A pin is a device used for fastening objects or material together. Pins often have two components: a long body and sharp tip made of steel, or occasionally copper or brass, and a larger head often made of plastic. The sharpened body penetrates the material, while the larger head provides a driving surface. It is formed by drawing out a thin wire, sharpening the tip, and adding a head. Nails are related, but are typically larger. In machines and engineering, pins are commonly used as pivots, hinges, shafts, jigs, and fixtures to locate or hold parts.
The development of the pin closely paralleled that of its perforated counterpart, the needle. Archaeological evidence suggests that curved sewing pins have been used for over four thousand years. Originally, these were fashioned out of iron and bone by the Sumerians and were used to hold clothes together. Later, pins were also used to hold pages of books together by threading the needle through their top corner.
Many later pins were made of brass, a relatively hard and ductile metal that became available during the Bronze Age. This development was followed by the use of steel which was much stronger but tended to rust when exposed to humid air. The development of inexpensive electroplating techniques allowed the steel to be plated with nickel. Nickel did not rust, but tended to flake off the steel in humid weather, again allowing it to rust. However, this took many months or even years to happen, and as nickel plated steel pins were usually used only temporarily to hold fabric in place prior to sewing, no further refinement has been considered necessary. Note, however, that some modern specialty pins are made out of rust-proof and very strong titanium.
Adam Smith described the manufacture of pins using extensive division of labor in his Wealth of Nations. John Ireland Howe invented a pin-making machine in 1832, and an improved machine in 1841; his Howe Manufacturing Company of Derby, Connecticut, used three machines to produce 72,000 pins per day in 1839.
Walter Hunt invented the safety pin by forming an eight-inch brass pin into a bent pin with a spring and guard. He sold the rights to his invention to pay a debt to a friend, not knowing that he could have made millions of dollars.
|Pin type||Typical size[Note 1]||Typical length||Features|
|Beading pins||14||7⁄8 in (22 mm)||Wider-than-usual-head allows this pin to hold beads more easily|
|T-pins||0.75 mm||1 1⁄4 in (32 mm)||A pin with a head bent into a capital letter "T" to make it easier to grab with the finger tips|
|Dressmaker pins||17-20||1 1⁄16 in (27 mm)||The most common type of sewing pin, used for light to medium-weight fabrics; may have either a small flat head or a round plastic one|
|Pleating pins||17||1 1⁄16 in (27 mm)||Considered "extra fine", used for pinning pleats and lightweight fabrics|
|Applique pins||0.6 mm||3⁄4 in (19 mm)||Pins have small round glass heads that are easy to work around; also, because the pins are comparatively short they are less likely to "stick out" when holding small pieces of fabric against a larger one|
|Bridal and lace pins||17||1 1⁄4 in (32 mm)||These pins are made entirely of stainless steel and will not rust; used for fine and lightweight fabrics|
|Patchwork pins||22 (0.5 mm)||1 7⁄16 in (37 mm)||Pins have extra sharp tips for penetrating thick iron-on patches; their size and length also make them suitable for quilting; they have glass heads that will not melt if pressed in an iron|
|Quilting pins||30 (0.6 mm)||1 7⁄8 in (48 mm)||Quilting pins are exceptionally long and often have glass heads|
|Silk pins||0.5 mm||1 7⁄16 in (37 mm)||Pins suitable for lightweight fabrics; glass head will not melt when ironed|
|Pearlized pins||24||1 1⁄2 in (38 mm)||These have round plastic heads which have been painted (often in bright colors) to superficial resemble the appearance of pearls|
|Sequin pins||8 (0.5 mm)||1⁄2 in (13 mm)||Exceptionally short length makes these pins suitable for applique; large flat head makes them able to hold sequins in place|
|Tidy pins||-||1 1⁄2 in (38 mm)||U-shaped pins with no head used for holding slip covers and doilies in place; often made of brass so that they will not rust; also called fork pins|
|Hatpins||-||8 in (20 cm)||Exceptionally long decorative pin used to hold a woman's hat in place|
Thin, hardened pins can be driven into wood with a hammer with the goal of not being seen.
In engineering and machine design, a pin is a machine element that secures the position of two or more parts of a machine relative to each other. A large variety of types has been known for a long time; the most commonly used are solid cylindrical pins, solid tapered pins, groove pins, slotted spring pins and spirally coiled spring pins.