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Leather Skiver – The Fun Tool for Thinning Out Leather

A leather skiver is very handy when creating projects that require folding or sewing leather. They help to easily thin the leather out.

A leather skivers is a tool used to remove thin layers of leather material. They generally have a very sharp cutting blade. When the blade is drawn against the leather grain with some pressure applied down upon it, the blade cuts through the leather as it moves along, shaving off a thin layer.

So what options are available and which works best for precise, consistent skiving? Let’s take a look.


What is a Leather Skiver?

The leather skiver is a tool, with a very wide, sharp blade used to drag across the leather’s surface and remove thin layers of material. Repeated use of the tool will help reduce the thickness of a piece of leather. It can be controlled to taper edges, or remove material from the middle of a leather piece.

Leather Skiver - Liberty Leather Goods

Leather Skiver

Skiving is helpful In many facets of leather work. It is used, for example when making belts. At the point where the leather is folded over to secure the buckle, there would be double the leather thickness since the material is folder over.

This could be bulkier than necessary, as well as potentially uncomfortable to wear. Skiving can be used to thin out the leather, on both sides around the fold, so that when they are joined together it is only about one layer thick. This will look cleaner and wear more comfortably.

This same process can be applied to bag straps, saddlery, and any leather work that involves folding and joining thinker pieces of leather. Skivers are available in hand-held versions, manually drawn against the leather. Skivers are also available in tabletop versions, where the leather is pulled through the skiver, machine versions, and manual leather skiver versions.

Additionally, there are skipping knives, used to free-hand skive. An electric leather skiver can help automate some of the work and reduce effort needed. Carefully removing leather layers is part art and part skill. Most leather craftsman will at some point have one or several skivers on their leather craft tools list.


Manual Leather Skiver

Manual Safety Leather Skiver - Liberty Leather Goods

Manual Safety Leather Skiver

Leather hand skivers, also called a manual leather skiver, are hand-operated tools for removing thin layers of leather material. They have very sharp blades that are usually either flat, or slightly curved. Skivers are drawn across leather, with downward pressure applied. They shave off a thin layer of leather as they are drawn.

Flat bladed will shave leather in an even way. Curved skiver blades will shave more towards the center of the blade, since that can cut deepest into the material. Curved blades work well for skiving out curved recesses, or for finely controlling the cutting depth but utilizing the narrower blade heights towards the edges of the curved blades.

The hand skiver can also be used as a leather edge skiver, when worked closely to the edge of material. Manual leather skiving is effective, though requires practice to produce a consistent result. As each pass is performed manually, the process can yield natural variations.


Leather Tabletop Skivers

Leather tabletop skivers are table-mounted leather thinning machine tools used to skive leather efficiently and with consistent results. They usually come with large 6” – 10” blades, and have adjustable skiving heights.

To skive with a tabletop skiver, the preferred skiving height is set, leather is placed under the blade, and a lever is lowered to secure the leather in place. Once in place, the leather is pulled through the skiver. This results in a skived piece that matches the height originally set on the skiver.

The thickness of the skive can also be manually adjusted by pushing or pulling on the lever as the leather is being pulled through this more manual leather thinning machine. This allows for variable thicknesses of the skive, for example towards the ends of a belt or for bag strap.

The incredible benefits of these tools is that it produces a very consistent result, very quickly. What could take hours by hand with a hand skiver can take minutes or seconds with a tabletop skiver. There are few moving parts, and blades can usually be sharpened, making these a leather working tool that can easily see years or decades of use. Here’s how a CS Osbornne tabletop skiver works:



Skiving Leather Machine

A skiving leather machine is an electrically-powered leather thinning machine. While others are usually manually driven, the electric leather skiver can produce very fast results even on thicker leathers. this is mainly due to the use of electric power, and the heavy mechanical build of the machines; they’re very sturdy!

These machines go by several names, including Bell Knife Skiver, or leather edge skiving machine. Often, they are table or bench top machines, and rest on a sturdy surface. Some even come with custom tables fit precisely to fit the tool.

The skiving leather machine usually have blade options that produce different results on the skived material. Common blade shapes include own shaped, and straight. In order to ensure smooth passing of the material under the blades, some electric leather skivers have feed mechanisms both on top of and below the leather material; this helps provide even grip, especially on thick, heavy leathers.

