Stitching Pony / Clamp


After using this a few times, I made some updates (in mid-July 2023) and they’re detailed at the end.

clamping a small piece of wood, similar in thickness to a piece of leather

clamping a ¾ inch piece of wood

A couple evenings back, I was watching some YouTube in the evening and saw a one-day build by Adam Savage of a stitching pony. I’ve been wanting a stitching pony for a while for when I make a sheath for a knife I’ve made, but watching his build, he was talking about using it for holding metal for filing and a bunch of other uses. That gave me the push I needed in order to build one for myself.

screen grab of Adam Savage demonstrating his stitching pony

I started by cutting the arms from a piece of pine I had on hand. Rather than using plywood so the arms would be sprung, I decided I was going to use a couple pieces of hinge. It won’t spring open like his does, but I think it’ll still work pretty well, and if I make one of something nicer than pine, I can get fancier.

stitching pony with the lever removed and laid flat - the hinges are visible

With the arms built, I found an inch square piece of ash, and drilled a half dozen holes in it. Rather than having a spinning piece of wood to adjust the range of the clamp, I figured multiple holes which I can slot a bolt or a dowel through would be easier. Since drilling round holes is easier than chopping square mortises, I made the hole in the arm with that adjuster a ⅞ inch round hole, and turned the end of the lever arm round on the lathe.

round hole in one of the arms, with the round end of the level arm and adjustment holes visible

I left the other end square, and cut a slot into it to hold the cam on the lever arm. The cam was a circle drawn using a pop can, then made bigger on one side and smaller on the other. And then once I assembled everything the first time and realized that the handle restricted me to only a half-turn, I adjusted the curve so it would have the full ¾ inch of travel I needed based on the holes I had drilled. To match the square end, I had to chop a square 1 inch mortise in the other arm.

square hole on the other arm, with lever arm and cam

With it working, I added a cleat to the foot of the pony so I can hang it on the cleats on my wall. It’ll get a coat of oil after I contact-cement some leather pads to the jaws tomorrow. With the holes in the lever arm spaced ¾ inch apart, and with six of them, I can clamp anything from paper thin up to 4½ inches thick, though thicker things will have the jaws at an inconvenient angle, so I probably won’t ever use it for anything thicker than an inch or so. But I could make hinged jaws too…

pony hanging from a cleat on the wall

And that’s it.

Update July 17, 2023:

After using the pony some, I made a few minor modifications to make it work better. First, I rounded the bottoms and sides of the jaws, so the thread wouldn’t hang up on them as I was working.

Rounded stitching pony jaws

And second, I shortened the arm in the cam clamp. I can’t see ever needing those last two or three adjustment slots, and if I do, I can always make a longer arm again.

Shortened clamp arm

I’ll work with those changes for a few more projects, and if they’re good, the pony will get a coat of two of oil.

#woodworking #project #clamp #HandyTools

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