When thinking about careers or hobbies, leather craftsman could be very close to the top of your list. Let’s explore why.
A leather craftsman is a person whom creates, crafts, sews, fixes, repairs, works with, and/or, restores items made from leather and leather material. They generally enjoy working with their hands, and utilize specialized tools that work, mould, and form the leather into a variety of finished goods.
So what is it like being a leather craftsman? It can be a tremendously fulfilling trade that offers freedom and creativity; let’s take a closer look below.
What is a Leather Craftsman?
A leather craftsman primarily focuses on the repair and production of leather goods. The range of leather items produced can vary widely, including handbags, footwear, furniture upholstery, auto upholstery, saddlery, tack, luggage, cases, and personal accessories. Generally, leather craftsman focus on a particular type of item, thus allowing their specialization to result in higher quality, and better-performing leather goods.
If you’re curious what does a leather craftsman do?, their day-to-day activities primarily consist of working in a workshop creating leather goods using the tools of the trade. Some leather craftsman work in large, collaborative shops, while others work independently. It is possible to make a living as a leather craftsman with the proper skills and market for their goods, and some make it their career. Others, enjoy becoming a leather craftsman as a hobby.
What Do You Call a Leather Craftsman?
Beyond the leather craftsman name, there are other leather craftsman synonyms that are used to refer to those who work with leather. Some of these you might already be familiar with, they include:
- Leather Craftsperson
Generally, most will be familiar with these terms and be comfortable being referred to by them. However, some might be very particular and prefer the use of one term over the others.
How to Become a Leather Craftsman?
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Like many careers, the path to becoming a leather craftsman can take several different routes. The one chosen might depend on personal preference, financial resources, time availability, and and overall depth of interest. As you gauge more about what you’re looking to get out of being a leather craftsman, One of these might fit your needs.
One way to learn how to be a leather crafter is simply to teach yourself. This can be done by purchasing a few basic leather working tools, and learning by putting together some basic leather project kits, watching videos online, and/or assembling projects with friends.
This method is often the least expensive while also allowing you to explore and learn at your own pace. For someone looking to try leather working as a hobby, this is likely the best place to start.
Online Course Training
For those looking to learn more advanced skills, or receive more detailed training about certain approaches, styles, or techniques, leather courses can be a great fit. Typically, these are made by leather craftsman that have experience in the field and are willing to share their knowledge in an organized way.
Courses are often pre-recorded and available online, allowing you to move at your own pace while having the guide of an expert providing knowledge in a structured way.
If you prefer in-person teaching, classes and certification paths might work very well for you. In classes, it is very common to be in a small group led by an experienced instructor. This provides the opportunity to learn in a live setting while also observing the projects of others, having an experienced leather craftsman available to answer questions and help guide you.
Often, classes also provide the tools, equipment, and materials for beginner projects. This can make it a great option as you can generally show up and have everything accessible to both learn about leatherworking and learn if you enjoy the craft.
Some leather classes occur weekly, while others spend a weekend or just several days. This offers flexibility as you can choose one that is most fitting to your schedule and preferences for learning.
If one is very interested in leatherworking, and more serious about turning it into a career, an apprenticeship to become a leather craftsman might be the right step. An apprenticeship generally involves working closely with an established leather craftsman. In this relationship, the apprentice typically assists the leather craftsmen in a structured and organized way over a period of time. This time can range from months two years.
The intent is that they learn the necessary skills of the trade while under the guide of an experienced eye, and also improving their abilities to the level of being a professional leather craftsman themselves. The amount of time an apprenticeship can take can vary based upon the specific area of leatherworking one is looking to get into.
For example becoming a cobbler, working with shoes and footwear, could take much longer then one learning the skills for personal accessories such as belts and wallets. Similarly, learning to craft saddlery, leather armor, or advanced forms of leather art each require a varied amount of skill and practice. Thus, it is often wisest to seek out leather craftsman that is experienced in the type of leather work you would like to do.
What is Leather Craftsmanship?
Leather craftsmanship is the quality of the fit and finish of completed leather work. While a leather craftsman produces leather goods, their ability to skillfully cut, join, shape, and finish leather items helps to define their level of craftsmanship.
