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I've been working leather for about six months.  All my learning is from YouTube, books and trial and error. I think I may be to the point where my stupid questions may be formulated as not to be as stupid as they wouldve been six months ago.
 
My questions and thoughts concern stitching irons/chisels, the ones that are multi tined and are used to punch holes through leather to sew without useing an awl.
 
1,  My first tool was a Craftool brand 3 mm 4 prong.  I wanted more of an assortment--and not caring for the Craftool--I bought a set of four  Aiskaer White Steel 4mm Diamond Lacing Stitching Chisels for 12 bucks. When the two brands are placed point to point the tines are identically spaced. What gives?  I wonder if the Chinese Aiskers are wrongly described and are actually 3mm?  How are these measured and are there different methods of measuring?  Most seem to be sold stating the size in millimeters. I see a few brands that state the stitches per inch (SPI) which seems to make more sense to me.
 
2,  Does one match the chisel or thread to the thickness of leather or to the amount of desired spacing between stitches, or, to the thickness of thread? I would think the thinner the leather the closer the spacing and thinner the thread and hole?
 
3,   European vs American.  I often hear folks referring to American style as being bulky.  From what I gather they mean that useing a stitching iron results in a bigger hole than a pricking iron and awl? 
 
4,  I watched some of Nigel's videos and bought a couple of KS Blades pricking irons.  Not having the experience or knowledge of the tools I really don't know what I have or how or when to use them. I've used them a few times but the tool make such a narrow slit that I often need to use an awl to open it up.   Maybe it's because of my lack of experience but I don't care for them.  Are the KS tools for thinner thread or leather?  How, why and when should they be used?
 
5,  I usually use 4-8 ounce leather and 1mm thread and an appropriate sized needle.  I would like to start making hand bags and wallets using thinner leather. What size hole making tool and thread is recommended?
 
Here is an example of the Craft Tool, Aiskaer and KS Blades.  I prefer the middle line made by the Aisker.  Like Goldilocks picking the bed not too soft not too hard.
 
Thank you very much.
 
 
 

IMG_20180407_115957.jpg

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I am not an expert, but first thing I would point out, is the difference between pricking irons, stitching chisels and lacing chisels.

A pricking iron is made to show where an awl should make a hole for thread to pass through. This iron does not penetrate right through the leather, just marks the top.

A stitching chisel is used to make a whole (or line of holes) for thread to pass through. This chisel penetrates right through the leather.

A lacing chisel is used to make a hole for lace to go through.This chisel penetrates right through the leather.

Your pic appears (to me anyway) to be a lacing chisel on the top, a stitching chisel in the middle and a pricking chisel? on the bottom.

A lot of decent tools come from different countries. I have some decent (but not exceptional) stitching chisels from China for less than $30AUD for a set of 1, 2, 4 & 10 prong. They work fine for me, and some leather I am going through is around 6 - 7mm vegtan.

IMHO.

I am sure somebody who knows more than me (which is not difficult) will be along real soon.

Edited by Rockoboy
disclaimer

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Rockoboy, the Craftool chisel on top has diamond-shaped tines and is for stitching.  Lacing chisels are flat, blade shapes.  They can be angled or straight, inline configuration but they cut slits, not diamond-shaped holes.  

In fact, the black one on top is one I use regularly and get great results.  I don't consider it good for extremely fine work.  For that I use the Tandy Craftool Pro.

Nowadays some pricking irons are designed to punch all the way through the leather.  At least up to a certain thickness.  Traditional pricking irons by Osborne and Blanchard make way to big of a hole if punching through most thicknesses of leather.  They can be used on 1 mil leather with little problem.  

The KS Blades tines are quite small and don't taper excessively, so they can go through a decent thickness.

Nigel publishes written reviews of both stitching and pricking irons on his website.  I suggest you look it over.  He actually used all of the irons reviewed and he suggests appropriate thread sizes.

The OP says he typically uses 1mm thread.  That is going to look chunky with many chisels and irons.  Suggest you go down to no more than .8mm next project.

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FWIW, here is an angled lacing chisel.

 

image.png

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Mike, I reviewed the video from Nigel and he used the KS Blades Punch exactly as I described.  He punched all the way through 3 mil leather.  He then stitched two pieces of 3 mil together but notice he used .5mm thread.  The holes could take a bigger thread IMHO.  

