Stylus option: The Pin Vise

Over the years I have shared a good deal about my use of a metal stylus in my work.

(For those that are not aware of this tool and how it is used in my process:

These metal styli, sometimes referred to as needle-point awls, are commonly used with leather or paper based art forms–as well as sculpture. Here are some examples of the types of styli I have used over the years:

Needle-point Awl:

Embossing Stylus:

However, the type of stylus that I find myself using most often is actually a pin vise. A pin vise (or pin vice in the UK) is a miniature drill or twist drill that is a useful, fairly inexpensive specialized hand tool often used in miniature woodwork. Pin vises, as the name suggest, hold thin, long cylindrical objects (like a pin or wire) by one end. This means it can also hold very thin, narrow drill bits. This tool would come in handy for anyone who works with small-scale miniatures, models, or or with wire for jewelry or small parts like in wristwatch repair.

Shown: Starrett 162A Pin Vise, 0-0.040" Range

Pin vises come in many different sizes and thus can be used with any different needle points such as metal compass points/needles:

Hope you detail oriented painters out there find this helpful—
Happy painting!


Thanks for the info. And there was me thinking you didn’t have any vices!

I’ve always just used a nail or pin, but I never thought about actually putting it in a holder like this.



Good one, Thomas😂

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We use these at work, for making our own hair implanting tools. (Not for living people! Relax!) For our museum figures.


I have a new Starrett pin vise (upgrading from my Slade Wheeler prison chiv ) but I’m not sure what sort of accessories you’d use with it. Is there a particular metal compass point or other pins you would recommend? Thanks!

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I would recommend experimenting with various compass needle points. That is what I have done. I have an assortment that I like for different purposes. Here’s a link to some of them:

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Thank you so much, Anthony- much appreciated!

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