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How to Glue Leather Step By Step From Start to Finish

Sometimes, we have to repair a leather good. Other times, we are working on an exciting project where gluing pieces will help make sewing easier or join two leather pieces into a finished design. Knowing the right ways to approach it makes gluing leather a really easy task.

Gluing leather involves applying a special adhesive to bond leather pieces together. This process ensures a strong, durable connection. It is often used in conjunction with stitching or other fasteners for added strength. Proper preparation and alignment are key for effective results.

A few basic yet important steps are critical to a good gluing process. Let’s explore how it’s done so the project comes out looking great.

How to Glue Leather Overview

Gluing leather is essentially joining two pieces of material with a smooth adhesive layer. The important parts of the task involve choosing the right tools, glue, application method, and good execution. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy and can add a new skill to your leather working set. Gluing leather is a great way to join pieces for sewing or finished products that need to be strong and flexible.

Leather Adhesives Glues and Tools - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Adhesive Glues

Leather Gluing for Sewing vs Joining Material

Gluing leather can be done for several different reasons. Sometimes, it’s just to provide a temporary bond to test where pieces can fit together. Light glues, like common Elmer’s or PVA glue are easy to remove and have light adhesion work great here.

If you’re looking for a permanent bond by sewing leather, glue might be used just to hold it in place while being worked through a machine. In this case, glue is needed that will not allow the leather to move under the machine, though it doesn’t have to be super-strong, as the stitching will do that job. An adhesive like a Tandy Eco-Flo Leather Weld works well here.

Contact cement is usually the best option when using glues or adhesives to permanently join leather, and the glue will be the primary mechanism holding the materials together. It is strong, flexible, and water-resistant and will permanently bond leather. Barge All Purpose Cement is a quality option here.

How to Glue Leather in 10 Steps

Like other leather working how-tos, gluing leather involves a few steps to ensure a strong, durable bond between pieces. Whether you’re crafting a wallet, bag, or other leather item, following these steps will help you achieve professional results.

1. Prepare the Work Surface

A large, flat, open work surface is usually best for gluing leather. A workbench or table are great options. Putting some paper down on the surface is often a good idea so it catches any glue that might drip during the gluing process. This can help protect the surface and keep it clean for other projects.

Ensure there’s enough room for tools and physical workspace. Sometimes, being able to move 360 around the table can be helpful when trying to hold/apply things throughout a project. Often, though, this is just a luxury and not a necessity. As long as you have enough room to work freely, you should be ready.

2. Get the Right Tools

Working with leather glue involves only a few tools, though they can be really helpful in leading to a nice result. Let’s check them out and see how they work. Some are also noted in this guide to leather working tools.

Leather Glue and Adhesive

Many types of leather glue and adhesive are available that work well with leather. Some are temporary, with a tacky result that can be easily moved and reapplied. Others are stronger and more difficult to remove.

Some glues expand into the materials as they dry, while others are extremely strong and permanent. For very strong glues, they bind so tightly that trying to remove the adjoined pieces will likely damage the leather.

Leather Glues and Adhesives - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Glues and Adhesives

Helpful Leather Glues to Start With

Here is an easy-reference table with paid links to items that I trust – these are great glues to start with.

TypeDescriptionSource
Leather GlueAleene’s15594 Leather & Suede GlueView on Amazon
Leather CementBarge All Purpose CementView on Amazon
Temporary HoldElmer’s Craftbond Multi-Purpose Spray AdhesiveView on Amazon

See some popular leather glues, tests on their effectiveness, and results in this video:

Leather Glue Pot

Glue can be a really helpful addition to your leather working tool set, though a common issue is that it dries out quickly if it sits out open while you work. A glue pot is an airtight small plastic holder for glues and adhesives. Glues can be stored in glue pots for a long period of time.

When you want to use the glue, an air-tight cap unscrews open, revealing a brush and a portion of the glue. The brush can be dipped into the exposed glue and applied to the leather. Once finished, just screw the airtight cap back on, and the glue will remain in great shape for the next use. Glue pots are a helpful tool to have if you do a fair amount of gluing while working on leather projects.

