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Leather Kits – Choosing the Right One for Your Project

When starting leathercraft, like many others, I searched online for various leather kits with little to no understanding of what I needed or the tools in general. Ultimately, I purchased a small kit and began my journey, still using some of those tools years later. 

Leather kits are a collection of tools, and supplies, designed to start leather crafting. Each kit can offer various tools to better specialize in certain parts of the craft, with most providing cutting and sewing tools. Kit prices start at $20 and increase as more tools are added.

With a smaller investment, a leather kit can be a great introduction to the craft. Let’s review the leather crafting tools that may be included in a leather kit to understand better the benefits of buying a leather kit.

What Are Leather Kits?

Leather kits are bundles of tools and supplies created to help you start your leathercraft journey. They often include essential tools for the hobby. More expensive leather kits may be geared towards specific areas of the craft or offer better, more unique tools.

Some leather kits can also be bundled with a pre-cut project that a new crafter may compete for a simple introduction to the craft. Leather kits often include tools, such as:

  1. Knives 
  2. Needles
  3. Thread
  4. Hole punches
  5. Edge bevelers

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • The History of Leather Kits
  • Why You Might Like a Leather Kit
  • Leather Kits Overview Table
  • Popular Types and Styles of Leather Kits
  • Common Leather Kit Characteristics
  • Leather Kit Costs
  • Pros of Leather Kits
  • Cons of Leather Kits
  • Leather Kits Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Kit
  • My Personal Research with Leather Kits
  • Leather Kit Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Insights on Leather Kits
  • Key Takeaways
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A Leather Repair Kit

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

Many leather crafters often advise against leather kits, saying the tools will be cheap and the kit itself will be overpriced. While I understand this logic, I believe it misses significant issues. Leather kits are made to be convenient and provide a lower-cost entry to the hobby.

Most tools will be replaced as you progress, but the tools themselves will serve their purpose. While it may also be cheaper to buy everything individually, kits let aspiring crafters avoid purchasing the wrong products or investing too much in tools they may not use. 

The History of Leather Kits

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Some of the earliest versions of leather kits came from the founder of Tandy Leather, Charles Tandy. Tandy was a son of a leather artisan who had seen the struggles of leather crafting. In doing so, he envisioned creating leather kits to make the craft more accessible while promoting the professional side of leatherworking.

As a result, Charles Tandy began producing small leather kits with various inexpensive tools and distributed them to the general public. Since then, leather kits have become much more popular, with companies offering a large variety. 

Why You Might Like a Leather Kit

Leather kits are the perfect way to dive into the leather crafting world, as they allow for a low entry cost while providing anything you may need. A good leather kit will take the guesswork out of what tools you should buy and introduce you to tools you may have never seen before. While starting with a leather kit may not offer the highest quality tools, testing a wide variety saves you money by letting you decide what to upgrade and what to keep.

Leather Kits Overview Table

Leather Kits CharacteristicDetails
ItemLeather Kits
UsesEntry leather tools and supplies for starting leathercraft
Common MaterialsKnives, punches, edge bevelers, thread, needles, mallet, awl
Popular ColorsThe colors of the kits, tools, and supplies will vary. However, black and other neutral colors are the most common.
SizesKits come in a variety of sizes as they begin to provide more tools and supplies. Larger kits may also include leather for crafting.
Popular StylesGeneral leather kit, dyeing leather kit, repair leather kit, shoemaking kit
Cost Range ($)$20–$200
How Long it Lasts (on average)Tools may last for years, supplies such as thread may only last a few months.
Characteristics of Leather Kits

Popular Types and Styles of Leather Kits

General leather kit – The most popular type of leather kit is a general kit used to make wallets, keychains, and other small goods. These kits include:

  1. Knives
  2. Punches
  3. Edge bevelers
  4. Thread
  5. Needles
  6. Awls

Deluxe leather kit – A deluxe leather kit may include:

  1. Pre-cut pieces for leather projects
  2. Cutting surface
  3. Stitching pony
  4. Mallet 

Dyeing leather kits – These specialty kits have everything one needs to dye leather, including:

  1. Daubers
  2. Sponges
  3. Other applicators
  4. Various dyes
  5. Paint
  6. Finishes

Leather repair kits – Kits for repairing leather come with:

  1. Soaps
  2. Conditioners
  3. Patches
  4. Small color-matching paints

Cordwainer kits – Some kits focus on more niche projects, such as shoe-making kits. Cordwainer kits come with everything you need to make shoes except leather, including:

  1. Shoe lasts
  2. Knives
  3. Tacks
  4. Hammers
  5. Glue
  6. Toe stiffeners
  7. Thread

Common Leather Kit Characteristics

Materials

The most common materials in leather kits are knives, punches, edge bevelers, thread, needles, and awls. These tools are essential to any leather crafter and can create various projects. While many of these tools are entry-level, they are varied enough for you to learn what you may want to improve or keep the same.