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While not always the case, generally, the skills and craftsmanship of a leather crafter improve with time and experience. As with most products, it is often noticeable when the level of craftsmanship is high and Thus these products are often more reliable, last longer, and look better due to the high level of craft.
What Defines Quality Leather Craftsmanship?
When considering what defines quality craftsmanship there are a few areas that we can look at. They include:
Often, high quality materials will last longer and perform better then lower quality materials. Thus, a great leather piece be it a shoe, bag, jacket, saddle, wallet, or any item really, will often be made of fine leather.
Using great materials is just the start. These then need to be crafted effectively. Generally, this involves precise cutting, skiving, edging, and utilizing overall accuracy in shaping the materials. This is important, as the materials are joined by methods such as sewing, gluing, riveting, or any other way, they need to fit together well to perform highly as a finished other good. Often, higher quality leather craftsmanship has a very tight, accurate fit.
Lastly, at a high level, is finish. We can use great materials and craft them well, however, the finishing stage is often what gives the items their overall look and feel. This is important, as it is often what we experienced most when using a leather good. The finish can include color, the attention to tiny details in edge work, the type of hardware selected, as well as the type of protective finish applied. The finish generally involves the little details that make high quality work really stand out.
Common Leather Craftsman Tools
When working with leather, there is generally a set of specialized tools that are used in the trade. There are actually very few needed to begin, the overtime leather craftsman will usually acquire a growing set of tools based on their preferences and needs. Below, we’ll look at just a few of the most common tools. For those in more specialized areas of leatherwork, such as cobblers or saddle makers, additional tools are often found on the bench.
A knife is probably the most common another tool. It is used to cut pieces of leather from larger hides and sections of the material. Leather knives are also use for shaping and in some cases finishing.
A mallet, hammer, or maul is a striking device often used for hitting punches. The punches cut pre-shaped holes into the leather, and the force generated to drive them is often via a mallet, hammer, or maul.
Leather punches are pre-shaped metal tools with sharp edges. They are used to cut holes in and shapes out of leather. They are very useful and likely found in almost every leather craftsman tool set.
Edgers are used to remove the square edges of leather material. This helps them look more pleasing to the eye, also rounding out the edges, making them more useful and less likely to catch on other objects during day today use. Most leather goods feature finished edges created by edgers.
A burnisher is a tool used to help seal and finish the edges on leather goods. When leather is cut, the inside of the fibers becomes exposed. A burner sure uses friction and heat to help bind and smooth the edges. This both makes them look better and also provides a sealed surface that protects the leather during day today use. Burnished edges generally take on a darker tone and can look great on their own or are covered with a protective edge paint.
Leather Craftsman Job Description
A leather craftsman is an individual whom designs, creates, repairs, and restores leather goods. These can include everything from upholstery to personal accessories, to bags, luggage, handbags, purses, briefcases, saddlery, tack, footwear including shoes and boots, hats, armor, clothing, art, and virtually anything made out of leather.
They generally perform work in a workshop that is comprised of a large, flat workspace, with their range of tools easily accessible. This space can be as small as a desk surface, or can be a large room multiple rooms fitting the tools and machinery needed for larger jobs, or high-volume production work.
Leather craftsman working hours, when in a production facility, are often 9-5. For the independent leather craftsman, or those working in smaller shops, the hours are often varied and set by the craftsman themselves. This freedom of time and working style is one of the appealing elements of becoming a leather craftsman.
Leather Craftsman Salary
The annual salary for a leather craftsman in the United States is, on average, $27,550 per year. General, some will make more and some more make less. Often, the factor to success can be the quality of goods, and the size of the market that those goods can reach. Additionally, leather craftsman who are highly skilled in certain areas, and/or produce good that become well-known and highly desired, could see numbers far larger than average.
Also, some goods become brands which take on a life of their own, employing other leather crafters to help produce them. Salary can be earned from a home workshop, local “Mom and Pop” shop, or at a larger company that produces leather goods in high volume.
