Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cobalt Butterfly Part 4 - Setting Snaps

I had to learn all about snaps for this project. I hadn't used them much until now, and since the ability to remove the straps was the impetus behind this project, it seemed like the right time to figure out how to set them properly, and get a quality result. 

The first thing to know is that there are 4 unique parts to a snap, each with their own name: the cap, socket, stud and eyelet. The wider "female" cup-shaped socket pairs up with the cap, while the smaller "male" stud is held in place with the eyelet. 

I wasn't having good results initially, so I visited my local Tandy leather, where of course they recommended the "deluxe" setter set with anvil. I was having a couple of problems. One: the post often bent when I was setting them with the mallet. This caused the socket or stud to be offset to the side, and out of alignment. Maybe the post was too long? Maybe snaps come in different post lengths, like the rivets? 

The helpful guy at the store said "No, you want the post to have a bit of length on it. It's not a bad thing. You're probably not setting them correctly." Turns out there is a technique. 

He took the setter, anvil and a pack of snaps. We went to the back room, and he (using a poly mallet) started gently tapping the setter, all the while rotating the angle of the tool in a circular motion. He stopped part way to show me how the post on the cap was gently rolling down, like a turtleneck sweater. He just kept tapping, softly and slowly rotating the setter, taking his time to get the cap post snug against the socket. About 6 to 8 strikes per rotation. 

I think in retrospect I was probably hitting the setter too hard, and only straight down - as I would when setting a grommet. Instead of giving the cap and eyelet post a chance to fold or roll over by gently coaxing it from all angles, it was just bending at the bottom, and once bent a little there was no way for that roll-over to happen at all. Once you understand the technique, it's problem solved. Thank you, Tandy guy! 

Now back to our jacket... First I set the snaps on the long straps, using a spacing guide. 

I decided to use a pair of snaps at each strap end to share the load a bit. It seems like one snap wouldn't be enough. 

 The idea is for these to attach to the loops on the jacket with the cap facing out, like so: 
 Looking good so far...
 When setting the cap side, you want to use the indent on the anvil that matches the size of your snap. 

I'm also experimenting with using a thin piece of leather between the cap and anvil to avoid scratching the cap. 

When setting the stud, you want to use the flat backside of the anvil. 

The same setter is used for all 4 parts. 
 I made a smaller strap to become a buckle keeper - it started out as a one and one-eight-inch strip, glued and folded to about a half-inch wide strap. 
 Using a double-thick section of strap as a guide, these are cut to the proper length for a belt keeper.
 I know there is a dedicated tool for this, but I just use a staple gun and a wedge of wood to hold the keeper together. 
 I can staple directly into the wood, then carefully pry it out with a screwdriver. 
 The ends of the staple get folded in and flattened with a tack hammer.  
 They look like little Japanese Obi.
 For the buckle-end strap, we start with the buckle, strap, keeper and template. 
I mark the position of the buckle tongue hole with the template. 
 Punch it out with the 0.625-inch oblong punch. 

 Slide on the keeper...
 Insert the buckle tongue through the hole (Make sure the buckle is oriented the right way. You can tell by the tongue which should be pointed down at the end.)
 Use a template to mark the position of the rivets. 
 Load a cap into the riveter.
 And rivet the buckle (and keeper) in place. 
Buckle number one, complete...
 ...and number two. 

So after a few more holes, and lots of tap-tap-tapping, we have the snaps complete on the short "buckle-side" straps. 
 And here's how it looks on the jacket:
 Now the fun part: I get to see if it works! 

Hmmm... I guess I still need to punch holes in the long straps too, but for that I need someone to try it on... Honey, are you busy right now? 


  1. Are you using Tandy rivets? I know they have some super economy types, but even their double-cap ones seem a little bit hollow and flimsy. And then there's the tools they sell for them ... if you use that several-sizes anvil like in your pictures, you can't do rivets too close to each other. If you use the dot anvil, it's too big for the rivet cap, and it's got a lip on it that will leave a mark on your material!
    Maybe I'm doing something wrong, myself.

    Do you know of any other good riveting/fastening product lines? McMaster has plenty of types of rivets in all materials, but I do have my doubts that I'll be able to set solid rivets without an air hammer.

    1. I'm not using Tandy rivets. I think they only sell the "Jiffy" rivets which are hollow, and don't hold well, or the solid brass rivet, which you "peen" to set with a washer - not so smooth on the backside. I want the finished look of a cap on both sides.

      The rivets I'm using here are the #104 tubular rivets from Weaver Leather. I set it with the "Little Wonder" setter, also from Weaver - which does a good job, and they seem to hold really well. They also have a rear cap which looks nice, and come in a range of sizes from 4/16" to 10/16".

      My only complaint is I sometimes want a rivet with a larger head, to give more holding power. Weaver offers a #103 Tubular rivet, which has a larger 3/8" head, but there is no matching rear cap - your only option is using a "splash" anvil, which doesn't give me the neat appearance and smooth feel I'm looking for.

      I also looked into the more industrial type riveting solutions, but wasn't able to come up with a combination of tools, rivets and dies that I felt confident would work. I know there must be a solution out there, as Mr. S has a hood with about a hundred rivets of the kind I'm looking for. I also have belts and other gear from them with the right rivet type. There must be a way!

    2. Ah, well, maybe I'll have to try some McMaster rivets and let you know how they work out.
      While I have your attention and you're talking about hoods ... is there any material that would be a good surrogate for the type of chrome-tan cow, lambskin, or whichever upholstery type of material that I'd use to make a hood?
      I'm just picking up some of the sewing & seaming in a "real" sewing class right now, and it's surprisingly hard to accurate over such large features. I'm building up to trying a hood, but I want to try it on something low cost, before cutting into one of the nice Minelli hides from Tandy ... (although I'm probably going to buy one, since they are on sale this weekend)

    3. Let me know with the McMaster stuff, I'd love to have a larger rivet for more heavy-duty holding...

      About the leather alternates, I usually use vinyl - but it isn't an upholstery-weight. It's lighter, thinner and stretchier than an upholstery vinyl. It usually runs about $10 per yard at different shops in the garment district in downtown LA.

      One thing I would say is you should try to work with real leather as much as possible. The smaller lamb hides from Hide House (in Napa) would only run you $30 or so, and you could get a couple of hoods out of a single hide. It's not too much money, and the difference between sewing leather and sewing vinyl is pretty extreme. The vinyl will get you a rough idea for fit and sizing, but nothing is going to compare to real leather.

      The Minelli hides are on sale this weekend, so I'll be going to Tandy myself. Unfortunately, the sale this time is only $7.49 per square foot, not the $4.99 it was a few weeks ago!

  2. Hi Christopher.
    It's very nice to see how other work with these small shitty things.
    At the end it makes a lot difference of the final result of the suit or what it now will end up to.
    Especially these snaps can make you crazy when it's not work to get tight as it should.
    Thank you for the video how it can be done.
    Otherwise I use the same methods by done belts and straps.
    At the end I would ask you a few questions, can I send them to you email?
    If so, what is you email?

    All the best

    1. Thanks Soren, and definitely feel free to contact me directly: christopherfetish(at)