Introduction: '3rd Hand' Leather Stitching Clamp

Picture of '3rd Hand' Leather Stitching Clamp

When I teach leathercraft, I tend to focus heavily on stitching. You can have the most perfectly formed and cut piece, with amazing tooling, but if your stitches are crooked or uneven, you simply aren't doing justice to your own work. When you're freehand stitching a project, it can be a bit unwieldy to hold your pieces together, as you work with your awl, especially if you're like me and don't like to use glue. The '3rd hand' is a great addition to any leathercrafter's toolbox as it frees up your hands so that you can concentrate on making your stitches as perfect as possible. Best of all, I've designed it to be easily dismantled so that it'll fit in your leather working case, or be stored in a drawer for later use.

This is an old, traditional design that's been around since leathercraft first became leathercraft, so I didn't create it. This is simply my own design, based on my dissatisfaction with store bought versions, (which can be very expensive as well), and the design changes I wanted to see in them.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies


  • Saw - circular, hand, table
  • Drill with bits
  • belt sander - though much of the belt sanding can be done by hand if you don't own one. It just takes a bit longer
  • combination square


  • 1"x3"x40" wooden board - pine, cedar, oak all work
  • 2"x3"x2" block of wood - or you can cut two 2" pieces of the 1"x3" and glue them together
  • sandpaper- 100, 150 grit
  • wood glue
  • 4" 1/4" carriage bolt with wing nut and washer
  • 5" 1/4" carriage bolt with wing nut and washer
  • piano hinge - I choose piano hinge because of it's thin profile, but if you want to use a regular hinge that would work fine. You will only need 3" worth.
  • 1/4" tapered hinge screws
  • 1" tapered hinge screws

Step 2: Cutting and Sanding

Picture of Cutting and Sanding

First you need to cut two 2" pieces off of the 1"x3" board. These will go at the clamping end of the third hand. Next cut a 16" piece, from the same board for the base. The 2"x3"x2" block is for the hinge end of the 3rd hand. If you don't have a suitable piece, you can simply cut two more 2" pieces from the 1"x3" board and glue them together.

Finally, saw your 1"x3" vertically to get two .5"x3" boards. Because of the thickness of your saw, they won't be exactly .5", but that's not important for our needs. Cut one of the boards to 16". This is the static arm of the clamp. Cut the other, just shorter, to 15.75" for the hinged, adjustable arm.

Step 3: Sanding, and Creating the Bevel Edge of the Clamp

Picture of Sanding, and Creating the Bevel Edge of the Clamp

For the bevel edge of the clamping end, of the '3rd hand', I performed most of the work on my bench sander, however you can do this by hand. Reduce one edge of your 2"x3"x2" pieces till you end up with a 20 degree bevel and make sure you round the corners. Leave the back side square for attaching to the clamp arm, but sand down all other square edges around the bevel so that they're nice and rounded.

Sand all of your pieces with 100 grit sandpaper. You don't have to be perfect as we'll sand again later. Just smooth out any rough spots.

Step 4: Drilling

Picture of Drilling

Take the 1"x3"x16" piece you created for your base and mark the exact center of the board using your combination square. Drill a hole just large enough for your carriage bolt to pass through, taking care not to fray the wood. A great way of stopping this is to put a piece of tape over where you intend on drilling, and a scrap piece of wood under to drill into. That should leave you with nice clean holes. You're going to need to drill a hole through your 2"x3"x2" block so that it can be attached to the base.

Next, drill two more holes in your clamp arms in the center of the board, roughly 6" from the base. Make the hole on the static arm just large enough for the carriage bolt to pass through, and the one on the hinged arm slightly larger. This board will need to be able to move, so we want to ensure the bolt will slide through it easily.

Finally drill two small holes on your hinged arm for the hinge itself, and two in the lower edge of the 2"x3"x2" block. The hinge will be sandwiched between the block and the arm to allow it to actuate smoothly.

Step 5: Gluing and Screwing

Picture of Gluing and Screwing

Now you need to start gluing. Attach the block and one of the beveled pieces to the static arm as you see in the first pic, and attach the other beveled piece to the top of the hinged arm. Again, if you used two pieces to make up the block, it should be fine. Just make sure you let the glue set well before moving on.

