Leather working or leather carving is the process of adding design and dimension to the surface of leather using a variety of carving and stamping tools. Adding designs to leather had been a practice since ancient times. Al Stohlman, while serving in the US army stationed in New Guinea, got his first exposure to leather working and experiment on adding designs to his leather belt issued by the US Army using his penknife and several nails that he had files into different shapes. When he got back home he started to work in earnest using stamping tools.
A veiner is one of the many stamping tools used to carve leather. One end of the veiner tool is curved, to give details to scrolls, stems and leaves. The veiner tool comes in different sizes and patterns and degree of curvature to give a variety of curved designs to hand-tooled leather. Below are instructions on how to use the veiner tool in leather working.
- Buy full-grained, vegetable-tanned leather as this is the best and only type of leather suited for leather carving. The vegetable-tanned leathers are used for harnesses, saddles, belts, bags and sandals and these are the leather items that look good when designs are stamped.
- Wet or case the leather properly before you use any tools on it. Casing is done by wetting a sponge and squeezing some of the water out. Rub the wet sponge evenly over the rough surface of the leather before turning it over and casing the smooth side.
- Trace the design onto the leather using tracing film and a stylus. Do not use a pencil as this may go through the tracing film and leave a mark on the leather. You can also buy hard plastic templates that can be transferred to the leather by rubbing it face down with a hard object.
- Decide which type of curvature and size of veiner tool will look good on the scroll or leaf you are creating. Position the veiner tool on the outline of the design, holding the veiner tool upright and whacking it once with a wooden mallet.
- The veins on scrolls will look better when the curves are evenly placed, so working in small increments is a must. You can vary the depth of the impression by angling the veiner tool, meaning you hold the tool with one side of the edge slightly higher than the other. When you pound the veiner tool with the mallet, one side of the curve will go deeper than the other side, giving a totally different look to the vein impression.
- The veiner tool should gracefully follow the curvature of the scroll. Tilt the veiner tool to the left or to the right to make narrower impressions if you are working on stems that go from wide to narrow.
Make sure that you keep the leather cased while you are working. Do not
carve the leather when it goes dry. Case the back and topside of the
leather with the wet sponge evenly. Use plastic, glass or ceramic to
hold the water you use for casing. Metal reacts with water and will