Eyelets in leather jewelry can be both decorative and functional. Whether you want to add an industrial punk look to a leather bracelet, explore a new way to finish a choker, or find new alternatives to add embellishments, eyelets offer a clean and finished look to jewelry! With Rings & Things new EXCLUSIVE Leather Embellishing Kit, some leather and a little creativity is all you’ll need!
Here are simple step-by-step instructions for setting eyelets in a leather bracelet…
Some things you will need for setting eyelets in leather…
1. Measure and mark the holes on the inside of the bracelet or un-finished side of the leather.
2. Punch holes with a leather punch. Use the 3/16” punch marked “4” on the leather rotary punch.
3. Push an eyelet through the hole. The finished flared end should be on the outside of the bracelet (the finished side of the leather).
4. Place the leather with the eyelet over the divot in the anvil.
5. Position the setting tool over the hole of the eyelet.
6. Strike the setting tool with a hammer 4-6 times.
7. The tube of the eyelet will now be set firm against the leather. Repeat the process for the other holes.
Behold, the Eye of the Orchid leather bracelet!
Oh, so that was too easy you say? It really is easy, so I tried to think of something a little more unusual… I asked myself, how can I turn these eyelets from a mere decoration into a functional finding? I found a way! Here’s how…
Gather the goods (leather strip, eyelets, locking jump ring, S clasp, eyelet setter, hammer, leather hole punch).
Determine the length you want the choker to be. Lay out your components next to a ruler or measuring tape to make sure they will end up the correct length. This project makes a 13″ choker. For a longer choker, you may need an extra strip of leather, or more jump rings to lengthen.
1. Cut a 10″ leather strip into 3 equal sections.
2. Punch a 3/16″ hole at each end of each strip.
3. Leave about 3/16″ of leather between the edge of the leather and the hole.
4. Insert the eyelets into the holes and set as shown above.
Cities in Bloom – etched bracelet with 3/32″ eyelets
This list of riveting tools allows you to pierce 1/16″ and 3/32″ holes without having to trade piercing bases all the time, and easily set 1/16″ and 3/32″ rivets and eyelets on flat and sharply curved items.
If you plan on riveting only flat items, then skip the domed piercing bases and reverse riveting tools.
The Long Reach tools listed above allow you to rivet items from approximately 0.5mm to 11mm (1/32″ – 7/16″) thick. If you’re only going to work on thin items (up to about 6mm or 1/4″), you can save a few dollars by getting these tools in standard (original) length instead of long reach. (See the full list of Crafted Findings riveting tools. If something is out of stock, here’s a tip: You can use Long Reach accessories in the standard/original base, but you can NOT use standard accessories in the Long Reach base.)
Old-school wire riveting uses a different set of tools, which you can find here. But the question I’m answering in today’s blog is “What are the best tools to easily set both rivets and eyelets?”
Optional Nifty Gadgets:
A swivel vise is nice; it holds the riveting tool, keeping your hands free
A swivel vise is handy for holding the riveting tool at the angle of your choice, freeing your hands for slippery stacks of items to be riveted.
And I love these colorful little tins for storing assorted rivets and eyelets:
Colorful metal storage tins for holding tiny rivets and eyelets — My favorite is the set of 20.
Which brings me to question #3:
What sizes of rivets and eyelets are best to start with?
Definitely the assortments — one of each size — because then no matter what new project you start, you’ll have the right length. The color choices are copper, brass, and aluminum. If it’s a toss-up for you, I recommend copper. It’s the easiest to polish or antique, and is a nice accent for any color of metal. Or brass, because all the eyelets are brass.
Decide on the layout, location of the hinge and other decorative elements. Using a checkeredhammer, apply texture to the top and bottom panels of the journal. Patina, file rough edges and clean.
Cut the hinges, which can be as wide or as narrow as you choose. For 3/32 tubing, make hinges that are one-half inch deep. You need an odd number of hinge tabs. Measure, mark and saw tabs into the top panel. Use plenty of cut lube to prevent the saw blade from sticking when cornering.
