The New Student's Reference Work/Needle

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Nee′dle.  The sewing-needle must be one of the oldest implements used by man.  Bone needles with eyes are found in the reindeer caves of France, and on the sites of the prehistoric lake dwellings of central Europe have been found many “eyed” needles of bone and of bronze, but only one of iron.  Ancient bronze needles, 3½ inches long, have been found in Egypt, and there are surgeon’s needles and thimbles which have been used in sewing, with ordinary needles recovered from Pompeii in the Naples Museum.  Savage races use needles of various materials, as bone, ivory, wood and metal.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Steel needles were first made in Nuremberg in 1370, but the manufacture was not of much importance until about 1650.  The early made needles were all square-eyed.  Redditch, near Birmingham, is the seat of the needle manufacture in Great Britain, and great improvements have been made by the use of automatic machines and other new mechanical appliances.  There are about 22 processes now used in the making of needles.  First, fine steel wire is cut into double lengths; these are raised to a dull-red heat and placed in loose bundles inside iron rings, to be straightened by rolling each bundle backward and forward on a face plate with a slightly curved bar (Fig. 1), through which the rings project.  Next the wires are pointed at both ends and then stamped in the middle, so as to produce the flat part of the eyes and the mark for the holes (Fig. 2); two oval holes are then punched by a vertical, belt-driven, punching-machine.  After being eyed the double needles, joined at the heads by thin fins, are “spitted” through their eyes on two wires flattened at one end so as to retain them.  The burr made by the punch and die is now filed away, and after being broken in two between the heads and filed smooth, a row of single needles is left on each spit, as shown in Fig. 3.  Next they are tempered by heating and dipping in oil, then polished, cleaned and sorted.  It is estimated that 50,000,000 needles are made weekly in the Redditch district.