View Full Version : Question for the leather workers

Saddle Tramp
08-31-2011, 09:55 AM
I'm wondering what you all use for punching holes for sewing. Right now I'm using just a round awl and it works ok, but not great. The holes are barely big enough to get the needles through. I usually have to use pliers, which gets old. I know Stohlman advocates the diamond awl, but I'm not sold on it. I tried using my round awl in my dremel and it just melted leather and adhesive to the awl blade. I'd like to use a small drill bit like I see some folks using, but I can't fiind one small enough.

Anyways.... What do YOU use? Thanks!

08-31-2011, 10:09 AM
I use a diamond bladed awl. You're still going to have to push the needles through. I use a combination of sewing palm and small smooth jawed pliers. I wouldn't want holes too large because the stitching would not look as neat.

08-31-2011, 10:10 AM
What has worked best for me so far is an old stitching awl that I tap through with a hammer. I do 5 holes at a time, saddle stitch them, then the next 5 holes. Seems to work best of rme at my skill lever. Yes, pliers were required for some of them, LOL.

Gratuitous sheath pic.


08-31-2011, 10:12 AM
I just use an awl and yes I end up grabbing the needle with a needle nose pliers. You could try punching through a second time with a bigger awl. As for small drill bits, the local hardware store sells them. An online source like this place. http://drillcity.stores.yahoo.net/index.html

08-31-2011, 10:13 AM
Welcome to the forum Saddle Tramp. I build holsters and I use the diamond awl quite a bit. Properly sharpened it actually "cuts" through the leather. I works quite well for doing a large amount of stitching as it requires less force to use than the round awl. Tandy leather sells a stich hole punch that works quite well. Use it with a stitch marking rowl (this tool looks like a little spur). Mark your stitch holes first and then come back through w/ the hole punch. This method works good too. Another tool that works good is the lacing punch. It looks like a small fork. You can get these to punch up to 5 holes ata time depending on the size you have. Hope this helps a little.....Tink

08-31-2011, 10:33 AM
I use a drill press.

08-31-2011, 10:58 AM
I like the idea of using a drill press too. Just make sure you use the smallest bit you can find.

08-31-2011, 11:11 AM
I use a very very cheap awl point, from my local craft shop. I punch through with a hammer into something that will absorbent enough not to go through into the table. Often a few layers of towel will do me.
If I do need to I have larger tree point awls I will push through the smaller holes to widen but I would tend to use pliers too.
However in my stitching which I am not that good at I use two sized needles, one larger which goes through first then the second slightly smaller.

badger claw
08-31-2011, 11:17 AM
i use a 00 size leather punch. here is a link to it. they also make a 4 in 1 punch. if you punch from the inside your hole will be much smaller on the visible side. Measure twice...punch once :)


08-31-2011, 11:19 AM
I use a 4 prong punch


Desert Drifter
08-31-2011, 11:35 AM
I use a W. Schollhorn punch. It has an adjustable spacing prong for even spacing between holes.




08-31-2011, 11:43 AM
Try this to scribe a clean line near the edge (it's adjustable):


Then this to punch evenly spaced stitching holes (go to the pull down options, choose one of the 4 prong tools):


I think that these two simple tools produce a professional looking stitch line, without having to buy a machine.

Good luck!

08-31-2011, 01:37 PM
Drill, I need a drill press or a dremel press.

08-31-2011, 01:39 PM
Drill press for straight though work and a foredom for corners like case edges or when I need to go at an angle.

08-31-2011, 02:02 PM
I use a four-prong diamond faced punch for most everything in sewing, I have a few awls too. One is a common ice pick, another came out of a Stanley tool package, and the last I made myself with a piece of wood and a nail. I can just push the awl with the palm of my hand and it goes through easily(of course using a rubber pad under the project).

As for pulling the needles? I just use my hands or a pair of pliers, I don't have that much trouble there, it just feels natural after doing it for awhile. If you have more questions, I'll be glad to help. Below is a link to the punch I spoke of.


08-31-2011, 02:11 PM
For single layer pieces I just use an awl. If everything is glued up, I will use a drill (hand or press depending on the project) with a 1/16" bit.

Saddle Tramp
08-31-2011, 03:01 PM
Thanks for all the replies folks. I think I'm going to give the diamond awl a try. My stitching looks good with the round awl, but it was a lot of work sewing the entire edge of a wallet having to double punch each hole with the awl and then pull both needles through with pliers. I thought there may be a better way. If the diamond awl doesn't work, I may try that four prong punch.