When the glue has dried, assemble the hinge on your clamp, just as you see, in the third pic. Leave your screws loose, and align you clamp before tightening them down permanently.

*note*, when attaching the block to the static arm, you don't need any metal fasteners as the force exerted on it pulls it together rather than apart, so there's no need for screws or nails. The glue will hold just fine.

Step 6: Final Assembly and Sanding

Picture of Final Assembly and Sanding

Once your glue has dried, and your clamp is assembled, you can install your carriage bolts. Tap the 4" bolt up through the base and 'set' it into place. Next tap the 5" bolt through the static arm, of the clamp and 'set' it into place as well, making sure it passes smoothly through the clamp arm. Put a washer over the bolt and then a wing nut. Mount the clamp onto the base by passing the 4" bolt through the block, then put a washer with the wing nut on top and tighten it down.

Now sand everything down with 150 grit sandpaper to remove any burrs that may have been left behind from construction.

*note* I've seen clamps with leather patches covering the clamping blocks, but, in this design they are completely unnecessary. We've sanded and rounded all the edges so there's no risk of it denting your tooling leather, and the raw wood provides enough friction so that your piece won't shift when clamped.

Step 7: Finished

Picture of Finished

You're done and your '3rd hand' leathercraft clamp is complete and ready for use. I wouldn't recommend putting any oils or finishes on the wood as this can transfer to your leather, so just keep it raw and simple. Now have fun sewing those projects up knowing you have better control over your stitches.

I hope you enjoyed the instructable and thanks for following.


pieterg made it! (author)2017-08-29

thanks foto the inspiration!

The Tinkerers Apprentice made it! (author)2017-07-23

Thanks for this great instructable!

Missourian made it! (author)2017-06-17

Great instructable...easy to follow and extremely useful...thanks for posting.

ragnork made it! (author)2017-03-03

Thank you for putting this together. it works great. I opted for a narrower tip to give a little more clearance for stitching.

Damneara Farm (author)2016-07-04

Thank you for posting this! I'm starting back up my hobby, and this is a great addition to my shop.

Brokedaddy (author)2016-04-25

Many Thanks I was looking for a simple quick plan and you provided it. Thanks once again

SimonS16 (author)2016-03-20

had a go at making it, ended up similar but not quite as polished and smooth due to lack of bits and bobs

antagonizer (author)SimonS162016-03-20

As someone once said to me, "It doesn't have to be pretty it just has to work". Fact is tho, it looks great. Good job.

vladivastok (author)2016-02-08


Lanvi made it! (author)2015-12-20

I'm sorry if the images came in twice, I don't know what happened.

But yeah! I didn't exactly use your instructible to make this, because I just found this. I wish I had found this earlier though, because being able to take it apart would really save me some space :'D I can still open it wide by taking the rod out to flatten it, but it becomes quite long that way. Maybe I'll modify this a bit... So thanks for the improvement idea!

I made this out of birch and stainless steel threaded rod, with washers and winged nuts. Hinges are brass plated steel. I coated it with parafin oil.

antagonizer (author)Lanvi2015-12-20

That's great work. The expanding hinge design it fantastic because it lets you clamp thicker pieces than traditional stitching clamps.

gamnoparts made it! (author)2014-07-16

Nice job. Just finished one up myself.

dougsbeard (author)gamnoparts2015-09-17

holy cow! i love your design on this. did you use a 4x4 and cut the curves with a ban saw? im very tempted to make this.

gamnoparts (author)dougsbeard2015-09-18

Thank you. I don't remember the actual size, but it was smaller than 4x4, if you notice @ the bottom there is a thin piece of wood that separates the 2 sides. It blends in nicely, but it's actually 3 different pieces. If you had a 4x4, it would work. But yeah, bandsaw & a drum sander. Good luck.

antagonizer (author)gamnoparts2014-07-16

Very nice. Great idea on the handle.

may.nill.3 (author)2015-08-29


curtmandu (author)2015-06-19

I've thought about using a bicycle axle with quick release and tightener for the bolt of the pony. I'm going to try it and see how it goes. Can always fall back on standard design and bolt with wingnut of course.

