What's the difference between a barbed needle and a notched needle? Why is gauge measured backwards?
Shopping for rooting needles can be very confusing. This guide will equip you to find the best rooting needle for your reborn doll.
Intro to Rooting Needles
In Rooting 101 we discussed how rooting and micro-rooting works. Specifically, we outlined the 3 major functions of the rooting needle:
1. Make a hole
2. Grab a hair
3. Force that hair into the hole
The type of needle indicates how the needle grabs the hair. In other words, what's your hair grabber?
What is Your Hair Grabber?
Barbed Rooting Needles
For most rooting needles, the hair-grabber is a barb. Barbs are tiny notches cut out of the rooting needle.
Barbed rooting needles have 3 sides, like a triangle. The barbs are cut into the corners of these triangles.
When you root with a barbed rooting needle, make sure that at least one of your barbs is pointing down so it will grab up the hair that is laying on the vinyl.
There are several types of barbed rooting needles:
Forked Rooting Needles
On barbed rooting needles, the hair-grabber is on the side. On forked rooting needles, the hair-grabber is the tip.
Forked needles have a tiny slit cut into the very tip of the needle. This slit grabs the hair. Because there is only one slit and it faces only one direction, forked needles only work when oriented properly. This can make the needle challenging to use. However a small enough fork will ensure that you never grab more than one hair at a time. So how do we get a small fork? Let's talk about Gauge!
Rooting Needle Gauge
How much hair you grab is determined by the size of your hair-grabber. The size of the hair-grabber is determined by the size of the needle.
The size of the needle is indicated by the gauge. However, gauge is a backward measurement. The bigger the gauge, the smaller the needle. What sense does that make?
Rooting needles follow the same gauge rules as wire. Wire gauge indicates how much force it took to stretch the metal until it reached the desired size. Think about when you stretch a rubber hand. The tighter you pull the rubber band, the skinnier it becomes. So gauge is a sort of measurement of how far you'd have to stretch steel to achieve the skinniness of your rooting needle.
Hopefully that will help you remember that a 46g (gauge) needle,is a lot smaller than a 38g needle. Think wire, not bra sizes. LOL
Why Does Gauge Matter?
The bigger the needle, the bigger the barb or fork. For example:
Not all item descriptions will tell you how deep your barbs are, so keep in mind that it is roughly correlated to gauge.
As we said earlier, the bigger the hair-grabber, the more hair it will grab. More importantly, the bigger the hair-grabber, the bigger hair diameter it will grab. In other words, if your hair follicle is significantly bigger than the barb/fork on your needle, it will not root most of the time. So how to we know how big your hair follicles are?
Which Needle for Which Hair?
The bigger the hair follicle, the bigger you need your barb/fork to be. This may not be apparent to the naked eye, but under a microscope, hairs come in very different sizes!
I like to see mohair on my infants and human hair on my toddlers. So, I can't use 1 needle for everything. I have a variety of needles that I use for each project.
For example, most of the human hair I root comes from Asian donors. Asian hair is 0.08mm - 0.12mm (80-120 microns) thick. But the barbs in a 42 gauge crown rooting needle is at most 40 microns deep. So my hair is 2x as big as my hair-grabber. The result - I'm having a very bad day rooting! That's why for my human hair, I use a larger needle (like a 38 gauge) to get the job done.
Now, let's say I want to root mohair with that 42 gauge crown needle. If I'm rooting yearling mohair, the hair diameter is 31 to 34 microns. With a 40 micron barb, I can root that all day!
How do I know my hair's diameter? I searched the internet. Now everything you need to know about all the hair you want to root is right here for your reference!
Now that you're an expert at gauge, needle types and hair diameter, there's only one more thing you need to know before you go needle shopping: how you plan to root.
Different Ways to Root
The needle you need is the one that works best for how you root and how much hair you want. As we discussed in Rooting 102, there are at least 3 different rooting methods:
Best Needles for Stab & Grab
If you root this way, you're jabbing your needle through a lock of hair with the hopes of catching one hair per hair plug.
In order for this to work, you need the smallest (highest gauge) needles you can safely use without breaking or bending the needle.
You also need as few needle grabbers as possible. 1 - 3 barb needles will work well. Anything more than 3 and you're jamming lots of hair into each hair plug. So Regular, Notched and Compact rooting needles are not your friends.
Forked needles also work well, but you've got to keep them oriented the right way or they will not grab hair. Irresistables has a popular rooting device on the market that offers 1, 2 or 3 forked needles all in one handle. Each needle is small enough to only grab 1 hair and the device helps you maintain proper orientation. Check out Kate Charles for a demo.
Root-A-Loop is more forgiving in terms of needles. You can use most any barbed needle with as many barbs as you like.
When I'm rooting a loop, I like to have at least 6 barbs so I'm guaranteed to catch my loop. I use the smallest needle compatible with the hair diameter so that:
Single-Strand, Cuticle Aligned Microrooting
This rooting method also works best with barbed needles. Because you're literally grabbing one hair at a time, you can tolerate having more barbs. My go-to needle these days is a 40 Gauge Regular Needle. The thing I like most about it, is actually a feature you'll never see on the item description: barb placement. This needle has a barb that is very close to the tip of the needle, so the hair is caught quickly and dragged deep into the scalp. The deeper the hair, the better I can seal it. The better I can seal it, the less likely to pull out.
But my needle mood changes for day to day, so its good to have other sizes on hand. :)
Rooting Needle shopping gets complicated fast. For your convenience, I've begun to compile available needle offerings from many different popular reborn suppliers. Click the button below to view the full Google Spreadsheet. If you'd like to help me finish compiling this data, please shoot me a note!
Rooting needles are not inexpensive. So it's great to try before you buy. My Rooting Needle Sampler enables you to test crown, regular and forked rooting needles at a fraction of the price! Grab yours today!
Got a Question? Leave a Reply!
Hi! I am Kim. I've been creating dolls all my life. I started stuffing cotton balls into my mom's pantyhose when I was a little girl. Now I hand-craft dolls that look and feel like real babies.