Star-knot plugs
for any purpose
Last updated  2008-09-25
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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

finished product.

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






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.