BillinTR

Stohlman's Book Method

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I have the book. I read it, studied it somewhat even. I am curious as to how many actually follow the technique he teaches. By that I mean the two needles and the awl in your hands at all times, make your holes with the awl, keep feeding the needles back and forth, never putting anything down. As my other thread indicated my first attempt at stitching did not go as I had hoped. But perhaps his technique was intended for thinner and/or softer leather than I expect to be using for my projects. I have been reading a good bit here about other ways to line up and make my stitching holes. I have read about using corks to support the back side of the leather I am trying to pierce with the awl. Put two needles, an awl and now a cork in my hands and pretty soon fumble fingered me isn't getting it done. Just curious as to how much of a religion his book is since every time someone is starting out in stitching there are usually at least a couple of recommendations to read his book.

 

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That's how I do it.  And that's where I saw it originally.  Not hard with a bit of practice.  And a decent awl - and the awl is the hard part these days.  USED to be, you could get one off the shelf from any of a dozen retailers, but most things got so cheap these days most of it is just junk.

I have sewn like this joining multiple layers of 9 oz leather, and also joining 1 1/2 oz calfskin to 3.5 oz cowhide. 

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You are a better man than I will ever be. I have two layers of 6/7 oz. veg tan that I am sewing. The effort required to push something through those two layers to create a stitching hole would absolutely wear me out to complete a stitch line 18 to 20 inches long. I have since worked over my awl for quite awhile to get it sharp and smooth. Tried the suggestion to use wax on the awl to lubricate it. Went back to a practice piece of the same stuff I am stitching. I will say that I sort of succeeded in that there was a slight reduction in effort from my previous attempt to pierce that thickness of leather and I did manage to get the pointy tip of the awl to see daylight on the back side of the leather. But I still would never want to repeat the effort over and over for 120 or so stitches. Maybe I just don't have the hand/wrist/arm strength. For lighter weight stuff maybe but for my current projects with this veg tan I am going to have punch my holes somehow and proceed from there with his technique.

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Yes, that is the traditional method. And there is a bit of a learning curve. You have to be consistent with your angle of the awl, the awl needs to be really sharp, and handling all of that with the needles can be tricky. But like everything else, practice.

I use a modified method. I like pricking irons to lay out the holes and then I use an awl to punch them. I still hold the awl and needles in my hands but the holes are pre marked with the correct angle of attack. I never was good enough to make a real nice line by eye. 

When transitioning from needle to awl you should be able to hold the needle between your index and middle fingers while using the awl and start that needle by sort of closing your fist or rotating your hand to start it. Some are even good enough to switch it back to their thumb and index. Ultimately you need to do what works for you. Tradition is great but it isn't the only way either. 

Also try stropping your awl. It will help. And make sure you don't have a burr. The awl should glide easily through the leather.

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I've sharpened lots of woodworking hand tools for years, but I had a tougher time with leather working awls than I would have expected. The geometry is so different, and the metal seems quite different as well. My take: If you are going to work thick, tough leathers with an awl, get a first-rate awl blade that is very sharp to begin with so you really know for sure what it can do and how it should feel in use. The difference between a badly-made one and a good one is huge. I started just as you are doing, and it's an excellent traditional method. I'm glad I learned that way for all sorts of reasons. Now I use stitching chisels, which put holes all the way through the leather, and the sewing is a separate step. I produce work faster and neater this way, and it's a lot easier on the hands. 

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18 minutes ago, Stetson912 said:

The awl should glide easily through the leather.

This is the part that is my problem. It isn't the finger dexterity or manipulating myself around the leather being stitched. It is the sheer effort of getting the awl through the thickness of leather. The awl does not glide easily through that thickness of leather. In the Armitage video on sharpening awls he demonstrates working on the identical awl to what I have. I have spent a fair amount of time following his sharpening technique. I feel my awl is in pretty good shape. I am not giving up on the Stohlman technique and will try again later. But for my current efforts with this veg tan I am leaning towards using stitching chisels.

 

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Good idea. In my experience, it's important to have more than one technique so you can adapt to different leathers and projects. 

