A use for broken machine needles?

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spandit

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 6, 2011
5,435
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East Sussex, UK
Many people seem to try to buy a domestic sewing machine for making thick leather goods and are surprised when the needle breaks or worse. I'm wondering how effective it would be using a broken needle to mark stitches that could then be awled/drilled through? Could vary the spacing, which a wheel can't do. My old Singer can cope with veg tan leather fairly well but a machine stitch isn't as strong as a hand sewn saddle stitch (see https://www.fineleatherworking.com/blog/saddle-stitching-video-round-up/) and planning on making a couple of heavy duty belts. Will be calling Le Prevo in the morning :)
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,138
2,134
S. Lanarkshire
I keep a wee tin that is labelled, "DEAD SHARPS, HANDLE WITH CARE !!!".

I reckon that if they broke then they're dead. They failed under pressure or being pulled too far. I have no idea just how much hidden damage is done and if they might snap again.
If they're bent, bending them back is not a good idea. It really isn't. The hardening on the needles makes them vulnerable to sideways stress and they snap and can fire little sharp bits off for a surprising distance.
Blunt ones can be carefully resharpened, but thankfully I don't need to do that, and I am both grateful and glad to be able to say that I can afford to buy good ones to replace the dead ones.

So, I know it seems such a waste, but dead needles are dead. When my little tin fills up with broken needles and blunt and bent ones, and mangled pins,
I pour in plaster and drop it in the bin.

I find that my little tins fill up an awful lot faster these days. Modern pins and needles are all too often carp :sigh:

Sorry to be so discouraging, spandit, just my tuppence ha'penny worth.

M

 

spandit

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 6, 2011
5,435
125
East Sussex, UK
I'm only suggesting using the broken stub to mark the leather at intervals, not to do any actual sewing. Perhaps I should have specified needles that have snapped, not just bent ones (as you say, trying to straighten them ends up with a snapped needle anyway).
 
N

Nomad

Guest
Pricking irons for marking stitch holes in leather (or for making the through holes if you want). The problem with using a conventional sewing machine is the risk of marking one side with the teeth on the feed dog.
 

spandit

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 6, 2011
5,435
125
East Sussex, UK
Pricking irons for marking stitch holes in leather (or for making the through holes if you want). The problem with using a conventional sewing machine is the risk of marking one side with the teeth on the feed dog.

That's true but if you are marking it for sewing then the backside (wrong side) should be hidden
 
N

Nomad

Guest
That's true but if you are marking it for sewing then the backside (wrong side) should be hidden

Aye, right enough. Still don't really see the point of faffing with a sewing machine to set out the stitching marks, though. With leather, the stitching usually goes into a groove cut parallel to the edge, and it's important to get the marks bang-on in the groove. You also need to be mindful of the spacing of the stitches not fitting the length to be stitched, such that there's a bit where there's some slightly longer or shorter stitching. The result being that the ends of the run of stitches are nice and neat (because they're more likely to get noticed if they aren't).

You'd also have to have a needle that's broken at the right length to make the right depth of mark in a given thickness of leather. You can tweak the height of the needle to an extent, but anything other than having the thick end right up into the needle holder would be relying on friction rather than a hard end-stop - risk of the needle slipping.

You can get a set of four pricking irons on eBay for about a fiver (1, 2, 4 and 6 prongs), using them is pretty quick, it's not hard to be accurate, they make the right shape of hole for sewing (canted-over diamond/rhombus), and they can make the through holes you're going to need anyway.

As Toddy says, once sewing machine needles are broken, they're dead - bits of hard wire that are destined for the great sewing box in the sky.
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
36,138
2,134
S. Lanarkshire
I'm only suggesting using the broken stub to mark the leather at intervals, not to do any actual sewing. Perhaps I should have specified needles that have snapped, not just bent ones (as you say, trying to straighten them ends up with a snapped needle anyway).

If you're doing that marking by hand, then there's a tool that lace makers use. It's called a Pricker. It's basically a very small chuck on a rounded handle that one can fit a big needle into (a carpet sharp is very good) and use to mark through the pattern parchment to lay out the design.
Before these were commonplace, ladies just used a hatpin.

M
 

Toddy

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Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,138
2,134
S. Lanarkshire
Well, y'know....sometimes you do just want to mark stitch holes without using the pre-spaced punch thing. Going round a curve for instance.
In very lightweight leather too, if you turn the it so that any presser feet marks won't show, and you keep your stitch length even, it does make it gentler on aching hands and wrists to then hand sew the leather, if you 'stitch' it first without any thread. But I wouldn't use a broken needle to do it, iimmc ?
I used the sewing machine with a leather point needle in it to make my stitch holes when I was making the puzzle pouches last time.

M
 

spandit

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 6, 2011
5,435
125
East Sussex, UK
Wasn't going to punch the holes all the way through with the needle, just mark the spacing for puncturing later with an awl/drill. I suppose someone talented in metalwork could make a diamond awl that fits in a needle holder to make the holes the right shape but pricker irons are a lot simpler and more foolproof!
 

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