Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How To Make Good Sewing Needles

4.sewing needles

     One of the hardest things to find today is a good, commerically available sewing needle to sew your leather.   Most leathersmiths today use a straight steel needle with nylon thread to fasten our edges, once the pronged punches have made nice neat holes along the edge of  the leathers.  I had always been plagued by lightweight steel needles which I bought asw leather sewing needles, but never lasted long and were quite expensive.  Once, I got ahold of a package of british leather sewing needles and they were well made and quite hardy in their make up.  I bought 25 of them and was very sorry to see tyhe last one break, because they were the best Ihad ever had, even though they were quite expensive.  The leather shop where I bought them had closed in the mean time, like so many others, and I was on the outside looking in, again, until I took the reins into my own hands and developed the technique which follows.  Now I am never short of needles, and I make them mytself out of very sturdy material.  The more I use them the easier they become to use as they wear into a nice polished surface.

     A friend of mine sold me a bunch of junk bicycles and I bought them because of the titanium and other special alloy stock which comprises them.  One of the things I salvaged were spokes from the broken wheels: I literally acquired thousands of these spokes even though I did not really know what I was going to do with them in the beginning.  Well.  Those spokes have come in handy for many things, and one of them is making my own leather sewing needles.  They are nearly perfect for the job, and can be cut to any length I require, though I generally make my needles about three (3) inches long, and of a  standard type. 

     The only hard part of the project is drilling the holes after one end has been squashed flat on the anvil with a small hammer.  This is called planishing, and the end should be squashed just wide enough to accomodate a small diameter hole which has to be carefull drilled into it.  The pictures will give you a good idea of what the finished spoke needles look like.  The spokes are very cheap and mistakes are ok because it won't take long for you to get the hang of it.  Once you do get your technique down you can do a lifetimes supply of needles in one day, and you can even trade these items to other crafts people.  I sharpen my needle ends to a rounded point because it does not have to pierce anything, it just has to pass through the holes punched with my pronged hole punches.  I get about 3 or 4 needles per spoke, and store them in an airtight container, though I have had no problems with rust because the alloy used for spokes on bicycles is some high grade metal.  High.  Grade.

      If you were to hgave to buy that metal stock new, it would cost a lot more than if you bought a junked bicycle wheel and clipped the spokes out of it with a pair of cutting pliers.  The small drill bits to make holes in the planished ends of the needles are sometimes hard to acquire, but some hardware stores still carry them.  Otherwise seartch online at ebay or Indian Jewelers Supply.   I use a small foredom handpiece to drill my needles because my electric drill was just too big to get any consistency.  Dremel and Ryobi make small hand held units, and used dental equipment also comes in flex shaft/chuck configurations.  Finally, once again, Harbor Freight has flex shaft chucks you can actually put on your drill and use that way with small bits, and they are a worthy investment for this kind of tool making.

     I have not yet found a way to create flat lacing needles that are superior to the store bought type.  The lacing needles available at the leather supply stores are of fairly high quality, and are mass produced by machines which punch the steel so that the needle incorporates  a hole with two barbs protruding through it.   Then this small siver of steel is center folded along its length into a double layer of metal which is separated only at the end to correspond with the hole and its barbs.  This is hard to duplicate by hand processes, and would cost more to produce at home than they can be purchased for.  This type of needle is used for flat leather lacing like calf skin or goat or kangaroo lace, which are used for decorative finishes around the edges of leather projects such as wallets.

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