Marking and making holes in leather is a common task that influences the final product. Let’s explore which chisels and irons are the best. Some recommendations include paid links to products that I trust.
I think the Kyoshin Elle pricking irons are a great choice (click here to see on RMLeather). Paired with a nice awl, they’ll help make quality, consistent holes for leather work. The Craftool interchangeable chisel set (click here to see on Tandy) will offer versatility and function for those who prefer chisels over irons.
Heavier weights, quality steel, and sharp edges help define higher quality chisels and irons. They’ll stay sharper longer, make cleaner marks/holes, and be less prone to breaking. Let’s look at where you’d use each, and which options will serve you well.
Leather Working Pricking Irons
Leather working pricking irons are metal tools with a grouping of equally-spaced “teeth”, sharp points arranged in a line. They are used to mark the location of stitching holes onto leather material. Since leather is a generally thick material, holes need to be pre-made for the needle and threads or laces to go through. The holes can then be made using awls or chisels.
Pricking irons are made with a set distance between points. This is in order to ensure the hole marks are a uniform and consistent distance apart. This allows for tight seams and a clean visual appearance on the completed leather piece. Pricking irons are usually only intended for marking leather, not pushing holes through it.
While a pricking iron might push into the leather, leather chisels are more functional and intended for making the actual holes that pricking irons are used to mark off. Pricking irons come in variations of tooth counts, commonly ranging from one to twelve. This allows the leather crafter to choose which will be most helpful. The teeth sometimes have an angled pattern to them, and are available in both their standard orientation, and inverse orientation if one prefers that angle more.
For example, when pricking a length of leather in a straight line, more teeth will help accomplish this faster. When pricking a curved end in a leather piece, fewer teeth will be more helpful as it allows the crafter to follow the curve of the edge prick by prick. Irons are available
Great Pricking Irons
Kyoshin Elle makes a quality pricking iron at a fair price (click here to see on RMLeather). They’re sharp, made of quality steel and should last for some time is cared for and maintained well.
For the leather crafter with more experience, a definite preference in tooth count, and desire for a tool that will last a lifetime, the Amy Roke pricking irons are highly recommended (click here to view on RMLeather). They’ve got a nice weight to them, are made of quality steel, and just look great.
If you’re looking for a premium pricking iron with replaceable teeth, the KS Blade pricking irons (click here to view on RMLeather) are the way to go. Their teeth are made of steel, thinner than most irons, and set deeper into the leather than most pricking irons. The irons have a nice weight to them, and KS Blade is known for making a quality product.
Leather Working Stitching Chisels
Leather working stitching chisels are metal tools with a grouping of equally-spaced sharp “teeth”, sharp points arranged in a line. They are similar in look to pricking irons, though chisels are intended to make the holes in leather, where pricking irons are intended only to mark the holes in leather.
Leather chisels come in variations of tooth counts, commonly ranging from one to twelve. This allows the leather crafter to choose which will be most helpful. For example, when chiseling a length of leather in a straight line, more teeth will help accomplish this faster. When chiseling a curved end in a leather piece, fewer teeth will be more helpful as it allows the crafter to follow the curve of the edge, hole by hole.
Also important on chisels is the shape of the tips of the teeth. The tooth shape directly impacts the look of the hole in the leather, which will influence the overall visual design of the finished piece. Some chisels have angled teeth, some diamond shaped teeth, and others have finer points. The teeth sometimes have an angled pattern to them, and are available in both their standard orientation, and inverse orientation if one prefers that angle more.
Keeping the leather working chisels well-maintained definitely helps ensure they deliver smooth, clean cuts. They are available in many sizes, so the crafter can choose what works best, from thin, fine leather projects to thicker, heaver leather projects that require larger chisels. These are very common tools that most leather crafters will have in their leather working tool set.
The basic set of chisels I got was the Aiskaer set of steel ones (click here to see on amazon). They do the job, though sometimes stick into the leather a bit, requiring I rock them back and forth gently to pull them out (or gently pull up while holding the leather in place). Beeswax can be applied to make them slide more smoothly. Also, the holes can be a little large at times, though that’s more the nature of the chisel than related to quality.
Fine holes are generally made using pricking irons followed up with a quality awl. Though for a bit of an upgrade for those that prefer only chisels, the Craftool set offers interchangeable tips for a fair price (click here to see on Tandy).
A good quality pricking iron, or chisel, can last years. Hopefully this helps you find some that you’re thrilled with and help produce great results on your projects.