Stick with those irons, maybe it will take time to get things sorted out.  I suggest you try 0.6mm Tiger thread.  It is readily available in your country.

Good luck!

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39 minutes ago, Tugadude said:

Craftool chisel on top has diamond-shaped tines and is for stitching.  Lacing chisels are flat, blade shapes.

Thanx for your input Tugadude. It was my inattention that did not notice the diamond point on the black stitching chisel. That's what I like about this site so much ... people make suggestions or pass information and nobody gets riled up because they are right or wrong. Mostlypeople get corrected if they're incorrect or incomplete information and everybody moves along.

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Yep, we're all learning here.  I make plenty of mistakes to be sure.

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From the OP...

3,   European vs American.  I often hear folks referring to American style as being bulky.  From what I gather they mean that useing a stitching iron results in a bigger hole than a pricking iron and awl? 
 
My take is that this is a misnomer.  The main thing American style is known for is the use of a stitching groover to create a deep recess for stitching.  That is seldom if ever done in Europe and considered quite unnecessary.  The argument made by its proponents is that a recessed row of stitching holds up better to wear and tear.  Makes sense, but then vintage English saddles are presented that have no recess and the thread looks great.  So IMHO, if you like grooves, go for it.  If you don't, your work will not suffer as a result.  Different strokes, right!  
 
Bigger holes come from bigger awls or bigger irons.  They also can come from pushing a tapered awl too deeply, widening the hole too much.
 
Far as I know there is no such thing as an American awl.

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Thanks much guys.  

Most of my work has been tool covers and sheaths for woodworking and carving tools and axes and the like.  Six to eight ounce leather plus a welt making it tripled up.  I use a groover and 1mm thread.  It looks good to me and maybe a little chunky. But with nothing to compare it to, I don't know.  Here are some samples on a 4/5 ounce single piece of leather.  I like the look of a contrasting thread.  Is that considered chunky? 

The first three are skinny 1mm Chinese thread, the next two are 1mm Tiger thread.

Tugadude, you said,  "I suggest you try 0.6mm Tiger thread.  It is readily available in your country."  I'm in your country, New England, vs Jolly Old England.

Thanks

 

IMG_20180407_174412~2.jpg

Edited by mike02130

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Sorry, missed the New in New England.  In that case Weaver and The Buckle Guy have Tiger thread.

yes, I would consider that chunky.  It also is very straight.  You don't seem to be getting the angle that makes saddle stitching so attractive.  Your rows look like a long run of thread instead of distinct stitches.  Grooves tend to make the thread lay straight, fighting against the angle.  Here is a watch band I made with 1mm thread and the Craftool chisel, similar to the one you used.  I wanted the thread to be prominent, or chunky.  I thought it suited the roughness of the repurposed baseball glove.

Notice that though chunky, they have a bit of an angle and are more distinct.

image.jpeg

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Tugadude,

Thanks for the response and example.  I made a sample with and without a groove and the line without the groove looks much better.  The angles are more pronounced and the thread has more dimension and not flat as when it's laying in the groove. 

Two more questions, please. 

I see the advantage of not grooving but when should one groove? 

One advantage I see for the groove is that it creates a line for the stitching chisel to register.  Does one use a compass to scribe a light line as a guide?

Thanks again.

 

 

IMG_20180408_084600.jpg

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On 4/8/2018 at 9:13 AM, mike02130 said:

Tugadude,

Thanks for the response and example.  I made a sample with and without a groove and the line without the groove looks much better.  The angles are more pronounced and the thread has more dimension and not flat as when it's laying in the groove. 

Two more questions, please. 

I see the advantage of not grooving but when should one groove? 

One advantage I see for the groove is that it creates a line for the stitching chisel to register.  Does one use a compass to scribe a light line as a guide?

Thanks again.

 

 

IMG_20180408_084600.jpg

Mike, I'm fairly new to saddle stitching as well but I use both a pair of wing dividers and the creasing "blade" that came with my Tandy pro stitching groover set. I've also used a ball-end transfer scribe with a guide ruler with good results.

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OK, take this as opinion because some have other thoughts but basically you never have to make a recessed groove.  Yes, a groove allows the thread to recess and helps protect it from wear,  but as I stated, English saddles approaching 100 years old exist and the stitching is remarkably intact.