Create Hinge Tabs
Using wide, flat nose pliers, crease and fold each tabs up to a 90 degree angle. The position of the fold determines whether the hinge will be visible from the front of the pendant, or only from the back side. Keep the textured sides face up, so the design is consistent.
Carefully roll tabs into cylinders using chain nose pliers or medium bail making pliers. Leave hinges a bit loose until after you have inserted the tubing, then you can tighten for best fit.
Roll Into Cylinders
Use a tube cutting jig to cut a length of tube 1mm longer than the width of your piece (for 1/2mm on each side).
Slide tubing down the channel and finesse hinges as needed. Rivet tubing into place to finish the hinge. Open and close hinge to ensure a proper fit.
Assemble Hinge and Insert Tubing
Working with the bottom panel, lay out etched metal pieces for the cover and inside page. Cut, file and patina as necessary. Leave sufficient room for the hinge to lay flat against the bottom panel.
Lay out Etched Metal Page
Measure, mark and punch holes for decorative rivets, accents and center piece (using the small side of the hole punch).
Using a dapping set, dome two small round shapes that can nest one inside the other. Patina, file away any rough edges and clean the domed metal. Layer, and rivet domed metal nests onto the top panel. Connect top and bottom panel with rivets. Use a tube rivet at the top so that you can thread a jump ring through it (if you choose).
Rivet Domes Into Place
Carefully clean and polish the pendant before attaching the necklace chain.
This free DIY Memory Journal pendant was created by designer Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things. This necklace features riveting, metal etching, antique brass shrine stamping blanks, dapping, and metal stamping. The chain was created in an ombre pattern using natural agate gemstone beads, TierraCast antique brass bead caps, metal heishi trade beads and the one-step looping plier with antique copper head pins.
Making handmade jewelry for someone is a unique and inspiring way to show you care. This “Healing Shrine” was created for a friend suffering from cancer. It was inspired by our new brass blank shapes and a recent trip to Santa Fe, NM.
Each year, thousands of people pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo seeking blessings. Many visitors take a small amount of “holy dirt” from the site, in hopes of a miraculous cure for themselves or someone who could not make the trip. I chose to encase my “holy dirt” in a glass portal, that I nested inside a brass reliquary. Following are instructions for how-to create this DIY jewelry design using stacked brass layers and cold connections.
First, envision your shrine and decide how you want it to look and feel. Decide on contents for your glass bottle. Unscrew the top loop from the cork in the glass vial. Measure, mark and punch holes for rivets (using the small side of the hole punch).
Stamp word “heal” on the metal band designed to hold the glass vial. Measure the band to ensure that it is going to fit.
Measure and bend metal band to fit glass vial
Using bail making pliers, bend the center of the band into a curved shape, leaving each end flat. Cut to shorten as needed. File the ends.
Arrange pieces and punch metal
Rivet the stamped metal band into place after double-checking that it will snugly hold the glass once it is assembled.
Rivet the band into place (to hold the vial)
Insert tube rivets in holes between the front and back of shrine, stacking copper heishi trade beads between the layers (to fill the space and strengthen the connection between the top and bottom layers).
Heishi beads as spacers between layers
Rivet them into place. Note: Be careful, it is very difficult to reinstall the heishi spacer beads if they fall off the tubes!
Place all heishi beads before riveting together
Patina and clean. Using two-part epoxy, attach a magnet to the back side of the shrine. Carefully fill vial with contents.
Fill the vial and pop it into place
Once the glue has cured, pop the glass vial inside the band. This DIY jewelry project can be a pendant, magnet or pin.
There are are few basic types of rivets used when making jewelry. Each type of rivet (and eyelet) requires different tools and techniques. First I’ll show you what each looks like, and describe their key features. Second, I’ll explain how to use them.
2-part Rivet Sets
(or Compression Rivets):
Thicker than most wire rivets
Generally used with leather
Require the fewest tools
Easiest to set
Available in over 100 lengths, diameters and materials!
