When I started working with leather, I was intimidated by snaps. One of my earliest projects was a friend asking me to make them a small pencil pouch with a snap closure. Since then, I’ve always found myself paying extra attention to snaps. Recently, I decided to uncover the “secrets” of snaps to advance my crafting skill.
Leather snaps are a hardware option used to secure leather. Snaps come in different sizes, post lengths, and types to suit any leather project. Specialty tools are required to set snaps, either by hand or with the help of a press. Snaps cost .10¢–$3 per set, depending on the material and quality.
Leather snaps can be intimidating for those new to the hardware. Let’s break down different snap types, sizes, and tools to guide you to the perfect hardware choice.
What are Leather Snaps?
A leather snap set is a closure hardware set. Snaps consist of four pieces split into two groups. The first group will contain a post with a flat or rounded end and one-half of an interlocking set. Similarly, the second group will include the same supplies as the other half of the set
. When installed, the interlocking pieces can be pressed together to lock securely and pulled apart when needed. Snaps are commonly seen on wallets, bags, or garments and act as a way to create a secure closure for pockets or flaps.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- When You Might Use Leather Snaps
- Leather Snap Quick Reference Table
- Leather Snap Types and Variations
- Leather Snap Characteristics
- Leather Snap Pros
- Leather Snap Cons
- Leather Snap Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
- Leather Snap Costs
- Alternative Options to Leather Snaps
- Experienced Tips for Working with Leather Snaps
- My Personal Research with Leather Snaps
- Leather Snap Care and Maintenance
- Helpful Leather Snap Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
A couple of common mistakes can be made with snaps, which I too have fallen victim to. The first is purchasing low-quality snaps. While there is no issue with buying practice materials in many parts of leather craft, poor-quality snaps may cause a headache.
The interlocking pieces of the snap may not fit tightly or may not snap at all. Snap posts may be too soft and break instead of rollover. A good quality snap will avoid all these issues, making a much better environment for learning how to set snaps.
Secondly, a loose snap does not always mean more pressure is needed. If the leather used for the snaps is not thick enough, the snap will not sit properly. Excessive use of force on a snap post will only cause it to break and become useless rather than tighten it. It is best to use the snap with the correct post length rather than try to use more force.
When You Might Use Leather Snaps
Despite only serving a single purpose, securing two pieces together, snaps can be used in various ways. The most common is closing hardware in pockets, pouches, or bag flaps. However, snaps can be used to create a temporary hold. Belt blanks are often sold with snaps to swap buckles if desired quickly.
Snaps may also be used to create removable items. Pockets can be snapped on, or a wallet may have a snap to attach to a bag. The snap itself can add a decorative flair to any item. From color to shape, many different options are available and pair well with any leather project.
When installed, the interlocking pieces can be pressed together to lock securely and pulled apart when needed.
Leather Snap Quick Reference Table
|Component Materials||Plated steel, stainless steel, solid brass|
|Common Sizes||3/16″ post with 1/2″ cap diameter, 5/16″ post with 3/8″ cap diameter, 5/16″ post with 9/16″ cap diameter|
|Cost Range ($)||10¢–$3 per snap set|
|Recommended Maintenance||Periodic cleaning to ensure a strong closure, and snug fit|
|Recommended Storage||Organized by parts in a dry area to prevent rust|
|Common Uses||Securing pockets, flaps, etc. while adding a decorative flair|
|How Long It Lasts (on average)||10 Years|
Leather Snap Types and Variations
The two main types of leather snaps are line snaps and segma snaps. Line snap comes in various sizes, known as line 20 or 24. Segma snaps similarly have multiple options, like glove snaps. Line snaps are the most common snaps found in leathercraft as they offer good locking strength.
Line 20 snaps are used for leather up to 6oz, and line 24 is used for thicker leather. Segma snaps are aimed at smaller leather projects that require less locking strength in exchange for a more elegant look and smooth fit.
In this video by Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck Dorsett quickly looks at the most common types of snaps and shows how to set each type of snap perfectly in the leather properly.
Leather Snap Characteristics
The material a snap is made of plays a large role in the final quality of the snap. Budget snaps are plated over basic steel. These are fine to use in most situations, but the plated metal scratch off, and the lock mechanism become weaker over long-term use.
For more durable options, solid brass, plated brass, or stainless steel offer a more wear-resistant product that will retain its strength longer. Edward E. Igelegbai, Oluwaseun A. Alo, Adefemi O. Adeodu, and Ilesanmi A. Daniyan, from the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, at Afe Babalola University, in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria, tested different ratios when casting brass.
