How Pins Are Made

Learning more about how pins are made increases ones appreciation for these small gems of art! What may make pin collecting so popular in today's fast paced modern world is its roots in ancient art. Today there are pin collectors for Hard Rock Cafe, Disney, Planet Hollywood, Warner Brothers Studios, Universal Studios, Olympics, Secret Service, and Military pins just to name a few. While the message on the pin may differ, how the pins are made can be narrowed down to the information below.

For an actual video of the pin making process click here.

First let's explore the front part of the pin, then we will look at the attachments that are available, and then we will discover the different types of pins available. Different variations on how the pin is made or attached can be used to describe a pin and also may affect its value.

Pin Making Methods

The front of the pin will tell you a great deal about how it was made. Do metal ridges separate the colors? Is there an enamel covering? Does the image look like a photograph? Here are some of the different methods used to make a pin.

Cloisonné Pin: True Cloisonné was an art form created and developed by the Chinese thousands of years ago. It involved a laborious process of creating a grid from bronze or brass and then copper. It was then filled with a hard enamel glass mixture with each color being fired one at a time. This mixture was repeatedly kiln fired, cooled, refilled with enamel, and fired again until the surface was smooth. The final step was to hand polish. Cloisonné is still available and is generally the most expensive method.

Die-Struck Pin: This is where the design is stamped into the metal. It can then be filled with soft enamel or not. Each color will have to be processed one color at a time. The pins are then baked. The final step is to hand polish.

Photo Etched Pins: Here a photograph negative is used to transfer the design to the metal. Then acid is used to create the indentations. Enamel can then be used to color the pin. Each color will have to be done one color at a time. The pins are then baked. The final step is to hand polish.

Silk-Screened or Photographic Pin: These pins are images that are created then glued to the metal and for protective purposes are then covered by enamel.

Pin Attachments

Metal Military or Butterfly Clutch: One of the more common types now, and favored by many associations. A prong is on the back of the pin and when you squeeze the butterfly clutch and pull up off the prong, the pin is released.

Jewelry Clutch or Tie Tack Back: This type gives a more elegant appearance to the clutch. The clutch locks into place when it covers the prong.

Rubber/Plastic Butterfly Clutch: Same as the metal, but made of rubber/plastic material. Many collectors feel that this type is more secure. A picture is provided to the right.

Screw and Nut Back: Probably the safest and most expensive. The prong will have threads and a nut will screw on to secure the pin. Popular for leather jackets.

Magnetic Disc: Got to love the polyester crowd! This may or may not be the wave of the future. No hole marks left. Becoming more popular as with our Twitter pins!

Safety Pin Clasp Back: Many older pins will have this method. Many people who do actually wear their pins do not like these because they are prone to unhook. It is a long stickpin that will have either a hook or a clasp that the needle will go into. There are many variations, and one is shown to the right.

Stick Pin Back: Simple in design and one you may see on smaller pins. This type has one needle that will have some type of collar that can slide up and down the needle.

Pin Types

There is the standard pin, and then there are creative types available on the market. Some of these creative ones definitely merge modern technology with ancient art!

Pin On Pin: This is where a pin is attached to another pin. It will give a 3-D look to the pin.

Dangle or Danglers: A dangle pin will have one pin attached to another, usually by a chain.

Electronic (LED or Blinkers): Eyes that blink is an example of an electronic pin. A small battery is on the back of the pin and these pins are generally very bulky to accommodate the electrical parts needed.

Slider: Another pin on pin where one part moves.

Bobble Head: This is a dangle pin using a spring instead of a chain.

Spinner: Generally a pin on pin, but may be something else attached to the main pin. Attached part can spin.


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