How to Make an Inuit Thimble
August 16, 2013
We all know sharp knives can be dangerous. That’s why most people are told at some point to “always cut away from yourself, never towards yourself”. It’s good basic knife handling advice. The problem is when you get into more advanced woodcarving. You don’t always have the luxury of only cutting away from yourself; sometimes you have to get more creative with how you use your blade. A good solution for protecting yourself from getting cut is to make an Inuit Thimble.
An Inuit Thimble is basically leather armor for your thumb. It can help protect you from unintentional cuts or pokes and give you a bit more security if you end up cutting towards yourself while carving. The other big advantage of an Inuit Thimble is that it can help alleviate blisters or soreness if you plan on carving for a while. It protects your thumb as you use it against the spine of the blade to push your cut through.
Start off with a piece of raw, vegetable tanned leather about the size of your hand. I just grabbed a scrap piece from my shop, but check out some online stores or local businesses for small scraps of leather. They’re easy to find. We happen to be extremely lucky in Buffalo, NY because we have one of the oldest leather supply dealers in the nation. The other materials that I’ll be using are:
- A sharp blade and/or scissors
- Artificial sinew
- 2 leather sewing needles
- An adjustable leather punch (or just a plain old awl or small drill bit works too)
- A pencil
I like to make a template before I start cutting leather. The old adage of “measure twice and cut once” is a good lesson to follow when doing this type of work. Leather can be pretty forgiving but with two large of a template it will be cumbersome and a template that’s too small won’t fit. Here’s a template I drew free-hand for you to follow based off of my own hand.
First, I’m actually going to cut along the bottom “U” shape of the template to make sure my thumb will fit and the dimensions are right for my hand. Once you’re finished cutting out the template, simply trace the template onto the leather’s unfinished side with a pencil.
Once I have the dimensions drawn onto the piece of leather I’m going to cut off all the excess leather from the sides. The next step is to cut along the “U” line with a sharp knife. This will be the hole that your thumb slips through when you put on the thimble. Make sure it’s the correct size before you continue.
The most difficult part of this process is determining where to put the stitching holes. This is going to vary from person to person. I generally will slip my thumb through the hole and fold over excess leather to determine what fits the best (or just use the template, it should be pretty standard).
Once the stitching holes are punched out you can fold over the thumb guard and start stitching. I use a two needle saddle stitching method when working with leather, but really any stitching method should work for this.
After the stitching is finished and tied off, trim off any excess and your Inuit Thimble is finished. Slip your thumb through the “U” shape and into the pocket. This should help protect your thumb from any accidental cuts, punctures or blisters. Now go carve something!
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