Leather working often involves stitching, folding, or embellishing the material for functional or aesthetic reasons. A leather creaser can help make this very easy.
A leather creaser is a tool used to put lines and creases into leather. The lines can be used a stitch guides, for aesthetic purposes, or to weaken the leather to create a fold point. Creasers are hand-held. Some are are electric powered to generate heat that aids in the creasing process.
Curious if this is a tool you might need? Let’s explore when you’d use them and what types are available.
What is a Leather Creaser?
A leather creaser is a tool made from a hard, smooth substance. The hardness of the material allows it to press into leather, leaving an indentation as it moves along the leather surface. The smoothness of it allows it to leave that indentation in leather without leaving a rough surface or uneven markings as it is used.
For projects where thick leathers are being used and there is a fold line, the creaser/folder can be used to prepare the line on which the fold will bend. This avoid stretching the leather near the bend, making it much cleaner and visually appealing.
Sometimes, they are referred to as “folders”. They’re usually about 4”-8” long, so they comfortably fit in the hand and can be manually drawn across the leather. The tips, that come into contact with the leather, are rounded and smooth, and shapes can vary based on the preference for the type of line that will be places into the leather.
Creasers are available in different materials, sizes, adjustable leather edge creaser versions, and non-electric and electric leather creaser machine models. Depending on the type of project you’re working on, and the volume of leather craft production you’ll be into, there are a few different types available, let’s check them out.
Bone Leather Creaser (Bone Folder)
A popular material for creasers is bone. Bone is a hard material, and when polished, becomes very smooth. This enables it to be comfortable in the hand while also effective in marking the leather surface.
Qualities of bone folders can vary, as well as the look of them (since bone is a natural material). However, these are generally inexpensive and quite effective for creasing and folding work.
Wood Leather Creaser
Wood is another material sometimes used for creasers. When finished properly, they can provide a smooth, strong edge for creasing and folding leather. However, bone and metals are often preferred.
Metal Leather Creaser
Metal leather creasers are popular for a few reasons. First, metal is strong, and works well for leaving marks in leather. Some are an adjustable leather edge creaser, allowing for fixed location lines when pulling and creasing along the edge of a leather item. With bone and wood creasers, accuracy depends mainly on the skill of the craftsperson. On some metal creasers, the edge of the leather can be used as a guide, so pulling against it leads to a straight crease the length of the material.
Another benefit of metal creasers over bone and wood is that metal creasers can be heated. The heated end of a creaser allows it to weaken/soften the leather fibers when it’s moving across the surface, making the crease more prominent, permanent, and done in fewer passes. Electric creasers also make easier work of softer leathers.
An example of use is putting the visual touch of a thin line near the outside edge of a belt. Or, creating the folds on luggage or purses. Creasers can also be used, instead of burnishing, to put an edge onto leatherwork. An example is finishing the edges of a wallet, or those on a luxury handbag. Here is an example of how a metal leather creaser works:
Alcohol Heating Lamp
Metal leather creasers (of the manual, non-electric type) can be used for both functional and aesthetic purposes. They generally perform better when heated, as they more smoothly mark and glide into the leather, forming the creases. The heat gently softens the leather as the creaser moves over it.
Alcohol heating lamps are a common way to heat up these creasing tools while working on leather craft projects. Generally easy to use and not too expensive, they are usually comprised of a small metal reservoir filled with denatured alcohol, that when lit, provides a steady flame. Usually attached is a metal extension where the creasing tool can rest while it is heating on the flame.
If maintained properly and watched closely during use, alcohol-based heating lamps can be an easy way to heat your creasing tools right by your leather working space. close attention, of course, should be paid to them while in use. This might be a more specialized tool for some. Depending on the type of work done, it might also be something used daily. Here’s a great look at how they work:
Leather Creaser Machine
When working on a project that benefits from a heated creaser, there is a machine to the rescue! The electric leather creaser machine feeds electricity to a hand-held creaser. On the end is metal tip that gets warm from the electricity, and delivers a consistent temperature over the leather.