Gluepot with Cover Off - Liberty Leather Goods
Gluepot With The Cover Removed

Leather Glue Spreaders

Leather glue spreaders are commonly flat-edged plastic tools. They allow for even spreading of glue over flat surfaces, allowing the layers to be very thin or the glue to focus on a particular spot. After being used, they can be washed and reused, as maintaining a clean edge is very important to a smooth spreading of the glue.

Glue brushes are also an option when spreading glue. They are dipped into a liquid adhesive and then applied to the leather. They allow larger volumes of glue to be applied more quickly, though aren’t as precise as the glue spreaders. The spreaders are an easy way to target glue placement and preferred volume.

Hand Leather Rougher

In some applications and projects, gluing can be an effective way of joining leather. To help ensure a strong bond between surfaces, glues generally benefit from having a rough area on which to form their bond.

When finished leathers are mostly smooth, a hand leather rougher tool digs into and scratches up the leather, creating a rough surface. This newly-roughed surface will greatly help the adhesive set into and join the leather pieces once dried. Hand roughers are relatively common in saddle-making and related work.

Wire Brush - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Wire Brush

Leather Edge Clamp

Leather edge clamps are specialty tools usually made of steel with rubberized clamp jaws. The jaws are smooth, so they don’t mar the leather, and the rubber coating makes it even less likely they’ll leave any marks. Plus, the rubber coating helps grip the leather securely.

Edge clamps are useful for holding glued leather pieces together securely while the glue dries. They can also be used in various instances when holding a piece of leather tightly with one hand is more advantageous using a tool than only a hand.

Some edge clamps are used for flattening leather. Some are made of metal, and others are finished with a layer of leather on the flat jaws to ensure a soft and non-marring surface when in contact with leather working pieces.

Leather Weights

Leather weights are small metal devices that hold leather in place when cutting, stamping, punching, or gluing. They have smooth, polished surfaces, so they will not mark or mar the leather when placed on top of it. They are often made of brass or steel.

“Placing leather weights can help flatten the material into a more even working surface.”

When cutting or gluing thin leather materials, they can easily shift. Placing metal weights on top can help hold them in place for a stable, more even cut. When cutting thicker leather materials, they might have a natural bend to them. Placing leather weights can help flatten the material into a more even working surface. Leather weights come in various sizes, from a few ounces to a few pounds.

Many things can be used as leather weights as long as their surface does not scratch the leather. Dedicated leather weights could be a helpful addition to the leather craft tool list if you’re looking for well-balanced, nicely machined, and high-polished weights.

Leather Working Shoe Hammer

Leather working shoe hammers are often used for hammering over stitching, tapping through sharp folds, and securing glued leather pieces together. They feature a wide, heavy steel head that produces a deep, steady impact. Used frequently in shoemaking work, they are also a popular choice for those working in saddlery, luggage making, or bag making.

Leather Working Metal Roller

Leather working metal rollers are used to smooth out layers of leather that are glued together. Since leather can be thick and usually has a nicely finished, smooth surface, a special tool is helpful here.

“Bubbles and air gaps are removed, which contributes to a nicely-finished and fine looking end result.”

The metal roller comprises a solid, heavy metal cylinder attached to a handle. When pushed or pulled, the roller rolls over the leather, applying pressure and helping ensure a tight adhesion between leather layers. Bubbles and air gaps are removed, resulting in a nicely-finished and fine-looking result.

Rags

Lint-free rags, such as microfiber cloths or old cotton t-shirts, can be very helpful. They can be used to wipe up glue and, sometimes, to help smooth it down.

Wire Brush

A wire brush is a tool, usually with a wooden handle, that has metal bristles. They are firm and rough. Often, these are used to brush a leather surface to roughen it up. This makes the surface more porous and uneven, which helps glues and contact cements adhere better to the material. This works just like the hand leather rougher.

3. Prepare the Leather Surface

Rougher surfaces generally adhere better to glues since they provide more area for the glue to stick to. When gluing leather, roughing the surface up is especially advantageous so that all the little leather fibers are exposed. This makes glue, and especially contact cement, very effective with leather.

Wire Brush on Leather - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Wire Brush on Leather – Liberty Leather Goods

In some cases, one might want to leave the surface smooth, for example, if it will later be sewn or if one wants a very tight tolerance between materials. However, roughing the leather up with a wire brush or hand leather rougher will be a big help where possible.

