I started making my own knitting needles a few years ago. I had recently bought an adorable set of knitting needles with faces on them, but they were acrylic, which I tend not to enjoy for knitting. I decided to try making my own sets of adorable knitting needles, and, after a few tries and a bit of research, I had a method I really liked.
12" long, 1/4" diameter wooden dowels
3/4" dowel caps with 1/4" holes
Permanent marker with fine and wide tips
Sanding sponge or sandpaper
Small craft paintbrush
Step 1 Draw your design with permanent marker. You can also use acrylic paint or any other supply that is suitable for wood. I'm hooked on pen drawings, so I love using Sharpies to decorate wooden objects.
Step 2 Sharpen the dowels using the pencil sharpener. A hand-held pencil sharpener will work, but a mounted sharpener makes quick work of the dowels. Mine is attached to a block of wood so I can clamp it to my work table.
Step 3 Stop sharpening right before the dowels are completely pointed. This will make the knitting needles easier on your hands. If you already own knitting needles that you like, take a look at those to see how pointed they are. Different knitters have different preferences, but I find that the chunky needles to not need to be completely sharp as the stitches they create are rather large.
Step 4 Sand your dowels. The goal is to completely smooth the corners that were created when you sharpened the dowel. You want a smooth transition from the taper to the flat part of the needle. You will also want to sand the rest of the dowel to ensure that there are no snags that will catch on your knitting.
Step 5 Firmly rub the wax paper over the entire length of the dowel. This will deposit a small amount of wax onto the needle to allow the yarn to slide smoothly as you knit but will not be so slippery that you lose the benefit of the friction of the wooden needle.
Step 6 Test the fit of the dowels in the dowel caps. If they do not quite fit, sand down the end of the dowel until they do. Once you have a nice tight fit, put a small drop of wood glue into the hole in the dowel cap and press the dowel into the hole. Immediately wipe away any excess glue that squeezes out the sides.
Step 7 Using the small paintbrush, apply varnish to seal your design. Try to paint the varnish only on the dowel cap. Set the needles aside to dry (I usually wait overnight), and then set to work on your knitting.