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This article was published in the October 2011 (#33)  edition of  Woodturning Design.

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All Turned Crochet Hook as a nine page pdf

All Turned Crochet Hook

Introduction

The idea for this article started with an email conversation with Judy Williams about someone else’s crochet hooks.  We were commenting about the positive and negative points of his hooks when Judy wrote that one couldn’t do the hook part itself on the lathe.  Of course I saw this as a challenge (or a goad?).  That was quite a while ago.  I started trying to use my collet chuck, which required a rather strange tailstock center modification and a largely cylindrical handle.  Later I came up with a couple of jigs that let me turn eccentrically to shape the hook using #1 jaws on a 4-jaw chuck and to choke up on the already turned handle to turn the finial without overly worrying about vibration.  Fig01 shows the end result.

 fig01

Fig01        Two crochet hooks and a work in progress.

This is NOT a production technique.  If you want to make a lot of hooks in a hurry it would make more sense to do the notches off lathe.  But if you enjoy the challenge of a few extra degrees of difficulty you should enjoy it.  If it doesn’t make economic sense to sell them, then give them away.  In my area, at least, there is a resurgence of interest among 20 something girls in the fiber arts.  One of the things my Dad never had to tell me was never pass up a chance to make a pretty girl smile.

 

First this article will discuss some usability design considerations so your hook does more than look pretty.  Then it will describe a couple of alternate tools for turning the hook, and then how to practice making the hook.  Next the article tells how to make the two jigs required and last turning the actual hook. 

Design Constraints

Length

While I was still trying to work out hook turning with the collet chuck I sat in on a hook design session given in the spouse craft room by Katherine Kowalski at the Hartford Symposium.  She said that crocheters use two different hand grips:  pencil and knife.  If one holds the hook like a pencil, as in Fig02, the standard commercial 6” length is fine as the end and any sharp edged decorative turnings are well above the soft hand parts.  My wife, who does hold it like a pencil, in fact doesn’t like the balance of longer hooks.  However, if you hold the hook like a knife as in Fig03, than the end of a standard hook, or the sharp features of a finial in mine, dig into the base of your palm.  A 9” hook moves the end and sharp features beyond all but the biggest of hands, as in Fig04.

 Fig02

Fig02        Pencil grip with a short hook.  Note that the sharp features are well above the hand.

fig03

Fig03        Knife grip with a short hook.  The end and sharp features of the finial can dig into the base of the hand.

Fig04

Fig04        Knife grip with a long hook.  The end and sharp features are now past the hand.

Therefore, before you design your hook, or at least before you gift it, find out the preferred grip style of the user.  For Pencil grippers, use a 6-1/2” to 7” blank (you lose a bit of length at both ends).  For Knife grippers, use a 9-1/2” or so blank.

Tip

Although there are some commercial crochet hooks that are basically a cylinder with a rounded tip and a slot, it’s not the best design.  Crocheting is pulling loops of yarn through loops of yarn.  The size of the shaft of the hook determines the size of the loop.  If the hooked tip of the hook is as large as the shaft, than the hook plus the loop of yarn it is pulling will be larger than the loop it is pulling through, necessitating additional effort to compress the yarn to pull it through.  Fig05 illustrates this.  The hook on the left was turned on only two centers, leaving the width of the hook the same as the shaft.  The parallel lines of the background show how the taut yarn protrudes well past the shaft diameter.  The hook on the right was turned on four centers, thinning the sides of the hook, and the yarn plus hook is barely bigger than the shaft.  The shaft itself is the same diameter, so it yields the same size loops.

Fig05

Fig05        The hook on the left was turned on two centers so the hook past the notch is the same width as the shaft.  The hook on the right was turned on four centers so the hook is thinner than the shaft.  Note that the taut yarn extends past the shaft diameter on the two center hook, which will present greater resistance in use.

Tools

From Parting Tool

The notch is formed by turning eccentrically using two tools, a 1/16” mini-cove tool and a skew.  One way to make a mini-cove tool is by regrinding a 1/16” parting tool.  This kind of modification probably constitutes abuse, so buy a cheap one.  First adjust your grinder sliding V-notch so that the bottom of the parting tool is tangential to the grinding wheel as in Fig06.  Turn on the grinder and rotate the tool from side to side so that the bottom edge at the tip is ground into a semi-circle.  Frequently check the shape.  Use a magnifier if you have to.

 Fig06

Fig06        Grinding the bottom of the tip of the parting tool into a semi-circle.

Readjust the sliding V-arm so that the bevel matches the wheel and sharpen the face of the tool as in Fig07.  Then mount a flat tool rest in place of the sliding arm and grind a notch behind the tip as in Fig08.  The notch is necessary because when cutting the hook the tool is making almost a small diameter face grain cut and would open the slot up in exactly the worst way by reducing the undercutting.  The finished mini-cove tool is shown in Fig09.

