Introduction: Copper Eyelets for Leather Working

About: Hi, I'm stephen, I'm a certified welder, working on my machinists cert, and working part time at a hardware store. Mixing in all of that with my hobbies of blacksmithing and knifemaking, only makes for more f…

I have found that when making sheaths, it's handy to be able to put in an eyelet, they look nice and they protect the edges of a needed hole.

But, I didn't like the ones I got at Tandy, it was annoying to have to buy a large bag of them, and then need ones that were 1/4" longer.

So, I came up with a way to make my own from tubing. You can use copper, brass, aluminum, and probably even stainless steel (although they might not work as well, never tried). My personal favorite is copper, that color goes with almost any style and color of sheath, and the nice soft metal works easily as well.

Step 1: Stuff

supplies -
  1. Copper tubing, the tubing I'm using is 3/8" Outer Diameter. I've used copper and brass, aluminum, and stainless steel might work, though stainless might not be soft enough
  2. leather to put an eyelet in, for this I'll be using some scrap leather, 3 pieces - 3/8" thick altogether.

Tools -  (see pictures for the new rig I made for this process)
  1. mallet
  2. tubing cutter
  3. drill and bit (size of tubing)
  4. small half round file (for removing burr)
  5. steel wool (for polishing inside of tube when finished)
  6. rivet setting anvil (one side is concave and other is flat)
  7. ball bearings (I'm actually using two Pachinko balls, but a set of 3/8" and 1/2"  ball bearings would be best) 
  8. you may also find handy, a beveler, a sharpie, a knife, etc.

In the pictures you'll see my new rig. I tig welded bearings onto a plate, and tig welding other bearings onto handles. Same process for setting that I outline in this "ible", but much easier.

Step 2: Cutting

You need to cut your tubing longer than the leather is thick, for example, my leather was 3/8" thick, so I cut the tubing 3/4" long. Simple. You'll want to practice several times on scrap to get a hang of the best length.

Next you take the small file and remove the burr inside the tube.

Step 3: Hole

Now you need a hole in the leather, since the tubing is 3/8" diameter, we need a 3/8" hole.  You'll notice I went ahead and stacked and glued the leather I'm using, your leather doesn't have to be attached together before putting in the eyelet, I just did it for simplicity's sake.

After your hole is drilled go ahead and bevel the edges of the hole, makes it easier to insert the tube, and no little pieces want to stick out.

Step 4: Inserting

take your tube and insert it into the hole, as leather shrinks back some after you make a hole, it will be difficult to get in, I've even had to use a knife and shave some more out of the hole, but try and keep it as tight as you can.

Something else that helps is to take something round that is larger than the hole, but tapers to smaller than the hole, and use that to enlarge one opening enough to get the tube in.

Make sure you get the tube even on both sides of the leather, very important.

Step 5:

Everything else before now has been preamble, this is the important part, and I really really recommend you practice on scrap first, I ruined a sheath on my first try.

I take one ball bearing and set in the rivet anvil (concave side), put the tube on it, and put the other ball bearing on top (that made no sense I realize, look at the pics).  One of these days I'll rig up some tools, but for now, I just pick up the bearings when they fly across the shop.

Now, you smack the top ball several times, flip, smack several times, flip, smack, repeat.  Soon the eyelet will be bulging on both sides, when it's bulging enough that it seems the bearings won't spread it more, you switch to a flat metal surface, and start flattening the eyelet. Make sure to smack, flip, smack, flip, repeat. 

As soon as it's almost flat, hit the sides of the eyelet at an angle, going in a circle. This will turn down the edges, and round it over.

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