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Hello, 

Certainly there is a wealth of experience here on this forum, so perhaps someone could answer my query.   The preferred method for saddle stitching seems to be to hold the awl while working, punching each hole just prior to threading the needles through and so on. 

Why is this? 

In the many videos I have looked at about hand stitching I don't think any explained why.  Isn't it needlessly complicated when compared with prepunching the holes and then focusing just one threading with the two needles? What advantage is to be gained with this method?

 

Thanks

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Funnily enough, I know a guy who makes traditional bagpipes, he hand sews the bag..but has a walking foot machine just to punch the holes in the two parts ( which will be joined at the seams ) simultaneously ..in advance.Says it saves him a lot of time, and a lot of fiddling about with awls..He has shaped certain needles to replicate the holes that awls would make..

Edited by mikesc

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1 hour ago, MortonSupplyCo said:

Hello, 

Certainly there is a wealth of experience here on this forum, so perhaps someone could answer my query.   The preferred method for saddle stitching seems to be to hold the awl while working, punching each hole just prior to threading the needles through and so on. 

Why is this? 

In the many videos I have looked at about hand stitching I don't think any explained why.  Isn't it needlessly complicated when compared with prepunching the holes and then focusing just one threading with the two needles? What advantage is to be gained with this method?

 

Thanks

Instead of saying the "preferred method", I think it is more accurate to say the "more traditional" method.  There is a reason why many expert saddle stitchers still prefer using an awl and believe it is the ultimate way to ensure quality products.  One reason is that when the right sized awl is used for the job, the width of the slit can be controlled so that the hole isn't so large that it is obvious after the thread is put through.  Also, a properly sharpened and polished awl pierces the leather but doesn't cut all the way through.  The tip of the awl is sharp to penetrate the leather but the sides are polished smooth but not sharp.  This way the awl expands the leather enough to allow the thread to pass through easily but then it almost immediately begins to close back.  That is why pre-punching with an awl isn't as effective as punching as you go.  With an awl you also have control over the angle, which for beginners can be a struggle.

For that reason and others you are seeing an explosion of stitching chisels.  These chisels are hammered through the leather, creating holes (either diamond shaped or not) that allow for fairly rapid, accurate work.  The type of chisel used, the shape of the teeth, the angle of same and the spacing all effect the finished work.  Some irons are chunky diamond-shaped affairs and can be quite visible after stitching.  Others are quite fine and disappear as well as those created by and awl.  The choice of thread obviously impacts this too.  Using too fine a thread can also result in showing too much of the slit.  I see examples of this quite often.

Some otherwise traditional leatherworkers are warming up to stitching chisels.  They see that a fairly high degree of quality can be achieved with little experience.  That makes chisels especially good for beginners.  As their confidence grows through turning out quality work, they can also begin practicing with an awl.  Some projects lend themselves to one or the other.  Fine, soft leather likely is better approached with a small awl.

Much more to say but I encourage you to watch (if you haven't), Nigel Armitage's youtube videos on stitching and on various stitching irons, chisels, pricking irons, etc.  They are not all created equal.  Pricking irons typically mark holes, not make them and stitching irons or chisels make holes.  But on very thin leather, pricking irons can indeed make holes and stitching chisels can certainly be used to simply mark holes in a straight line.  So there is some crossover.

Hope that helps for a starter.

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2 hours ago, MortonSupplyCo said:

Hello, 

Certainly there is a wealth of experience here on this forum, so perhaps someone could answer my query.   The preferred method for saddle stitching seems to be to hold the awl while working, punching each hole just prior to threading the needles through and so on. 

Why is this? 

I think it is 'traditional', stemming from the days when there weren't so many handy tools for marking and punching sewing or lacing holes

2 hours ago, MortonSupplyCo said:

In the many videos I have looked at about hand stitching I don't think any explained why.  Isn't it needlessly complicated when compared with prepunching the holes and then focusing just one threading with the two needles? 

Yes, it is complicated and unnecessary. I use these [photo below] sewing-hole pliers for punching holes for sewing. I have them in 4-tooth and 2-tooth. I can glue two bits of project together and punch the sewing holes in a just a few minutes. I do keep an awl handy for any holes that need opening up better. If I cant punch the holes in both pieces after glueing I punch them in one piece and use the awl to make the hole into the second piece, thru the pre-punched hole.  I also have similar pliers for 3mm lacing

These punch diamond shaped holes neater, more evenly spaced than I can do with an awl. The holes are suitable for up to 1mm thick thread, 0.8mm is about best with them.

