Friday, April 29, 2011

Pin Backs

Well, back to some technical stuff.  Jewelry for me is one of the media I use for expression. Whether it's narrative or design oriented doesn't matter.  But the one fundamental principle about jewelry regardless of what it looks like is that it should be wearable.  With that in mind, here's a little how-to on pin backs:

I use commercial pin backs. The kind with the little rolling catch.  Nickel silver.  I know how to make handmade pin backs but unless I'm going to do something really high end I don't see a point.  To me, a pin back is like the eye hooks and wire for a picture; it should be well-made, do it's job and be unobtrusive.  And even is I were making something high-end I would just buy higher end pin backs unless the pin was an integral design element of the piece.  When I purchase pin backs, I always buy the catch and joint that matches and make sure you get a stem with the rivet in it.

Pin Catch

Pin Joint

Pin Stem with rivet

I buy the longest pin stems I can get because I will cut them to size as needed.  You NEVER want the point of your pin stem to extend beyond the end of the catch enough for the wearer to feel it. Also, always solder the pin catch open-side DOWN.

So here are pin backs already soldered on (I went through this part of the process in a previous post) and now I've placed the pin stems to the pieces and cut them down.

First I clamp the pin stem up in my ring clamp and file a new point, then sand and polish that point. It is important that the point NOT be long and thin but rather short and sort of blunt. This prevents the point from tearing through thread.  A shorter, slightly blunt point will work it's way between a weave but a long sharp point acts like a needle and can split threads.

The pin stem is properly sharpened and does not extend beyond the end of the clutch.  Now to clamp it into the joint.

The joint has 2 holes on either side in which the rivet of the pin stem fits. The trick is to get them lined up and even pressure applied so one side of the joint doesn't move in more than the other.  I like to use parallel jaw pliers for this and I do it slowly. You'll notice that the pin stem is angled above the catch as it gets seated.  That is because I soldered the joint at an angle. You want the pin stem to have to be pulled down and have it pop into the catch a little. This helps the pin stem stay in the catch even if the little roller gets rolled up over the course of the day.  It's a safety feature.  That's it!


  1. This is a really useful post, thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi there, Jewel! I found this post on your blog when I googled pin backs. I am interested in the part of the process where you prepared and soldered the three part of the pin back that you mentioned you had talked about in a previous post. Would you please supply the link to the previous post? I want to make sure I position the clasp, rivet, and pin stem correctly! Thank you in advance! Wendy

    1. Hi Wendy,
      Sorry for the late response! The post where I soldered the pin backs on is here: Hope that helps!