A groove will force the thread to resemble a straight machine stitch.  Some like that look, I do not.  I prefer the zig-zag look of proper saddle stitching.

Just use wing dividers and leave a faint scratch.  Sometimes I will use a creaser and leave a faint line, more of a shallow depression, that doesn't affect the thread.

Again, Nigel demonstrates how to use dividers in his videos.

Your stitching examples look good and I agree with your assessment regarding which looks better.

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On 8/4/2018 at 5:35 AM, Tugadude said:

Sorry, missed the New in New England.  In that case Weaver and The Buckle Guy have Tiger thread.

yes, I would consider that chunky.  It also is very straight.  You don't seem to be getting the angle that makes saddle stitching so attractive.  Your rows look like a long run of thread instead of distinct stitches.  Grooves tend to make the thread lay straight, fighting against the angle.  Here is a watch band I made with 1mm thread and the Craftool chisel, similar to the one you used.  I wanted the thread to be prominent, or chunky.  I thought it suited the roughness of the repurposed baseball glove.

Notice that though chunky, they have a bit of an angle and are more distinct.

image.jpeg

Very nice stitching! 

I’ve always thought that it doesn’t matter what size thread you use if you can sew it really well. Your watch band looks really good for it.  But if your stitching isn’t so good you’d be better off with a thinner thread so as not to highlight it.

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Agreed.  I would also include contrasting colored thread into the mix.  If you are working towards a better result, until you get there you should probably be using a color that doesn't stand out.  Black leather and black thread.  White on black is probably the worst offender and will highlight any inconsistency including stitch length, angle, dropped stitches, etc.  Even highlights waviness in your stitching lines.  When your stitching is spot-on, then you can feature it with contrasting colors.  Just my $.02.

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To illustrate what I said about contrasting colors and also the effect that a stitching groove has on the way thread lays, I will show an old wallet I made several years ago.  This was an attempt to make a moneyclip style, three pocket wallet.  I used Tandy Craftool stitching chisel, the 2mm black-colored one.  The thread is a waxed braided cord sold by Tandy.  I believe they say it is approx. 1mm.

 

If I were to make the same wallet today, I would line it, but at the time I didn't because I was trying to keep the thickness to a minimum.  What I'd do now if just line the small part that is exposed and it would add nil to the overall thickness.  I also used scrap leather, a small piece of veg tan along with some veg tan scraps that I "inherited" when I bought somebody's old tools off of Craigslist.  The leather had some blemishes on it due to being stored with bottles of dye and such and I knew it wouldn't matter on my project as it was just a test.  So I dyed it knowing the dark spots would shine through and sure enough, they did.  I also would edge the leather and possibly Edge Kote it.  Right now it is square and burnished, then treated with beeswax only.  I did the un-dyed pocket really as a test to see how it looked.  It isn't bad, but not sure I would do just one the next time.  Might be better if both interior pockets matched.  I also used a creaser on the top of the pockets.  I'm a fan of creasing.

 

20180510_092457.thumb.jpg.cd94baacfc451b15ea38d1641682da1d.jpg

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20180510_092441.thumb.jpg.c0f0613e6ed564f740f8472ce0d2b82f.jpgNext post will show the exterior.  Notice the backside of the un-dyed veg tan side of the wallet.  I used a groover and it made the thread lay very flat, whereas there is a slight angle on the interior that is noticeable on the lighter shade of leather that had no groove.

Edited by Tugadude
Added pic

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Speaking of stitching... When I mark stitch lines on the front and back of my project.... they never line up when i use my stitching chisel to punch thru.  I get a nice straight line with my compass but my holes are never on it on the reverse side.  Help? Ideas? Same if I use a groover.  I am careful to hold the chisel straight up and down but one side of the project always has wavy lines.  Any advice welcomed!

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Try doing a line of stitching with the tool slightly "off" tilted in one direction, then another line with it tilted a tiny bit the other direction, and see if maybe how you are seeing it is slightly off. Then, of course, make absolutely certain that the leather is perfectly flat when you use the punch.

Jeff

 

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thanks!  I will try that.  Several really nice projects ruined by my crooked stitching lines has me chafing to find a solution!

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