Pricking Irons vs. Stitching Chisels

It has been a running debate for leatherworking enthusiasts ever since discussions about these started. Some say that pricking irons deliver more than stitching chisels, while others claim that stitching chisels can do more than pricking irons without having to spend a lot. These two tools are very important in leatherworking, so it is very important to know which tool is much more suitable to be used in doing leatherworking projects.

What are the differences between pricking irons and stitching chisels? Stitching chisels are cheap and it can help you learn how to create stitching holes properly, whereas pricking irons boast of its elegant output in terms of creating slant stitches that most luxury houses still use up to this day. It is also durable.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between pricking irons and stitching chisels. We will also discuss the uses of each one and what makes them different from each other. Lastly, we will also discuss some pros and cons in using pricking irons and stitching chisels in leatherworking projects in general as well.

Stitching Chisels Create Holes For Stitching

Use A Stitching Chisel To Poke Holes On Your Leather

Image Source: “Stitching Punch” by Earthworm is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Stitching chisels are used to create holes for your stitching purposes. When you use it, it needs to be punched all the way through the leather by striking it with a mallet or rubber hammer, depending on the leatherworker’s preferences.

Its main purpose is to set up your stitch placement on your work. It resembles a fork and has slanted prongs to help you achieve those slanted stitches. Stitching chisels not only mark the holes but also pierces them, so stitching chisels are always used with awls and rubber mallets.

Stitching chisels are usually made from various forms of steel. Different stitching chisels create different types of holes when used onto the leather. Diamond stitch chisels create a diamond shaped hole in the leather. The width of the tooth is the same size from the tip to the head.

You will get the same size hole, regardless of whether you use it to prick the leather or make a hole through the entire piece. A diamond stitch chisel produces an angle that is about 45 degrees. However, you will have to use thicker thread when you use diamond stitching chisels to create holes on your leather as using a smaller thread for the hole leads to a lot of friction which eventually ruins your leather goods in the long run.

Pros And Cons Of Using Stitching Chisels

One of the advantages in using stitching chisels is that it has been used by leather workers for the longest time so leatherworking enthusiasts know how to use it properly. If you are starting in leather working as a hobby, you will find it easy to use since all you have to do is to set it in your stitching grove, and hammer it.

A lot of chisels are cheap, which is great especially for beginners since it is more important to gain skills in using these tools rather than owning more expensive tools but you do not know how to use them properly.

However, chisels are not meant to last as long as pricking irons so you do not have to buy expensive ones since pricking irons have more versatility to them. Also, it does not develop your skills with an awl. There are still times when using a leather awl is the best way to get the job done.

Some leatherworking experts say that by using a chisel, you will not be getting much practice with an awl. It is highly suggested that you practice a lot when using awls and chisels since it can truly affect the overall quality of your projects.

Personal Review: Use Stitching Chisels To Gain Skills

As mentioned earlier, it is easier to gain skills in piercing holes when you use stitching chisels. It allows you to have a grasp on how to hole your leather for the stitches. Holes from the stitching chisels are also clear-cut and it looks much more polished.

Chisels are much cheaper too so in case you break them while you are practicing your skills, it will not hurt your budget that much since most of them are replaceable as well. You gain the main skills needed when you use a stitching chisel which is much more important when you are starting up in leatherworking.

Pricking Irons Can Do The Same Things And Even More

Image Source: “Pricking irons.” by Vertstone is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Use A Pricking Iron To Have More Even Stitches

Pricking irons resemble a fork too, just like the stitching chisels, but the difference lies on the angle and number of the prongs. The prongs on the pricking iron are slanted at an angle, which is helpful for the user to create a slanted stitch. Some pricking irons have more prongs than the others as well.

It is used to mark your stitches on your work, enabling you to create even, equally spaced and symmetrically slanted stitches with the help of a diamond point awl during stitching. You are not punching the iron through the leather but only pricking the leather enough to leave marks on the surface.

