How To Do Basic Leather Work

Leather satchel

So you have decided to take up basic leather work. This article will give you information on basic leather work tools, how to pick basic leather work materials, and how to assemble your basic leather work project.

Basic Materials needed for leather work:

  • Awl
  • Exacto knife and/or leather shears
  • T-square, yardstick, compass:  To measure&shape accurately
  • Edge Bevel (#2):  To round the fresh edges for a more finished and durable piece
  • Rubber, rawhide or plastic mallet
  • Wood block - at least 6" x 6"
  • Harness needles -2 minimum
  • Glover's needles -2 minimum
  • Waxed linen thread, or artificial sinew
  • Beeswax & bone folder/wheel to finish the edges nicely
  • Barge cement: Let this set for 20 minutes before bonding to ROUGH surfaces. Make sure to have adequate ventilation
  • Conditioner, or mink oil
  • Leather dye (black, dark brown)
  • Heavy paper (grocery bags), waterproof tracing paper, wax paper, or cardboard for patterns all work well
  • A large tackle box to keep your materials safely in one place

After gathering the tools needed to work with the leather it is time to actually go to your local leather store, or find your leather on an online supply house. For your basic leather work project it is suggested to use either Vegetable-Tanned or Oak-Tanned leather.  You can choose light-colored leather in the thickness desired. Some leather is of a lower grade due to defects, or their small size.  If you are really just starting to learn it would be a good idea to start with some smaller pieces in order to learn the different techniques; while not having to spend a lot in the beginning.

Tanned leather is sold by weight per square foot. One-ounce leather weighs one ounce per square foot, two-ounce leather weighs two ounces per square foot and so on for other weights. Leather is generally sold by the hide, half hide or parts of a hide such as the shoulder are all all still charged by the ounce. Whatever you decided to pick the thickness will be usually about 1/64.  Since you will probably just be starting out doing basic leather work it is recommended that you get a smaller piece and practice your techniques before purchasing a full hide.

Basic leather work steps are as follows:  

  1. Layout.  A layout involves full scale patterns of all the pieces involved.
  2. Cutout.  Cutout is exactly that you will lay the pattern on top of the leather and cut it out.
  3. Assembly. Assembly includes dyeing the leather, marking and punching out the stitch lines and then stitching the leather together.
  4. Finishing. Finishing includes oiling the leather, polishing but putting a coat of wax or polish of your choice, and then finally burnishing the leather to bring out its full glow.


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