This introduction to leather crafting will consist of 3 parts - learning and understanding tools, the best types of leathers for crafting, and what techniques to use. If you are a beginner looking to start on leather crafting, check out our other article on How To Start Leather Crafting. If you have already checked it out, sit tight and buckle up as we learn more about leather crafting!
Types of tools and what they are used for:
1. Interchangeable Precision Knife
Commonly used in art and craft, this tool is utilised to create small precise cuts in thinner pieces of leathercraft. Can be used to create desired shapes from larger pieces.
2. Round Knife
This tool is famously known as the symbol of leathercraft and is an indispensable tool in the pockets of any leathercraft expert. It is used to create straight lines by rocking back and forth along the round edge of the blade.
3. Chopping Board
Arguably the most important tool of all, the chopping board is the most important in this list. The chopping board protects the sharp blades and the table surface, by giving the blades a protected surface to work on, thus preserving its sharpness.
These tools are typically available in two sizes mainly used for tooling and stamping of leather craft pieces. Note to not use steel mallets as those will most definitely destroy the tools used in leathercraft. Rather, opt for a mallet meant for leathercraft as these are usually covered in rawhide which will aid in protecting the equipment.
5. Needle and Thread
Saddle stitching is a technique popular in leather craft utilising the needle and thread to create intricate patterns or to bind multiple pieces together. That said, do be prepared to have numerous needles for projects as the needles are likely to be easily broken when used against the stiff leather.
Types of Leathers and how they are used:
After understanding the tools that you will be working with, it will be essential to picking the right type of leather for your craft! This is important as different types of leathers have different stiffness, longevity and colour, which will be your main concerns. Below are 3 types of leathers that are used both commercially and recreationally.
1. Vegetable Tanned
An abbreviated form called Veg Tan, it is commonly used in high end wallets and belts due to the longevity of the leather. This type of leather also doesn’t break nor crack easily, becoming the go-to leather for high-quality leather luxurious goods.
2. Chrome tanned/ Garment leather
Due to its lower cost, chrome tanned leather has taken over veg-tan as the common source for hobbyists and professionals. Chrome leather can also be processed faster and less tedious compared to veg-tan, lowering overall cost significantly.
Suede is typically a relatively inexpensive furry type of leather that exists between the outer skin and flesh, taken from the underside. However, the napped finish also presents a consideration that suede cannot get wet and it is tough to clean, hence limiting the options that suede can be used for. That said, despite the limitations, suede still remains a popular option especially in higher end products such as shoes and handbags.
Techniques in crafting and what they mean:
Upon choosing the suitable type of leather, what tools to use and how to use them, we are ready to move forward to understanding the processes. Here are some oft-used terminologies that we see in leathercraft trade.
Applying water-based pigments onto the leather piece to allow absorption by the pores on the skin but not into the leather itself. Using this technique, the pigments can either be applied on already-treated leather or one that is half done.
It is the act of using stamps and a hammer/mullet to create a lasting imprint typically on the surface of veg-tan leather. In order for the imprint to be created permanently this is done with a wet surface on the leather, then waterproofed afterwards with wax or oils.
Similar to tooling, by putting water on the surface of the leather, this allows it to soften and be molded by hand. When it dries up, the leather will stiffen up maintaining its molded shape. Shaping can also be integrated with the step of engraving.
While it may achieve a somewhat similar effect to painting, dyeing actually allows the pigments to be absorbed into the leather, whereas painting only applies to the pores of the surface. Due to dyeing being more lasting than painting, it is usually used on leathercraft that require bending and mobility, as painting will probably crack under such movements.
Hopefully. reading these processes have given you an insight into what the trade of leathercraft is like. While the process may be slightly tedious to the layman, this guide will definitely ease up your journey to creating an amazing piece of leather work! Remember that the tools, leather types and processes mentioned above are not all there is to the trade. To improve, learn more and read more about the different methods that professionals use to improve their efficiency and create mesmerizing pieces.
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