lazybum

Newbie Question About Stitching Grooves

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If you are sewing 2 pieces of leather together and both sides of the stitching will be exposed in the final product, do you make a stitching groove on both sides?

Edited by lazybum

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Hi Bum,

When hand stitching it is ok as it is easy to place the awl in both grooves. With machine stitching something even moderately thick, it is darned near impossible.

Art

If you are sewing 2 pieces of leather together and both sides of the stitching will be exposed in the final product, do you make a stitching groove on both sides?

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yup im handstitching.

Reason I asked was because I was trying to stitch 6 pieces of 3-4oz leather together (don't ask why, screwed up planning :(), and I was having trouble making the holes appear on both grooves, which resulted in the stitching looking rather haphazard at a particular portion where the holes did not lie on the groove. So in hindsight should I have just ignored making the stitching groove? I was thinking even if I didn't the stitching will not look nice cause its not at a fixed distant from the edge. Maybe I should just work on stabbing perpendicularly.

But then I was thinking again sometimes its inevitable as the edges of the pieces may not line up perfectly when you glue them together, so the holes may not appear on both grooves anyway. Unless I sand the edges first? Is that a recommended thing to do before stitching?

By the way i'm a bit curious as to why its impossible for machine stitching? I don't know much about machine stitching but I always had the impression that the machine will ensure that the stitching is perfectly straight and aligned.

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Ok,

First you glue up. Then you can sand off to establish your finished edge. Use an stitch groover from Tandy or Bob Douglas that puts a groove a fixed distance from the edge. If you don't have a stitch groover, use a compass or dividers to mark the location of the groove and then go back and groove it. Do this on both sides, and you will have two grooves, one on each side, an equal distance from the edge. Now mark the bottom of the groove (one side only, the side you will use your awl on) with an overstitch wheel of the desired stitch per inch to indicate where the stitch holes will be. If you want to be anal about it, shorten up stitch holes a little toward the corners to make one stitch hit right in the corners, or you can just eyeball it when stitching. Now you start stitching, placing your awl in one of the stitch hole marks made by the overstitch wheel and working through to the other side, pulling back and fishing if necessary for the groove on the other side. Then make your stitch and repeat till finished.

On a machine it is pretty easy to hit the groove on the other side if you are sewing a 4oz thickness and maybe even 6oz, but if you have a 1/2 inch stack or more and are sewing on a cylinder arm, well good luck holding that thing perfectly perpendicular. For production work on a flat bed, you can level up the table and the bed to sew that perpendicular seam time after time for flat work and a flat seam; but when does most leatherwork meet that criteria? So if you have one piece of work that you do day after day, you can build jigs to do it, but not the average leatherworker's machine that has to do anything and everything. The taller the stack of leather, the more any slight misalignment will affect where the needle point will emerge on the down side of the work with a corresponding decrease in the probability of the needle emerging in the center of the off side stitch groove.

Art

yup im handstitching.

Reason I asked was because I was trying to stitch 6 pieces of 3-4oz leather together (don't ask why, screwed up planning :(), and I was having trouble making the holes appear on both grooves, which resulted in the stitching looking rather haphazard at a particular portion where the holes did not lie on the groove. So in hindsight should I have just ignored making the stitching groove? I was thinking even if I didn't the stitching will not look nice cause its not at a fixed distant from the edge. Maybe I should just work on stabbing perpendicularly.

But then I was thinking again sometimes its inevitable as the edges of the pieces may not line up perfectly when you glue them together, so the holes may not appear on both grooves anyway. Unless I sand the edges first? Is that a recommended thing to do before stitching?

By the way i'm a bit curious as to why its impossible for machine stitching? I don't know much about machine stitching but I always had the impression that the machine will ensure that the stitching is perfectly straight and aligned.

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Ok,

First you glue up. Then you can sand off to establish your finished edge. Use an stitch groover from Tandy or Bob Douglas that puts a groove a fixed distance from the edge. If you don't have a stitch groover, use a compass or dividers to mark the location of the groove and then go back and groove it. Do this on both sides, and you will have two grooves, one on each side, an equal distance from the edge. Now mark the bottom of the groove (one side only, the side you will use your awl on) with an overstitch wheel of the desired stitch per inch to indicate where the stitch holes will be. If you want to be anal about it, shorten up stitch holes a little toward the corners to make one stitch hit right in the corners, or you can just eyeball it when stitching. Now you start stitching, placing your awl in one of the stitch hole marks made by the overstitch wheel and working through to the other side, pulling back and fishing if necessary for the groove on the other side. Then make your stitch and repeat till finished.

On a machine it is pretty easy to hit the groove on the other side if you are sewing a 4oz thickness and maybe even 6oz, but if you have a 1/2 inch stack or more and are sewing on a cylinder arm, well good luck holding that thing perfectly perpendicular. For production work on a flat bed, you can level up the table and the bed to sew that perpendicular seam time after time for flat work and a flat seam; but when does most leatherwork meet that criteria? So if you have one piece of work that you do day after day, you can build jigs to do it, but not the average leatherworker's machine that has to do anything and everything. The taller the stack of leather, the more any slight misalignment will affect where the needle point will emerge on the down side of the work with a corresponding decrease in the probability of the needle emerging in the center of the off side stitch groove.