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That book is great for any number of reasons. However, I don't see that way. 

I use pricking irons to mark my holes. Then, I use my awl to push thru as many holes that are supported by the pony. Then I stitch and repeat.

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My guess would be you have a burr on the tip of the awl blade. You might be able to feel it. Sometimes you can't.  

Try stropping just the tip of the blade on a strip with either roughe or buffing compound in it. 

Or, very lightly, draw the tip of the blace backwards on the finest stone you have. That would remove the burr. 

Then just polish it again on the strip using the same short forward backwards motion as you do sharpening. 

If you don't have a burr, and the awl is indeed sharp, I'm at a loss of what's wrong.

I have some pretty stout dry hard saddle skirting but it still cuts through that, rawhide as well. I hope you get it figured out. It's far more enjoyable with a sharp well working awl. 

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I learned how to saddle stitch from watching Nigel and Ian on youtube. It wasn't until I actually read Stohlman that I understood why I was supposed to do the things Nigel and Ian were talking about. IMO Stohlman does more in text and with those drawings than most videos can pull off. If you keep practicing you'll get to the point where it is second nature and you'll get faster at sewing that way and you can start picking up when a stitch is off before you tighten it, etc. It will get easier if you keep at it.

Regarding your awl, if it is too hard it ain't sharp enough. Once I got mine good and sharp I kicked myself for all of the effort I'd wasted forcing the dull one through. When it is right, you'll know it. Watch your fingers on the "out" side of the leather....we are covered in leather, leather nowhere close to as thick and tough as cow leather. I've stuck myself twice since I got my awls sharp and both were deep and both were instantaneous.

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I am essentially a by the book Stohlman style stitcher - its where/how I learned first  - with different projects I will vary little things like grooving or scribing a line - overstitch wheel or irons - I will also sometimes also purposefully make the stiches lie straight (sometimes by accident!!)  rather than the classic angled saddle stich just because I think it matches the project better.

I don't have the most expensive awl(s) but am certainly looking  - I sharpen often, strop always  and have stitched thin to thick.

In addition to the tips above (no pun intended) I will sometimes wet the really thick leather edge a little to soften but no so much as it gets deformed by the stitching process AND I always have a bees wax plug in a hole in my horse and pony clamp arms and stick the awl in to it ever few stitches - helps the awl and the needles - a Stohlman trick as usual.

Keep at it, experiment and find what works best for you. AND don't give up.

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I use my Tandy chisels and then cross the needles in the hole, then pull tight and straighten any threads that don’t lie right. I don’t usually use a pony, I just hold the project. This can get quadally if the leather is too soft, and yes, quite stabby if you’re using Glover’s needles, but they glide so much easier...

Also I found at a sewing store, a few items that help me considerably. The first is a needle grabber. Essentially it’s an about 1X1 inch square of the same rubber that you use to open bottles with. Then I also found something called machingers. They are light weight knitted gloves with rubber fingers. I wrap my fingers in... toilet paper really, then put on the gloves. No more blood on the highway! The paper catches it and the rubber kind of seals after the needle pulls back out. It seems to be working pretty good.

Oh! Plinkercases! I said I’d post the awls my brother made me...

Here one is, grainy and a shaky hand, but they work really well! :lol:

It’s fighting with me over the fid picture and Gary has since made me one with a teeny tiny sword in it! Maybe it will let me upload them later.

3FE90465-EB56-4194-9C8C-28D061CE23D8.jpeg

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Good additional info Scoob about other griping aids. Used to use vynle gloves for grip and blood containment.

Now i use the past sold for people who have to handle paper all the time. There os a good threadhere about stirching aids for aerhritis and plain old old hands. 

Of course the old needle nose plyer are always at hand.

Those arw funky awleggs you have there.

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I responded to your other post as well but this being another question I’ll put in my 2¢.  The question regarding this is how much handsewing you intend to do.  If this is a hobby and intends to stay that way, you probably don’t care too much how long a particular project is going to take.  If  that’s the case, do it however you feel works best for you   If on the other hand this is a business proposition for you, time is money.  Plan on adding at least 20-40% more time to your sewing if you are putting down needles and picking them up, etc...  If you keep in mind time is money, then this is untenable.  Do what Stohlman teaches.  It is awkward at first but becomes easier and second nature after awhile, just take a look at how fast Nigel Armitage is at it.  Granted he is a master at hand sewing.

