Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
Drills, Needles, and Gauges
Drills, Needles, and Gauges
The Wilkes Expedition found the natives of Fakaofu using a pump drill (vili vili) for boring small holes in their shell fishhooks, shanks, and pendants. According to the description of Wilkes (34), the drill (fig. 25, a) was identical with the one in use today except for the substitution of a nail for the point of shell or coral formerly used.
The drill was made of kanava wood in three pieces which formed the shaft, balance disc, and crossbar. The rounded shaft with shell point was 56 cm long and about 1 cm in diameter. It had a groove around the top in which the cord of the crossbar was bound, and at a point two thirds down the length was a raised knob against which the balance disc rested. The shaft tapered slightly from the knob to the tip. The crossbar was suspended from the top of the shaft by a cord of light sennit and hung 6 or 7 cm above the disc. The balance disc was a flat circular piece of kanava wood perforated in the center, 15 cm long and 1 cm thick. It gave momentum to the drill as it whirled around. The cord was twined around the shaft, raising the crossbar to the top; and the point was set on the piece to be bored. As the crossbar was pulled down, the cord turned the shaft. The balance disc served to continue this motion and as the shaft spun page 155 on, it rewound the cord. A second pull on the crossbar sent the shaft and disc spinning in the opposite direction. Thus, with each downward pressure on the crossbar the shaft spun in the opposite direction from the preceding motion. The first and second fingers were held across the crossbar on either side of the shaft, keeping the shaft upright between them. The point of the drill as illustrated by Wilkes' woodcut (fig. 25, a) was convex on one side and had a rabbet joint on the straight edge. The tip of the shaft rested in this joint, placing the point directly on the longitudinal axis of the shaft; the two were lashed together. Before steel was introduced a type of strong, sharp coral (tafalelo) and long-spired shells found on the beaches were used as points.
Figure 25.—Drill, awls, and needles. a, pump drill (vilivili) (after Wilkes): 1, shaft with groove at top in which is lashed (2) suspension cord of (3) crossbar; 4, balancing disc; 5, coral or shell point fitted by rabbet joint and lashed to tip of (1) shaft. b, thatching needle, 8 to 10 inches long, tapering to point at both ends; working point has notch and barb. c, netting needle, 10 to 14 inches long; blunt ends with slits leading to long recesses. d, thatching awl, 10 to 12 inches long, slightly curved, tapering to point.
A simpler drill was made of a shaft and point lashed to the tip. This was called milomilo from the method of propelling it by placing the shaft between the hands and rubbing them back and forth. A long, tapering seashell with spiral whorls, which fit nicely in the palm of a man's hand, or a Tridacna shell gouge (fao) was used to bore the lashing holes in canoe hulls.
The end of a turtle flipper bone is used as an awl (fig. 25, d) for splitting the fala pandanus leaves of roof sheets before inserting the coconut midrib pins (pl. 4, B). With the concave side up, it is pushed through the folded leaf of the sheet from the upper surface and again through the leaf from the under surface in making a stitch for the pin. The curve and raised point of the awl facilitate making the second splitting of the stitch from the under side.
A needle (fig. 25, b) made of kanava wood with round shaft and hooked point is used for picking up the sennit lashing in binding thatch to the rafters of a roof. It is thrust through the leaf thatch, hooked over the sennit braid, and withdrawn, leading the braid through the perforated thatch.
A netting needle (fig. 25, c) of puapua or other light wood carries the cord in making the meshes of a net. The netting cord is wound lengthwise on the shaft, through the slits at the ends into the recesses. The loaded stick serves as a shuttle to release the cord as needed and as a needle to lead the cord through the meshes as they are knotted.
Gauges in various sizes according to the size of the mesh are made of rectangular pieces of wood or bone with slightly convex surfaces and very thin side edges.
A needle ingeniously improvised from a coconut-leaflet midrib is used for leading sennit braid through the lashing holes of a canoe hull. One end of the midrib piece is split and one of the loose strands at the end of the sennit lashing is inserted and wound about one arm of the split. Then a second strand is twisted about both, holding the sennit firmly enough to allow it to be brought through the lashing holes.