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...

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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    14 Discussions


    3 years ago on Step 3

    I would expect you would not want to bevel the inside edge of the hole as this is what the curled border of the grommet/eyelet hold to stabilize.


    4 years ago

    Excellent 'ible, and nice craftwork. It seems that you have reinvented some older technology.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is a really elegant solution to a pretty common problem. Well-done, sir. I will probably start to incorporate this into my sheathmaking, myself.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I really like it, but might I suggest trying dapping pins in place of the ball bearings. You might have a little more control and if you buy a whole dapping block set you will have a whole variety of sizes to work with. You can usually find a whole set of dapping pins on e bay for around $20, more with the metal dapping block.


    If you used a leather punch in your drill press,instead of a drill bit, the rotating punch will slice a tidier hole for your tube to sleeve into.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    these is a reall good post i like to do it all my self nice work .message inbond


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I've always done a very similar thing for riveting leather, and I found it was easier to use an engineer's vice - the slightly sunken area where the hard jaws are bolted to the body of the vice does a great job of holding the balls in alignment, and you can really control how much you flare the tube - although you've done a really great job with a hammer there, and the way you turned over the edges is immaculate. It just occurred to me that it would be very simple to make a set tool to shape the edges once flared, to be used in the same way as the ball. hmm.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This 'ible is the epitome of Instructables Spirit- sharing your unique solution. The unusual use of common material- genius! Well done.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome dude! I like it! Just made some micarta handles for a Baby Bear knife. It is drying nowI will let you know how they turn out! You are becoming one of us! People who make things with their hands and minds! Keep up the good work! As ever, Triumphman

    Dream Dragon

    7 years ago on Introduction

    That looks really nice, thanks for sharing your work.

    I wouldn't have thought of drilling; holes in leather are usually PUNCHED, and I see no reason you couldn't use the tube to do that, but it seems to work for you.

    Do I see a makers stamp in one of the images there as well? Did you make that too?

    1 reply

    Yes, I made the makers mark. I forged it from a piece of spring steel, filed my s mark into it, and heat treated it (HT was really unecessary for leather, but I wanted to).

    As for the hole, you probably couldn't punch it with the copper tube. But you could punch it with a sharpened steel tube of the same diameter, but as I'm primarily a knifesmith, and secondarily a leatherworker, my leatherworking supplies are low, so I use as many of my other tools as I can for other things.