Make custom made to fit thimbles, out of Epoxy Putty or Polymer Clay (for sewing) cheap, quick, and easy!
Here's a repeated problem that I've had over the years. I'll be sewing, stitching, or mending something *manly*. Things where the material is thick and hard to sew. Things like tents, backpacks, luggage, leather, thick denim, upholstery, or 1000+ denier nylon. You get the idea. *Manly* stuff. Usually instead of thread I'm using 60lb test spectra braided fishing line. So the needle I'm using usually isn't your standard wimpy sewing needle. I'm using a *manly* upholstery needle.
But here's the problem. I can get the needle into the material but I need a little extra help poking it all the way through. Typically I'll resort to using my multi-tool pliers to man-handle the needle through the material. This makes for a very slow process. Constantly dropping the tool to pull the thread through, then picking it back up again to poke the needle back through.
Ideally I'd like to have a thimble. But I've got big old MAN hands. I'm over 6 foot tall and 200lbs. I've got big hands. I've searched for years in the craft stores and fabric stores for a *MAN* sized thimble, and never found one. The usual thimbles I've found don't even fit on my pinkie finger. Now recently I've found that there are some flexible thimbles out there that can stretch to fit fingers of different sizes. However, I just don't think they would be able to hold up to the types of projects I want to use them for.
I need a MANLY, Man Sized, MAN thimble! For MAN projects. So since I can't find anything out there, I started thinking, "how could I make a rough and tumble Manly Man thimble?".
Making one out of metal sounded difficult and time consuming at best. I saw an instructable here on how to make a man thimble out of duct tape and a dime. A good start I'm thinking, and a brilliant idea. Personally, I love any projects that I can use duct tape for. But I wanted a solution that would be a little more robust.
So my next thought is ceramics. I've seen many thimbles made out of ceramics, but they are always too small for my fingers. So with polymer clay I could make my own man thimble. Polymer clay is available at any craft store or W*lmart. There's some advantages to this approach. You basically have infinite molding time with it. If you make a mistake you can ball it all up and start over. You don't need a kiln to fire it, because it cures at approximately 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celcius) in a toaster oven. Most people use a separate toaster oven just for polymer clay and not for food. I've got one and have done a few polymer clay projects.
Now I should mention that sometimes I don't use a toaster oven for baking my polymer clay. I simply put my project on a glazed white tile that I got at the home improvement store for under $1. I then cover the tile with aluminum foil, then place the whole thing directly on the electric burner of my electric stove. I set it to the lowest setting I can, then set the timer for 15 minutes. After that I remove the whole thing and let it cool for an hour.
The problem with polymer clay is that I've found it to be rather brittle and falls apart with a little bit of man-handling, that may be a result of over-baking. I may revisit this idea, because maybe if I coat it in a couple of polyurethane it might hold up. I'm going to try that technique too.
UPDATE: I've made a thimble out of polymer clay and it worked just fine. You have to make it a little thicker than with epoxy putty, but it works! I didn't even need to coat it with anything (polyurethane). My previous attempts with polymer clay produced items that were brittle, but I think now that that was probably due to over baking and uneven heating.
Then another thought hit me. I've been using plumbers epoxy putty for fabricating missing pieces lately. My wife's fishing pole had a broken piece on it and I used epoxy putty to fill in the missing pieces. It was the part that holds the reel to the rod. I'd never used epoxy putty before and I was surprised at how *AWESOME* the stuff is. It worked perfectly and is almost as strong as metal. So I then used it to fabricate a missing hinge part which holds an axle for a clasp on my tackle box. And it's held strong. Color me impressed.
Epoxy putty is damn manly stuff. It's instantly gone to the top of my favorite manly materials list. Some kinds of epoxy putty actually have metallic powder in them, so they are partly metallic. If you've never used or seen the stuff before, I *HIGHLY* recommend you get a stick of it. It's simply awesome stuff! It's available in the hardware section of just about any store. I've found it at HomeDepot, Lowes, Ace, W*lmart, and even hobby stores.
A note about epoxy putty, for those of you that are unfamiliar with it. It's a two part putty. It comes in a cylindrical stick form. Usually in 2oz or 4oz sizes. Basically there is a core of one material which is one color, with a second material wrapped around it which is a different color. You slice off the amount you want to use from the stick, then knead the two materials together until you get a uniform color out of the putty. I use a folding technique similar to how you knead bread dough. This should only take about a minute or two. Now that the two parts of the putty are well mixed together you have about 20-25 minutes to work with it until it hardens enough that you can't really work with it any more. So you mold and form it at this point into the shape that you want. Then you just let it sit and cure for 24 hours. The package says it only takes an hour to harden, but for this project I found that 24 hours is best. It was much harder 24 hours later than it was an hour after mixing the putty. And that's it, no oven baking like with polymer clay.
Oh and "I made this at TechShop", BTW! Everyone in the shop was asking me what the heck I was doing, and after I explained it to them they all said it was a great idea.
So let's get started shall we?
1 standard toothpick (or a fancy one)
Some plastic wrap
a sheet of paper
a file or piece of sandpaper
two bamboo skewers (or something straight and even about that width)
some masking tape
some clear tape
a spare piece of wood or a small cutting board
a bottle (or something to roll the material out smooth and even)
a razor blade
a stick of epoxy putty. (I had some left over from a previous project) OR a 2oz package of polymer clay.
NOTE: You can get epoxy putty that sets fast, but personally I don't like this kind for most projects because I like to take my time and work the putty to perfect it before it sets. So, especially for your first project, I'd recommend getting the longest setting epoxy putty you can find.
*optional : a small package of polymer clay, you might find this handy to practice your molding technique before going with the epoxy putty. Personally I would *strongly* recommend that you do this. I did this when making my first one and it helped me greatly. You won't bake the polymer clay so you can re-use it for another project. I love this stuff and it's on the list of something that I like to carry with me whenever I know I'm going to be making or fixing something. Along with epoxy putty as well, that is.
UPDATE: I've made a thimble completely out of polymer clay and it works just fine. I just had to make it a little thicker than with the epoxy putty, and give it even heating in the oven. But it works fine.