Friday, April 5, 2013

Tutorial: Cutting and Tipping Steel Boning With Heat Shrink Tubing

I recently learned a new way to tip corset bones and I HAVE to share.

It's possible to buy corset bones pre-cut and pre-tipped, but they are significantly more expensive if you buy them that way.  Which is why I recommend that if you're going to make corsets, you learn to cut and tip bones yourself.  This method will work with either spiral steel or flat steel bones.

Continuous roll of spiral steel boning
Boning Cutter
Heat Shrink Tubing
Craft scissors

The boning cutter is one I bought from  It works great.  I believe it is just a cable cutter, but one made for cutting heavy steel cable.  This is what happens if you try to cut steel bones with a cable cutter that's NOT made for cutting steel:

Step One:  Measure the length of bone that you need, leaving room at either end of the corset for your binding.  Cut your bone the necessary length.

Step Two: Trim the ends of the bone to remove any pointy or sharp bits.  Here you can see the bone before and after trimming: 

And now let's talk about different tipping methods.  The typical method involves attaching little U-shaped metal bits to the end of the bone.  You are supposed to do this with pliers (unless you have a really sweet machine to do it for you).  I freaking hate those things.  Getting them on the ends is really time-consuming and frustrating, but then they can still pop off.  I've tried other methods of tipping bones, such as tool dipping fluid (which I really didn't like) and plumber's thread tape (which works ok, but isn't very neat.)  But this one is the best.

This method uses heat-shrink tubing, which you can find at any hardware store.  It comes in various widths and you just need to buy the size that your bones fit into.  This is 1/4" wide tubing, which I'm using with my 1/4" wide bones.  

Step Three: Cut a length of heat-shrink tubing about 3/4" long. 

Step Four: Put the tubing over the end of the bone, with a good amount hanging off the end and hold it over a lit candle.  The tubing will begin to shrink.  Turn the bone to heat the tubing evenly.  Don't get the tubing too close to the flame, or it will bubble and melt.  

Step Five:  Use the pliers to pinch the end of the tube closed at the end of the bone.  You should do this while the tube is still warm.

Step Six: Trim the end of the flattened tubing to minimize sharp edges and corners.  Don't cut too close to the bone or the tube will open again.

And you're done!  Wasn't that easy?


  1. That is such an excellent tip! TeeHee...Tip ;) Thank you for sharing your pearls of wisdom!

  2. I have a couple of underwire bras where the plastic tip has broken off a wire. Those jagged ends always aim perfectly between my ribs and straight for vital organs. There hasn't been a successful way to mend them so far, but I'm certainly trying this! Those bras are expensive and I just can't bear throwing one out that still has some wear left.

    1. That's a great idea! I'm not sure how small the tubing will shrink, but you can probably find some thinner than this.

      You've just given me an idea to use this on part of my dishwasher rack that is rusted...

    2. I also have the same problem, but there is something magical called tipping fluid used on steel bones. Its a bit like liquid latex, but not as pungent and, I imagine, would hold up against the test of time...and laundering. Xp

  3. That is so much cleaner than the medical tape I've been using. /jawdrop. Many thanks!

    1. Isn't it great? I've been using plumber's thread tape for a while but this is so much nicer.

  4. I've been searching for a tipping tool for months. I hate the u shape ends! I already feel lazy! Thank you!

  5. Tamseer- I'm going to have to study these pages very carefully. I plan on buying my first corset but being able to make my own is a goal for the future. Most stuff I've seen just doesn't look really durable or give the detail I've needed.

  6. This is a pretty neat method, but there is a good trick to not getting poky edges on the corset bones. Y'know on spiral steels how there's a "smiley" side and a "frowny" side? All you need do is cut one side of the frown (on the "frowny" side) and it'll slide right out. As for getting the tips on, using a pair of needle nosed pliers and larger pliers simultaneously is very effective. But this method seems very ingenious. I shall have to try it some time ^^.

  7. I know this is an old post, but THANK YOU!!!!
    You seriously just saved me hours of frustration in fiddling with those little metal clamps. I found this post by googling "how to tip spiral steel" because I figured there must be some kind of trick to making it easier

  8. This is very, very clever :) I'm curious though, have you tested out the washability of this method yet? For example, does it machine or hand wash okay in cool water, or does it create an icky sticky mess? The rusting factor also is a concern to me; I read on that without tipping fluid, the cut edges of the spiral steel might rust over time, so I'm curious if anyone knows if this method prevents rusting at all the way tipping fluid does. Obviously the best method of cleaning for corsets will always be dry cleaning, but once I build up my army of corsets (muahaha) that might get kind of expensive and tedious. Anyway. If you (or anyone who has tried this) have any useful input on the matter I would love to hear it :D

    1. No the tubing is very durable plastic. It's not going to go anywhere because of some water. There won't be any more rust that there would be with metal caps on the ends. I've been told that spiral steel boning rusts period in corsets that have been machine washed, but I've never actually SEEN any rust or any pictures or rust or evidence of rust. I've machine washed a corset and then taken it apart and there wasn't any rust. I am about to do it again, so I'll report. Not frequent machine washing, but a couple of times in the life of a corset.

  9. This is a great idea. I will be using it for the corset I am making at the moment and have mentioned it on my blog here: Thank you for sharing it. :)
    Cheers, Nessa

  10. That's a great idea! I'm not sure how small the tubing will shrink, but you can probably find some thinner than this.