Sunday, May 20, 2012

Restoration and Modification of An Old Stitching Clam

Some time ago I managed to rescue an old sewing clam, which was being used as display in an suburban clothing store. A sewing clam, you ask, is something you use, when you sew leather by hand. The clam sits between your legs and holds the object for you, so you can use both hands freely for sewing. 
The condition of the clam was rather good, but it still needed a bit of restoration. However the length wasn't ideal for the way I sew leather, as I rarely use an awl for making holes, when I sew. Therefore I needed to modify it slightly by making it shorter, so it would sit in front of me. Therefore I brought it with me to my parent's place, as my dad has more tools and much more experience with woodwork, than I have.

This is how the sewing clam looked before it. It was quite hard for me to alter this old piece of genuine craftsmanship, but I wouldn't be using as much, as I will now. So I felt like, I had to do it in order to bring it back to use and back to life.

First we sanded it down. 

The length was shortened. Nerve wrecking procedure.

Then we drilled some holes in order to add a screw, that would secure the jaws without causing leg fatigue.

I gave it some shellac in order make it a bit harder - although the wood was extremely hard and dry.

After the shellac had dried I glued on some leather at the tip of the jaws. This was added so the object, that you're holding, doesn't get scratched.

Lastly a hinge were attached, so it can still be used the way it was intended.

The final result.


  1. hi simon, it´s hard to imagine how this clam works being used, can you show an image?

  2. Hi Alex, it's fairly easy finding pictures of a stitching clam being used, however I'll gladly take some pictures, if I can get one of my roommates to take some, when I'm working.

  3. Hi King, I don't think there's a specific designer to this clam, as this clam was probably a 100 years old. They're just like that - very European. But I've later seen that there are other stitching clams which can be folded - many of them from the army.

    By the way I've come across your blog quite a few times because you're quite active on leatherworker. You're very helpful towards other people, which is great. Keep up the good work.

  4. This style was developed for the military in the early 20 th century. The English use spring pressure from the wood itself and held upright between the legs. The French design that this one follows after originally used knee pressure and was held between the legs at an angle.

  5. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the info, however I've got to question the fact that it was developed for the military, as I think I've seen a stitching clam in use prior to that date that you mention.

    However I think you're correct about the European tradition of keeping it in an angle.

    Have a great day and thanks for commenting