Art

Thanks for the reply!

Is your awl sharp enough for you to control it as you push your awl through the pieces? I find that for veg tanned leather, anything equivalent to 7oz or more of leather needs to be placed flat on a surface and stabbed hard with an awl for it to go through, so controlling it and "fishing" for the groove on the other side is a bit out of the question. Does that mean that my awl isn't sharp enough?

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First off, having the right tool for the job helps. If you're using something like an Osborn diamond point awl, or anything from Tandy, they don't come sharp from the box. You will need to sharpen and strop the heck out of it before it will stab well. It also helps to stick the tip of the blade into a cake of beeswax before you stab your hole. It should glide right through with very little effort. Also, make sure that when you stab your hole, the blade goes straight in, and not at an angle. Don't try to correct the angle after you've gone mostly through, or you will probably break the blade in a hurry. Awl blades don't take kindly to stuff like that.

One of the best awls I have ever used came from Bob Douglas Tools. I bought a haft and a blade from him, and they came very sharp, right from the box. A bit pricey, but everyone here who's got one of Bob's awls will tell you that they are worth every penny! You can stab through several layers of heavy leather without a problem.

Good hand stitching takes a lots of practice to get it perfect looking. Do every stitch identical to the one before it. Use the needles in the same order, and pull the stitches consistently tight. Most of all, have fun, and enjoy the learning experience!

Hilly

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Thanks Hilly! Will look forward to getting an awl from Douglas in the near future! Just checking whats the price range of his awls? There doesn't seem to be any info of the price online. Came across a Japanese website that sells "douglas" brand tools but the awl blade alone is 4500yen which is impossibly expensive?

Anyway I think id ask another question about stitching here. When stitching the same thickness throughout, I seldom encounter any major problem. However, when stitching from thin to thick, my stitches end up looking full to less full. You can refer to the last picture in this thread of mine to get a better idea. What do you think can help solve the problem? At the moment I can only think of being more careful and stabbing smaller holes at the thinner portions.

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i'm not exactly sure why the stitches aren't consistent on the piece you are describing. i don't think it has anything to do with different thicknesses of material but, i would not punch smaller (closer together) holes on the thinner portions. this will really show up and not look that good.

this is what i've done to make sure that the stitches are consistent from one side to another. it's kind of cheating, but my stitching looks very good. i use an overstitch wheel on both sides of a project. i'm very careful to make sure that they line up with each other. then as i stab with my awl, it's easier to see where the awl is supposed to come out on the other side. as you stab, you can feel with your fingertip where it's coming out. then you can readjust the awl if you need to.

what i would do also......after your stitching is done, you might want to run the overstitch wheel over your stitching to make it look a little bit more consistent.

i gotta tell you - in those pictures on your link your burnishing looks real nice. once you edge it with black, it will be perfect.

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i'm not exactly sure why the stitches aren't consistent on the piece you are describing. i don't think it has anything to do with different thicknesses of material but, i would not punch smaller (closer together) holes on the thinner portions. this will really show up and not look that good.

this is what i've done to make sure that the stitches are consistent from one side to another. it's kind of cheating, but my stitching looks very good. i use an overstitch wheel on both sides of a project. i'm very careful to make sure that they line up with each other. then as i stab with my awl, it's easier to see where the awl is supposed to come out on the other side. as you stab, you can feel with your fingertip where it's coming out. then you can readjust the awl if you need to.

what i would do also......after your stitching is done, you might want to run the overstitch wheel over your stitching to make it look a little bit more consistent.

i gotta tell you - in those pictures on your link your burnishing looks real nice. once you edge it with black, it will be perfect.

Hi thanks for the complement!

I meant smaller holes as in I not pushing the awl all the way through the leather so that the awl doesn't make such a big hole. Because it seems like the thread is pulling the hole apart at the thinner portions, making the stitching seems wider and fuller. On the thicker portions, the tension of the thread does not pull the hole apart that much, hence the less full looking stitches. Ive tried tugging less tightly at the thinner portions, but it only seems to make the stitching there look even more full. Which is why I suspect smaller holes might work. Anyway I think ill figure it out in a couple more practice projects.

Regarding your method, are you able to do that when stitching 10oz worth of leather together? Even after sharpening my awl it seems impossible to have so much control over it to do that. Maybe I really need to get one of those douglas's awls

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If you are sewing 2 pieces of leather together and both sides of the stitching will be exposed in the final product, do you make a stitching groove on both sides?

It has taken some "work" to get me there, . . . some practice, . . . some effort, . . . but, yes, I do. The vast majority of my work is either a belt or holster, . . . and if there is any kind of "edge" from which to work, I do stitch groove on both sides. It makes it easier to lay the stitching flat with the work.

One of my first and worst concerns was that I would get out of the groove on the back side, . . . and the ugly old groove would be there. That very rarely happens, . . . but when it does, . . . I work on that piece of leather with a spoon and some water, . . . and whey I get done, . . . it is almost impossible to find the place.

