Make a Seam Stick for Tailoring

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About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

Intro: Make a Seam Stick for Tailoring

My wife does not just sew, but she is a seamstress who likes to do tailored garments. She recently returned from a couture sewing class where she fell in love with the seam stick. It is a wooden half-round about 18 inches long that allows ironing the backside of a seam without the risk of making an impression of the seam's edges on the good side of the garment. Previously she used a ham, which is a firmly stuffed cloth tube; but a ham, even one of a small diameter, does not allow the edges of the seam to fall away untouched by the iron in the way a seam stick does. When she returned home she asked me to make a seam stick for her. I had some 1 1/4 inch diameter fir closet rod on hand. The problem is to rip it so the end product is what was planned. Ripping round stock is always a challenge no matter what kind of saw is used. This Instructable is a combination woodworking project and sewing Instructable. 

Step 1: Why Freehand Sawing Is a Bad Idea

It is tempting to make a straight guide line on the length of the closet rod and saw it by hand with a bandsaw, or perhaps a common carpenter's hand ripsaw. Invariably, your wrist will roll a little on the bandsaw table so the surface that is supposed to be flat actually has a twist in it. The twist might be small and the seam stick might still function, but it really is not what you want for the end product. It is also possible for the handsaw to wander from the line without noticing it. 

Step 2: Make Two Blocks With a "V" Notch

Mark and cut two blocks from 1 x 2 firing strips. Make them about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. Cut a "V" into the center of the long side. There is no need for great precision. That will be corrected later.

The second photo shows how these two blocks will cradle the closet rod later.

Step 3: Restoring Some Precision

Use a square to align the bottoms of the "V" notches. Make a mark on each side of the "V" for drilling holes. (One of the marks will be under the square as shown here.) See the yellow text box. Drill holes for drywall screws into the narrow edges of the two pieces with the "V" notches. See the next step, too.

Step 4: Mark and Drill Some Old Plywood

My plan is to attach the closet rod to the underside of an old piece of plywood. Then I will attach a guide fence and rip the closet rod with an electric circular saw. I marked a straight line near the edge of the plywood. One screw for each block will be on this line. Mark for the other screw. Repeat this process near the other end of the closet rod.

Step 5: Mount the Closet Rods to the Plywood

I drilled the screwholes in the plywood a little larger than the holes in the "V" blocks so the screws will drop into them freely. I also countersunk a little for the screwheads. I measured for the center of the closet rod on each end and transferred the mark to the top of the plywood. Here you see the plywood hanging over the ends of two sawhorses. The plywood is clamped to the sawhorses. Here I am measuring for the depth of cut I will need on the circular saw to cut through the closet rod, but still not cut the "V" blocks. The plywood to the right of the line will be sacrificed as waste.

This paragraph is an update. It would be helpful to use some hot glue on the left side (as per the photo) of the closet rod where it meets the plywood at both ends  of the rod because the rod has more and more probability it can move as the cut grows longer. After the cut is finished, break the half stuck by the glue loose and clean any glue from it.

Step 6: Set the Rip Fence Guide

This is a full view of my setup. The saw is resting on a straightedge piece I use often. I aligned the saw's blade with the center of the line that marks the cut to be made. Then I measured the distance between the fence and the line. I measured to make the distance between the line and the fence equal to that dimension at the other end, too. I clamped both ends of the fence. Check that the blade aligns with the center of the closet rod on both ends when the saw's base is against the guide fence.

Step 7: Make the Cut

When you are certain the fence is properly aligned, make the cut. The scrap will not fall away because the "V" blocks are still screwed to both pieces of plywood.

Step 8: Sand and Use

If all goes well, when you are finished you will have two equal or nearly equal half rounds sawn from your closet rod. Both will have a nice flat, straight surface on the bottom side. Sand them smooth and sand enough to remove any dirt or stains that might migrate to the fabric of a garment when under a hot steam iron. You will have an extra seam stick to give to someone as a gift, too.