Basically a wire rivet with one end pre-finished in a fancy design
A little tough to set (hammer and block), but worth the effort!
Eyelets are tubes with flared ends. One end of a rivet sometimes looks like an eyelet. The main difference between a rivet and an eyelet, is that you can see all the way through an eyelet after you set it, but at least one end of a rivet is always solid. If the eyelet is large enough, you can also run wire, chain or a jump ring through the resulting reinforced hole.
Largest (widest) eyelet carried by Rings & Things
3/16″ diameter, and fits up to roughly 3/16″ (almost 5mm) thick leather or stacked materials.
Generally used with leather
Flare with easy-to-use inexpensive tools
Crafted Findings 1/16″ and 3/32″ (diameter) eyelets
Used with metal, plastic, leather, and even fragile materials like ceramic
Available from 1/16″ to 1/4″ long
Make your own eyelets from tubing — any length!
3/32″ tubing (copper, brass or sterling) is cut to length with a jeweler’s saw, and must be riveted by hand.
Crafted Findings’ sterling silver tubing (1.5mm and 2.25mm diameter) up to 12mm long can be set with the Crafted Findings riveting system, but must be cut to length with a jeweler’s saw.
Now you know the difference between a rivet and eyelet, and the main differences between types of rivets. Next…
How to set rivets!
This brief overview explains how to set each type of rivet and eyelet, with links to detailed step-by-step riveting tutorials … a few of which aren’t written yet, but will be by the end of May. If you have questions about any of these short & sweet instructions, post your questions in a comment on this blog, or check back weekly during May for the next chapters.
Select a rivet approximately 1mm longer than the total thickness of the pieces you are are riveting. (Assorted packs are handy – choose Short, Medium or Long.)
Assemble the components, and use the other end of the Crafted Findings riveting tool to set the rivet. (See video.)
In the video and examples here, notice how tiny the back end of the rivet is, on the finished semi-tubular rivets. fyi ~ You can click most of the jewelry images to enlarge. It is a very clean look, and holds tightly when you are riveting metal to metal (or any non-stretchy media).
Alpine Lily – riveted ring
Christmas Tree Window – riveted charm
What if you want to use these rivets on leather? Leather stretches… and a tiny rivet could work its way out. The solution is to use a washer or spacer of some type, such as these rivet accents. Or, the red, black and yellow African vinyl heishi beads in Tschinkel’s Circles (olive green leather bracelet above) are colorful and inexpensive. And this Palomita leather bracelet uses 2 of my favorite “washers” (stars and flowers):
Palomita bracelet with Bali-style flower spacer bead and TierraCast star spacers. (See Full tutorial)
You can quickly convert almost any thin brass, copper, sterling, plastic or cast metal spacer bead into a washer/stopper, by using the cutting end of the Crafted Findings tool to cut the hole to the proper size needed for their rivets.
To Make and Use Wire Rivets
Cognitive Resonance Necklace, made with classic wire rivets
You can make classic “old-school” wire rivets from any gauge of wire (generally copper, brass, nickel, sterling or karat gold), in any length you need. This is a wonderful skill, but time-consuming to do properly.
A short summary of the process:
Drill or punch holes the correct size for your wire.
Make sure the end of the wire is smooth, and filed flat.
Fit wire through the components. Depending on the wire gauge, about .5 to 1mm of wire should stick out at each end.
Set item on a steel bench block and keep the components centered on the wire. Use a riveting hammer to tap a few times on the top of the wire, then flip the piece over and tap a few times on the other end of the wire. This starts mushrooming the wire.
Hammer gently around the edges of the wire on one end, then flip over and repeat.
Keep flipping over and repeating the steps on each side until both ends are domed and smooth to the touch.
Drill or punch holes the correct size for your rivet’s post.
Fit rivet through the components, and mark where to cut. Depending on the wire gauge, about .5 to 1mm of wire should stick out at the back.
Cut to the proper length, and file flat.