Fig07

Fig07        Grinding the bevel.

fig08

Fig08        Cutting a notch behind the tip.

Fig09

Fig09        The finished mini-cove tool.

From a Drill Blank

Another way to make a mini-cove tool suitable for crochet hooks is similar to my article in Woodturing Design #7, Fall 2005 (also on my web site).  It uses a steel rectangle instead of drill rod to hold the drill blank so that it can cut on a steep angle to the spindle without fouling.  Start with 7” of 1/8” x 1” steel bar.  Cut a bevel at the tip leaving about ¼” flat (the bevel is necessary so you can sharpen the tool.  The wide steel suppresses vibration).  Drill a 1/16” hole about ½” deep in the middle of the flat.  Cut a 1/16” drill blank in half.  Use CA glue to fasten the drill blank in the 1/16” hole.  Sharpen the end of the drill blank at a 45 degree angle using the grinder and sliding V-arm.  The completed mini-cove tool is shown in Fig10.  It’s a deluxe version, with black Gorilla tape for a handle instead of grey generic duct tape.

Fig10

Fig10        Alternate mini-cove tool made of a drill blank mounted in rectangular steel stock.

Practice

You won’t want to repeatedly waste the work turning the shaft of the crochet hook learning the basics of turning the hook, so do some practice first.  Select a short 3/8” dowel and cut about a third of one side off of the dowel for about the last 3”.  Mount the dowel in your 4-jaw chuck with #1 jaws so it’s sticking out about 4” as in Fig11.  The partial dowel will let you practice the cuts while turning more wood than air, but still stop the work and see how the cut would look on a hook by looking at the flat.

 Fig11

Fig11        Practice dowel mounted in the 4-jaw chuck.  About 1/3 of the side of the dowel has been sawn off so you can evaluate your practice cuts while still turning more wood than air.

To make the first cut with the drill blank based mini-cove tool, adjust your tool rest so that the tip of the tool is at lathe axis height when the tool is held straight across.  Hold the tool at an acute angle to the spindle as in Fig12 and push it in.  When you think you’ve cut deeply enough, pull the tool back the way it went in but DO NOT LIFT the tool.  Turn the lathe off and have a look at your progress by looking at the flattened part of the dowel.  You should be able get a feel for, and perhaps see the tool through the ghost image to tell how deep to go after a bit.

 fig12

Fig12        The first cut with a drill blank based mini-cove tool.  Push in and pull back—don’t lift.

If you made the parting tool based mini-cove tool, the cut is made the same way.  Adjust the tool rest so that the bottom edge is on lathe axis.  Hold the tool at an acute angle to the spindle but also tilt the tool in towards the spindle about 30 degrees as in Fig13.  Push the tool in.  When you think you’ve cut deeply enough withdraw the tool by pulling it straight back.  Again, do not lift.  Fig14 shows the practice piece after the first cut.

 Fig13

Fig13        The first cut with a parting tool based mini-cove tool.  Hold the tool so the top is tilted inward about 30° and push in and pull back.

fig14

Fig14        The practice dowel after the first cut.

The second cut is done with the skew as in Fig15.  Make two or three cuts, starting near the notch and gradually starting further back, to cut a slope to the bottom of the notch.  Fig16 shows the practice piece after the first cut.

Fig15

 Fig15        Cutting a slope to the bottom of the notch with a skew.

Fig16

Fig16        The practice dowel after the second cut.

For the third cut go back to the mini-cove tool.  Now that the slope gives you a bit more room undercut the lip of the hook a bit more as in Fig17.  Fig18 shows the practice piece after the third cut.  Start a new series of cuts a little further back and continue until you feel comfortable with the procedure.  You can cut off the dowel and make a new flat or switch to a new dowel.  Patient practice with the dowel will yield less frustration later, so don’t be in a hurry.  Or go ahead and blow a real hook up and then come back.

fig71

Fig17        The third cut to further undercut the notch.

Fig18

Fig18        The practice dowel after the third cut.

Jigs

Eccentric Jig

The Eccentric Jig is just sheet metal folded into a C shape so that it clips around the square hook blank.  This effectively converts the square into a rectangle to that only two opposing jaws of the 4-jaw contact the work, letting you mount it slightly off axis.  If you made the Direct Reading Caliper from my last article, you’ll have some thick brass sheet metal lying about and can make the jig from that starting at Fig21.  If you haven’t, buy some readily available aluminum flashing from Home Depot et al.

 

Cut a piece of aluminum flashing 1-1/4” wide and a little longer than 6” long.  Fold the strip in half lengthwise using a vise to flatten the fold as in Fig19.  Now fold the strip in half lengthwise again as in Fig20.  Four thicknesses, plus the inevitable wrinkles and air, will give enough thickness for the jig to work.

