Cheap, Custom, made to fit, thimbles. (or MANLY, MAN sized, MAN thimbles)

Picture of Cheap, Custom, made to fit, thimbles.  (or MANLY, MAN sized, MAN thimbles)
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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?

mole11 year ago

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I'm teaching a small nine year old to sew, and there are no thimbles small enough for her. This may be the solution.

DrPeper (author)  mole11 year ago

BTW, last night I made one out of polymer clay and it came out just fine. I've been subjecting it to punishment all morning and haven't broken it yet. I just had to make it a little thicker than with epoxy putty.

mole1 DrPeper1 year ago

Even better! Which specific product did you use? Going a less toxic route is attractive, and the potential for something colorful is a plus.

DrPeper (author)  mole11 year ago

I just used Sculpey III, but only because I bought a big brick of it at WallyWorld to use with my many projects. Premo, Fimo, and Kato would probably be better choices. Personally I've found Kato to be my go-to brand when I want something more robust.

But here's a site that's done all the compression, tension, and flexibility tests for us all aready.


mole1 DrPeper1 year ago

Thanks so much for the link! I'll check it out.

DrPeper (author)  mole11 year ago

I've updated the image for the instructable to include an image of the polymer clay thimble.

DrPeper (author)  mole11 year ago

Well the epoxy putty isn't toxic, especially after it's cured. But the polymer clay is definitely listed as non-toxic. I had some old sculpey III pieces that I mixed with some more sculpey that I bought at WallyWorld recently. The new sculpey was certainly softer and creamier than my older stuff. I baked it in a toaster oven set between 275°F and 300°F for 30 minutes.

DrPeper (author)  mole11 year ago

Oh well I hadn't thought of the other end of the size spectrum! That's interesting. You are welcome! I was hoping many others could make use of this technique.

Excellent! I have also used the multi-tool method with my upholstery needles.

DrPeper (author)  troopersmachine1 year ago

Yep! But it makes for slow going. These thimbles speed things up a bit and I'm done faster. Plus they are cheap, easy to make, last a long time, and it's a fairly quick project.