570759382_Stitchingpliers01s.JPG.7ef427346b550584bd0a1b2cc40f18f0.JPG

 

2 hours ago, MortonSupplyCo said:

 What advantage is to be gained with this method?

None, but the worker thinks he/she is doing it the 'proper' way, the 'only' way

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39 minutes ago, fredk said:

 

570759382_Stitchingpliers01s.JPG.7ef427346b550584bd0a1b2cc40f18f0.JPG

 

 

I am familiar with these pliers.  I have a set myself, and find them indispensable for working with heavy leathers for bags and satchels.  The prepunching the stitch holes on two layers of 9+oz leather is made immeasurably easier with these, especially with pieces glued in place.  

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2 hours ago, mikesc said:

..but has a walking foot machine just to punch the holes in the two parts ( which will be joined at the seams ) simultaneously ..in advance.

I have just done this to get an even run around an odd shaped piece, glued, and will stitch tomorrow.

If it works I may try it around a belt, see if its quicker.

H

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I do a lot of hand stitching. I think the reason the holes aren't pre punched is because they have a tendency of closing back up(so I've read) . I have tried using a machine to punch holes, but have noticed a difference- the stitching isn't slanted like when hand stitching. I would assume it depends on the project, but for certain things, I really like the look of saddle stitching and the precision placement I'm able to get.

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Search YouTube for 'Nigel Armitage Pouches' He has made several types of belt pouch, mostly with pre-punched holes for stitching, showing clearly the design and methods used

The results are excellent!

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I chuck an awl into a floor drill press to pre punch my holes.  Never had an issue with them closing up, even if it took days to get to the project.  And you get the awl shaped hole, which allows the thread to lay down nicer.  A drilled hole will let the stitch stand out from the leather more.  I also put a thin piece of cardboard under the leather.  That keeps the back side from getting marked up by the table on my press.  The way I make my holsters it seems the best way to deal with the issue.  

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I've been pre-punching the holes using a sewing machine since I started. It just seemed logical to me, as it gives a neat row of evenly spaced holes and ensures that the holes on the backside of the leather are also straight and not wandering! I've got some punching/stitching chisels but don't use them much. The trick is to make sure the needle in the machine isn't too big as it's the awl, when pushed through, that determines the shape and ultimate size of the hole.

In a sense I consider it the best of both worlds - a machine to give neat straight evenly spaced holes (and it's easy to get the exact spacing that you want) along with the look and strength of hand stitching. Works for me.

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On 5/31/2019 at 5:01 PM, Tugadude said:

This way the awl expands the leather enough to allow the thread to pass through easily but then it almost immediately begins to close back.  That is why pre-punching with an awl isn't as effective as punching as you go.  With an awl you also have control over the angle, which for beginners can be a struggle.

Yes.
In the A.S. hand sewing book most newbies get he writes "The smallest hole, possible, for needle clearance is most desirable."
I'm guessing this is for practical reasons to make the leather 'grip' the thread to make a real tough stitch and by experimentation I know this creates a more straight stitch line on the back while you still will get the slanted stitches on the front of the piece.
Many amateurs and some pros don't want/need a tough stitch, or don't have the patience to learn to use the awl, so they use stitching chisels that push the diamond shaped prongs all the way through the leather. This will give a nice slanted stitch on both sides which looks good on small leather goods like card holders etc. Hammering the stitch line after will close the leather well enough for it to grip the thread as well.

 

On 5/31/2019 at 5:03 PM, fredk said:

None, but the worker thinks he/she is doing it the 'proper' way, the 'only' way

There's no 'only' way, but different ways are good for different things...

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I think there needs to be some clarification.  An awl penetrates through the leather, but the actual hole it creates is smaller than the width of the awl.  When it is pressed through the leather, only the tip cuts, then the awl tapers out but it is not sharp, it doesn't cut.  It only EXPANDS the hole.  When it is removed and the thread is inserted, it then begins closing up.  Hammering afterwards also causes the hole to close even more.

If you cut the leather, the cut stays pretty much the same size as the initial cut.  Leather can shrink, but it doesn't "self-heal".  A hole can shrink in certain circumstances, but I think if you use a drill press or sewing machine to make holes they stay the same as the diameter of whatever made the hole.  An awl in a drill press is similar to an awl in hand and I have to believe that the hole will close up some if it is punched and left alone for awhile.  It is just the way it is.

Maybe it isn't noticeable because the awl is large to begin with and you have not difficulty inserting the thread.

In the end, if it works for you, keep doing what you do.  If not, try the methods suggested here and find the one that does.

