In this process the needles are piled in rows many tiers deep, and in several parallel rows, upon a piece of buckram, or stout cloth, which is saturated with oil and fine emery. The needles, after they are deposited, are also sprinkled over with flour of emery and oil, when the whole mass, containing from 10 to 50,000 needles, is tightly rolled up and well bound at both ends. Several of such rolls are operated upon together by a kind of mangle; a stout plank being laid upon the rolls of needles, which is loaded with heavy weights, and made to traverse backwards and forwards for two or three days. During this time several successive wrappers have been completely worn out, which have been replaced by new ones, with fresh charges of oil and emery, and sometimes soft soap. At the end of three days they are thus made very bright and clean.
In the next operation, called heading and picking, the eyes of all the needles are placed in one direction, and all the points in another; and all the needles with broken eyes or points, are picked. These operations are usually performed by children with a dexterity and rapidity that can only be acquired by practice. The needles are placed sideways in a heap, on a table in front of the operator. The child puts on the forefinger of its right hand a small cloth cap, or fingerstall, and rolling from the heap from six to twelve needles, it keeps them down by the forefinger of the left hand, whilst it presses the forefinger of the right hand gently against the ends of the needles; those which have their points towards the right hand, stick into the finger-stall; and the child, removing the finger of the left hand, allows the needles sticking into the cloth to be slightly raised, and then pushes them towards the left side. Those needles which had their eyes on the right hand, do not stick into the finger-stall, and are pushed to the heap on the right side previous to the repetition of the process; each movement of the finger carrying five or six needles to its proper heap.
The finishing operation to the best needles consists in what is termed blue pointing, in allusion to the dark polish upon them; this is effected by a revolving Atone, of a bluish colour, against which the needles, several at a time, are applied. After this they are made up into little packages of from 25 to 100 each, and labelled for sale.
The needles which have, of late years, been so much puffed by the vendors as "warranted not to cut the thread" and to be "gold-eyed" and " silver-eyed," are made the same as other needles with these trifling variations; - the eyes of the former being produced by dipping them into an ethereal solution of gold; but the eyes of the latter have not a particle of silver laid over them, the silvery hue upon them being produced by a peculiar kind of polish. The "drilled-eyed needles" do, however, possess the merit of being less disposed to cut the thread; the eyes of these are made, at first, in the usual way, and are afterwards finished by a drilling counter-sink, which improves them materially; and the steel being softened to enable the drill to cut, they rarely snap or break in the eye.