May God bless,

Dwight

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Hi thanks for the complement!

I meant smaller holes as in I not pushing the awl all the way through the leather so that the awl doesn't make such a big hole. Because it seems like the thread is pulling the hole apart at the thinner portions, making the stitching seems wider and fuller. On the thicker portions, the tension of the thread does not pull the hole apart that much, hence the less full looking stitches. Ive tried tugging less tightly at the thinner portions, but it only seems to make the stitching there look even more full. Which is why I suspect smaller holes might work. Anyway I think ill figure it out in a couple more practice projects.

Regarding your method, are you able to do that when stitching 10oz worth of leather together? Even after sharpening my awl it seems impossible to have so much control over it to do that. Maybe I really need to get one of those douglas's awls

if the thread is pulling the leather apart at the thinner portions, make sure that your awl is oriented correctly. i'm assuming that the awl is a diamond. if so, the "points" of the diamond at the largest part of the awl should be oriented at 2 o'clock and 8 o'clock. they shouldn't be pointed at each other (as in a santa fe design - sorry - the only illustration i could think of). this will weaken the leather at the hole.

as for 10 oz......i've never worked with leather that thick. but what you could do is poke the awl through until you feel the point starting to come through, then work from the opposite side to connect them. this is the only thing i can come up with. it will take a bit more time to stitch.

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Thanks for the reply!

Is your awl sharp enough for you to control it as you push your awl through the pieces? I find that for veg tanned leather, anything equivalent to 7oz or more of leather neoeds to be placed flat on a surface and stabbed hard with an awl for it to go through, so controlling it and "fishing" for the groove on the other side is a bit out of the question. Does that mean that my awl isn't sharp enough?

I use a Dremel tool and a small drill bit for exessive tick material.....make grooves on both sides, look on top of edge and feel ur way into the leather....guiding the drill to come out perfectly inside the groove....works anytime....I do my chopper seats like that or thick holsters...

Greetings Jimbob

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Just a thought on my part, but if you are very careful to keep the stitches on the bottom piece of leather very straight and accurate, why couldn't you go back after the holes are punched and put the groove in along the line of stitches?

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I didn't quite read all the answers you got, my guess is that on the thinner leather, you're not putting the awl in as deep as you are on the thicker leather and so the holes aren't as big.

Kevin

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I know this is probably against all the rules, but I am using a drill press and my awl. I removed the awl chuck out of the handle, and just inseted the rod into the drill press. I then just use the handle on the drill press to do the stabbing. You can set up a jig to maintain the proper line and distance from the edge, and if you happen to have a laser sight on your press, it really makes hitting your stitch wheel marks a lot easier. I struggled with keeping my awl perfectly straigh, and the front would look great until you turned the piece over and the stitches really wandered. I had finally gotten pretty proficient at keeping it straight, but this makes it almost fool proof. To me, this is a much better option than drilling the holes. Just an idea that works for me.

Terry

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Thanks for all the replies. Unfortunately I don't have a drill press. I've tried carefully pushing the awl through the leather and "fishing" for it one the other side of the groove. Worked pretty ok so far, just a lot more tedious.

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Just a thought on my part, but if you are very careful to keep the stitches on the bottom piece of leather very straight and accurate, why couldn't you go back after the holes are punched and put the groove in along the line of stitches?

Yeah ive thought of that but the stitching path will still be haywire

I didn't quite read all the answers you got, my guess is that on the thinner leather, you're not putting the awl in as deep as you are on the thicker leather and so the holes aren't as big.

Kevin

Thinner leather is fine, its the thicker leather that is the problem. Once you are off by a small angle your hole may just end up very far off.

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One thing that I also do is, when I am about to punch my holes, I will punch holes in the corners or along long lines, after I make sure that the edges are lined up good, and put a needle or pin or something in those holes to hold the entire project still and lined up...it helps me.

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1296628972[/url]' post='184793']

I know this is probably against all the rules, but I am using a drill press and my awl. I removed the awl chuck out of the handle, and just inseted the rod into the drill press. I then just use the handle on the drill press to do the stabbing. You can set up a jig to maintain the proper line and distance from the edge, and if you happen to have a laser sight on your press, it really makes hitting your stitch wheel marks a lot easier. I struggled with keeping my awl perfectly straigh, and the front would look great until you turned the piece over and the stitches really wandered. I had finally gotten pretty proficient at keeping it straight, but this makes it almost fool proof. To me, this is a much better option than drilling the holes. Just an idea that works for me.

Terry

Ooooh it is cheating, but i like it!

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Might be a little late on this thread, but something I have done is to lay the grooves AFTER I punch my holes.

1. glue up my pieces & let them dry/set

2. punch my stitching holes with a diamond punch (1, 2, or 4 tine depending on straight or curved path)

3. use my groover and go OVER the holes (on both sides) just punched

4. Use a Q-tip with same color stain in the groove, if applicable or needed

5. now I stitch the project up and the thread lays in the grooves on both sides perfectly.

I have found that by doing this, the thread is flush or slightly below the surface (no snags) on BOTH SIDES in the grooves, and the punched holes also appear smaller and less noticeable as a bonus on my finished product.

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