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but I think if you use a drill press or sewing machine to make holes they stay the same as the diameter of whatever made the hole.


Why would that be the case ?..The tip of a leather needle cuts, as does the tip of an awl, but the rest of the leather needle is smooth, and forces the hole apart, as does the rest of an awl blade.So..logically, the holes made by both would close up the same way..

Example..if I take your phrase

When it is pressed through the leather, only the tip cuts, then the awl tapers out but it is not sharp, it doesn't cut. It only EXPANDS the hole


and substitute the word "needle" for the word "awl" like so..
"When it is pressed through the leather, only the tip cuts, then the needle tapers out but it is not sharp, it doesn't cut. It only EXPANDS the hole"

That description of the action fits precisely that of a needle, and of an awl..

If a "needle" ( machine ) did not allow the hole to close up again..then neither would using a "needle" ( in hand sewing ) after the initial piercing with an awl.

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I'm going to stop trying to be helpful around here.  

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There is a difference between quibbling and sincere interest.  Some folks like to sit back and interject when they see what they believe to be an error.  

In recent weeks I have seen posts that I feel are really opinionated and unnecessary.  

I have never poked the tiger, but rather tried to add clarity.  I suppose my attempt muddied the waters in the eyes of some.

Time to go silent for awhile and take a break.  I might come back, might not.  I might fade away as many have done here.  A lot of once great voices on this forum have run off.  Just look at some of the old threads.

To those who are active here and supportive, I say good luck and it has been fun.  

Maybe our paths will cross again!

Ray

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Woah..Ray..why take offence..all I did was say that logically piercing with a needle would be the same as piercing with an awl..because they are both only pointed at the ends, the rest of the shaft of each of them spreads the hole without cutting it..so your description of why an awl is better than a needle, doesn't make it "better", because that accurate description of what happens, also fits what happens with a needle..

You said up there "I think there needs to be some clarification."..but if you thought about it ..your "reason" fit both pre-piercing with an awl..and pre-piercing with a needle ( be it in a chuck or a machine ) ..especially as in both cases, after the pre-piercing, you then push a needle and thread through the holes that you made..

For me you just had a "doh" moment ( maybe posting tired ? ) ..like we all do..:)

I read what you wrote, thought about it..and thought "wait a minute"..the two things are doing the same to the leather...and said so..it was not "opinionated"* any more than was your " clarification", no offence was intended.

We all have our own "opinions"..but surely logic and experience count more than just "this is my opinion"..otherwise we'd be saying things like "in my opinion, you can make good solid working horse saddles from lambskin"..which wouldn't be true, nor would it be logical..and experience would prove that you can't.

What you wrote wasn't what I "believe to be an error"..it was an error( we all make them ) ..it makes no sense..and experience proves it..why take it personally..Your advice is normally spot on, that one re "holes" surprised me.. :)

Edited by mikesc

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7 hours ago, Tugadude said:

A hole can shrink in certain circumstances, but I think if you use a drill press or sewing machine to make holes they stay the same as the diameter of whatever made the hole.  An awl in a drill press is similar to an awl in hand

I read this to mean 'if you drill holes' and in that case it is totally right as the drill removes material. But then needles and awls get into the mix...

 

6 hours ago, mikesc said:

The tip of a leather needle cuts, as does the tip of an awl, but the rest of the leather needle is smooth, and forces the hole apart, as does the rest of an awl blade.So..logically, the holes made by both would close up the same way..

Yes, going back to what Stohlman said ("The smallest hole, possible, for needle clearance is most desirable.") he means NOT to push the needle or awl all the way through as it will leave too big a hole to grip the thread. If you need the strength don't shove your awl all the way, just the tip will do. And never cross awls...

 

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But Rob..sewing machines don't drill holes.the needle does not rotate, it just goes up and down, piercing , like an awl does..except that an awl does it from side to side ....and the drill press is used just to hold the awl..and press..up and down..not to drill..

No one mentioned drilling..just using the drill press or the sewing machine, to hold something to make the holes with..in one case an awl..in another a needle..both of which are only "cutting" at their points..and both where they the get wider..are smooth, so after the initial "cut" they would both only spread the leather, just like hand sewing with an awl..

An arbour / arbor press ( if you could fit an awl or a needle into it ) would do just the same..

If you have to only push the awl in enough for needle clearance..then using a needle, in a machine..would seem to be ideal..as long as the needle that you used to pierce was not waaaay larger than the needle that you were threading..and an awl gets no larger when used in a drill press than it does when used in your hand..