Set item on a steel bench block, rivet-head down. Use a riveting hammer to tap a few times on the top of the wire, to start mushrooming the wire.
Hammer gently around the edges of the wire, until it is smooshed down into a nice smooth dome. See the “How to Use Fancy Wire Rivets” blog tutorial for detailed instructions (except you don’t need the wooden block or piece of leather).
Set anvil portion of eyelet setter on a sturdy surface (wooden block, Poundo board, heavy leather, etc.)… preferably something quieter than the steel block pictured below.
Assemble components and place large end of eyelet on anvil.
Setting 3/16″ Eyelets in Leather
Place eyelet setter into eyelet and tap eyelet setter firmly with a brass hammer until the eyelet curls/compresses down to desired height.
How to set Crafted Findings Eyelets
Cities in Bloom – etched bracelet with 3/32″ eyelets
Choose a size. The 1/16″ eyelets have a petite hole — very cute, but not many things fit through it. I recommend 3/32″ eyelets if you want to put jump rings, chain or cord through the eyelet when done.
Switch out Crafted Findings tool accessories if necessary (the default tool comes with a riveting attachment, which you switch out using the included allen wrench for an eyelet flaring attachment).
Assemble the components, and use the eyelet flaring end of the Crafted Findings tool to flare the eyelet. (It’s fast and easy – See video.)
Spiris Necklace – When used with a delicate touch, the Crafted Findings riveting system allows you to sandwich fragile ceramic beads between layers of metal! (Full tutorial)
How to Make Your Own Eyelets from Tubing
This is a little trickier, and deserves its own blog article, so I’ll be brief for now and expand on this in a future article.
Fit the tubing through your components. Use an extra-fine-point marker to mark the length. (About half the wire diameter should stick out on each end. With 3/32” tubing, this is about 1mm on each side. With 1/8” or 9g tubing, it is about 1.6mm on each side.)
Make sure the end of your tubing is smooth and flat – not angled. File flat if necessary (before cutting).
Use a jeweler’s saw to cut the tubing, making sure to keep the cut very straight and flat, not angled.
File end of tubing flat if necessary.
Insert tubing through components. Set item on steel bench block, and keep the components centered on the tubing. Put
a very wide center punch (at least ¼” wide) into the center of the tube. Don’t let your components slide down to the bottom of the tube!
Give 3 taps with a brass hammer. Turn piece over and repeat. This begins to gently splay the tube rivet outwards. If you were too gentle at first, then repeat this step on both sides. You should see a slight curve outwards.
Use a riveting hammer or the pein side of a 4oz ballpein hammer to tap in a circular pattern around the outside edges of the rivet, with an outward and downward motion. Push the metal outwards, not just down. Flip piece over and repeat on other side. Do a little on each side (about 8 taps), to make sure the tube doesn’t bend and the components don’t slip. (If they slip, you’ll have a tiny flimsy rivet on one side and a huge lumpy rivet on the other side.)
I haven’t actually used sterling tubing with the Crafted Findings system (yet), but they’ve done such a great job testing and perfecting their other products, that I expect it to go quite smoothly when I do, and to work much like this:
Cut the tubing to length using a jeweler’s saw like above.
Use a 1/16″ eyelet flaring attachment for the 1.5mm sterling tubing, or use a 3/32″ eyelet flaring attachment for 2.5mm sterling tubing.
Be sure to use this tubing, because if the walls are too thick, it won’t work with their nifty system.
If using tubing over 1/4″ long (and up to 15/32″ aka 12mm), use the long reach tool. Otherwise, you can use the standard tool.
Wow, I didn’t realize just how dizzying all these variations were until I was asked to provide a comparison of all the types, and explain what works with what.
I use the Crafted Findings system the most, because I can do 20 rivets (or more) in the time I can do one nice wire rivet by hand. Or I can do 30 eyelets in the time it takes me to make one nice 3/32″ tube eyelet by hand. I also like their reverse riveting accessory, because it allows me to rivet rings and bracelets, keeping the nice rivet head on the outside (try doing THAT by hand…!). I promise I’ll explain that cryptic comment more thoroughly, with good illustrations, in another blog post.
