I finally found a little time to finalize the basic head-cover for the old Plumb hatchet, from the design I spoke about a couple of days ago (if you haven’t already, you can check it out here).
After amassing some leather stitching tools (while I got beginner versions of most items, I still got a couple of tools that someone that will only do this one time, could likely leave out of their purchase), I was really chomping at the bit to get on with completing the head-cover. As many likely know, I was also “on hold” as I needed to complete my Stitching Pony before I could really do any real stitching. With the Pony 95% complete (check the build out here, and the tools in my possession, I was only lacking some contact cement or rubber cement. This morning I picked up some of both, to see which worked better with leather stitching, but at the last moment I decided to try the first piece without either (I’d have to think our ancestors had to have done without any adhesives at one point or another).
I’d already used my Glen-Drake Tite-Mark around the edge of my leather blanks, to mark the sections where I planned to stitch and making a light scoring cut. This was before I picked up the stitching tools, which included the grooving tool that will certainly be my go-to on future leather projects. For this first one, the Tite-Mark worked just fine and the light cut provided a nice guide to follow when I created my stitching holes.
I used my Thonging tool (before working with this tool on my bench, I placed a piece of softwood down on top of the bench, and it was ONLY here that I used the Thonging tool on the leather) to create the stitching holes, and the first side of the head-cover went as close to flawlessly as I could imagine, while I used the three-chisel head and followed an overlapping pattern as I advanced. The only slight issue was when I came to the corner. I’d already planned in advance, to use the single-chisel head in the Thonging tool for the hole where it changes direction, so kept that in mind as I was getting closer to the corner with the wider head. There is obviously no way to overlap with the single-chisel, so the actual placement of the chisel, for that one hole was eye-balled to try and keep a consistent distance between holes.
Now it was time to create the stitching holes on the second side of the head-cover. After aligning the edges of the two side pieces as best as I could, with the side with the holes I just created facing up, I decided to try using the single-chisel head to go hole by hole, placed into a hole I previously created and drive it part way through the second side. The single-chisel head was easier to withdraw from the leather, so it made sense to use it while following my “pattern”. There were a few “almost” issues, actually more like true issues, when I decided to check progress before making it to the end of the piece. Even though I was holding both pieces down firmly, the two were sliding ever so slightly, likely when I struck the Thonging tool. So I went back and re-aligned, and used the three-chisel head to follow the holes on the first side. This was still with the first side on top of the second side. For some reason this retained the nice hole alignment better, and I started striking it so it completely pierced the second side. When I had retraced all of my holes, I took just the second side and flipped it over so the smooth side was up. I made one more pass with the three-chisel head, as the holes created while the two pieces were together were less obvious, and driving the chisel head through from the outside surface made it easier to see the holes for the stitching process.
To prepare for stitching, I again aligned the two sides, but this time I could use the holes rather than the edges as I did before, shifting the pieces slightly until I could sight through the holes of both pieces and see my light source. With the two sides in the proper orientation, I held them tightly while I slipped the two-piece unit into the jaws of my stitching pony, and tightened the wing-nut. I placed the pony/leather unit into the face vise on my bench, and applied enough pressure until it was secure.
I wasn’t exactly sure how much of the waxed thread I’d need to stitch this small project, but I was sure I didn’t want to run out part way through, so I decided to start with a piece approximately a yard long (36″). I based this on the distance from one end hole to the other, doubled that, and then added some extra as a cushion. I fed each end of the thread into a separate stitching needle, and following the guidance from associates at Tandy, twisted the loose end of the thread around the main part. At first this actually seemed to do a decent job of securing the thread, but after a few holes, I was working hard to prevent the thread from slipping out of the needles (which it actually did a handful of times, during the stitching). With this small project, I decided to just deal with it and finish, rather than spending extra time messing around to find a better way to lock the thread to the needles.
I like the look of leather pieces that were stitched using what is called a saddle stitch, so I decided I’d use that technique on this head-cover. Initially you feed one needle through the first hole (I could choose either end hole on this project) and pulling the thread lightly until there was an equal length on both sides of the leather. On the first actual stitch, the left needle is fed through the next hole and pulled so there is no slack in that side’s thread, and then the right needle is fed through the same hole as the left, from the opposite side. After taking up any slack from the right needle’s thread, you pull both threads from the needle end until taught. Each time the left needle is fed through the leather and all the slack is removed, I held that needle/thread with tension, back towards the previous hole in the leather, before taking the right needle so it passed the left’s taught thread and fed into the same hole as the left just went through. By using the same repeating technique, it creates what is a knot of sorts, which helps prevent unravelling, even if one section of thread is accidentally cut or damaged in the future.
When my stitching reached the corner of the piece, I loosened the nut on the stitching pony, repositioning the leather for stitching the other edge and retightened the nut. After repositioning the leather, I again pulled the two loose ends of the thread, to make sure no slack crept in while moving my piece. When I reached the last of the stitching holes, I worked my way back the opposite direction through the same holes, until I had re-stitched three holes. This helps lock the stitching so it should never come undone, by itself. I cut both loose threads so there was about 1/8″ of thread sticking out from the leather, on both sides of the last hole stitched, and with a small butane lighter, heated each end until they melted slightly and shrunk back to the leather surfaces. This only require a few moments of flame on each end, and by keeping the flame so it just reached the thread, the leather did not get scorched.
After removing the head-cover from my stitching pony, I was rather amazed how nice the stitching actually looked. I know, I’ll probably break my own arm, patting myself on the back. Haha. But seriously, I had fairly low expectations on this first try at hand stitching, so it was great to have such nice results.
I planned to use some rivets to provide some extra support at the corners, and I think I may give that a try in the next couple of days, if time allows. I also included a strap on my original design drawing, but I reassessed the direction of force it would apply, and have redrawn a couple of designs that I believe should work better. While I can still attach a strap at this point, in the future I think it would be wiser to attach the strap to the rear piece of the head-cover, before stitching the main pieces together. These are details that you learn, as you go through any work process, but something I’m glad to share as well.
Thank you, as always, for stopping by and checking out this article. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments, and I’ll answer as quickly as possible.