Fig19

 Fig19        Folding the aluminum flashing strip in half lengthwise.

Fig20

Fig20        Folding the aluminum flashing strip in half lengthwise the second time.

Use a fine line marker to draw a line across the folded strip ½” from the fold.  Clamp the strip in the vise at the line at the top of the jaws.  Then use a hammer to fold the strip at a right angle as in Fig21.  Cut a sample hook blank to ½” square and place the blank into the corner you just made in the strip.  Clamp the strip and blank in the vise with the blank even with the top of the jaws as in Fig22.  Use a hammer to fold the jig into its final shape as in Fig23.  Take the jig out of the vise and use shears to cut away any excess length in the last leg of the strip.  You can keep the last leg together and cover up sharp edges with a little tape.

Fig21

Fig21        After making the first 90° bend in the eccentric jig.

Fig22

Fig22        The set-up for making the second 90° bend in the eccentric jig.  Use scrap wood the same size as your hook blanks.

Fig23

Fig23        After making the second bend in the eccentric jig.

Finial Jig

The Finial Jig lets you really choke up on the already finished hook handle to turn and cut off the nub of the finial without being concerned about vibration and the like.  Cut a piece of aluminum flashing and a piece of 2mm craft foam 1.5” wide by 2” long.  Spray the foam piece with spray adhesive as in Fig24.  Follow the directions on the can for the appropriate waiting time and then stick the foam to the flashing.  Bend the jig around a 3/8” dowel with the foam side in as in Fig25.  You don’t have much leverage on the edges, so you may need to use needle nose pliers to finish the bends.  The completed jigs are shown in Fig26.

Fig24

Fig24        The set-up to apply foam to flashing for the finial jig.

Fig25

Fig25        After bending the finial jig around a dowel.

Fig26

Fig26        The completed jigs.

Turning

Prep

Begin to make a crochet hook by cutting ½” x ½” blanks as shown in Fig27.  I suggest you select a fairly hard diffuse porous straight grained hardwood such as maple, holly, or cherry, at least for your first hooks.  They do need to be square, but bandsawn is good enough if your blade or attention doesn’t wander.  Cut the blanks about 7” long for a pencil grip hook, or 9-1/2” long for a knife grip hook.  Use a center punch to mark for the tailstock center.  Put a single punch in the center of one end, and 4 punches in a T pattern at the other end as in Fig28.  The middle punch of the T is in the middle of the stock.  One punch is halfway between the middle and bottom, while the last two punches are halfway between the middle and either side.

fig27

 Fig27        Hook blanks suitable for both knife and pencil grips.  Use diffuse porous straight grained hardwood

Fig28

Fig28        Multiple centers punched in the hook end of a blank.

The square blank won’t fit far enough into the Morse taper to choke up on in the chuck sufficiently, so first mount the blank in the 4-jaw chuck with the T marked end in the chuck as in Fig29.  Turn 2-1/2” to 3” of the blank towards the tailstock round as in Fig30.  Remove the blank from the chuck.

fig29

Fig29        The blank mounted for prep turning.

Fig30

Fig30        After prep turning so the blank can be inserted further into the Morse Taper.

Hook

Insert the blank into the chuck rounded in first, T punched end towards the tailstock as in Fig31.  You can insert a knife style blank in as far as it will go.  Leave about 3 inches past the jaws for a pencil style blank.  Hold the blank so that the middle center punch engages the tailstock point and tighten the chuck. Turn the last 2-1/2” or so round as in Fig32.

 Fig31

Fig31        The blank mounted in the chuck to start turning the hook.

Fig32

Fig32        After roughing the shaft area to round.

Now you have to decide what size crochet hook to make.  It’s prudent to start with larger size hooks such as a J (.225”) or K (.255”). After you practice you can work down to smaller sizes such as I (.198”), H (.173”), or G (.150”).  Set your calipers to the size required.  Mark the blank 3/8” from the tailstock for a sturdy nub, and 1-5/8” from that for the extent of the shaft.  Make parting cuts at the marks to define the shaft as in Fig33.  Reduce the whole shaft area to the required diameter as in Fig34.  Turn a half-cove that blends into the shaft as in Fig35.  A cut like this will make any minor errors in remounting less visible.  Remove the blank from the chuck.

 Fig33

Fig33        After parting tool cuts to define the diameter and extent of the shaft.

Fig34

Fig34        After turning the shaft to diameter.

Fig35

Fig35        After turning a transition half-cove between the handle and shaft.

It’s easier to see what you’re doing when cutting a lot of air if you adjust the background.  Try to make the background contrast with the work.  You can use a strongly lighted light background with a dimly lit blank, or a dark background such as black construction paper behind a brightly lit blank.  Fig36 shows a brightly lit blank with a medium grey background.