In general, the leather surface should be clean and free of dirt and debris. If it’s not, rubbing some deglazer (such as Fiebling’s leather deglazer) on unfinished leather will help remove finishes and grime that might be there. For a gentler approach, a damp, lint-free cloth can be used to remove light dirt and debris.

A lint-free, damp cloth can be a big help for finished and delicate leather. Once the surface is clean and prepped, it’s time to glue.

4. Prepare The Glue

Some glues come made very thick and viscous. Often, they can be “thinned” to be a little more liquid, free-flowing, and dry with less bulk. They will still retain their strength. Glues and contact cements can be thinned with special thinners made for thinning glue.

Often, each manufacturer’s glues have a specific material composition. Thus, each manufacturer might sell a thinner that is most effective with their glue. Mixing manufacturer thinners is not recommended, as it won’t yield the best results. A general rule of thumb is to use 2/3 cement with 1/3 thinner for contact cement. Each manufacturer might have different recommendations, so read the guide/instructions that likely come with the cement/thinner to help ensure the ratio is right.

“Glue pots can store prepared glues in an air tight container so they don’t dry out.”

Once the glue is ready, it can be used. If unthinned, some folks keep it in the original tube and apply it from there. Others prefer using a glue pot. Glue pots store prepared glues in an airtight container so they don’t dry out. Many have integrated brushes for easy application.

If you thin glue or have a large amount and want to store it in smaller containers, glass works great. It’s usually better than plastic, allowing glue to be stored for long periods of time. Then, for your next project, already-prepared/thinned glue will be ready to go.

5. Apply the Glue/Adhesive

Now, the fun part! Gluing 🙂

So we’re ready to go. Applying glue is pretty easy. Start by applying glue to the center of the piece that it will be spread across. This will allow most of the glue to be in the middle, which can then be worked evenly around the surface. If started towards an edge, it might be more difficult to spread it evenly, or some might even drip onto the leather’s edges or table top, both are undesirable results.

Applying Aileenes Leather and Suede Glue - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Applying Aileenes Leather and Suede Glue

A leather glue spreader can be used to spread and thin the glue out from the middle of the piece, working towards the edges. A glue brush can also be used. Some are just paintbrushes used for glue, others and integrated with a glue pot, and others come built into the glue container, often such as with contact cement.

Whatever method you prefer, spread the glue smoothly and evenly across the surface. When using glue, only one surface needs glue applied to it. When using contact cement, BOTH surfaces need the contact cement applied to them. The next step will be needed if you’re using contact cement.

6. Let the Contact Cement Dry

When using contact cement, the adhesive needs to partially dry (about 20 minutes) first—BEFORE joining the materials. With contact cement, both surfaces must have the cement applied to them. During that drying time, they’ll get a little tacky. Then, the surfaces can be joined together.

If you’re working with a very heavy-weight leather or one with a very rough and porous surface and want supreme bonding strength, consider applying a coat of contact cement and then letting it dry (about 20 minutes). Then, apply a second coat of contact cement to the surfaces. The first layer of contact cement will adhere to the leather, filling some gaps/pores on the surface. Then, the second coat will provide a more flat and even layer of contact cement to bond with. It isn’t necessary, though it can help work better.

If you’re in a hurry and want to speed up the 20-minute process for contact cement to become tacky, have a fan running nearby, or use a hair dryer directly onto the cement. This will speed up the process, saving some time.

7. Push the Leather Layers Together

Once you have applied the glue or contact cement (and the contact cement has had some time to become tacky), it’s time to join the leather pieces together! It is crucial for both the results and aesthetics that the bond is as smooth, even, and tight as possible. We can use a few tools to help ensure this.

Leather Edges Pressed Together - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Edges Pressed Together

First, hand press the leather together. Make sure everything is lined up how you’d like it, and press with your hands. Okay, we’re strong, though some tools can definitely help. If you’re joining flat pieces, a leather roller can be used to roll across the surface (that doesn’t have glue on it) to press even the glue layer and push air bubbles and excess glue toward the edges. This is an easy way to get quality and consistent results.

