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Making a star-knot plug for a needlecase is really a very simple
matter, but it is VERY difficult to master the art of sizing them
by eye... you will very probably not get it right the first time, nor
the fifth time... I've made a fair number and I still get it wrong
about one time in two. The nice part is that you take the ones
are (too large) (too small) and save 'em. Next time you find you
need one, you'll have a backlog to try out... amazing how many
times they fit like they were made for it!
The size of the plugs is governed by two things: how tightly you do
the weaves and hitches and the size of the line used. Communicating
this is complicated by the fact that there is no "standard" measuring
system for line... one man's #18" size is another's #21, and doing by
millimetres is also deceptive as, even within a manufacturer, the
sizes vary by a fair amount.
All I can say is to give this a shot with a good, tight #18 line and see
how large the little (censored) comes up. Too big by half? Reduce the
line size and or tighten your passes. Too small? larger, looser
passes and a larger line. It is NOT "Rocket Science".
SO, my method:
1) Take four pieces of line 30 " long and middle them. Tip the ends for about 1-1/2" with cyanoacrylate glue and allow to dry,
then snip the ends at a 45 degree angle to provide you with a threading tip.
Take three more lines 15" long of the same or slightly smaller diameter and do the same as above, except glue these
ends THREE inches and let dry/snip.
2) After lines are dried, take the four long lines, middle them and run an awl thru the
middle of each. If you have a sharp eye and a steady hand, go right thru the
centre of the line, splitting one of the strands; elsewise, just pick up one strand
and have one on one side of the awl and two on the other... it'll make no difference to the
(Yes, THANK you, Mr. Obsessive, I KNOW there are only three lines on
the bloody awl... Now do shut up and pay attention!)
3) Take and thread each line thru the middle of the next one so that you
get this result. The line will form a fairly precise square all on it's own when we
hit the next step.
4) The awl I use is from my local hardware store and cost $1.50. It is cheap,
serviceable and has a flat face where the awl exits the handle, useful in many
instances, and this is one of them. Arrange the line so the spike comes up
the centre of the assembly.
5) If you do not know how to do an "Over-Two" or "Fender" weave, take a moment
to look HERE for instructions. That will open in a new window so you don't lose your
place here. (How considerate of me, non?) Start an over-two to either the right or
left as you prefer, but I like to make the top plug with the star facing one way and
the bottom plug "mirrored". It is NOT necessary to do so, just a little extra touch
of skill. If you intend to try this, then remember which way you started the top plug
and reverse everything for the bottom. (I'd wait until I'd made about twenty of these
before trying a reversed star assembly... it can get quite confusing.)
6) How many passes to do depends on the size of the tube you're plugging up. If a
relatively short tube for needles, be careful you don't do too many passes and thus
render the linear inside depth too small to accept a 3-1/2 " (or #11) needle. I usually
do five to seven passes, with five much more the common number. It is important
that you do these passes fairly tightly as it will form the core of the plug. (You'll note
that I have changed from the awl to a small spike... it had just a bit larger diameter
and was what I needed for this plug. I'll switch to yet a larger hand-fid later. Again,
it's a matter of trial and error.)
7) Now we get tricky, and here's where that flat face on the awl will come in handy:
Take the piece off the awl and reverse it so the last pass is next to the face of the awl
and, keeping the same direction
of the tucking, proceed to come
UP the awl and cover the
previous passes, effectively
doubling the thickness of the
core of the plug. These
will, by friction with the inner
walls of the tube, keep the plug
secure in the tube when we're done, so it's important to get these nice and regular,
but again, not super tight. We'll take care of that later.
8) Come back up the same number of passes you went down and you should have
something approximating this... At this point we want it only fairly tight - enough to
hold it's shape but there's something coming up that center part, so once you've
gotten to this you've effectively finished the "plug" portion of the item. Take and
see if it fits in your tube. It should be "just" a little loose in there, not tight yet.
9) Start your star-knot end. This will be an eight-pointed star in order to cover the
lip of the tube you'll be using and to prevent the plug's slipping into the tube. A nice
benefit is that it looks pretty and you LEARN TO MAKE A STAR KNOT,
10) It should be some days later and I hope you've got the star knot down in your
head by now... it comes very naturally after tying five or so and by the time you get
to the number I've tied, it's a matter of doing it blindfolded, right OR left. Here is
the semi- completed starknot ready for the third tuck thru each point, but we're
gonna do some- thing else: a fender hitched grommet around another braid, so
stop here and put the work down for a moment as we make up the core plug.
