scrapyarddog

Sticking with chisels instead of pricking irons...

Recommended Posts

I’ve been debating about whether or not to get a set of pricking irons, but after some consideration, I decided not to. I am not convinced that the price level of pricking irons has any real positive correlation with the quality of stitching, and as far as I could tell, the quality of stitching when using a pricking iron has close to nothing do with the pricking iron and has more to do with the size/shape/sharpness of the awl and how you handle it since the awl is the actual piercing tool that creates the slits.

 

From what I see, the quality of stitching has to do with the following:

 

1. Equidistance between slits/punch holes. Both chisels and pricking irons can accomplish this.

 

2. Size of holes and slits. Chisels and pricking irons all come in different sizes. Most chisels create bigger diamond shape holes, but there are some better chisels out there that created narrow holes.

 

3. Clean cut. This has more to do with the sharpness of the chisel and awl. Pricking iron isn’t meant to pierce the leather, at least not on thicker pieces.

 

4. Angle of slits and holes. Both chisels and pricking irons can created slanted holes, and for pricking irons, what’s more crucial is the handling of the awl.

 

5. Matching thread size vs chisel/pricking iron size. This has nothing to do with the chisel or pricking iron in themselves.

 

6. Shape of the slit. There are sharp chisels that create smaller holes, and in the case of pricking iron, what makes the slit is the awl and not the pricking iron.

 

7. Consistent stitching procedure. This also has nothing to do with the markings pricking iron makes.

 

Also, if you really don’t want to pierce the leather with the chisel but want to use the awl to make the slits, just don’t pierce the leather with the chisel, and just use the chisel to make marks on the leather.

If I had to guess, I’d say the reason pricking irons were used back then is because of the strength of the steel. If it’s too soft, the teeth could bend and you’ll lose the equidistance. Using harder steel also has issues: to punch through many layers of leather, the teeth either need to be beefed up so it doesn’t snap or very sharp and fine but then it could easily snap. This might explain the shape of the pricking iron. So, to compromise, harder steel was still used to make sure you don’t lose the equidistance easily and the teeth are fine, but you use the stitching awl to actually make the slits one by one. Of course, you can probably make a pricking iron with only 1 or 2 teeth, but at that point, a stitching wheel properly used would be more efficient…

 

Nowadays with alloys with chromium, nickel and sometimes tungsten, there are alloys that give both good strength and hardness...

 

Am I going crazy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I totally agree with all that you wrote. I only have stitching chisels and stitching wheels, which I have had no problem using as described, sometimes with an awl, but usually without.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as I know that all rings true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I just use a set of sharpened pricking irons as if they were chisels, and my stitching looks great imho ;) 

you get the significant slant and the narrow opening of the irons/awl combo without having to mess around with an awl, and the benefit of needing to do nothing more than keep going in a straight line keeping the iron vertical to get perfect holes like with chisels.

only works with the right set of irons ( i use wuta, would probably work even better with KS) and on thin items (I have done up to 4 layers of kangaroo, but I couldnt say exactly how thick it was. would have been between 3-4mm)

Edited by VabaX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's a reasonable summary. You would still need to use an awl if the combined thickness is more than the length of the prongs

Nigel Armitage has reviewed several pricking irons and stitching chisels, just Search YouTube

I started with Tandy's chisels, then I thought I'd try something different. However, for the amount of work that I do I was unwilling to pay for the very expensive makes. I settled on Seiwa European, and I'm happy enough with them. Whilst I might get different sizes in the future, I think I'll stay with that brand

Note - Seiwa make two types of chisel; 'European' and 'Diamond'. 'European' is the better type, see Nigel's reviews 8 & 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my short time in leather work, one thing I have learnt is that there is no right or wrong way to work, you just use what is best for you, experts can guide you and assist with problems you have along the way, but it's up to you to follow your own idea's or there's

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought some of the new stitching chisels the Weaver Leather sells.  I bought the 9 stitch per inch set.  I have worked really well and for the money do a great job.  The slits are very thin and fine.  Have had no problem going through about 8  oz of kangaroo with them.  Some folks have commented about them bending after a few uses, but they are not meant to be whacked with a heavy maul.  I slowly tap with my tooling hammer and get a great result.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i like my crimsons.., not sure if they are chisels or irons, though crimson calls it irons..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2018-12-20 at 11:32 PM, scrapyarddog said:

Also, if you really don’t want to pierce the leather with the chisel but want to use the awl to make the slits, just don’t pierce the leather with the chisel, and just use the chisel to make marks on the leather.

This is what I do. Though I jokingly tag my insta-pics with #nostitchingchisel I do use it for marking. But nowadays always use the awl for piercing, because of results mainly.
Stitching chisels can be good for beginners, I started with awl only, then wanted to 'quickly improve' my stitching in the way I saw all the Japanese guys on YT and IG doing so got me some chisels. They improved things but after using them for a while I saw I didn't like the end result, even after trying many different ways of using them. So I went back to the awl and practiced, something I hear people can't be bothered with nowadays, but kept the chisel for marking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, robs456 said:

They improved things but after using them for a while I saw I didn't like the end result, even after trying many different ways of using them. So I went back to the awl and practiced, something I hear people can't be bothered with nowadays, but kept the chisel for marking.

What results do you get from an awl that you don't get from the chisels?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Diversiforge said:

What results do you get from an awl that you don't get from the chisels?