eugenekaub (author)curtmandu2015-06-22

Anything that protrudes from the sides can and will catch your thread, especially when you have longer lengths, the smaller the tightening device the less chance you have for tangles

curtmandu (author)eugenekaub2015-06-24

Thanks for the tip. I'm completely new to leatherwork and definitely wouldn't have thought of the excess thread and tangling possibilities. I might still give it a try and shorten the bolt length so it's barely hanging out the other side. Then when the quick release is clamped down or should hopefully sit somewhat close to the vertical board.

eugenekaub (author)curtmandu2015-06-24

This is a nice pony if you want an alternate tightening method check out my pony. It's not as nice as this one but I use flush mounting hardware

sarahacha (author)2015-05-01

I'm just getting started in leatherworking and came across this tutorial. My dad and I just finished making it (well, mostly my dad). It turned out great and I can't wait to use it tomorrow. Thanks for the instructions!

antagonizer (author)sarahacha2015-05-01

It'll really take the 'frustration' factor out of hand stitching and go a long way to making your lines nice and straight. Have fun with it.

crazypj (author)2014-11-18

I'm not a leatherworker but that looks handy enough to be used for various other projects. Will be making somethig similar soon

bigfoot03242 (author)2014-07-19

I'm making a pair of mocs and will follow the design with modifications (key hole in one side to allow for quick release of work) I've had a few in my life for leatherworking and sail making.

incensedpanther (author)2014-07-18

I started on a mission 18 years ago to undercut the knuckle heads in the Society for Creative Anachronism that were making Armor. Don't get me wrong there great people but their pricing is a lot skewed from ego. I haven't written an instruction one on here yet, but I that's going to happen very soon.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


aka - incensedpanther

gumby_kevbo (author)2014-07-13

Good onya! Decent saddle stitching tends to get lost in the artsy world of leather craft. It is the key to making functional items rather than just decorative novelties.

I have made several holsters, and leather cases for radio equipment, none of it tooled at all.

I have heard these called a stitching pony. The larger version built into the end of a bench would be a stitching horse. Al Stohlman gave plans in his leather stitching book. One feature his design has is a quick adjustment.

I wonder if you could adapt a bicycle quick release wheel skewer or MTB seatpost clamp so as to provide a quick release and réclame once set for the thickness you are sewing.

May you have few pierced threads!

gamnoparts (author)gumby_kevbo2014-07-16

LOVE the idea of a quick release clamp. I know mine can be rather cumbersome at times.

antagonizer (author)gumby_kevbo2014-07-15

Absolutely, a quick release would be a fantastic mod and would be a simple bolt on without much alteration of the design. Great idea.

Jack Moran (author)2014-07-13

I love how it sits on the chair really simply. Got to make one of these!

incensedpanther (author)2014-07-11

great stuff. I had one of these that I paid a fortune for at Tandy Leather. Had to leave behind after a messy divorce

That's part of the reason for this instructable, in fact most of my instructables. You could say I'm on a mission to undercut these big companies that overcharge for inexpensive gear like this, and make it more available to the average person by helping them create it for themselves.

utahmarinedad (author)2014-07-11

Hey, I like that!!! When I first made mine, it was called a "Stitching Buck"! We used it for stitching Vertical Caving Gear with nylon webbing. That tool works perfect! Thanks for sharing!!!

It's got a lot of applications. I used it today to repair the strap on my bush pack. I've heard it called a 3rd hand, stitching pony, stitching clamp, and now stitching buck. lol.

neo71665 (author)2014-07-11

I built mine like this without the break down feature out of an old oak pallet. Only cost was fasteners and my time.

antagonizer (author)neo716652014-07-11

Ironically I built this out of old pallet wood as well. I had a trailer load dropped off over 3 months ago and I'm still concocting projects to make out of the extra lumber.

rimar2000 (author)2014-07-11

Clever idea.

craftclarity (author)2014-07-11

Looks you might also be able to easily adapt this design to use as a shoe last, with a bit of modification. Nice!!

Nice, I can see this being extremely useful for a variety of situations!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm the kind of person who's mind doesn't stop. Literally, I take medication to fix that just so I can sleep at ... More »
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