How to Make a Sailor's Palm

Updated April 17, 2017

A sailor's palm, otherwise known as a sailmaker's palm, is a device used to protect the palm of the hand when making a sail for a sailboat. The tool is usually made out of leather and steel and covers the palm area; this protects the palm when working needles through heavy canvas. Store-bought sailor's palms can be expensive--homemade ones protect the hand in the same manner and they can be customised to fit the shape of your own hand.

Place the penny on an anvil and use the centre punch and hammer to pound dimples into the face of the penny, starting in the centre and working your way out toward the edge. The penny should take the shape of a dish. This penny will form the part of the palm guard that blocks the sailmaker's needle from penetrating the skin.

Slice off the end of a wine cork at a slight angle using the X-acto knife. Slightly hollow out the cut end with the knife to allow the penny to sit neatly on top of the cork. Fix it in place with Super Glue and allow to dry. Once the cork has dried, cut a straight wedge-shaped piece off of the end of the cork using the X-acto knife to shorten the base. Place this to one side.

Cut the leather into a long strip that is 1 inch wider than your palm. This will form the foundation of the sailor's palm.

Wrap the strip of leather around your palm and around the back of the hand; alter the edges of the leather with scissors to a shape that sits comfortably around your hand. You should be able to form a fist with the leather still wrapped around your hand.

Use a pencil to mark onto the leather the point where your thumb aligns. Remove from your hand and cut a circular hole in the middle of the strip of leather at the marked point; this will form a hole for your thumb. Place the discarded disc of leather to one side; this will be used to cover the penny in Step 10. Insert your thumb and wrap around your hand once again to ensure the leather still fits comfortably. Adjust with scissors if necessary, but make sure the width of the leather still covers your palm sufficiently.

Remove the leather from your hand and cut a slit from the thumb hole to the end of the strip. The material should now resemble a long strip of leather with two curved flaps at one end.

Wrap the strip around your hand; the thumb should fit into the thumb hole and wrap the two flaps firmly around the back of the thumb. Meet the long strip of leather around the back of the hand to meet them. Adjust the leather until the fit is right and then secure them using Super Glue. Hold in place until you are confident that the glue has dried.

Reinforce the hold of the glue by sewing the pieces together using the needle and waxed thread.

Place the cork with the dimpled penny attached onto the piece of leather that covers the palm in between your thumb and forefinger. Position in place and add Super Glue. Hold firmly and allow to dry.

Cut a circle out of the disc of leftover leather referred to in Step 5. The circle should be slightly smaller than the size of a penny. Place this ring of leather over the piece of cork that is attached to the palm and secure with Super Glue. The ring of leather should fit snugly over the top of the cork and act as a cover to protect the edges of the penny. Once the glue has dried, sew using the sewing awl and waxed thread to further secure it in place.

Remove any threads using scissors to finish the palm.


Make the fit of the palm guard reasonably tight because the leather will stretch over time. An alternative to Super Glue is contact cement. This will reduce the time it takes for the parts to dry.


Use caution when working with needles. Working with leather takes a bit of practice; take your time and do not rush any steps.

Things You'll Need

  • Piece of leather
  • X-Acto knife
  • Scissors
  • Penny
  • Anvil
  • Sewing awl
  • Waxed thread
  • Wine cork
  • Super Glue
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About the Author

Hanna Lee Tidd is a director at Tiger Bam Production House in London. Tidd has written for online and print publications since 2002, contributing to several culture and lifestyle magazines such as "Heat" and "Birmingham Recycled." Tidd holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Birmingham City University.