Wow, where to begin? Getting a first set of leather tools is a mix of excitement, confusion, and sometimes sticker shock at the prices of some tools! But fear not, it is totally possible to try leather craft without spending a lot of money.

In fact, it’s smarter that way, to first get a feel if you enjoy the craft, and also to know more about what tool upgrades you would like, and actually use the most.

Let’s look at a few examples of basic leather goods that might be a nice first project, and the tools they require.

 

Making a Leather Almost-Anything

For pure utility and function, where appearance doesn’t really matter and the goal is to make something that works for and serves a purpose. These might not be the most finished or fitting pieces but leather craft can totally be done with minimal tools:

  • Knife
  • Awl (to make holes for stitching)
  • Needle
  • Thread

 

Making a Leather Belt

This is a nice one to start with since it gives an opportunity to try a few of the basic tools and yields a totally usable piece. We’ll consider adding a few tools to improve the final appearance of the leather and how it feels in the hand. For this we’d use:

  • Leather Belt Strip Blank
  • Edger
  • Skiver
  • Hole Punch
  • Knife
  • Riveter & Rivets
  • Burnisher
  • Stamping/Cutting Board
  • Hammer/Maul

If the belt needs dyeing or finishing:

  • Delgazer
  • Dye
  • Finishing Cream
  • Daubers/Cloth Rag

 

Making a Leather Key Chain

A key chain can be even simpler than a belt, depending on how you’d like to design it:

  • Small piece of leather
  • Knife
  • Edger
  • Hole Punch (if using rivets)
  • Pricking Irons (if sewing it by hand)
  • Riveter & Rivets (or needle and thread)
  • Keyring
  • Stamping/Cutting Board
  • Burnisher
  • Hammer/Maul (if using rivets)

 

Making a Leather Wallet

A wallet introduces additional skills, since it will likely have a few pockets to hold bills and cards and we’ll have to think through the design a little further. We can use:

  • Knife
  • Ruler/Cutting Edge
  • Stamping/Cutting Board
  • Edger
  • Pricking Irons
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Burnisher
  • Stitching Groover
  • Hammer/Maul

 

OK, so we have an idea of what some of the basic tools are, and how we would use them. Let’s take a look at what specific tools you can get, based on the budget you are working with.

Recommended retailers generally include Rocky Mountain Leather Supply, Weaver, and Amazon, since those are the ones I am most familiar with. They have some great products and fair prices. I’m sure there’s many more out there and I’ll learn as I go, please feel free to share sources/recommendations you have too.

 

Leather Tools for Free

This is a great place to start and a good option depending on what you already have or can borrow. Asking around can yield some helpful folks and a great way to try things out. If you have a good friend that is a leather crafter, you’ve hit the tool/knowledge jackpot! 🙂

  • Knife (can be a utility knife)
  • Leather hole punch (the ones where it’s a single tool and the hole size can be rotated to select the one you need)
  • Cutting Board (can use a nylon kitchen cutting board)
  • Awl
  • Needle/Thread
  • Rivets/Riveter

 

Take a Leather Craft Class – Costs Vary

As an alternative to borrowing or buying your own tools if you’re looking to explore if you like the craft, think about attending a leather craft class if one is available in your area. While rates might vary, they allow exposure to a lot of tools, and experienced knowledge, for a single cost. This might be an efficient way to try things out, depending on your preferences.

 

Leather Tools for $50

It is very important to be cautious about getting tools just because they are inexpensive. Often, they will be barely effective, if effective at all, not last long, and produce poor quality results. It might even take excitement about leather craft and turn it into non-excitement, which would be unfortunate since it really has nothing to do with your skill, it’s the tool! Now while great tools won’t compensate for skill, cheap tools can produce poor results, even in skilled hands.

So, with that in mind, what to do? I would recommend having a project in mind and then buying decent tools for that. If you enjoy the work, you won’t have to upgrade immediately to a better tool, and you’ll have higher quality finished products along the way.

When thinking about which tools to buy, I would favor getting the better quality leather-specific tools, and making do with regular general tools. For example, one can purchase a $70 cutting blade, or use a $3 utility knife. For starting out, the end result will not be that much different, so go with the $3 utility knife. So, in the $50 range, here’s what to look for:

  • Knife – Xacto – $2.25
  • Edger – $11.50
  • Cutting/Punching Surface – $6.50
  • Hole Punch – $6
  • Rivet/Riveter Set – $10
  • Burnisher – $6
  • Scratch Awl – $3.50
  • Leather Scraps – use from old belts/clothes you have, or reasonably priced at the thrift store

All from Amazon, if you can plan for free shipping, there you have it for around $45.75. You’ll need some leather to work with, though for the tools, you’ll be set.

 

Leather Tools for $200

At this level, we get to explore some more of the leather-specific tools that can make some tasks a bit easier, as well a slight increase in quality of some tools. For example, we can look for tools that help with marking the leather, dyeing it, and cutting it.

  • Knife – $8
  • CS Osborn Scratch Awl – $7.50
  • Crazy Eve Edger – $11.50
  • Skiver – $15.00
  • Rivet/Riveter Set – $10
  • Hole Punch – $8 (Can buy various sizes, and while not ideal, can use just the punch only without the handle to start)
  • Mallet – $13
  • Cutting/Punching Surface – $6.50
  • Burnisher – $8
  • Leather Pieces to work with – $25 (can buy belt blanks or scraps to start)
  • Creaser & Groover – $27
  • Bone Folder – $6
  • Strap Punch (or other punch you might like) – $25
  • Deglazer Dye Prep – $7
  • Leather Dye – $8
  • Wax Leather Sealer – $7
  • Wool Daubers – $8

So for about $200.50 you’ll have a wide range of tools to work with and try out different leather crafting techniques.

 

Leather Tools for $500

Here we go even deeper into preference on working styles, and higher quality tools. Now, you can buy a single tool that costs over $500, so we’re beginning to focus on buying medium-quality tools that produce great results and will last years. Specialized and top-of-the-line tools can come later.

  • Cutting Mat – $23.50
  • Nylon Stamping Board – $13.00
  • Granite Tooling Slab – $25
  • Knife – $8
  • Deglazer Dye Prep – $7
  • Leather Dye – $8
  • Wax Leather Sealer – $7
  • Wool Daubers – $8
  • Creaser & Groover – $27
  • Bone Folder – $6
  • Rivet/Riveter Set – $10
  • Burnisher – $8
  • Scratch Awl – $7.50
  • Diamond Blade Stitching Awl – $19.00
  • Maul – $75
  • Strap Cutter – $28
  • Skiver – $15
  • Tape Measure – $6
  • Square Ruler – $8
  • Pricking Irons (various sizes) – $45
  • Leather Pieces to work with – $40 (can buy belt blanks or scraps to start or some other source of larger pieces)
  • Edger – $11.50
  • Stitching Pony – $25
  • Needles – $8
  • Thread – $8
  • Punches – $22 – or other shapes/sizes as you might prefer.
  • Stitch Marking Wheel – $30

So there we have a pretty robust group of tools for around $497.50.

 

Hopefully that helps give some perspective and a bit of a guide as you begin to get your first set of leather tools.

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