Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.