Strictly speaking, if you have notions about making a net or nets from scratch you can do it without a gauge block and netting needle. You’ll just end up with a better product if you choose to use those tools. And why shouldn’t you? They certainly aren’t hard to come by. A 50¢ plastic ruler will serve as a block, and fine needles made of tough, smooth, flexible plastic are available in various sizes at most craft outlets (typically for less than a dollar). Many people, however prefer to make their tools, and if you're such a person here's how you can carve your own.
You can fashion an attractive, serviceable gauge block from a length of lattice or a thin strip of well-smoothed hardwood, with edges that have been gently tapered (as on a knife blade). Preferences differ, however. My gauge block is a narrow wedge about 3" long, with rounded edges. Its cross section measures approximately 1/4" at the base, and its sides round gently to a point that's about 1/8" thick. The dimensions of the tool will depend on the size you want to make the mesh: Just keep in mind that the circumference of the block should approximate the length of a fully stretched mesh plus the size of one knot. For a 2" stretched mesh, then, the circumference should be about 2 1/8", with the additional fraction depending on the size of the knot and, therefore, on the thickness of the twine. It's best to make the block from some type of splinter- and split-resistant hardwood such as hickory (the handle of an old hammer or axe would be a good choice). After shaping and sizing the block, you should sand it thoroughly until you're sure that even the most exasperating twine won't be able to snag on it.
The netting needle or shuttle is a thin, flat, flexible strip of wood, about 1/8" x 3/4" x 8", that tapers to a slight point at one end. A U-shape is carved into the other end, forming a pair of short "legs." The pointed part looks something like a flat, three-tined fork whose outer tines curve up and in to join over a middle tine. This central "tongue" should be tapered, from its base to its tip, and pointed. (Like the gauge block, the netting shuttle should be thoroughly sanded and smoothed.)EDITOR'S NOTE: For those of you who don't wish to make netting tools and are unable to purchase equipment locally, the Earth Guild carries supplies of twine and netting needles, and will be happy to send a price list upon request.
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