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    22 Discussions

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    prohem

    2 years ago

    Thank you for this!!!
    I'm going to make one ASAP!!!!
    Wendy, CEO
    Pro-Hem.com

    1 reply
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    Phil Bprohem

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you. If I were doing it again, I would find a more precise way to slice the closet rod. I was not completely happy with my results. I think someone had found half-round. That would be ready to go after cutting it to length.

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    DaveK6

    3 years ago

    There is also a molding called half-round, which should work quite well. Here's a site I found via Google with maple: http://www.bairdbrothers.com/mobile/34-x-1-12-Hard-Maple-Half-Round-B926-P2137.aspx

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    Phil BDaveK6

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you. I knew about quarter round, but not half round.

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    beaz

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I know some time has passed since the original posting but I just happened upon it and found that it is available on Amazon for $14.99. Here is the link:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=seam+stick&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=33813960595&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6401278344977395445&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_3g53w38l8c_b

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    Phil Bbeaz

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    This may be a good course for someone without the needed tools. Thank you for the link.

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    grannyjones

    6 years ago on Introduction

    This looks so handy.
    Hubby is a carpenter, so I think I'll beg him to rout a couple of wide diameter quarter rounds down the sides of a straight piece of firring strip.

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    scoochmaroo

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I've never used one of these. But I can't live without my tailor's ham and sleeveboard. I just revamped my ironing board this weekend with extra layers of padding from old towels and a new cover from an old sheet!

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    Phil Bscoochmaroo

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My wife has a regular tailor's ham and a second ham of a much small diameter. It is also cylindrical and was jokingly called a sausage when she bought it. Still, she is finding a seam stick to be an improved tool for ironing the backside of seams. Thank you for looking.

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    carakillerPhil B

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, I've always used a firm sausage for this, but with less than satisfactory results. This is such a better idea!

    while the idea of this really interests me i will probably just get a short length of rounded dado rail.

    *lazy*

    Now That is really clever!! Your wife sounds very cool!! I wonder if large size quarter-round (wood beneath base boards on walls) would work? I do not have any wood working skills. You are obviously a pro :0)

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    Phil Bporcupinemamma

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, Lyn. It says "pro" by my name, so I must be one!

    Perhaps you could glue two pieces of quarter round together to make a half round. Most of the quarter round I have seen is about 3/4 inch on each flat side. Two of those would be about right when glued together. Chances are the top edges would not meet as perfectly as needed, so some judicious sanding would be necessary to make a nice rounded and smooth edge on which to iron the seam. I think you once said you have a Dremel. A little light sanding with it should do nicely.

    My wife is pretty cool, but sometimes we still argue. Can you imagine?

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    Phil Bporcupinemamma

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I had a thought. Gluing two pieces of quarter round together and clamping them for the glue to dry, even with rubber bands, could be difficult. The edges may not want to remain aligned. But, if you glued two sets of two pieces, the four pieces total would make a full round section of four pieces that could be clamped by rubber bands and held in place very easily. Then you would have a spare seam stick to keep or to give. You probably have to buy a minimum of six feet of quarter round, anyway. That would make four pieces very close to 18 inches each.

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    Phil Bporcupinemamma

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You are welcome. I wish I had thought of quarter round in the beginning. It would be much easier and faster than what I described. But, I had the closet rod and locked myself into thinking about how to utilize it. Thank you for the idea of using the quarter round molding.

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    rimar2000

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Clever as always, Phil.

    At home, the iron is a device disused. Only occasionally we use it for a minute or two. I use it for experiments!

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    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, Osvaldo, but, I did not invent the seam stick. I only found a way to saw one into two long pieces with some reasonable accuracy. You must have some wash and wear clothing that you do not need an iron. My wife makes clothes for herself and for some others. She uses an iron quite a bit as she is assembling the parts of the garments.