But at the same time that I love the speed and precision of the Crafted Findings system, I really love the look of a nice hand-tooled rivets and eyelets, and the soothing tap-tap-tap that reminds me of Santa’s elves. “Cognitive Resonance” is my favorite piece that I’ve made.
If you prefer bigger bolder designs in leather, then you will probably go with the TierraCast or other 2-part rivets, perhaps in conjunction with the 3/16″ eyelets. Plus, I really like the idea of upcycling old bits of leather and making custom-length leather bracelets with TierraCasts’s full Leather Findings Collection of rivetable clasps, strap tips and links.
I’m sure I glossed over a few things in this lengthy article, so feel free to post questions!
If you already know how to make and set traditional wire rivets, then you only need to know one new thing about setting these fun decorative rivets:
To prevent marring the decorative rivet head, don’t hammer on the usual steel block. Instead, set the rivet head on a piece of wood (a scrap of 2×4″ works great), or use a piece of heavy leather between the rivet head and steel block.
If you’ve never set a wire rivet before, these are great rivets to learn with, because one end is already finished — you only need to set the back side of the rivet.
Lay out your design, and mark dots where you want holes for the rivets.
Mark spots to punch holes
Use the 1.25mm hole punch to punch each hole, then enlarge each hole slightly with the bead reamer, until the rivet just barely squeaks through. (You can rivet with a too-large hole, but it is more difficult and should be avoided.)
Assemble the layers to be riveted, and use flush cutters to snip off the excess rivet length, leaving approximately 1.5mm sticking out past the components. Cut off too much, and you won’t have enough left to make a durable rivet head. Leave it too long and you’ll end up with a time-consuming messy-looking rivet.
Place the assembled layers rivet-head down on a wooden block.
Ready to flare the rivet!
Using the flat side of the riveting hammer or 4-oz ballpein hammer, tap a few times on the top of the wire post. This starts flaring the wire.
Hammering too hard at this point, will bend your rivet. Bent rivets are rarely recoverable.
Cute compass visual
Hammer the wire gently in an outward, circular motion: you need to spread the metal outwards into a mushroom head, rather than smashing it straight downward. Think about the compass points as you tap around in a circle– North tap, North tap, East tap, East tap, South, South, West, West, repeat. As the rivet spreads and shortens, you can hammer harder.
Flaring the rivet
When it is nicely rounded and looks done, run your thumb around the edges of the rivet — if it feels rough, keep hammering.
This rivet is almost done. It feels sharp / rough to the touch where you can see the shadow near the bottom. The sheets of metal are also a bit loose; both are clues you need to keep tap-tap-tapping!
This rivet’s pin was cut a bit too long. Not only does it take longer to flare an over-long pin (more metal to push around), it can work-harden and split like this. It is still secure, but not as attractive.
Metal shears, a metal tin and the completed metal pin!
We all know recycling is a good thing, but upcycling is even better! Aluminum and tin cans can easily be turned into jewelry, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Metal edges can be wicked sharp. Make clean cuts and file off any jagged points. Quality jewelry metal shears make this much easier! Most tin snips and other shears from hardware stores are difficult to grip.
Aluminum cans and most tins are too thin to be durable enough for jewelry by themselves. We suggest layering the metal you cut from recycled items. Three ways of doing this are riveting, gluing and/or coating the metal pieces.
Here are a few examples of how to turn packaging into lovely adornments:
Layers of flowers punched from soda cans form these fun bobby pins.
Instructions for how Toni coated these pins with liquid polymer clay to make them safe to wear are in our design gallery.
Start looking at soda cans and other product packaging in a different way! I for one always check the bottle cap design when deciding on a beverage.
How I wish every city had an Upcycle Exchange Market. It is a brilliant idea for reusing and redistributing crafty supplies and recyclables! Until then, ask your friends and family to help collect interesting materials for you. You might just upcycle something wonderful!