Leather Craftsman Career Outlook
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional leather craftsmen comprise approximately 7,180 jobs across the United States. Most of these jobs are in the area of personal and household goods creation, repair, and maintenance. The highest-paying jobs are most often in the shoe industry, with cobblers making approximately $34,700 per year.
Some independent craftsmen Focus on developing unique products made of leather, and then sell them. These individuals and smaller workshops are generally not captured in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Thus, there are some outliers in this career that can earn a significantly larger income based on their products, skills, and market. Also, hand crafts are becoming more popular again and thus the need for leather craftsman may rise.
Let’s look at some additional leather craftsman employment statistics below (based on 2017 data). For an even more detailed dive, click here for the leather-focused page at the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
Leather Craftsman Jobs and Salary by Industry
|Industry Area||Number of Craftsman||Average Salary|
|Personal & Household Goods||2,520||$27,250|
|Other Leather Products||1,650||$26.460|
|Hide Tanning & Finishing||670||$31,700|
States with the Most Leather Craftsmen Jobs and Localized Salary
States with the Highest Paid Leather Craftsmen
Cities with the Most Leather Craftsmen
|City||Number of Craftsmen|
|New York Metro||520|
|Los Angeles Metro||240|
Setting Up a Leather Workshop
If you are considering setting up a leather workshop or starting a leather craft business there are a few things to keep in mind. Primarily, you will need a workspace and some basic tools. Beyond that, you’ll need proper skills, and customers to purchase your products and services.
There is generally a low cost to entry for becoming a leather craftsman. Thus, with some practice, Possibly training, and experience, one can acquire the necessary skills to offer this service in a professional capacity.
From there, it will depend on the type of leather work you do any type of customers you serve to further define how are you reach them and how to effectively operate the leather workshop or leather craft business.
How to Find a Leather Craftsman Near Me?
Often, we are curious, how to find a leather craftsman near me? We might have a shoe that needs repair or a belt that needs an additional hole added. We might also have a briefcase, handbag, or purse made from leather that has gotten a small tear in it. A local leather craftsman can often make quick work of the fix while also making the repair product look great again.
While pure leather craft shops are relatively rare, as very often possible to find someone at a shoe store that is familiar with leather repair skills. Cobblers, as they are called, will often help with common leather repairs to shoes, belts, bags, and most personal accessories.
You might also check a local saddlery shop. They often employ leather craftsmen to help create, repair, or maintain the saddles and tack that they sell. If you are looking for custom work, they’re often many great options available online to connect with leather craftsman around the country that specialize in particular areas of leatherwork.
Popular Leather Craftsmen
For inspiration, we can look at the work of some of the greatest craftsmen in our field. This helps provide a guide for the types of work that can be produced, as well as examples of some of the finest work available in the trade.
Here is a table listing just a few of the more recognized names in leather craft, and some of the best leather craftsman around. Surely, there are many beyond this list, while this will give some great examples to start from.
|Leather Craftsman||Description||Link to Site|
|Nigel Armitage||Excellent tool reviews and quality DIY leather working guides||Link|
|Christian Xian Marsh||Extremely high-quality handmade chop seats and related leather goods||Link|
|Ian Atkinson||Based in the United Kingdom – His YouTube channel features great projects, how-to guides, and leather working advice||Link|
|Charlie Trevor||Eqqus Leather – Based in United Kingdom, his YouTube videos display very high-end work in a nice workshop||Link|
|Parker Lichfield||Stock & Barrel – Based in Ogden, UT, USA, his YouTube channel has some great walkthroughs and examples of producing fine work||Link|
If you are considering learning more about leather craft, and becoming a leather craftsman, it is certainly a trade worth looking into. It is very creative, functional, and fulfilling making something with one’s hands that can provide years of great use. If you’d like to learn more about the tools to use, click here for my leather tools overview.
How much does it cost to become a leather craftsman?
A beginning leather craftsman can get into the trade for likely only a few hundred dollars. While the most basic tools are relatively inexpensive, some of the more specialized tools that help produce quality goods will often be necessary.
How long does it take to become a leather craftsman?
Becoming a leather craftsman, beyond a hobby, will generally take a few years of experience. That said, the basic skills can be picked up relatively quickly. Depending on the area of specialization, weeks to months can yield some great results.