tap both ends. One end for the paracord, the other for the tip.
For the the tip I'll just shape it somehow (with lots of elbow grease!) and then put it in a die to make a threaded end.
This would allow me to change tips too! Whadya think?

tech_monkee (author)2011-09-17

I love this instructable.

on a side note for some that might want a thinner needle:

a few years ago i bought some "portable" stainless steel chopsticks online for like $5.00 usd shipped. these chopsticks unscrew from each other. the pointed end being the part where the paracord would screw into. i used these to make a few cases for my phone and it was very easy to thread with.

that said - i will be making some of those fatter diameter ones to have more options :)

thanks for the instructable.

zazenergy (author)2011-08-23

Great instructable, very thorough instructions. Thanks!

rimar2000 (author)2011-08-21

Very interesting. I like specially the step 4.

That One Eegit (author)rimar20002011-08-23

Yes, step 4 is very creative.

mblack3 (author)2011-08-22

Excellent! I have wanted to do this for a while and your instructable helped immensely!

diyoutdoorsman (author)2011-08-22

Your needle is also called a fid. You can find them in various hardware stores and boating/maritime suppliers. I noticed a couple of different sized plastic ones in my local hardware store the other day.

Nuonaton (author)diyoutdoorsman2011-08-22

Read yours right after posting mine, Man.. I hate reposting something someone else said.... Sorry!

Nuonaton (author)2011-08-22

Ohhhh.... I was trying to figure out what a "permalock needle" was, I think I remember them being referred to as a "fid" basically a hollow needle you weave ropes with (not just hollow braid either)

CementTruck (author)2011-08-22

Really good idea! Great follow through.

I was struggling with an idea on how to make my own Permalok needle a few months ago. I dug through my Box-O-Stuff where I toss things that might come in handy in the future and came across some proprietary IBM cable male/female gender benders. They had stainless steel screws that held 2 cables together. I cut the thumbscrew off the female screw and sharpened the tip. it works fine, but is a little short. I like your idea much better.

Kudos.

craftydan (author)2011-08-21

Nicely done -- a thorough instructable with a few good fabbing tricks.

There is a (IMO) simpler procedure over at KHWW (but when was simpler better for a weekend project?).  Involves small gauge copper tubing, a self tapping screw, a hammer and some finishing supplies.  It's little less machine intense, but I've got a feeling yours is a bit sturdier.


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