From hybrid irons, to premium works of art. In this blog post I review two sets of Kevin Lee pricking irons to see which set will work best for you.
When I was offered the chance to review these irons, I didn't hesitate! I have heard so much about Kevin Lee irons from die hard fans, but I have never tried them myself.
Being a collector of vintage pricking irons, I normally gravitate towards these. However, there are certain projects where a more modern iron offers an easier experience due to the awl not being needed (mostly) with their thinner and longer prongs.
A classic example would be watch straps or luxury belts where it may make more sense to penetrate through fully.
The two sets I had been gifted by Kevin were the 'KL Black diamond irons' in 2+8 prong ($110), and the premium 'New style French style pricking irons' (quite a mouthful!) in 2+5+10 ($200).
As a test, I performed a quick stitch using English bridle leather slightly over 6mm thick. Quite a task for any 2.7mm pricking irons!
Realistically, with leather this thick I would typically be using something in the 3.85mm range, or perhaps 3.38mm if I wanted to make it a little more detailed.
The prongs of the French style are 10mm long and around 1.6mm thick at the tip. They are thin, but not so thin that you question their toughness.
I think there are so many pricking irons today where the prongs look more like long needles, so having a tool for life isn't likely using that philosophy.
The French Style irons strike a healthy balance between durability and ease of use for those allergic to awls.
Going through 6mm+ leather though, is going to open up large holes on the surface. However it's important to note that leather is elastic and holes can easily be closed by sliding a bone folder over the the holes, or gently tapping them with a smooth hammer before stitching.
Large holes made by a pricking iron do not close as well after stitching as they do before.
Moving onto the Black diamond irons, I am glad to say that they do not actually have a diamond profile to their prongs.
Like most pricking irons, they are flat either side which means they behave in a similar manner and give similar results to the 'French Style' irons.
This means your stitches will still have a nice decorative angle, which is important if you want to avoid a straight 'machine made' look left by some Japanese style stitching chisels
The party trick of the Black diamond irons however, is the tapered point. Similar to a sword.
This makes life easier when creating the holes for your stitches as you can place the point of the prongs into the line created by your wing dividers.
This means you don't have to place your prongs on the side of the line, which leaves an exposed line, or over the top of the line, which loses some precision.
The KL Black diamond irons are a true hybrid, taking the best of two distinct styles of iron.
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