CROCKETT’S COUN­TRY WAYS:

Jonny Crockett looks at how to fab­ri­cate a hum­ble nee­dle from a roe deer bone

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - WITH JONNY CROCKETT

How to make a nee­dle

Penknife, side-by-side 12-bore shot­gun, girl­friend, car, house. We all re­mem­ber our firsts be­cause they changed our lives. They are land­marks in our lives, and as a species, there are equiv­a­lents. Life changed with fire, flint, an­i­mal skins and strangely (but per­haps most humbly), the nee­dle.

The Ne­an­derthals didn’t use nee­dles, but Homo sapi­ens did. It meant that we could make clothes that helped us op­er­ate more ef­fec­tively in colder cli­mates. We could make leather bags, con­tain­ers and much, much more.

The old­est nee­dles are over 50,000 years old. One has been found in Siberia just over 3" long with an eye at one end and could still be used to­day. Tra­di­tion­ally, they were made from bone; the one found in Siberia was made from bird bone, but the species used vary from place to place. The nee­dles I’m go­ing to make are made from roe deer.

Most bones are far too big to be used as nee­dles. Use un­cooked nee­dles as they are stronger and less likely to snap. Heat­ing a bone will weaken it con­sid­er­ably.

First, it needs to be split. You can do this us­ing flint (pic 1) or a knife by plac­ing it where you want to split it and bat­ten­ing the back of the cut­ting tool. Al­ter­na­tively, a hefty blow with a rock or ham­mer will split it open (pic 2).

The split piece of bone should be 1-3" long and as thin as you want it to be. Don’t for­get that you’ve got to put a hole in the end so it’ll need to be at least a cou­ple of mil­lime­tres.

Once you’ve got your slither of bone (pic 3), it needs to be shaped. The tra­di­tional nee­dle is shaped so that it is round from the end. How­ever, there are dif­fer­ent shapes. Bead­ing nee­dles are flex­i­ble and so could be made from finer bones such as those from fish. Some are square and some are curved like mod­ern med­i­cal su­ture nee­dles. The ben­e­fit of us­ing bone is that it isn’t grained like wood and so can be shaped to suit your need.

The nee­dle I’m mak­ing is a tra­di­tional nee­dle (pic 4), so it is ta­pered to a sharp point and round when looked at from the end. The non-pointed end I’ve made is flat so that you don’t need a thim­ble and can com­fort­ably push it through with your thumb. I’m us­ing a piece of flint to scrape down to­wards the point.

Hold­ing the thick end be­tween thumb and fore­fin­ger, it is a sim­ple mat­ter of turn­ing it with one hand while scrap­ing with the other. Once I’ve got the size and shape I want, there’s only one task left – the hole needs to be drilled (pic 5).

For this, I’m us­ing a very fine-pointed flint, but even with this tech­nique I still need to drill in from both sides so that I meet in the mid­dle. With mod­ern tools, I can drill through with the finest of drills or even a finely pointed knife.

Once I’ve got a nee­dle, I can make or re­pair cloth­ing and equip­ment (pic 6). Nee­dles are so small, but they had a big part to play in our evo­lu­tion. Happy sewing!

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