Sizes

There are various sizes of leather kits, beginning with small kits that focus solely on the essential tools. While these kits may be okay to start with, they can disregard important tools, such as a mallet, cutting surface, or stitching pony. Larger kits will contain these missing items and more commonly used tools.

The largest leather crafting kits will have everything you need for both tools and supplies. These often come with leather to begin crafting. Large leather kits are more suited for those interested in the craft with a higher budget, as they generally offer better quality and more tools. 

Leather kits are bundles of tools and supplies created to help you start your leathercraft journey. They often include essential tools for the hobby, such as knives, needles, thread, hole punches, and edge bevelers.

Variations

Aside from size, leather kits can vary in focus. The most commonly seen leather kits are general-purpose kits. Focusing on a broad introduction to leathercraft with the most commonly used tools. Robert L. Weppler, from Eastern Illinois University, in Charleston, Illinois, wrote a thesis paper in 1960 covering the variety of tools used in leathercraft and highlighting their purpose and alternative tools that perform the same or similar tasks.

This breakdown displays the wide variety of potential variations for tool kits. Dye kits or tooling kits are decorative leather kits that bundle dyes, stains, finishes, stamps, patterns, antique gel, or applicators. Repair leather kits focus on restoring leather goods through cleaning or conditioning products and using patches and paint. 

Key Uses

The main purpose of leather kits is to introduce potential hobbyists to the craft with inexpensive yet diverse tools. These kits help alleviate the main issue for many new to the craft, “what do I need?”

As time progressed, we saw this mentality create other variations of leather kits, including decorative and repair kits. Now, if someone interested in leathercraft wants to learn a specific aspect of the craft, there are many kits to aid in the process.

Leather Kit Costs

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Leather kits are made as inexpensive as possible, allowing for the most accessibility. Many kits will begin at $20, offering key tools for anyone to begin the craft. A step up from these kits, commonly referred to as “deluxe” kits, offer that same introduction but with higher quality tools or larger toolsets. These deluxe kits are $100 and above, targeting those willing to spend more for the craft.

Lastly, there are targeted kits. These kits are aimed toward specific aspects of the craft, appealing more to those who have already dipped their toes in leathercraft. For example, cordwainer kits are popular for those who have explored leathercraft and want to make their shoes. These specialty kits can be much more expensive than others, starting at $200.

Pros of Leather Kits

The inexpensive cost of leather kits is the most appealing part about them. Leathercraft can be an expensive hobby, and being able to try several different tools on a budget is extremely helpful.

The variety of leather kits also helps when deciding how one would like to craft and let someone carefully decide where to upgrade. Lastly, leather kits can provide a one-stop shop for many tasks for those who want to take the guesswork out of what to buy. 

Cons of Leather Kits

Although the price of leather kits is fairly low, the quality of the tools and supplies may reflect that. This also may cause unnecessary frustration when working on a project, as a poor-quality tool may make tasks more difficult. Similarly, those unfamiliar with leather kits may find most of the tools confusing. Often leather kits do not include instructions leaving the buyer to figure it out themselves.  

Leather Kits Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

Leather kits are a collection of selected tools to perform a task. A good leather kit will look at the problem it is trying to solve and include the tools required for the job. The manufacturer will select a cutting tool to include, a way to create sewing holes, and the thread and needles to sew the leather.

However, this is only one example, as leather kits include different focuses. A dye kit would choose applicators, dyes, and finishes to create a bundle of products.

In this detailed video by Chuck Dorsett from Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck goes over essential tools and techniques found in the craft. (Tools begin at 8:00)

Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Kit

Frequency of Use

Leather tool kits will be constantly used until replaced. A good tool kit will provide you with tools that will last years, and their selection will be useful for most projects. Although some tools in any given kit may be seen as useless if the owner doesn’t like the tool. For example, if a kit includes both an awl and stitching chisels, one will typically prefer one to the other. 

Environment/Conditions for Use

While leather kits can be used by crafters of any level; they are best suited for those newer to the craft. The tools included in most of the leather kits available will be entry-level and may require replacement over time. A more advanced crafter or someone producing many leather goods may require more refined tools. Leather kits are also better suited for smaller crafters that do not use machinery in their process.

Cost

Kits for leather crafting can be rather inexpensive, starting at $20 for a basic kit. The price will increase as the kits get more advanced and larger. The most expensive leather kits cost over $200 but provide tools that should last any crafter a lifetime.

Trends

Tool kits can slightly follow trends given the demand at the time. If more people are looking to try to tool leather, the leather kits will respond by including more stamps or carving knives. In general, however, leather kits have set purposes that don’t deviate too much from their original intent. 