The amount of heat can be manually controlled via knob settings, so depending on the project needs, thickness of leather, etc., this offers flexibility for use. Also electric leather creasers usually have many different metal tip shapes available, that can be changed out. This offers a wide array of finishing options depending on what type of line needs to be pressed into the leather.
They can also be used for edge finishing. When finishing the edges naturally or with added protectants such as wax, an electric creaser with heat will make a huge difference. These are often used on very high-end leather work, such as in luxury handbag manufacturing. They also used for fines leather bags and accessories.
Here’s an example of how a leather creaser machine can help finish edges:
Leather Creaser/Embosser Machine
There is yet another helpful machine in the mix! The leather creaser/embosser is a machine that has two roller bars. The bars can be fitted with various roller accessories that can provide a wide variety of functions such as creasing consistent, deep lines on long pieces of leather.
Also, they can use patterned rollers, to very quickly and easily emboss detailed patterns into long lengths of leather, with extremely consistent results. This might not be a tool every leather worker will have in the shop. Though, for those that are doing higher volume work or large productions runs of leather goods, this will likely be an essential, and very valuable tool.
The automation and precision it provides can be a huge time savings over doing everything by hand, if the project needs call for it. Here is an example of how this leather creaser machine works:
The Difference Between a Leather Creaser vs Groover
The main difference between a leather creaser and groover is that a leather creaser pushes a line into the leather (no material is removed), where a groover cuts a groove into leather (and material is removed).
Creasers can be used to create fold lines or make pleasing visual elements into the leather’s surface. Groovers, since they remove leather, can also create aesthetically pleasing visual lines, or also grooves where stitching can rest in that protect the stitching from day-to-day wear (since they sit within the groove).
Since groovers remove leather exposing the leather fibers underneath the surface, the area where items were grooved generally need to be finished. Whereas creasers just push leather down, and the surface remains mostly intact.
What is an Adjustable Leather Edge Creaser
An adjustable leather edge creaser is an edge creaser where the distance between the metal tines can be adjusted. This is helpful, when for example, one wants to put a decorative line into leather precisely 1/8” in from the edge. That distance can be measured, the creaser adjusted, and then pulled against the leather edge, leaving a crease 1/8” in from the outside of the edge.
If for another project, one wanted the crease 1/4”, the creaser can be adjusted, and set for 1/4” spacing. Pulling against the edge of the leather, this leaves a very consistently-spaced line that runs the length of the leather good.
Basic folders (such as bone and wood), are mostly controlled by the hand motion of the person using it. This can be functional on smaller pieces or when used against a guide (such as a straight edge), though for larger pieces and more consistent results, an adjustable edge creaser can be very helpful.
How do You Use the Adjustable Groover Leather?
To use an adjustable groover, generally, untighten the collar (or other locking mechanism) which holds the grooving blade in place. Then, adjust the position of the grooving blade to the desired width, then re-lock the blade in place.
Next, line it up with the end of the leather, and pull the groover down the length of the leather. After a few tries, it’s easy, and enjoyable to get the hang of it. Here is a great example of an adjustable groover in action:
How do you permanently mark leather?
Leather can be permanently marked in a few different ways. To mark leather via colored pigment, you can use ink, permanent marker, paints, and dyes.
Leather can also be marked by changing it’s surface pattern, usually by stamping, embossing, or carving. These all change the surface. For example, stamping imprints a pattern by using enough force behind a hard (often metal) stamp design. Embossing is similar, in that the leather surface form is changed through force. Carving removes leather from the surface to leave permanent, often decorative, marks in the material.
Here is an example of leather being stamped:
It’s often very helpful to have a leather creaser as part of a leather working tool set. The different types available make it easy to find one that is comfortable and effective to use. If you’d like to see my overall leather tools list, click here.
How do I make leather lines?
Leather lines can be made with ink, a scratch awl, a creaser, a groover, a knife, and any tool that will leave a permanent mark in the leather surface. Choice of method will depend on personal preference and project type.
How do you mark leather for stitching?
Marking leather for stitching can be done with a pricking iron, chisel, stitch wheel, or stitch groover. Choice will depend on if material is to be removed or not, and preference for how the finished leather good will function and look.