In regards to the trouble piercing 12-14 oz. of veg tan, I’ll say it again.  I think it’s your awl.   I had trouble for years until I finally understood what a good awl blade should be shaped and sharpened to.  Get a Barry King awl blade and you’ll see what I mean.  If I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll take the BK awl blade off your hands for what you paid for it shipping and all!  

Above, as always is just my humble opinion, your experience may vary. 

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A good awl blade will MELT through 20 ounces of leather effortlessly.  Almost don't notice it.  I once sewed 13 - or was it 15 - weight lifting belts for a gym where the boys decided they all "had to" be hand sewn.  Think basically rectangles about 4" x 60", so 125-130" of stitching each, at 6 per inch.  What is that ... like 700-800 stitches per belt.  I might have declined, but the check they were writing for the tooling haunted me into it :blush:  Only discomfort was my hand shaped around the awl haft for too long.

Sadly, that tool disappeared in a burglary, and I have NOT been able to find a suitable QUALITY replacement since. I've purchased and THROWN OUT about 15 others that turned out to be CRAP with a fancy MARKETING STORY attached (you know.. made in the USA, by a veteran, who only drives it on Sunday... blahblah).  I don't care about "exotic" wood handles, or speeches about "ferrules".. I just want it to glide through the leather like they are INTENDED to do.

Edited by JLSleather

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1 hour ago, JLSleather said:

A good awl blade will MELT through 20 ounces of leather effortlessly.  Almost don't notice it.  I once sewed 13 - or was it 15 - weight lifting belts for a gym where the boys decided they all "had to" be hand sewn.  Think basically rectangles about 4" x 60", so 125-130" of stitching each, at 6 per inch.  What is that ... like 700-800 stitches per belt.  I might have declined, but the check they were writing for the tooling haunted me into it :blush:  Only discomfort was my hand shaped around the awl haft for too long.

Sadly, that tool disappeared in a burglary, and I have NOT been able to find a suitable QUALITY replacement since. I've purchased and THROWN OUT about 15 others that turned out to be CRAP with a fancy MARKETING STORY attached (you know.. made in the USA, by a veteran, who only drives it on Sunday... blahblah).  I don't care about "exotic" wood handles, or speeches about "ferrules".. I just want it to glide through the leather like they are INTENDED to do.

Amen!

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Firstly, I'm not as experienced as most of the members who have commented so far, so maybe I shouldn't opine at all, and your mileage may vary. Secondly, I'm a hobbyist, and I love hand stitching, least of all because I don't have a sewing machine. I prefer hand stitching, warts and all. I've hand stitched quite a few belts and bags and projects big and small since I started doing the craft a bit more seriously.

I learnt a basic saddle stitch from my grandpa roughly 5 decades ago, and he did not know what we now regard as the "right" way. He used a scratch awl and double thread knotted in the middle and produced a tight and serviceable stitch.

To this day I'm what I can describe as an "eclectic stitcher" : I use the technique that I think I can handle with the project I'm working on. Sometimes I do as bikermutt07 describes - mark my stitch line with either a chisel or (more likely) an overstitch wheel, set up the project in my stitch clamp, pre-punch the line with my awl, put the awl down and stitch away. Other times I will lay my project flat, mark stitch line and pre-punch the entire line with the awl before I pick up and thread my needles.

But then, I have the luxury of not doing leathercraft commercially and only occasionally sell items, and realise that doing it for profit is a different ball game altogether. So I guess its up to each to develop the technique they are comfortable and capable of doing. The Stohlman technique is a proven way, trusted and practised by generations of craftsmen - but surely it should not be regarded as "the only way".

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Apologize in advance for the hijack but my newb question fits in with awl work being mentioned.   I have a set of 3 and 4 mm Crimson Hide irons.  They punch through beautifully.   Makes my life easier while I learn the craft.  Not surprising, Crimson sell an awl to match their 3/4mm line.  