Personal Preference

I understand the desire for leather kits and am not against new crafters trying them out. They are an easily accessible way to get into the craft. However, I would advise more seasoned crafters to seek individual quality tools, as kits tend to focus more on quantity over quality. 

My Personal Research with Leather Kits

When I first started leatherworking, I purchased a general tool kit on Amazon and have gradually upgraded. However, as a more experienced crafter who enjoys pushing people toward the craft, I wanted to revisit those beginning tools and discuss the kit’s usefulness. To do this, I purchased the most popular leather kit on Amazon and tested the tools. 

Tools Included in My Leather Kit

My first impression of the kit was overall positive. I knew these tools would not be the nicest in the world, but many still felt robust. The cutting tool was a generic pattern knife with interchangeable blades. A great choice for many beginners as the dull blades could be replaced. The hole punches, which were four different sizes, worked perfectly.

They are the same punches I have been using for years, and I have never felt the need to replace them. Next was the two awls. As a scratch awl used to mark leather, they were perfectly fine. There is no need for a fancy tool for marking leather, and they did the job. The multitool came with various tips, including different beveler sizes, a grover, and a creaser.

Once again, these tools worked well. The grover and many beveler sizes were sharp enough to do their job, and the arm would lock into place well. The only thing that began to bother me was constantly switching out the tips for different purposes, but I would have been more than happy with the tool as a new crafter.

The wood slicker used for burnishing was another welcomed tool. The different grooves that are traditionally seen helped hold the leather in place and round the burnished edge. Included in the kit were thread cutters; again, they are something I have kept and used since my start in the craft. They’re helpful and durable. 

Testing My Leather Kit

Although I was fairly happy with my purchase, it was not perfect. For example, while using the awls for marking worked well, they were not sharp enough and failed when trying to push them through the leather for stitching. It was difficult, and if I were starting the craft with that tool, it would have left a bad impression.

Similar to the awl, the stitching chisels were disappointing. They went through the leather fine but would get stuck. As a more experienced crafter, I would sharpen the awl and the chisels to make them more usable. However, judging this purely from a new crafter’s perspective, I would replace them fairly quickly.

The thread and needles were not the worst, and I had difficulty deciding if they were a positive or negative addition to the kit. They work and don’t cause any headaches, but the thread is overly waxy, and the needles have large eyelets that make it harder to go through the leather.

Ultimately, if I were introducing someone to the craft, I would advise buying different thread and needles. However, I think they could be used for practice before moving on to more premium threads. 

Conclusion

Overall, I was pleased with the kit. Although this kit is not geared toward me, I think it would be a great purchase for an aspiring crafter. There were some highlights that I still use. However, it is not a perfect kit. The sewing aspects left much to be desired, and the kit lacks a cutting surface and a mallet for punching.

These can easily be acquired separately, but it would be more convenient. I think this kit really shines, and if someone has previous experience in sharpening tools, there would be even more reason to buy a kit like this when starting. 

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Crafting Tools in a Leather Kit

Leather Kit Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Leather Kits

Most of the tools in a leather kit will be made of some metal. To ensure these do not rust, they may be cleaned with water but immediately dried off. For a more aggressive cleaning, isopropyl alcohol can be used in small amounts. The tools will still need to be dried after being cleaned.

How to Maintain Leather Kits

The best way to maintain a leather kit is always to use the tools properly. This means avoiding using a steel hammer when punching, always using a soft mat and cleaning any buildup on the tools as you work.

The tools in the kits are fairly robust and can serve their purpose without fear when used properly. To further maintain some tools, their cutting surface may be polished with compound and sharpened on stones or sandpaper. 

How to Store Leather Kits

Most leather kits will provide some sort of box or bag that you will receive the kit in. This will be the best place to store the tools. Ideally, the sharp tools will be covered to avoid injuries, and everything should be kept free from moisture to avoid rusting. 

Helpful Insights on Leather Kits

How much do leather kits cost?

Leather kits vary in cost depending on their size and quality. Small leather kits will start at $20 and cover most of the tools needed. Larger kits may be around $100, offering higher quality tools and a larger variety.

Do I need a big leather kit?

No, there is no need for a large leather kit. A small leather kit can provide everything you may need for leathercraft. Larger kits may offer more unique tools that may benefit you but are not required for starting the craft. 

Can I make my own leather kit?

Yes, you can piece together your own leather kit with the necessary tools. This is a route most leather crafters advise as it allows you to purchase higher-quality tools from the start. However, when doing so, it is important to research the purpose of each tool to determine if it is necessary for your projects. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Leather kits are ideal for people new to leathercraft.
  2. There are a variety of kits with different price points and specialties.
  3. Tools in a leather kit may need to be upgraded for those looking to go further in the craft. 

In Closing

Leather kits can be a great tool for those looking to get into leathercraft without spending much money. While the supplies in the kit may need to be replaced, the firsthand knowledge you receive is crucial in choosing what to improve.

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