Crafts and Activities

Leather Crafting

Whether you want to make something cool out of leather for yourself or as gifts for your friends and family, you will enjoy this creative hobby! Leather can be used to make shoes, clothing, artisan handcrafted leather bags, book bindings, fashion accessories, belts, flower leather craft, jewelry, furniture and much more. Some people even enjoy replicating Indian leather craft and Viking leather works.

To get started in leather carving for beginners, you will need a small set of specialty design tools, along with leather, of course. To name a few, the tools you will need are a: swivel knife, beveler, sewing pony horse clamp, hollow hole punch, and hammer. As you get more advanced and enthusiastic with this hobby, you will likely add to your tool collection. Below is some helpful leather working 101 information to help you starting leatherworking.

Leather

First, we will start with the leather. Leathers come in all different shades, thicknesses and sizes, depending on what you plan to make.  Leather also comes tanned in several ways, most commonly: vegetable tanned, chrome tanned, aldehyde tanned, brain tanned (real animal brain oils!), and alum tanned. The most natural and oldest method is vegetable tanned, which is also the most eco-friendly. If the tanning process is important to you, be sure to do your research before buying.

When you get started, if you want to design and decorate the leather, you’ll need to moisten the leather with water and a sponge prior to working on it. This allows the leather to be pliable and accept and retain the damage you do when you carve your design into the leather. It also allows for a smoother, more professional look. If you are just wanting to make a belt or basic purse, you may be able to get away without moistening it as long as the leather is pliable enough for you to do what you want.

Product ImageProduct NameProduct Link
Cow Hide Leather in various colorsSee on Amazon
Leather Suede LaceSee on Amazon
20 Piece Sewing Needles and Waxed ThreadSee on Amazon
Leather ScrapsSee on Amazon

Tools

Once you have chosen what type of leather craft you want to make, the next step is to decide if you want to decorate it or not. If so, there are endless designs that you can create with some basic tools. Leather jewelry is big these days, so the tools below are the same as leather jewelry making tools. You can find all of these leather tools online.

Rivets: Metal pieces that allow you to attach two or more pieces of leather together or used as decorations.

Chisel: Creates holes for stitching and requires a punch all the way through the leather and is quicker than using a pricking iron.

Punch: Punches holes in the leather and can range from about 1mm to 6mm.

Stamps: Alphabets, animals and symbols are the most common stamps. Make sure you use a hard surface and the leather is properly moistened. Use a mallet and make short, strong hits on the stamp to make the imprint but not so hard that you cause the stamp to bounce, as this can create multiple impressions of your design.

Beveler: Round the edges of the leather (edge beveler) or create designs (figure carving beveler), including inverted leather carving.

Clamp: Holds the leather to help with accurate stitching, cross stitch leather, cutting or punching. Sometimes called a leather clam.

Hammer: Also called a mallet or maul. Used to hit the punching or design tools. Make sure you don’t use steel or metal hammers on your tools, as they may cause them to bend or break. You may need several different weighted hammers depending on the design and leatherwork.

Cutter: Used to cut the leather. You can use many things, like swivel knives, skiving knives, curved knifes, leather shears and rotary cutters.

Product ImageProduct NameProduct Link
Rivets: 2 Sizes Metal Studs with Fixing ToolsSee on Amazon
Rivet Gun with 60 RivetsSee on Amazon
Stitching Chisel SetSee on Amazon
Leather Hole Punch SetSee on Amazon
Revolving Leather Hole Punch, Eyelet and Snap Setting Pliers SetSee on Amazon
Stamps: 20 Piece Shape Stamp Punch SetSee on Amazon
Stamps: Fancy AlphabetSee on Amazon
Leather Edge BevelerSee on Amazon
Smooth Beveler StampsSee on Amazon
Clamp: Lacing Sewing Pony Horse ClampSee on Amazon
Carving Hammer Wooden MalletSee on Amazon
Leather Edging Knife See on Amazon
Leather Crafting Softgrip ShearsSee on Amazon

Finishing Touches:

To finish off your project and make it look super professional, you can burnish the leather edges, which is basically polishing the rough edges of the leather, or use edge paint, which is better for soft, thin, more pliable edges. It may be time consuming depending on the size of your project, but it is well worth it!

Once you’re done with your design and burnishing or edge painting, you can apply a leather finish to preserve the quality and appearance of your piece. Make sure the surface is completely dry and clean prior to applying the finish. This is the same if you think you need a second coat, too.

Product ImageProduct NameProduct Link
Burnish: Fiebing’s Edge Kote BlackSee on Amazon
Burnish Leather Slicker ToolSee on Amazon
Military Grade Edge Dressing BlackSee on Amazon
Edge Paint Dye Roller Pen ApplicatorSee on Amazon
Leather Finish ProtectorSee on Amazon

If you want some additional reading or tricks and tips to leather crafting, here are some books to check out.

Product ImageProduct NameProduct Link
Get Started in Leather Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques and Tips for Crafting SuccessSee on Amazon
Basic Leathercrafting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get StartedSee on Amazon
The Leatherworking Handbook: A Practical Illustrated Sourcebook of Techniques and ProjectsSee on Amazon

Now that you have the basic leather working 101 skills, you can become a custom leather carving master! Happy leather crafting!

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Nichole

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