Would any 3mm diamond awl work or would I be married to their line when I decide to give awl work a try?  If their awl is anything like their chisels, I imagine I have nothing to worry about, but you never know! I see a lot of matching awls to go with a set of irons, etc.

Great discussion!

William

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Anything that makes an acceptable shaped hole will work but getting the hole maker in the shape where it is as easy as a purpose built tool may be a bit harder. I've only heard good about Crimson Hide products. I have some old Tandy awl, a Craftool awl and a Wuta awl. I just got the Wuta awl so I can't really speak to it yet but with a few hrs work the other two work very well. One of these days I'm going to get a "good" awl and see how it goes.

But no, you don't have to get a Crimson Hide awl but it may be far easier to if your time means more to you than your initial outlay of money.

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I appreciate all of the comments and suggestions. A lot of interesting information to digest.

First of all for me it is a hobby and I have no anticipation of making any money at it. As a matter of fact as a hobby it can only cost me money. Secondly for those that hinted at me possibly finding the act of holding the two needles and the awl and performing the actions of Stohlman's technique a bit awkward, that is not it at all. My manual dexterity is reasonably decent for an olde pharte. It is purely about the effort of getting my awl through the hole. The awls I have are Osbornes that I got from SLC. There is absolutely no burr to be felt anywhere. I have polished and polished right down to using an ultra fine ceramic stone I use for polishing sears on my pistols. I will continue to work with them.

As I said it is a hobby so it costs me money. And I am on a fixed income. So paying upwards of $75 to $80 for a Barry King awl isn't likely any time soon. I don't need a finely finished cocobolo handle to make an awl work. And I expect that I will here the you get what you pay for preaching. Well if you can't buy "quality" then you have to be willing to work to make it so. In Armitage's video he is sharpening an Osborne awl with a fixed point. He seems to do pretty well with it but I can't say that the awl appears to just "glide" through the leather as some seem to think it should.

I am not giving up because I have a number of things I want to do in my new leatherworking pursuits. I hope to do a fair amount of hand stitching, one way or another. I will get back to my polishing this week end although I am unsure how much better I can get these blades.

Thanks again for all the comments.

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I've just had a look at Crimson Hides website; just Search Google

Made up awls are a bit expensive at $95 Singapore = $68 USA = £52  presumably as the hafts are carefully shaped to fit your hand

But the blades alone are more reasonable at $20 Singapore = $15 USA = £11, so you could fit a blade to your own handle

these prices are before shipping and any import duty

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I was just going to suggest that zuludog!

Barry King, leather wranglers, chrimson hide, and I'm sure many more offer awl blades sold separately. 

The Barry King and most certainly the leather wranglers would be sharp when you get them. 

I wish I could see your efforts and how hard it is for you to get the awl through. Something just doesn't add up for me :/ I too use an Osborne awl. And have no problems with it. 

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Yeah, it HAS to be a sharpness issue. My awls were very difficult to get through the leather before I worked on them for way longer than I ever would've thought necessary. As much time as I've spent sharpening them, there shouldn't be much left of them....

What grit is your stone @BillinTR? I start at 1500 grit and stop with fiber optic polishing film, then I strop. Took forrrreevvvvvveeerrrrrr but now they can split atoms.

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You might try an awl blade from Barry King ($30) or LeatherWranglers($25).  The Leatherwranglers blade is Osborne, but will come profiled an sharpened, and might serve as a reference for your own blade profile and sharpness!

A truly sharp awl blade will go through well over 1/2 of stacked leather without all that much effort.  It'll also go right through the backside and into your finger almost without feeling it.  :D

- Bill 

20181005_200902.jpg

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I love my eggs!

They fit my palm almost perfectly. Even the fid seems to go through very well.i actually used it to open sewing holes instead of chisels. But my leather is very thin and light. But I seem to get a good pressure on the heel of my hand, where they sit. I don’t have to have the handle floating in my palm or off to the side like the long handles.

 I’ve heard of burrles, that’s a knot hole in wood,  what’s a ferrule? 

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