If you have a hammer with a wide head, such as a leather working shoe hammer, you can use it to tap the leather together, working out excess air and glue. If needed, a scrap piece of leather can be placed between the leather being glued and the hammer to help reduce any hammer marks on the finished leather piece.

Also, the hammer can be helpful when gluing leather to curved or tight, hard-to-reach places. This happens sometimes in shoemaking, where hammers can be quite a helpful addition to the gluing process.

8. Secure the Leather in Place While it Dries

Now that the leather is glued and evened out, we can secure it for drying. This will help keep the glued surfaces in place while drying, ensuring a tight bond.

This can be achieved using a few tools. One option is a leather clamp, which will keep the pieces tightly clamped together during drying. Another option is to use leather weights on top of the flat leather pieces to hold them in place.

Leather Pressed Together with Weight on Top - How to Glue Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Pressed Together with Weight on Top

As a helpful tip, anything wide and heavy can be used, such as a brick or heavy books, as long as you place something strong and non-marking between it and the leather being glued. For example, a scrap leather piece that will not imprint a pattern onto the surface of the leather below it. One has to be careful that it’s not too heavy and that the leather surface is protected. However, leather weights don’t need to be fancy or expensive.

Another option is a vise. While they are designed with teeth in the grips, layering a piece of leather between them and glued pieces can help protect them. Using a vise as a leather clamp is certainly doable; just be very careful with the pressure so that it doesn’t mar or deform the leather underneath. Or worse, press so hard that it shifts the leather out of place.

Often, a leather clamp or leather weights work great and help produce easy, consistent results.

9. Glue Cleanup

Now that the leather is set clean up any excess glue before it dries too much. A lint-free cloth can be used to wipe glue away from surfaces and edges. If the glue is already a little tacky, dampening the rag might help. Further, some glues and contact cements can be rubbed off with an eraser. This can be a huge help, just make sure to rub gently and that the eraser doesn’t leave any marks or damage on the leather under it.

If you’re using glue application brushes that will not be stored in an airtight container, wash them thoroughly and let them dry.

If you use a glue pot, ensure there is no glue around where the brush joins the pot or around any threads if it has a screw-on mechanism. Then, tighten it securely to ensure it’s airtight and the glue will last. Similarly, if you use contact cement with a built-in brush, clean any cement that gets around the threads at the top of the can. This will ensure the can can be unscrewed in the future.

“For glues in tubes, pots, and cans (especially those with built-in brushes), store the contact cement upside down.”

Store the contact cement upside down for glues in tubes, pots, and cans (especially those with built-in brushes). This will keep the contents closest to the top of the container from drying out around where it screws together. Sometimes, this is the first place adhesive containers dry out, and thus, the glue right around there dries the container shut. Doing this can help keep them functional and accessible. Put the upside-down can into a plastic zip bag and seal it. So, if something does leak, it’s not all over the shelf or workbench.

Also, when using this method, make sure there is enough glue in the upside-down container to cover the brush so it doesn’t dry out at the tip. It’s all a fine balancing act. 🙂 When we appreciate how effective great glues can be, we’ll want to have/store them well for easy use (and cost savings) next time.

If you’re storing mixed or thinned glues, glass is usually better than plastic. Over time, glass retains moisture a bit better, improving the quality of the glue. Small mason/canning jars can be great for this.

10. Let the Glue/Adhesive Dry

Great! The hard work is done, and now you can relax while it dries. This can take just a few hours for some glues or 20–48 hours for some heavier glues and contact cements. The hard work is done, so let the glue do its work, and you’ll have nicely joined leather pieces.

Leather working offers many different methods of joining material, such as riveting, eyeletting, snapping, and sewing. Gluing is another option that has benefits when used in the right places. Hopefully, your next project that uses glue will go well and result in a really nice finished leather piece.

Related Questions

What is the best glue to use on leather?

The best glue to use on leather for general fixes and bonding is Tandy Leather Eco-Flo Leather Weld adhesive. While not as strong as some contact cement, it is eco-friendly, dries clearly, is flexible, and works for most day-to-day project needs.

Can you use Gorilla Glue for leather?

Generally, Gorilla Glue is not great for use on leather. Some versions can work in a pinch for minor repairs that don’t need to be flexible. However, some expand and can lead to undesirable results. Leather-specific glues work much better.