11) (Yes, I KNOW, Mr. Obsessive! Sheesh!) Take the three shorter lines and
thread each thru the center of the other as you did for the four and then do a
single pass of over-two, but DON'T use the awl. This one you'll want to tighten
up hard to itself as it is going into the centre of the large plug to give it
dimensional stiffness and anchor the topknot.
12) Earlier I had mentioned using a small hand-fid. I use this to open up the
center of the large plug to allow the six lines to come thru it and to allow the
knot on the end to seat in and provide the dimensional stability. How much to
open this is up to you. I like to do it just sufficiently to allow the knot to enter
and be pulled up to where the bottom of it is just concealed inside the opening.
Don't pull it up too high or you lose that stability which allows the plug to stay
in the tube by friction
(Both the fid and the spike are the product of C. Bud Brewer of Colorado,
Master Metalsmith, horse lover and a damn fine knotsman! Thanks, Bud!)
13) Here's the six lines pulled thru and
ready to "seat" the knot inside the plug.
Try to keep an even tension on all six lines
while doing this.
Also, a picture of the knot seated inside.
14) take the eight lines of the star knot and do one pass of over-two in the SAME
direction as the star knot's passes... This is important as when we're done the center
braid, you'll use these to finish the star knot. DO NOT tighten this up yet!
15) Now take the inner six lines and do three passes of over-two, running them
fairly tight, then finish off with a four or six strand footrope knot, running the lines
up thru the center of the footrope and snipping them off flush. Massage the knot
a bit and the top passes should close up a bit to hide where you snipped them.
If not, don't worry about it.
16) (No picture) now take the eight lines and tighten up the over-two pass, forming the grommet around the topknot stem, then
lead each line down thru the correct loop and fair up to form the distinctive "three lead" petal of the star knot. End off by taking
each one and tucking thru the three lines forming the bottom of the petal directly to it's left (if a clockwise or right hand star) or
to it's right (if a counter-clockwise or left-hand star).. Fair everyting up and snip close to the knot... the line will retract a bit and
hide the end.
Now, the moment of truth... take the plug and, with a 'screwing' motion, put it in the tube you're using. It should fit with just a bit
of effort and resist pulling out without the same amount of effort. Here is also why we were sure to have the outer case and
the star knot top all "going" in the same direction: by looking at the star you can tell
which way the plug rotates to put it in easily. If it fits, pat yerself on the back: if not,
make another one and put this one in the lucky bag for future use.
17) Piece de Resistance: The cork plug. Take a cork that you have to work a bit to
fit into the tube, insert it about 3/16" and then mark around it with a pencil or a pen.
Using a SHARP utility knife, cut the disc free from the cork and carefully insert it into
the tube so that it is just below the lip, then push it into the tube using the plug until
the plug "seats" against the lip. Obviously, you'll do this ONLY for the bottom plug,
since sealing the top is sorta fruitless. I put a logo and the customer's name on the
disc with the date. This provides a watertight seal as well as giving the needle tips
something to "bounce" against other than the plug.
18) Finally, securing the top plug. Since this is a needlecase and
since all my items are designed to be 'working" tools, we need to
ensure that the top plug does not come adrift in use or in storage in
a sea chest. To do this, take the awl and pierce thru the topknot
stem, then reeve a small piece of thin line thru it. Fasten one end to
the bottom plug (or drill thru the end of the bamboo case or, if grafted,
secure it under the bottom turkshead... your choice of how to do this...
and put a monkey's fist in the other end. Now you pull on the line from
top to bottom to loosen it and remove the plug and when finished, re-insert the plug and pull the free end to tighten up and retain the plug. If
you wish, put another monkey's fist in the line as shown on the "Tally-Ho" case.
Salty-looking, serviceable and one heck of a gift! If you get frustrated, I sell 'em made to your order!
As always, if you have suggestions, comments, complaints or money for me, please contact me by EMAIL. Thanks and good luck!
|Finished needlecase plug of #15 cotton
inserted in 1" i.d. case.
A fairly tight fit,
but still backed by a cork disc.
Some views of the finished plug, seated
cork and the grafted body, in this case
the customersupplied a piece of 1-1/4"
PVC pipe he wanted this made with.