Making Bone Needles

The needle was probably discovered about 23,000 years ago and ranks with the wheel as one of the major inventions of mankind . Some inventive soul, tired of punching holes in leather for garments and then threading the holes with sinew or fiber thread, decided to combine the process by threading the thread through a hole in the awl. The needle was born.

The first needles were made of bone. Bone continued in use well into the Middle Ages by the lower classes. Bone needles are easy and cheap to make and will not rust or oxidize like some metals. With practice they can be made quite thin. Actually, fly best so far looks like a large darning needle. I use them for expressly weaving and primitive embroidery.

The first thing you need to do is to find some bone. Beef ribs are easy to obtain and work well . Bone is easier to cut if it is fresh, not dried. Boil the bone until the meat falls away and then scrape off any remaining meat with a knife. You can bleach the bone with laundry bleach or lemon juice.

If you are a purist, take 8 flint flake and cut out a long wedge shaped piece of bone . I use a hacksaw (the Vikings had hack saws!) and cut wedge shaped pieces as Shown in Figure 1. Split the piece in two and use a chisel or knife to remove the spongy interior. Use a sharp piece of flint, a glass shard, an Exacto knife, razor blade, or a file to scrape the sliver smooth. This is the time to shape the sliver and to sharpen the point . (This stuff will make a surprisingly sharp point so be careful .) When you have the needle approximately the shape and length you want, use a flint burin or an electric drill with a fine bit to drill out the hole for the thread. The size of the hole depends on the type of thread you plan to use. I use crewel yarn with mine, so I drill 3 small holes (see Figure 2) and then cut out the waste with my knife . You can smooth the inside of the hole with a rock sliver or cut emery boards into thin strips and force them one at 8 time through the opening until it is smooth. Finish your refining of the shape and point as above.

This same technique can be used to make fish hooks. Figure 3. You just need to change the shape of your blanks. In this case, slit the bone and scrape out the marrow section and then cut the fish hook shape.

You can also make hairpins (like making a needle, but without the hole, Figure 4), weaving implements and other small useful objects.