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Leather Working Techniques and Insights For Better Crafting

Leathercraft is filled with various techniques passed on for generations. Although I have been a part of this craft for multiple years, I still learn different, new, and better ways to do things. 

Leather working techniques are tricks and tips that are abundant in leather craft. Although the same material is used, various specialties have a unique way of helping you accomplish projects. These insights help crafters reach their goals, regardless of the field they choose to follow.

This article will give you a brief insight into the various techniques used throughout leathercraft. Helping guide you with any project you wish to achieve. 

What Are Leather Working Techniques and Insights 

Leather working techniques and insights are acquired knowledge and skills of leathercraft that are passed on through various means. Each specialty of leathercraft will have unique tips and tricks to optimize the craft.

Leather working techniques and insights may only be small bits of information that, when put together, can help guide any crafter to success. As one explores the types of leathercraft, different skills and insights will be uncovered, creating a more well-versed crafter.  

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Stamping a Design into Leather

Types or Variations of Leather Working Techniques and Insights

Leather Car Seat Repair

Repairing car seats is seen in upholstery leather work. Small repairs, such as stains, or light cracking, can be addressed twith cleaning techniques using leather soap and conditioner. Small tears can be fixed with patching, requiring minimal sewing. Extensive upholstery work is much more in-depth, requiring various methods such as pattern-making, skiving, stitching, and padding. 

Leather Furniture Repair

Leather furniture repair is very similar to repairing car seats. They are both upholstery-style crafting. Leather furniture will need to be maintained through cleaning and conditioning with leather products and patching or stitching small tears. Like car seats, significant changes to leather furniture will require an in-depth understanding of upholstery and it’s various techniques. 

Leather Pattern Making

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Pattern making is a universal skill in leathercraft. A good pattern can guide you through the toughest challenges. Pattern making techniques rely on attention to detail, the ability to think three-dimensionally, and problem-solving. Often the first pattern requires adjustments, and the ability to take notes and make corrections makes all the difference. 

Leather Staining

Staining leather is a decorative part of leathercraft with various techniques to stand out. It can be used to color a natural piece of leather, similar to other dyes, and highlight tooling marks by soaking into the surface of the leather. Stain can be applied via a dauber, cloth, dipped in, or other various means.  

Wet Forming Leather

Wet forming leather is the process of shaping vegetable tan leather after it has been saturated with water. This is useful for utilizing stiffer leather in projects that require curves. Wet forming leather can use templates to mold specific shapes such as bowls, pouches, and valet trays.

Drilling Leather

While not a standard process in leathercraft, drilling leather takes advantage of common household tools. This process is best suited for multiple layers of heavy-weight leather where stitching chisels fail to reach. While it is possible to create holes with a drill, they may be overly large or burn the surrounding leather. 

Leather Tooling

Leather tooling is a traditional design process in leathercraft commonly found in the western crafting style. One will prepare a design is prepared to be carved or stamped onto vegetable tan leather. Tooling serves no practical purpose and is strictly decorative but allows for a greater expression of the craft. 

Leather Burning

Similar to tooling, leather burning marks the surface of the leather with designs created by an individual. This process is done with a hot iron leaving blackened marks where the iron makes contact with the surface. Although not as popular as carving, leather burning offers more freedom using the hot iron, acting as a pen, and the leather as the canvas.

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Embroidered Brown Leather

Leather Embroidery

Embroidery is a technique found in other crafts that have made their way to leatherwork. It involves stitching a decorative pattern, design, or image into a piece of leather. Embroidery uses various thread colors, sewing patterns, and thread sizes to create a colored, textured image. 

Leather Book Binding

Leather book binding is an old technique of constructing a cover for loose pages. This process can be decorative, as crafters can add tooling marks, stamps, or inlays to create a more interesting product. Alternatively, this can be kept simple, covering pages with a single piece of leather, similar to a notebook.

Leather Weaving

Like other crafts, leather weaving interlocks strips of leather to create larger panels. Weaving can be used as an alternative to leather stitching or can be purely decorative. The key is to keep the leather strips as even as possible to ensure the best final product. 

Punching Leather

Punching leather is the act of placing holes in leather. This is done with specialized tools for creating stitching holes, round holes, oblong holes, and various other shapes. This process requires a solid hammering surface and a mallet. 

Leather Finishing

There are various ways and products for finishing leather, each offering unique benefits. Leather finishes protect the surface of the leather, sealing in dyes while preventing wear. This is done using different waxes, such as beeswax or carnauba wax.  Alternatively, an acrylic top coat can be applied using products such as Resolene. 

Leather Engraving

Engraving leather is similar to stamping leather, with one significant difference — the leather’s surface. In stamping, the leather is compressed to mark the leather, creating ridges and bumps that can be felt. On the other hand, engraving is applied to the surface rather than carved into the leather. An engraving tool or laser marks the leather and, when finished, leaves a smooth surface with little to no depth. 

