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Guide to the Leather Working Tools You Need: Beginner & Pro

Leatherworking is an exciting craft to get into. You might be curious about what tools you’ll need for different projects or even styles of leather craft. Let’s take a look into all of the leather working tools.

When starting leather craft as a beginner or even with experience, the leather working tools you’ll need can include awls, bevelers, burnishers, cutters, gouges, glues, groovers, mauls, pricking irons, punches, skivers, stamps, sewing items, and a cutting mat. Specifics will depend on the project.

It’s fun to learn about them, there are so many! Here we check out around 250 different tools. And they can do some really exciting things. So, what tools will help most for your project? Let’s take a look. For detailed guides, templates, courses, and ways to start improving your leathercraft today, click here for a helpful global leather community, the International Leather Club

Leather Working Tools

There are many leatherworking tools available. Some are very specialized, and others are general. Some are only used for unique styles of leatherworking, while others are helpful for any type.

The great reality of leather working, though, is that it can be started with relatively few tools. This is excellent as you can get a feel for the craft without building out an entire workshop. It also means one can get started without spending much money or investing significant resources early on.

Leather Working Tools Group - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Tools

Once you know you enjoy it (and you likely will 🙂 ), leather working tools are available that make every aspect of the craft easier. As your skills and experience grow, so can your set of tools.

One recommendation, which holds true in many things, is to buy quality if possible. The performance of better tools is far superior to the very inexpensive ones. You’ll find the craftsmanship of your finished work to be so much better and wonder why some earlier projects were a little rough. Was it me or the tools? Likely the tools.

This also doesn’t mean go out and buy the best! A beginning leather worker with the best tools still needs to go through the fun journey of learning and improving their skills (one of the great parts of the craft). Figure out what tools you’ll use the most, various leather tool manufacturers make quality tools, get some good ones, add over time, and enjoy the journey. Only a handful are really needed to start (knife, awl, needle, thread, hole punch, riveter, & rivets). Many (almost too many :)) can be added later. Let’s take a look at some recommended tools for leather working.

Leather Working Awls

Awls are tools with a sharp metal point used for marking or piercing leather. They can be used to impress a small mark, such as where belt holes will go, or even dragged across leather to leave a mark, such as when tracing pattern templates.

Some leather awls come fixed with a single point, others allow points to be interchanged. Points include rounded and diamond-shaped, where the diamond shape cuts the leather so that it is easier to stitch through and leaves a hole in the leather that can sit flatter once punched.

Awls are relatively versatile tools for leather working; it’s common to have more than one over time.

Leather Working Tools - Awl
Leather Working Awl

Awl Haft

A leather awl haft is essentially a handle that can fit interchangeable awl blades. This allows you to have a single handle and multiple blades instead of many separate awls, taking up space in your work area.

For an awl haft, it’s important that the handle is sturdy and fits comfortably in your hand. The size should feel good. The top of the haft (where it might be struck with a hammer or maul) should have some sort of abrasion protection, such as a metal or leather end. This will keep the wooden part of the handle from being damaged when used for a task that requires hitting it with a maul.

Hafts are a handy way to widen your leather working tool set in an efficient way.

Collar Awl

These are usually used by saddle makers. Collar awls feature a long tang (about 8″-10″) with sharp cutting edges on the end. They pierce leather, creating a slit that will allow you to either push or pull thicker lacing through. Since these are generally used for larger holes through ticker leather, the longer design of them helps provide the leverage needed to make the work easier.

Curved Awl

Curved awls are very helpful for creating holes for stitching rounded or curved leather pieces together (as opposed to those that are flat). When joining two pieces that will be over a curved surface, the curved awls create an opening that will more naturally reflect the curve of the final stitch, allowing for tighter stitching and more overall control.

These awls also work well when you don’t want to fully penetrate the leather. You can use adjust the pressure applied by hand and go only as deeply into the leather as needed. The curve allows for more agile precision with this task.

Diamond Tip Awl

When looking for a tool that can make a hole in leather without leaving a large opening, try a diamond tip awl. These awls have a diamond-shaped (think four corners coming to a point) blade and a very sharp point.

The sharp point allows it to cut into the leather while the diamond tip is pushed through. The result is a tiny “x” cut in the leather. Due to the material flexibility of the “x” cut, when thread passes through along with the additional space needed for the needle, it forms a tight seam. This is better than just a hole punched into the leather, as holes created like that would often be larger than the thread used and leave a loose-fitting seam once complete.

Diamond tip awls come in various sizes so the crafter can choose what size hole is most appropriate for the project. This is definitely a recommended leather working tool.

Lacing Awl

This type of awl is used for pulling leather lacing through holes. The tip usually has a small hooked end or an eye (like on a needle). The lacing awl is pushed through the material, lacing hooked onto/through the end, and it’s pulled back through the material (with the lacing with it). This is repeated for each hole the lacing will be pulled through.

Needle Awl

A needle awl is an awl with a pointed needle end and an eye on it. This allows threads to be passed through the needle and pushed through leather material when stitching two or more pieces together.