 Fig36

Fig36        A dark background and a brightly lit shaft makes it easier to see the ghost image and tell how your cuts are progressing.

To mount the blank for the first eccentric mounting clip the eccentric jig on the still square part of the jig so that the open side of the C is away from the bottom punch of the T.  Hold the bottom punch of the T against the tailstock and tighten the chuck.  Use gentle tailstock pressure.  Fig37 shows the eccentrically mounted blank.  Make the first cut with the mini-cove tool to start the hook notch—the result is shown in Fig38.  Then use the skew to cut the ramp down to the base of the notch and then steepen the notch of the hook by touching up with the mini-cove tool as in Fig39. At this point you need to sand the ramp and notch while it is still eccentrically mounted, as in Fig40.

 Fig37

Fig37        The first eccentric mount to turn the notch.

Fig38

Fig38        After the first eccentric cut to form the notch.

Fig39

Fig39        After completing the eccentric cuts to form the notch.

Fig40

Fig40        After sanding the slope and notch while still eccentrically mounted.

To prepare for the second and third eccentric mounting, remove the blank from the chuck and rotate the Eccentric Jig 90°.  Hold one of the side punches against the tailstock point and tighten the chuck as in Fig41.  Take one or two light skew cuts to trim the side of the hook tip.  The result is shown in Fig42.  Remount the hook in the other side punches as in Fig43 and repeat the skew cuts.  The result is shown in Fig44.  Should you wish to “cheat”, obviously one could get the same result with a couple of swipes on a pneumatic cushion drum sander or the like.

 Fig41

Fig41        The second eccentric mounting to thin the width of the hook tip.

Fig42

Fig42        After thinning one side (bottom in this photo) of the hook tip.

Fig43

Fig43        The third eccentric mounting to finish thinning the width of the hook tip.

Fig44

Fig44        After the third eccentric mounting.

Handle

To turn the rest of the handle, first mark where the finial will start with pencil.  Mount the blank in the 4-jaw chuck so that the mark is accessible as in Fig45.  You can use what ever design you like for the handle.  However I do suggest that the handle just behind the shaft be tapered for ease of grip and that all features in the handle should be smooth and flesh friendly rather than sharp.  The size of the shaft effects what looks graceful for the handle.  I’ve found for the H size hook I used for the photos looks nice with an elongated wasp shape with some beads at the narrow part.  The turned handle is shown in Fig46. 

 

Fig45

Fig45        The blank mounted to turn the handle.

Fig46

Fig46        After turning the handle.

Do the majority of the sanding while you still have tailstock support. Even so, do back up the work with your fingers while sanding.  Fig47 shows the handle after sanding.  After sanding finish turning the end of the tip with a skew or spindle gouge to remove the nub and then sand the tip.  Fig48 shows the hook after removing the nub.  If you are going to use a lathe applied finish, such as French polish or CA glue, then apply finish to the shaft and handle now, as in Fig49.

Fig47

Fig47        After doing the majority of the sanding of the handle and shaft.

Fgi48

Fig48        After cutting of the nub and shaping the tip.

Fig49

Fig49        The handle and shaft after applying finish.

Finial

Slip the Finial Jig on to the handle as in Fig50.  You may need to resize the jig if it overlaps, but you can easily do that with a pair of scissors.  Hold the center punch against the tailstock center point and tighten the chuck as in Fig51.  Don’t be afraid to really tighten the chuck, as you don’t want it to slip.  Turn the finial to whatever shape you like.    Sand the finial while you still have tailstock support as in Fig52.  Then cut off and sand the end and apply finish as in Fig53.  Fig54 shows a pair of completed hooks in both knife and pencil grip length.

Fig50

Fig50        The handle with the finial jig slipped on.

Fig51

Fig51        The hook mounted to turn the finial.  The jig protects the already turned handle well so don’t hesitate to tighten the chuck securely.

Fig42

Fig52        After turning and sanding the finial.

Fig53

Fig53        The finished finial.

Fig54

Fig54        Two completed crochet hooks.

Tools & Materials

1/16” parting tool or 1/16” drill blank & steel bar stock for mini-cove tool

Spindle roughing gouge

Skew

4-jaw chuck

3/8 dowel for practice

Aluminum flashing for jigs

2mm craft foam for Finial Jig (look at a craft store such as Michael’s or the craft section of Wal*Mart)

Spray adhesive

Center Punch

½ x ½ x7 or ½ x ½ x 9-1/2 diffuse porous straight grain spindle blanks

Abrasive paper in graduated grits

Finish of choice

 

Author

David Reed Smith is a basement woodturner living in Hampstead, Maryland, with his wife, a so far failure to launch son, and a part-time cat.  He welcomes questions and comments via email at David@DavidReedSmith.com.  This article and more than 50 others are available on his web site:  www.DavidReedSmith.com.