Pliers, stitching irons, or punches on the other hand..do go "right through"..

I agree with Fred..

Btw..Despite what many people think ..LVMH and Hermes do use a lot of sewing machines in what they make..I have seen work being done in their ateliers..some is hand sewn, but not nearly as much as they are happy for you to believe, there is tradition, and there is "woo"..I also have video recordings from broadcasts on French TV filmed inside their ateliers ..With their permission..showing them using far more machine work in assembly of their bags etc than people believe..They don't try to mislead anyone..But a lot of people read that the saddles are majority hand sewn, and some of the parts of some of the bags..and then extrapolate to, "all of it is"..Nothing could be farther from the truth..

I've thought in the past about posting those videos, but they are copyright to the French TV companies and to the LVMH and Hermes companies..so I have not..nor will I without their permission..One of them shows a member here, meeting an independent French saddle maker ( no connection with LVMH or Hermes ) ..in the USA..
I'll have to look again at the videos to get the name of the member here..

ps..At the risk of being "heretical"..Stohlman was very very good, but people have been doing leather work for centuries before him, again he was very very good, but his is not the only way..nor is his "word" on techniques, the only word on techniques..

I was reading a book earlier today that pre-dates him by nearly half a century, and covers almost all of what people tend to attribute to him..he didn't claim to be the last word, nor to have invented most techniques, but many seem to think he did both invent most of them, and to be the definitive word..

Kind of like "Sheridan", which is based very very heavily on the designs and patterns and techniques from Mexico and from Spain and from North Africa, and from Persia ( modern name Iran ) ..the influences from the Arab countries is why there are no people or animals etc in "Sheridan", because the principal religion from the countries where the "style" originated from, forbids depicting people, animals or other "animate" beings..But does not forbid depicting Plants..Which is what "Sheridan" depicts..It isn't "Western"..it is "non figurative leather decoration" based upon traditional Moorish / Persian designs and decorations..and some of theirs, came from the Greeks..either via Persia..or ..from Persia to Greece..Lot of "similar" work In some Mandalas from Asia too..

Edited by mikesc

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28 minutes ago, mikesc said:

But Rob..sewing machines don't drill holes.the needle does not rotate, it just goes up and down, piercing , like an awl does..except that an awl does it from side to side ....and the drill press is used just to hold the awl..and press..up and down..not to drill..

No one mentioned drilling..just using the drill press or the sewing machine, to hold something to make the holes with..in one case an awl..in another a needle..both of which are only "cutting" at their points..and both where they the get wider..are smooth, so after the initial "cut" they would both only spread the leather, just like hand sewing with an awl..

Gaah! I say again: I took it to mean that he mixed up drilling with a drill press, using a sewing machine, and using a drill press equipped with an awl. Maybe I was wrong about him referring to drilling.
The rest of the mechanics I'm very familiar with.
 

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cheifjason did indeed mention "drill press" and "drilling"..the latter word would indeed normally mean that he made his awl "rotate"..which would be what you were referring to..and as a "technique" would be weird, because you don't need to rotate an awl to make it make a hole..But maybe that was a "slip of his keyboard"..or maybe he does rotate the awl with the drill ?




The rest of the mechanics I'm very familiar with.




:)) Yes, we ( members ) all know the "mechanics"..But I'm also thinking of those reading / lurking ( now and / or in the future ) who are not / may not be aware of the "mechanics"..So..when posting..I tend to "spell it out"..for the "invisible audience", who come here because what to us is now ( because we have learned and gained experience ) "second nature"..may well be to them..entirely new..

Edited by mikesc

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9 hours ago, mikesc said:

cheifjason did indeed mention "drill press" and "drilling"..the latter word would indeed normally mean that he made his awl "rotate"..which would be what you were referring to..and as a "technique" would be weird, because you don't need to rotate an awl to make it make a hole..But maybe that was a "slip of his keyboard"..or maybe he does rotate the awl with the drill ?

No, I was referring to the vile practice of actually using a drill to make holes for sewing or lacing. Which removes material. 
I can't really tell if chiefjason meant that he actually rotates the awl, but thinking about it that would mean that the hole gets burnished and probably won't close much or at all, and would make the leather smooth so that the thread doesn't grip all that well.

9 hours ago, mikesc said:

:)) Yes, we ( members ) all know the "mechanics"..But I'm also thinking of those reading / lurking ( now and / or in the future ) who are not / may not be aware of the "mechanics"..So..when posting..I tend to "spell it out"..for the "invisible audience", who come here because what to us is now ( because we have learned and gained experience ) "second nature"..may well be to them..entirely new..

