Meaning ‘small eyes', eyelets are small metal rings used to bind papers, an option that took hold before the invention of staples. These devices usually have flanges that allow the eyelet to be inserted in between papers that have holes.
- Origins. Although the eyelet has been used for some time for binding paper and adding holes for tarpaulins, cloth, and other materials, the first patented eyelet was made by W. Rodgers in 1859. Eyelets are usually confused with grommets. However, grommets are usually much larger, with holes that have larger diameters and with stronger flanges. The stronger flanges have made the grommets more popular for adding holes in thick cloths and larger tarpaulins that can be very heavy. Today, eyelets are used mostly in clothing, such as for holes in hats, belts, shirts, shoes, and as decorative accents for designer clothing.
- Decorations. One of the advantages of using eyelets compared to grommets is that these usually provide a more decorative appeal. Eyelets can be purchased with various materials and finishes, which make them perfect as accents for clothing. Grommets, on the other hand, are usually made of plain stainless steel, which makes them better for industrial purposes.
- Material. Another consideration when choosing between eyelets and grommets is the type of material to be used. If you need to work on thick materials or materials that are very heavy, the grommet is better since it is larger and can create more secure holes. On the other hand, thin and light materials such as paper will usually require eyelets. Using grommets on paper will only crease the paper, unless you are working on very large and very thick sheets of paper. Also consider how visible you want the binding piece to be. Grommets will stand out more, because of its large size. Eyelets, on the other hand, are more inconspicuous because of their smaller size.
- Setting eyelets. To place eyelets, you can choose to either use a machine or to set the eyelet by hand. Machines that may be used are setting machines, pneumatic auto-feed machines, and hand press machines. These machines are usually used for industrial purposes where eyelets need to be attached in large batches. If you only need to attach one or two eyelets, using a hammer and a setting tool will usually suffice. To manually set eyelets, a hole must be punched into the material using the setting tool. The barrel of the eyelet should then be placed on the hole, with the barrel end facing upwards. Position the flange so that it is visible. To seal and lock the eyelets, gently use the hammer to flatten the barrel and grip the material surrounding it.
Because eyelets are used mainly for decorative purposes today, new eyelets are made using a variety of other metal materials and with a number of shapes and colors. Brass and aluminum are popular eyelet materials because of their strength, price, color, and lightweight. These can be used as accents for craft projects and do-it-yourself projects at home.