Leather burnishers and slickers make it easy to help finish edges of leather goods. Making a DIY leather burnisher bit for drills can make that step much faster.
A DIY leather burnisher bit is a leather working tool used to mechanically burnish leather edges. While this can be done with a hand-burnisher, a bit that fits into a power drill or rotary tool makes this a much faster process. Burnisher bits can be bought, or made yourself at home.
Making a burnishing bit yourself is relatively easy and takes very little time. The result is a useful tool that doesn’t cost a lot and works great.
Making a DIY Leather Burnisher Bit
This project is a pretty easy one. After my first project (click here to read about my first belt), I was looking for another small one. I had seen some burnisher bits online that fit into drills and rotary tools. Some were expensive, and the less expensive ones had generally poor reviews (many said they were off-centered and wobbled). I decided rather than spend a lot, I’d try making one.
I used a wooden hand burnisher I already had, and figured I’d try to convert it. If I had a burnisher bit, it would work in the drill. It would also still be usable by hand if I decided I’d want to try it that way again in the future. Let’s check out the steps to make one easily at home.
Find a Hand Burnisher
For this, I had a small, pine burnisher. I had used it for a previous project and it worked well. You might already have one you can use, or get one online for a few dollars.
Cut the Hand Burnisher
The burnisher had a tapered end. I’d need to cut this off to make a flat surface, so it’s easy to drill the hole for the metal post that will be used to convert it into a bit.
I wrapped the sides of the burnisher with a thin piece of leather, and secured it in a small vise. The leather protects the sides of the burnisher from being indented by the teeth on the vise.
with it secured, I just cut through the burnisher with a small saw. The result, a burnisher end with a flat bottom.
Make the Metal Post
The key element of making a DIY leather burnisher bit at home is inserting a metal post that a drill or rotary tool will be able to grip onto, and make it spin. The metal post can be made from most any small metal piece. It can be a cut piece of solid metal dowel, or even cutting off the smooth part of a very long construction screw.
I had a solid metal dowel around from a previous project. Next, I wrapped it in leather (to protect it from the vise teeth), secured it in the vise, and cut it with a small saw. It was cut to about 1-1/2”, so about 1/2” would fit into the wooden burnisher base.
Sand the Metal Post Edges
Next, I used some fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the rough edges around the metal post where it was cut.
Drill the Burnisher Base
With the metal post cut, next I drilled a hole into the burnisher base. This hole will be used to insert and glue the metal post into place.
This is the tricky part! So tricky 🙂 Since the metal post will be rotated at high speed by the drill, it has to be absolutely centered, and vertical, into the burnisher base. If it is off center, or slightly angled, the burnisher will wobble when it’s in use. At high speed, the wobble can be distracting, and even burnish the leather unevenly (since more contact can occur in particular areas).
Definitely worth another mention, right after the first, the hole has to be absolutely centered, and vertical 🙂 Why do I mention this twice? Because it’s hard and I messed it up haha, so be more careful that I was on the first try.
In hindsight, using a drill press, with the burnisher base secured, could make this very easy to do correctly. This is a trick to making a nice DIY leather burnisher bit. When I made it, I placed the base into a vise, which did allow some room for it to move ever-so-slightly while drilling.
Anyway, With the center marked, use a drill bit just slightly larger in diameter than the metal post, and drill a hole approximately 1/2” into the wooden burnisher base. The slightly larger diameter will allow the post to slide in, and a little bit of glue have room around it to bond the pieces together.
Glue the Metal Post into the Burnisher Base
Now that the hole is drilled, put a little bit of glue on the opening, and also rub some glue around the end of the metal post that will go into it.
Slide the glued post into the wooden base. It can be gently tapped in with a hammer to secure. Some excess glue will likely be pushed out of the hole, just wipe away with a paper towel or lint-free rag. Add a little glue to the top if needed, and wipe any excess away as well.
Let The Glue Dry
That’s it, let the glue dry! Once dried, I had a simple leather burnishing bit. I put into into a power drill, tried it, and it worked! Yes, it had a little wobble to it :), though was still usable. If I make another in the future, I’ll be sure to drill a much more precise hole.
Overall, it has worked well and saved a lot of manual burnishing during my leather working projects. If you’d like to see the results, click here to read about my second belt project.
So, it’s as easy as that. If you’re feeling creative, a little handy, and want to try power burnishing with a drill or rotary tool, making a DIY leather burnisher bit can be a rewarding project. I’m glad I made one, and have used it a lot. For a list of my favorite burnishers, click here.
What is the best wood for a leather burnisher bit?
The best wood for a leather burnisher bit is often cocobolo wood. Generally, most any wood that is very dense, and smooth, works well as a leather burnisher. Some other popular woods include cherry wood, maple wood, and walnut wood.
What is the best size for a leather burnisher bit?
The best size for a leather burnisher will depend on the thickness of leather you will be burnishing. The closer in size, the better the burnish result. Some burnishers have “rings” of several sizes cut into them, making then useful across projects.