With proper care and maintenance, these skiving leather machines can be used for decades. They work especially well in high-volume production work such as for luggage, bags, shoes, and boots. They can also be used on other goods as a leather edge skiver. Here’s a powerful skiving machine in action:



Leather Skiver Knife

A leather skiver knife is a speciality knife used to shave off thin layers of leather material. They are usually shaped with a handle, and have a rectangular blade that is sharpened on the short end. This is used for pushing into the leather to shave it away, and can be used as a leather edge skiver.

The blades are generally available as flat ends, or angled, each with options that include beveled blades for increased control over the thickness of the skiver material. These angle-bladed skiving knives are generally referred to as “lap” skiving knives.

Since the leather skiver knife is manually operated, it requires development of skill to use effectively. Once experienced with their use, skiving knives can quickly remove leather on belts and straps and other work. They also are agile enough to use on smaller pieces and even help with detailed skiving in tight places.

Skiving knives come in a variety of shapes and build qualities. Often, trying a few out is the best way to determine which is most comfortable, and which manufacturer and blade type works best for your preferred working style. Here’s a demonstration of a Vergez Blanchard skiving knife:



Related Leather Skiver Topics

How do you skive soft leather?

Soft leather can be skived with a very sharp hand skiving knife. The sharpness of the blade is very key here, as well as a steady movement of the blade towards the leather edge. If needed, an extra piece of leather can be used to apply pressure on top of the edge being skived, to help keep the worked leather from moving during the process.

It will likely take some practice, though totally do-able to skiver soft leather with a quality skiving knife.


How do you use a safety skiver?

A safety skiver is used by laying the tool/blade on top of the leather to be skived, and drawing the blade over the leather’s surface. The depth of the cut into the leather will be determined primarily by how much pressure is being put onto the skiver tool while it moves.

Safety Skiver Used to Make a Leather Belt - Liberty Leather Goods

Safety Skiver Used to Make a Leather Belt

Lighter pressure will result in shallower cuts, while more pressure will result in more leather material being removed with each pass. Working slowly and with more passes often yields the best results; it allows more control over subtle layer removal, and more opportunities to evaluate progress with each pass.


Skiving Metal

Skiving metal is a similar process, though uses much different cutting blades than for leather. Essentially, metal material is removed in various shapes, such as to form cylinders, between metal pieces, to cut thin layers off, or even to shave thin layers that are bent up as used a cooling fins.

While the name is the the same, leather skiing is a very different game. And, leather material is much soften than metals, making leather skiing much easier. This is great, and it allows us to use manual leather skiver tools and do much of this work in a home workshop. Here’s an example of skiving metal:



How do you thin out a piece of leather or leather edges?

To thin out a piece of leather, or leather edges, generally a skiing knife is most useful. Just push it along the edge of the leather and it will shave away thin amount of material. The same can be done towards leather edges, to thin them out.

If looking to bevel an edge, leather bevelers will often be more useful here. Though, for a small project or if the crafter has a lot of freehand skiver skill, edges can be beveled with a sharp, quality skiving knife.

For those starting out, learning, or prefer how they work, safety skivers are a great way to skive where the blade is under a handle that provided steady control of the tool.


How do you use a skiving knife?

A skiving knife is primarily used by taking the tool in one hand, and pushing it against the leather surface or edge that is to be thinned with the knife. The sharp blades will push through the leather, cutting off layers based on how much pressure is applied by the leather crafter.

Thus, practice is usually helpful here and it takes some time to learn how much pressure is required based on the knife being used, the sharpness of it, and the thickness/softness of the leather material being skived.

Once comfortable, a quality skiing knife can be quite a handy, and helpful tool.



The leather skiver is often a tool that most leather workers have one or several of. Depending on the types of projects worked on, an electric leather skiver might find it’s way into your workflow, or the hand skivers might be the go-to tool used day-to-day. With some practice, they’re all really fun to use. If you’d like to see my overall leather tools list, click here.



Related Questions

How to Pronounce Skive?

This word can look a little funny and folks will often say it in different ways. The common way to pronounce skive is, “sky-ve”, with accent on the first syllable, “sky”. Skiver, might look like, “sky-ver”, or another way, “skaiv”, or “skai-ver”.


What is a skiving knife?

A skiving knife is a leather working tool that usually has a steel blade fixed to a wooden handle. The blade is rectangular, sharpened on 3 sides with angled edges. It allows for varied movement and precise control when cutting leather material.

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