For starters, consistency in exit hole size. And for those that hammer the chisel all through to the prongs: there are times the exit hole should be smaller, so I'll add flexibility as well. In hole size too, though you can always get another size chisel I guess. Then there's the other stuff like angles etc, and the more custom thingies like cylinders.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/27/2018 at 5:07 PM, robs456 said:

This is what I do. Though I jokingly tag my insta-pics with #nostitchingchisel I do use it for marking. But nowadays always use the awl for piercing, because of results mainly.
Stitching chisels can be good for beginners, I started with awl only, then wanted to 'quickly improve' my stitching in the way I saw all the Japanese guys on YT and IG doing so got me some chisels. They improved things but after using them for a while I saw I didn't like the end result, even after trying many different ways of using them. So I went back to the awl and practiced, something I hear people can't be bothered with nowadays, but kept the chisel for marking.

I like this approach but having no experience I’ll decide what works for me after some practice sessions which I’ll incorporate with getting up to speed with saddle stitching practice too. Back in the day I first started learning we only used overstitch wheels and an awl to accomplish the mission. (Long before the Internet and I had not heard of pricking irons in those days.) Just starting up again after a lay off and looking forward to joining you all again even though I’m long over the hill...... lol.

Edited by splinters

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would really cool if those of you with multiple tools to post pictures showing the difference of the hole and stitching quality and reference.  Maybe even using unfinished leather so it is even easier to see raw differences between your pricking iron or chisel, and awl. Also, when your leather is 3 layers of 8 oz (3/8 inch) think, do you change your technique?

Without hijacking your thread, here's why I ask: Just getting started I notice I have larger gaps or seeing the slits from my awl more than I expected, and am trying to resolve the contradiction of adequate slit size and ability to get the needle and thread through. [I have a topic started already over in "critique..." because I'm seeking answers... :-)  ]

 

Edited by GeneH

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Watch Nigel Armitage's review videos on his youtube channel.  He demonstrates nearly all of the popular chisels and irons, discusses pros and cons, which thread size matches best, etc.. He also demonstrates how to go through several layers with chisels by punching them one at a time then aligning them.  One of the posters above mentioned this as a limitation of chisels, but it doesn't have to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If Armitage has a video showing apples-to-apples difference of chisels and awls I must have missed it. I’ll go back and look.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went back and reviewed Armitages videos again, picking up a lot of info that I had previously missed. Using the same chisel, actually causing the slit to be opposite each  side, and still making a nice stitch. I bet if I watched enough of his videos now I could see the differences between awl-only and chiseled stitching.

Niel did go on to mention that if he was doing saddles or harnesses the chisel wouldn't be sufficient because the stitching isn't secure enough, but for less critical applications like bags, sheaths, maybe holsters it's fine.

Thanks for helping out (on my similar posts, 2 different and related threads) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nigels reviews are really helpful, and after taking one of his classes and had the opportunity to use some different tools, my opinion changed a bit.

 

In terms of consistency and slanting, theres not much difference between iron and chisel. However, chisels create bigger holes, and this causes some mostly aesthetic issues:

 

1. Finer threads: when youre using finer threads, for example Au Chinois 832 to 532, the threads will not fill the holes created by a diamond chisel, and with linen threads, the movement of threads might increase wear and tear. The bottomline is its very ugly. I was mostly using 0.8mm threads and bigger before I started using irons so it wasnt this downside of using diamond chisels wasnt obvious to me back then.

 

If youre using larger threads, chisels work better because, well, they produce larger holes. I tried 332 on KS 7 SPI and it was a miserable experience.

 

2. Front and Back difference: diamond shape chisels create pretty brutal exits (blasts?). In cases where the backside isnt visible, this is not a concern, but when both sides are visible, irons or even an awl (granted you have good skills) do a much better job because irons are thinner and the shapes are either just slits (minimal entry/exit) or more rounded.

 

3. Inverse available: there are situations where you have to pre-punch or mark both surface sides the leather/leathers, and its rare (Ive never seen one) that diamond chisels have inverse sets, but irons do, and that guarantees both sides of the stitches look perfect. To be honest, you can still stitch without inverse, but it doesnt look good. So again, this is a matter of aesthetics.

 

4. Pull out: chisels are bulkier, and its harder to pull out when it penetrates the leather deeply. Difficulty of pulling out sometimes introduces distortion to the holes, and that leads to inconsistency in the stitches.

 

 

Ive used only 4 types of irons: Crimson, Doldoki, Amy Roke, KS. Doldoki does a good job, but its rather expensive, and at the price point, I might just go with Blanchard (never used one though). Crimson is fine and cheaper but the entries are a little more rounded due to the shape of the teeth, nothing wrong about it but I prefer minimal impact on the surface of the leather. Amy Roke creates smaller entries but Im not entirely sold on it. KS does a great job, its sharp (punches through with ease), the entries are very small (the exits are small too, sometimes I cant find it), the teeth can be replaced at a reasonable cost. You can order KS directly online or through shops like RML or Fine Leatherworking. The upside of ordering directly is you can choose the number of teeth you want and I think lead time is 4-6 weeks? The downside is the iron is damaged during shipping, KS is not responsible for it. So, if youre not in a hurry, Id suggesting giving RML and FLW some business. Theyre both very awesome.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now