Ya, I do too..OK.

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For what it is worth I have decided after a couple of days reflection to at least back away from the forum for awhile.  Might be back, might not, we'll see.  Right now the "fire" is gone.  I guess as a "going away" post I want to clarify what I said above.  I stand by everything I said and feel that it was pretty accurate.  One, small thing that I said could be interpreted as being in error, but in actuality may not be is using a sewing machine to make holes.  I've never punched a sewing needle through leather and then sat and watched to see if the hole closes up, perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't.  Maybe the size of needle in relation to thread also makes a difference.  Guess we'll have to do a double-blind study with all of the variables accounted for.  Volunteers line up to the right.

What I do know is that if you use a drill press with a drill bit and turn it on it is going to make a hole and that hole won't close up.  That was the main point of my post, trying to establish the superiority of an awl when making holes versus a drill bit that is not tapered.  This point was lost on some.  I could have been clearer.  I meant HOLES, like the huge ones on some pre-punched projects sold in stores.  That sort of hole.  Sorry I wasn't clear.

An awl used in a drill press that is not turned on, simply used to move it up and down is somewhat equal to using the awl stitch-by-stitch.  The difference is that when you do them all in advance, they begin closing as soon as you punch (assuming you remove the awl!), so in effect they will shrink somewhat by the time you get the work into the pony.  Easy enough to go through them with the awl again if that presents problems.  The hole is already there, just expand it.

Regarding making sure information is accurate, I have spaced this post out to make it easier to cut-and-paste and correct.  

We don't want misinformation polluting all of the future information seekers.  I mean, the internet is all full or truth and accuracy, right?

Take care all.  I've learned a lot from this forum.  I wish for nothing but success in its future!

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7 hours ago, Tugadude said:

What I do know is that if you use a drill press with a drill bit and turn it on it is going to make a hole and that hole won't close up.  That was the main point of my post, trying to establish the superiority of an awl when making holes versus a drill bit that is not tapered.  This point was lost on some.  I could have been clearer.  I meant HOLES, like the huge ones on some pre-punched projects sold in stores.  That sort of hole.  Sorry I wasn't clear.

Yes, I got it! The first time, as well. Do I get a prize? Also, you are correct.
Too bad you're leaving, but I understand, hope to see you in a while.

As a parting gift I give you the root of the issue:

7 hours ago, Tugadude said:

Regarding making sure information is accurate, I have spaced this post out to make it easier to cut-and-paste and correct.  

We don't want future information seekers.  I mean, the internet is all full, right?

.

.

.

sorry...

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On 6/4/2019 at 6:13 AM, mikesc said:



An arbour / arbor press ( if you could fit an awl or a needle into it ) would do just the same..
 

Actually, Mike, I've done just that.:) I couldn't push the awl through when I made a holster with a thickish welt, and none of my machines are capable of handling more than 1/2" so I made an adapter to fit a spare awl bit into a rivet press. It will go through 7/8", the maximum that I can fit under it (for now). That will let me pre-punch the holes and then when I put it in the pony run my awl through it and then the needles.

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Well, just to throw a spanner in the works. I dont use the ' traditional ' diamond  awl, I use sewing machine needles in sewing  awl hafts. Have done for the past 15 years  :) 

This works just fiiiine for me, and may never work for anyone else .., it may not be ' traditional' ...but it works . 

Here are my awls. The one on the far left is the one I use all the time ,at the end on the haft, theres a tiny hole that I use to help push the needle through.  However, depending on the job, and needs a heavier thread, I use the one in the middle or the one on the * right. ( *its actually a needle from ' Brutus' , my saddle machine ) .    The sewing  needles I use are ' John James Egg Eyed  Harness needles  # 1, or # 1/0 . 

The bit of wood on the far right, is a piece of soft ' MDF', so I have something to push against, mainly because my hands do have the usual aches & pains ( and maybe a bit of arthritis)   and the wood helps, and doesn't damage the needles.  I do sometimes pre-punch the holes , and sometimes do one hole at at time, however, I cant always hold  both the needle & the haft in the same hand, my hands aren't big enough . 

I have used a pricking iron on occasion,  and even used my saddle machine to make holes as well because my hands are so sore.  . My preferences vary from one job to the next.  . 

The bag is just one example of the end result , using the awl on the left, and  a pair of JJ 1/0 needles. 

Each to his or her own. Everyone here is different .  Just do what works for you.  Thats my 2 cents worth . 

HS  :)

My Sewing Awls 004.jpg

Bag-Lawson 3 001.jpg

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