Skill Levels for Leather Working Techniques and Insights 

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With endless ways to use leather, learning techniques can be highly varied. Many skills, such as cutting, sewing, stamping, staining, and punching, can be picked up by anyone starting the craft instantly. However, more specific skills, or improving these techniques, will require more practice than others.

Learning leather structures such as upholstery or weaving may be daunting at first, but with practice, can be accomplished by any crafter. Zenobia Jacos, Marie Soressi, and Shannon P. Mcpherron, with the Facility of Science, Medicine, and Health, from the University of Wollongong, in Wollongong, Australia, compared old neanderthal tools to what we use today for leatherwork.

They found a polished bone to slick down the leather fiber, like the burnishers we use today. Leatherworking is an age-old craft with tools and techniques we can pull from potentially millenniums ago.

Tips for Learning Leather Working Techniques and Insights 

  1. Take as much time as needed for each step. Rushing projects can create mistakes.
  2. Avoid shortcuts when beginning to learn the proper process of leathercraft thoroughly.
  3. Practice often using scrap leather to improve with no consequences. 
  4. Focus on what you love about the craft. Learning everything is unnecessary if you don’t plan on using it.
  5. Finish every project regardless of mistakes. A lot can be learned from mistakes.

In his helpful video, The Leathercraft Academy shares five tips to help any crafter. Videos like these are small samples of the endless information in our hobby.

How to Get Better at Leather Working Techniques and Insights

Improving at utilizing leather working techniques and insights requires patience and practice. Learning this craft takes time, and rushing to finish will not help in developing the best strategies. Video tutorials or seeing others’ work may make things seem quick and easy, but it is essential to go at your own pace when learning.

Practicing often can help you develop your techniques until they are second nature. Additionally, reviewing your project is a big help when improving leatherworking techniques and insights. Identify points where you can refine or places to attempt different techniques.

Leather working techniques may only be small bits of information that, when put together, can help guide any crafter to success.

My Personal Research on Leather Working Techniques and Insights

Regardless of how good a crafter may be, they all started at the same level. This is important to acknowledge as a very common question for beginners is, “how do I get into leather craft?” 

How it Started

I felt the same way when first starting out. Before I even attempted the first project, I told myself I would never sew as it looked too tricky. Now, years later, I laugh to myself about how I held myself back for so long over something that is now simple. To encourage people to try leathercraft or attempt a new technique, I collected information from various crafters on how to begin this hobby.

My opinion on starting leathercraft is expressed in a quote from Ernest Hemingway, “The shortest answer is doing the thing.” From the outside, leathercraft looks complicated, involving tons of specialized tools most people haven’t seen before. However, jumping right in with the bare minimum, you will quickly see how wrong that assumption is. 

What I Learned

You will soon find yourself learning the craft. Your first project might not be perfect, but learning through experience is invaluable. You will quickly be able to recognize where you can improve and decide what tools may assist you toward that goal. 

Many answers I came across online shared my sentiment. Crafters noted how they built up every step as a monumental challenge, but after the first step, everything became much easier. They also offered advice on patience, stating that many people interested in leather craft came across it through a video. 

Watching an experienced crafter create a project in seconds makes everything seem so simple. However, experienced crafters advise focusing on something other than the speed at which you accomplish the craft but rather the outcome — insisting that things be done properly, regardless of how long it may take. 

Similarly, various crafters online advised not to compare work. Now, this may be tricky, as I am also guilty of this. With crafting being a huge hobby of mine, I am constantly looking at other people’s work in awe. That can be discouraging; however, a veteran of the craft, Nigel Armitage, quickly shows why someone should be proud of their work. 

Nigel focuses on each component of a project rather than the outcome. Ambition, design, and skill are all things he encourages people to be proud of. Rather than critique a piece, he talks about what it took to make the project and where each person was when it was made. You may not be making the same goods as others, but your craft projects are still something that should be cherished all the same.

Conclusion

Leatherworking has many areas for improvement, with every crafter starting at the same place. Crafters branch off, focusing on different areas of the craft, and improve in different ways. As their projects vary, they hone previous skills while learning new techniques. While their work may seem out of reach, you will also find a focus for your craft and begin to grow as you conquer different projects.  

Related Insights

Is it easy to learn leather working techniques?

Each leatherworking technique will be different when it comes to learning. Many, such as punching, stamping, and staining, can be immediately picked up. Others that require more in-depth processes may take more practice. Regardless of the technique, anything can be learned with discipline and patience. 

Do leather working techniques require a lot of tools?

Most leatherworking techniques will require minimal tools or household items. However, larger or more specific techniques will need more tools. Stamping, burning, and engraving are all examples of techniques that require specialized tools to do them correctly. Staining, pattern making, and some small repairs may be done with household items. 

Final Thoughts 

Leatherworking can seem like a mash of specialized skills and generational knowledge. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The craft can be learned by anyone willing to put the effort in and can be immensely satisfying. 

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