08-31-2011, 03:06 PM
I use a drill press. You can also use a Dremel tool with a drill bit. It's just a little more work to make sure that you're drilling straight.

09-03-2011, 09:52 PM
Pain is gain, and it produces better results as far as stitching goes...

I use a variety of awls but usually prefer my smaller diameter round one...makes smaller holes, so yeah, you need pliers for the second needle...but...makes the stitchline much cleaner. Oh and I always punch all my holes all at once, not in parts...don't see it makes a whole lot of difference...I use a piece of cheap 2x4 to punch holes and slots with...hth.

09-03-2011, 09:53 PM
Wait...are you referring to stitching or lacing? There's a big difference...


09-03-2011, 11:52 PM
i have use a small drill press and very small number drills, and they have turned out great....

John, the baptist
09-07-2011, 11:17 PM
I used to use a drill press with a small finishing nail that I clipped the head off. But one day it died and I had to pick up the diamond awl (small blade). Well, the drill press is fixed, but I don't use it for leather anymore. The awl is faster and more satisfying. I use pliers as well. It is what it is...

09-08-2011, 03:35 PM
Osborne 700 steel punch( 5 to the inch)

09-08-2011, 04:04 PM
I like the diamond awl but if there are several layers it can be pretty tough.

09-08-2011, 04:15 PM
If I'm working with thicker leather, I use a hammer and nail for preparing holes for stitching. If its thinner, more pliable leather I'll just push through with my awl with the waxed string (or whatever your stitching with). For lacing I use a leather punch hand tool.

09-08-2011, 04:47 PM
I started using a dremel tool drill press to make stitching holes and since then I've never looked back. The right size drill bit makes holes big enough to pull the needle through by hand on the first pass, but still smaller and neater looking than even the smallest punch. The problem with punches is they are tapered.

So by the time you go through 3 layers of 9oz. leather the hole at the top layer is a lot bigger than the hole at the bottom.

I've tried thonging chisels and lacing nippers but those only pierce the leather, they do not remove any for clearance so it's still very tough to stitch.

I might be tempted to try a stitching awl (after drilling the holes first) again, but I never liked how you have to be so careful about thread tension to keep the knot inside the seam. It's so easy to accidentally pull the knot to one side or the other and have it set on the surface of the leather with a stitching awl.

09-08-2011, 06:00 PM
I mark the leather with a 4 prong, then drill with a 1/32" drill bit. The 3 layers of leather are too thick at the welt for the punch. If I try to use the punch only , it deforms the leather too much. I use thick thread also.
This was my first sheath I made , last winter.

09-08-2011, 08:18 PM
I've used differing methods. I started out using an awl but that took too long and the holes never seemed uniform enough. I then started using an awl in the drill press. Works very well except on thicker pieces in layers, the awl tended to deviate. Now days I use a punch after marking the holes with an over-stitch wheel.

09-08-2011, 10:05 PM
I use a blade type awl. I get my leather real wet also, makes it much easier. I kind of wet fit the sheath as I am sewing. Wrap the knife in plastic if it is carbon.

09-08-2011, 10:06 PM
I mark the leather with a 4 prong, then drill with a 1/32" drill bit. The 3 layers of leather are too thick at the welt for the punch. If I try to use the punch only , it deforms the leather too much. I use thick thread also.
This was my first sheath I made , last winter.

Your first sheath looks better than my 90th. Good work.

09-09-2011, 12:14 AM
Thanks for the compliment . Luckily , I haven't fudged one up yet !

09-09-2011, 05:14 PM
I use a diamond awl...the trick for me was using a spacing wheel. It lays out the spacing for the spots you need to punch through. Best results, in my opinion, are achieved if a shallow groove is cut in the leather where the stitching will be. It protects the thread too. I think the biggest help when hand sewing leather is to use a stitching pony. I have one that I bought on ebay a few years ago. Its very handy. I will try and get some pictures up this weekend so you can get an idea of what I am talking about.

I have made holsters,belts,knife sheaths, roping cuffs and lots of other stuff. I used to participate in Cowboy Action Shooting and I made all of my gear.

Use good waxed thread too...and blunt leather sewing needles, the wax ring for a toilet bowl, new of course, makes very good needle lube.