On the other hand, modern pricking irons are a blend of the pricking iron and the stitching chisel. They can be used to mark the leather and are also used in conjunction with a stitching awl. They can also be used to pierce the entire piece of leather, which traditional pricking irons cannot do. Both traditional and modern style pricking irons are custom made.

Pricking irons are also made of a wide range of metals. In terms of holes, the teeth of pricking irons typically have a French or Japanese style to them. If a pricking iron is made French style, it has narrow teeth that leave tall, narrow slits on the leather. If it is made Japanese style, it has wider, diamond shaped teeth that lay more horizontal. You can use a variety of thread sizes when you create holes using a pricking iron, unlike struggling in using stitching chisels.

Pros And Cons In Using Pricking Irons

One of the pros in using pricking irons is that a lot of leatherworking enthusiasts would probably agree that pricking irons deliver more as it gives you the best looking and most refined stitches in terms of appearance.

Luxury leather workers and leather goods manufacturers use pricking irons for their products that require hand-stitching. Mastering the art of using a pricking iron is also cool since you can basically be confident after seeing the output.

Since they are usually handmade, they are also durable and seldom need to be replaced. Using pricking irons allows you to be more controlled in pricking holes since once you commit a mistake in using stitching chisels, it will be a mistake all the way through the leather.

One notable con, however, is that it can be expensive for some leatherworking enthusiasts, with the price range about $200. Though personally, it can be a good investment for you since it will be used for a longer period of time rather than sticking to stitching chisels.

Personal Review: Use A Pricking Iron If You Want Finesse

If you are a leatherworking aficionado who values elegance in appearance rather than finishing quickly, using pricking irons is the best option for you. Even though it can be expensive, it is going to be a one-time purchase anyway since it takes a lot of falls to the ground to make it unusable.

It gives you holes that can lead into perfectly polished stitches once the product is finished. The mere fact that luxury leather goods manufacturers still use pricking irons for their expensive projects should give you more confidence to use this tool for your projects.

Personal Recommendations And Other Relevant Information

Use A Stitching Chisel When Starting Then Evolve

Leatherworking is not like any other hobby because it requires you to focus and exert considerable amounts of effort and time in mastering some skills needed to enjoy this hobby to the fullest. It is important to learn the basic skills first, like having a grasp on how to create holes, stitch leather parts together and so on. 

I highly encourage you to buy a stitching chisel first, then use it for practice. Once you feel like you are confident in using the pricking iron, then go to the next level and keep on practicing until you master the art of using pricking irons in your leatherworking projects.

Do Not Buy Expensive Stitching Chisels

Some leatherworking enthusiasts say that you must master first the art of using stitching chisels to gain skills. Therefore, using stitching chisels can be temporary since you might find yourself looking and wanting for more and the stitching chisels just do not give you more.

It is highly advised that you should not buy expensive stitching chisels since you’re just using it to cop a feel on how creating holes for stitches is like. However, just like what we mentioned, stitching chisels are mostly cheap and affordable for those starting in the leatherworking circuit as a hobby.

Opt For A Tool That Can Promise Consistency

Leatherworking is not considered a success if your leather projects are of subpar quality. A mark of a polished leather craftsman is having consistent and sophisticated qualities for your leather goods.

Choose a tool that can allow you to have that level of elegance and polish so that your efforts will not be wasted. It takes time to master the art of using the perfect tool but once you have mastered it, it will pave the way for much more successes in terms of higher quality for your projects.


Stitching chisels and pricking irons have been a source of debate among leatherworking circles for years now. Both have their own merits in using, with stitching chisels perfect for starters and pricking irons perfect for those who strive for elegance and polish in their leather goods. At the end of the day, if your skills are enough, it will not matter anymore if you use a stitching chisel or a pricking iron to create holes on your leather. Always remember to disinfect and clean these with alcohol wipes since it prevents the spread of diseases, including the coronavirus.

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