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  • Starting Leathercraft

    What tools do you need to start leather working with?

    This is not a complete list of tools but will give you a good foundation to expand on when you want to start leather working.


    Awl Haft and blades -  there are so many uses for this tool, making holes in leather, cutting stitch holes while you sew. Marking out cut lines.
     

    Cutting Mat/Poly Cutting board - I tend to use both, a cutting mat when cutting long lengths of leather, and the poly board when making holes. The mat will protect your work bench from cuts, and the poly board will protect the edges of your punch tools.


    Divider/Compass – Good for marking equal distance holes for belt holes, marking curves, equal distance on edges for creating borders, to name but a few.


    Edge Beveler – This tool runs along the edge of the leather taking a small portion of the side leaving behind a smooth rounded edge. There are various sizes for different thicknesses of leather.


    Edge Slicker – There are so many types, wood, bone, acrylic, this creates a smooth, clean, edge on your work. Personally, I have a wooden one with various sized grooves on one end which fit a variety of different leather thicknesses. I also have a wide bone folder/slicker for larger projects.


    Hole Punches – A good variety of hole punches is a must, especially if you want to make belts, set rivets, snaps etc. Personally, I am not a fan of the rotary style punch. 


    Mallet or Maul – Do not use a metal hammer when working with leather tools as it will damage your tools. Ideally you should use either a rawhide mallet or poly maul/hammer.


    Needles/Thread – For different types of thread see our in a bind blog, if you buy unwaxed thread, simply run your thread through a lump of beeswax a few times to coat it, as to needles I like the John James Harness Needles size 001 to 003, note there is no difference in the needle size despite the different numbers.  The harness needles are semi blunt so you either need to pre-punch the holes, or in the more traditional style use an awl as you go.


    Rivet Setter and Dot Anvil A tool used to close rivets, if you are using a single capped rivet then all you will need is a good solid surface. Again, personally I prefer double capped as they give a more professional look. Here you will also need a dot anvil, this has a domed surface which the cap sits in so that when you set it, the cap will not become flat or misshapen.


    Stitching Pony – An absolute must! It acts as a third hand, holding your work in place while you are stitching. 


    Stitching Groover/Overstitch wheel – The groover will cut a small grove in your work leaving a narrow channel to put your stitches in. This means that the stitches will be less prone to wear and tear. The overstitch wheel has little spikes on it which will mark out where the stitches are supposed to go. This tool allows for evenly spaced and straight stitching giving your work a more professional look. There are also stitching chisels, these make a small hole in the leather so that you can put your stitches through it without the need of an awl.


    Steel Square/Ruler – Ideally a corked back one as this will not damage the surface of the leather. Obviously used for marking out straight lines and corners, and for cutting. 


    Sharpening Tools – Wow, another big category, for my ceramic blades, and smaller cutting tools I use a leather strop (a bit of leather glued to both sides of a wooden block, and on one edge there is a bit of lace, the lace I use to sharpen my edge bevelers.) Rub with Jeweller’s rouge before using, why two sides? Well if you try to sharpen a ceramic blade where you have sharpened a metal one, the metal fragments that have been left behind will damage the ceramic blade.
    For larger cutting tools it starts getting awkward, and is a real case of trial, error, and practise. Again, my personal choice is to start with knapping fluid and a fine diamond file, then finish with a different leather strop that has been coated with Tormek PA-70 Honing Paste, to smooth out the cutting edge. I will go int sharpening tools a bit more in depth in a later post. 


    Utility Knife/Craft Knife – A decent utility knife and blades are a must; blunt blades will mean you will have difficulty cutting the leather and can leave a ragged edge. 


    Optional tools for starting leathercraft

    Adjustable Creaser – Another tool used for making parallel lines, inside borders, decorative work etc.


    Loop Sticks – Available in a variety of sizes, these are used to mould leather for belt keepers. 


    Skiver/Beveller - Used to thin down leather for things like fitting buckles so that they fit better. Also used for thinning the edges of leather and the ends of straps giving a more professional look. 


    Strap Cutter – Literally used for cutting different widths of straps, a great tool for making belts, and straps for a variety of purposes. 

    Strap End Punch – A rounded, or V shaped punch used to cut a neat end on belts and straps. 


    Carving and Stamping Tools


    Marble Slab – A heavy smooth stab is a must, this helps to stop the tools from bouncing as it stops the inertia from passing through the tool into your bench. These are also good for setting rivets and snaps on. 


    Plastic/Glass Bowl – Never use a metal bowl, as it can taint the water and mar the finish of your project. 

    Sponge – A clean sponge used to apply water to the leather during the casing stage.


    Swivel Knife – Ideally try to get one that has a ball bearing swivel and adjustable yoke especially if you want to do a lot of leather carving.


    Bevelers – A beveler is the primary tool used in leather­work to create depth in the pattern you are tooling.


    Matting/Background Stamps - Matting stamps are generally to gently fade the edges to nothing.  Background stamps are generally used to deeply push down the leather between the carved areas. As you start to do more you find yourself expanding your collection.


    Tracing Film – A thick plastic like tracing paper. Used to draw you pattern on then transfer it to cased leather using a ball ended stylus. As the leather is cased regular tracing paper will either fall apart of leave marks on the surface of your project. 


    Stylus -  Simply a metal tool with a small ball at one end. When used on cased leather it will leave behind a mark. 


    Modelling Spoons – These literally have a spoon on one or both ends. These are used to smooth out your leather carving. They can also be used to erase a mistake on your carving. Simply flip the leather and press down, rubbing gently where the mistake is. Its not perfect but can help when it is only a minor mistake.


    Stamps – There are so many different types of pictorial stamps, some come with handles and others like the Tandy pictorial stamps don’t. Have a look around and see what you fancy be it animal, floral, or even Celtic. 


    Stamp Handle – As said earlier Tandy’s stamps in general need a handle. This means you will need to purchase one. Here I would recommend their hefty handle. It has a good weight and spreads the impact evenly across the back of the stamp.  The reason they have no handle is a fairly simple one, it means that you are not paying for that extra bit of metal every time you buy a stamp helping to keep the prices down.

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