Eyelets - Custom Die set 1/4" (#8) our own custom set
Custom Eyelet Die Set
- use for 1/4" or #8 eyelets (S-60, S-61, and S-66 eyelet)
- 3/8" shank top and bottom dies
- Hardened S7 tool steel
We had these custom made by our crack machinist. We have used the eyelet die set sold by folks over at Brand X supplies for some time. They work OK and they work several times better than hand setting an eyelet. We found Siska Eyelet company and started carrying their eyelets in 3/16" and 1/4" so naturally we needed a source for eyelet dies. Brand X wasn't much interested in wholesaling to us so we bought some from Siska to see how those were. These cost a mere $180 a set !!!! We bought one set in each size to try. They work fairly well. A little better than Brand X but at a $180 for Siska dies vs. $35 for Brand X dies we thought we could do better. We gave the job to our (crack) machinist. He came up with what we are convinced is a better die set than either of the others. (We don't say things like that lightly either. Puffed up hype gets exposed in short time on the internet so we are careful about what we say. We can back this up.)
Our (crack) machinist made several different designs and then took them to a high volume commercial sheath maker down the street and tested his designs with them. After some testing and input from the sheath guys and then some fine tuning, he came up with a design that beat both of the others. Its all in the compound curve he says. In fact, he rejected one set of dies that he didn't want to sell to me. The sheath maker took that set and now uses the rejected dies instead of Brand X's as he says they work better. How's that for good?
Now here is what you have to do. You will need a hand arbor press (1/2 ton will work fine) to make these work. They run arond $30 to $40 from Harbor Freight or Grizzly when they are on sale. We don't carry them. You will then need to drill a 3/8" hole in the ram bar and also tap and thread a set screw of some kind. I'm sure a 2-56 or 4-40 folder screw will work just fine. This will hold the top die. You will need to drill another 3/8" hole in the anvil that comes with hand press. Make sure both holes are plumb or the die will set your eyelets crooked. This whole business will take you about 15 to 20 minutes once you figure out how to drill the ram plumb.
The other option is to make your own press which shouldn't be that hard to do. The big leather and canvas companies that set eyelets by the thousands every day use a foot operated stand up press. If you are really fired up, you can make one of those.
How are we priced on these? A little higher than Brand X's version. 7 or 8 bucks I think. About $140 cheaper than the Siska version.
I'll make this offer. If you have either Brand X or Siska dies and try ours, I'll garuantee your money back if ours don't work better.
What should I look for in quality of the eyelet set?
Look at the face (most important side) for a well rounded over eyelet. There should not be any burrs raised or scrapes raised at all on the face. The eyelet should be even in circumference and even across the top.
The back should also be round over and not smashed flat and ugly. People look at the backs of these items also and quality shows up there almost as much as the front side. If an eyelet splits at the back, that isn't really a problem and often helps give the eyelet a better look. You will often see some pressure marks both front and back from the dies. These should be minimal and have more to do with the operator applying a little too much pressure than the dies. The dies should work equally well in leather as well as concealex or kydex.
In use: The die with the locating point goes in the press anvil (bottom) with the point facing up. The concealex (kydex, boltaron, etc) is lined up and 1 hole is drilled. Insert the eyelet into the 'front or face side' hole as far through as it will go. Now line the eyelet over the point and bring it down to rest on the die. With a sharp motion, press the ram down to form and set the eyelet. Make sure you have engaged the blunt point into the top die before pushing down and the material is held level. Now drill another hole and repeat. Once you have two holes drilled and set, you can drill the rest as the two layers of material should not move. If you drill all the holes with out setting any, the two layers of concealex are going to slip just a little and you won't get nice clean sets to your eyelets.
Tip: When you drill concealex make sure you get rid of burr material left around the hole. This little left over material can make a big difference on what your finishes eyelet set looks like. I use a very large drill bit and just give it a spin by hand in the hole to debur it.
About the picture:
On the RIGHT you will see the eyelets our dies set. In the middle are the eyelets set by the Siska dies, on the left are Brand X set eyelets. You can draw your own conclusions. Ignore the one mashed up eyelet and chalk that up to operator error. The dies in the picture are ours.