They found that adding too much zinc when creating brass leads to less tensile strength, low ductility, and a high degree of brittleness. With brass being a popular option for high-quality snaps, it is important to find a reputable manufacturer to ensure the materials are equally high quality.
When choosing the correct snap size, it is most important to look at the post length. Line 20 snaps are used for leathers up to 6oz with a 3/16″ post and 1/2″ cap diameter. A line 24 snap will be needed when working with leathers thicker than 6oz. Line 24 snaps have a 5/16″ post with a 9/16″ cap diameter.
Segma snaps typically include a long 5/16″ post with a 3/8″ cap diameter but can be found in much smaller sizes depending on the manufacturer. Ideally, the post length will be slightly larger than the amount of leather it will go through.
Snaps can change in many ways, from design to size and length. Most snaps will have a domed side that will show on leather projects and a hidden flat side to sit flush. However, snaps can use a domed side for both halves or a flat side for both. The style of the dome also provides many variations.
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Decorative shapes or icons can be used in place of the dome, or the snap may be plated with different metals. Some manufacturers will offer leather-covered snaps or painted snaps to provide color-matching options. Functionally, while snaps have common sizes, they can also be found with varying post lengths, ensuring a snug fit, regardless of the leather used.
Leather Snap Pros
Using leather snaps in a project creates a professional feel to the item. While flaps can be loose or have a strap, a small snap provides an additional element to a project. Snaps make a pocket feel more secure, and the visible metal can provide interesting detail.
Snaps may also be used creatively to make quick-changing, customizable projects. This includes belt buckles, removable pockets, or a secure way to attach keys or wallets.
Leather Snap Cons
While snaps are a good choice when working with leather, they can be finicky. Often, multiple sizes of the same style snap must be purchased when working with different leather sizes. With each size, additional tools may be needed to secure the snap properly. Once secured, snaps may also be difficult to remove, potentially ruining a project.
Snaps may also be limited as areas with high strain may also prevent a snap from holding close. Leather snaps are a place that will see high wear and may become loose over time. Better alternatives may exist for creating a more secure closure when working with leather.
Leather Snap Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
Any type of snap starts with a technical design. This is typically in the form of a computer-aided design, referred to as CAD. With this software, every detail can be covered, from post length to snap width. A mold is made and tested using the design files provided.
Once a final mold has been created, the die-casting process can begin. The molten metal of the manufacturer’s choice is forced into the mold to take the shape of the snap. Once removed from the mold, any imperfections will need to be polished out. Finally, the hardware is electroplated, which coats the snap in a different metal to give it its final look.
Leather Snap Costs
The cost of leather snaps can be widely varied. From the material used to the shape of the snap, each goes into the product’s final cost. Budget snaps may only cost .10¢ per snap set, while decorative snaps can cost up to $3. Purchasing snaps in bulk is a good way to cut down the cost of snaps. Companies will often sell packs of 10 or 100 snaps at a reduced price.
Alternative Options to Leather Snaps
When leather snaps are unavailable or when looking for different closure options, plenty exist. Other hardware serves the same purpose as a snap, such as tuck lucks, turn locks, magnetic closures, button closures, and others. For securing flaps, it is possible to use just the leather. A strap can sit across the flap, preventing it from opening.
Experienced Tips for Working With Leather Snaps
- Mark your center point with an awl to ensure the snap is aligned.
- Create a washer out of leather to create a snug fit when the post is too long.
- Flair out the post with taps to encourage the metal to roll over instead of mushing downwards.
My Personal Research With Leather Snaps
Working with leather snaps may not be as complex as other parts of leather craft, but it still offers areas for improvement. I researched various methods, tips, and tricks for setting snaps to provide helpful information while using them.
Purchasing Leather Snaps
The first step in mastering leather snaps is purchasing the correct snap for any project. I always recommend buying quality snaps, as the consistency and snap strength will be much better. Lower-quality snaps have many issues, from a weak post that may break to the interlocking pieces not fitting quite right.
A good snap will resolve most issues beginners struggle with. When researching online, other crafters discussed post size. Newcomers will wonder how to measure properly and decide between two sizes that would work. Firstly, crafters recommend using a leather gauge to determine the leather’s thickness accurately.
Online conversion charts will provide the information in millimeters and inches. When knowing the proper length, choose a snap that will provide slightly extra room. A post size that is the exact same thickness as the leather will leave no room for the setting.
Crafters agree that line snaps are best for most large projects that will receive a lot of wear when determining what type of snap to use. Segma snaps, on the other hand, can be good for small items like wallets, keychains, and others that can benefit from a smoother fit rather than additional strength.
Setting Leather Snaps
Throughout all the research I viewed, the most important part was using the correct tools to set a snap. Line snaps will use a different setter than segma snaps, and different snap sizes may require a different anvil. Purchase the matching setting equipment for the snaps you plan on using.
Another common issue when discussing snaps is a loose or smashed snap. Snaps must be set on a solid surface. Most crafters use and recommend a granite block. When using a surface that is too soft, much of the force applied gets broken up by the surface.
The next key part is the amount of force used. Many will try to set a snap like a rivet, crushing the post. A helpful tip I learned from Chuck Dorsett of Weaver Leather Supply was to tap the snap post in a circular motion to encourage it to roll instead of being smashed. By doing this, the snap comes out perfect when I apply the final blows.
Tips For Working With Snaps
When learning about leather snaps, I came across various useful tips I wanted to share. Punching the hole slightly smaller than the post when fitting a snap will help keep it secure. If a post is too long, a leather washer can be made to help keep the snap snug. When a post is too short, Springfield Leather recommends using a small french skiver and thinning the area in a circular motion.
An unorthodox method I use to remove a snap is using a pin punch to force the pin out. If enough of the post is exposed, I take a pair of wire cutters and clip off the area. However, when removing a snap, be cautious not to scratch or damage the surface of the leather.
Leather snaps are common hardware pieces that can help improve your leather projects. With these tips and techniques, all your future snaps should fit snugly and look professional. Setting snaps is another part of leather craft that can be improved to create a better overall product.
Leather Snap Care and Maintenance
How to Clean Leather Snap
Cleaning leather snaps will depend on their finish type. Universally snaps can be cleaned with water on a rag while being careful not to wet the leather surface. Isopropyl alcohol may be used in small amounts to remove stuck debris. However, it may remove the paint if a snap is coated with paint. With all snaps, test the alcohol reaction before attempting to thoroughly clean.
How to Maintain Leather Snaps
Overtime snaps may become loose on the leather and begin to spin. The post can be tapped with its proper setter to tighten the snap. Similarly, a pin punch can be used if the snap’s locking mechanism becomes weaker due to wear. A pin punch, the same size as the stud, is used to tap the stud lightly. This will flatten it, making it slightly wider. Needle nose pliers may also be used to create the same effect.
How to Store Leather Snaps
Since most snaps come in four individual bags, it is best to keep them organized. This can be done by keeping each part in its original packaging or by using a plastic toolbox such as a jewelry organizer. Regardless of how the snaps are organized, they will need to be stored in a dry environment to prevent rusting.
Helpful Leather Snap Insights
What are the best snaps for leather?
There is no single snap that is the best for leather. Line snaps are what many crafters recommend as they are stronger than segma snaps. However, if a project does not require added snap strength, other snap types may suit a project better. Regardless, the most important part when choosing snaps is to purchase high-quality from a reputable dealer.
How do you put snaps on leather?
Snaps are attached to the leather by specialized tools. A hole will first be punched, allowing the post to pass through the leather. The snap will be placed on an avail before using a properly sized setting post to hammer down the post. By causing the post to roll, the interlocking pieces get set in place, securing the snap.
How can you put snaps on leather without tools?
Unfortunately, snaps will require some tools for installing onto leather. While there are many options, such as hand, rotary, or machine setters, there is no way to secure a snap otherwise.
How do you put snaps on a leather jacket?
Attaching snaps to any leather jacket will require a hole punch, snaps, and a snap setter. The snap placement is determined and marked before using a hole punch to create a place for the snap to fit. Ideally, the hole should be a snug fit around the post. One-half of the interlocking pieces will be slid onto the post, and the back of the snap should be set on an anvil or other hard surface. The proper post setting tool will then be used to drive the post down slowly, and outwards. This locks the pieces together into the leather. By using multiple hits instead of a single hard hit, the post expands without being smashed. This is repeated for the other half of the snap.
Can you remove snaps from leather?
Yes, snaps can be removed in a few different ways. The most effective method for removing a snap is to use a power drill to cut through the snap post. Selecting a drill bit that is slightly larger than the post. Alternatively, a pin punch can be used. The post can be hammered down and out of the leather using a slightly larger punch. Both methods will leave a hole in the leather where the snaps were attached.
- Purchase high quality snaps for the best fit and strength when closed.
- During installation, use multiple light taps instead of hard hits to roll the post.
- Carefully choose the proper snap for each project, and leather thickness to ensure a tight fit.
Being able to add leather snaps to projects opens up the possibilities for designs. While the tools may be foreign to most, setting snaps can be quickly learned, prroviding a lifelong technique to further expand on your leather craft skill.