Saddler’s Harness Awl

These awls usually have an elongated diamond shape. Primarily used by saddle makers, they help make holes in thicker leather for stitching and sewing. Often available in different sizes, they can be either single awls or awl blades that can be fit into a universal awl haft.

Scratch Awls

Scratch awls are pretty universal leather working tools. They have a sharp, rounded point and are used to pierce holes in leather. They come in a range of sizes and can be used on thinner or thicker leather. The holes made can be used for stitching or most other uses for pierced holes.

These awls can also be used for scratching or marking leather. Sometimes, when cutting leather or planning where holes will go, leaving a mark is helpful. Where a pen or pencil might not be the best choice, the scratch awl can be used to leave point marks (for example, where a hole might go) or lines (where a cut line might be). Just apply less pressure to the awl by hand and push or drag it across the leather.

Scratch awls and universally helpful leather craft tools. See some in action in this video:

 

Leather Working Burnisher & Slicker Tools

Leather burnishers and slickers are usually rounded or curved tools used to burnish (smooth out) leather surfaces and edges through friction. Since leather is a natural fiber that has been processed to have a smooth and even finish, when it’s cut, the edges will show the internal fibers and often be loose or “hairy” as the fibers stick out.

Smoothing out or burnishing the edges helps ensure a finished leather product that can wear well and be durable. This hardens and strengthens the edges. Sometimes, edges are even painted to seal them up. Many preferences and options are available for this, though burnishers and slickers are often used.

They come in different materials ranging from plastics to exotic woods. There are hand burnishers, where you move it back and forth over the leather by hand it generates heat through friction and changes the leather surface.

Burnishing tools that use motors to rapidly move the burnisher over the leather to seal the edge are also available. Burnishing machines and attachments make this a very easy task and include dedicated machines and attachments that fit onto drills and rotary tools.

The key to burnishing is heat generation and transfer. When the edge leather fibers are heated, they join together and smooth out. So friction created by moving a burnisher back and forth quickly makes this happen. When choosing a leather burnisher, keep in mind the different heat properties of the material.

Plastic Burnisher

These burnishers are generally the least expensive. They can get hot quickly, which one should keep an eye on, as burnishing too hot or too quickly can burn the leather edge and leave unwanted marks.

Wood Burnisher

Wood leather burnishers are the most popular, as the natural wood material on the natural leather material makes a nice combination. The wood doesn’t heat too quickly, and the composition of the natural wood finish does a good job of leaving a smooth result on the slicked leather edges.

Leather Working Tools - Wooden Burnisher
Leather Working Wooden Burnisher

Brass Burnisher

Brass and other metal burnishers are very strong, though retain a lot of heat. One must be careful when using metal so as to not heat the leather edge too quickly and burn it, leaving unwanted marks. Metal burnishers can also be a little heavier than wood or plastic, though if used on a burnishing machine or rotary tool, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Glass Burnisher

Glass burnishers and slickers are also available. Their smooth surface makes it helpful to put a smooth edge onto the leather. Also, glass doesn’t retain heat as quickly as other materials, which helps avoid burns on the leather edges.

Exotic Wood Burnisher

Some woods are preferred for their burnishing results. Cocobolo is a very common wood used for this that is strong and durable. It also looks great with a dark, natural color to it. Other woods used include padauk, vitae, ebony, pine, oak, maple, rosewood, and almost any wood available.

Box Slicker

Instead of a rounded piece of wood or rectangular piece of glass, box slickers are rectangular, solid blocks of wood. They function the same way as other slickers and burnishers through the friction created by moving the block quickly over the leather. Some crafters prefer the shape and size of box slickers based on what they’re working on and how they like to work.

Power Burnisher Machine

If you love burnishing or need to often if you’re making higher-volume production leather work, a power burnisher machine might be for you. It is essentially a motor with various burnishing mounts. Since it is powered by electricity, the crafter’s manual effort is greatly reduced, mainly to holding the leather piece gently by the burnisher.

Dedicated tabletop burnishing machines might have attachments on each side of a motor to hold wood burnishers, sandpaper, plastic burnishing tips, or an array of burnishing finishers. Rotary tools like Dremels can also work very well as powered burnishers. Their handles make maneuvering around the leather quite easy.

As another option, burnisher attachments for power drills are widely available. This can quickly make any home drill (corded or cordless) into a burnisher very easily. Just remember, all that power can easily burn the leather edge! Burnish slowly and safely. 🙂

Water Spray Bottle

Sometimes, it helps to burnish when the leather or leather edge is wet first. Not too wet and soaked, but just enough to aid in the heating and smoothing process the burnishers do. A common water spray bottle can be great here as a leather working tool, allowing the crafter to mist the leather areas just a little and then get to burnishing.

They don’t spill easily, and some have an adjustable spray nozzle, so you can choose how much water comes on in the mist. This is a simple but convenient way to wet leather that is to be burnished.

Leather Working Cleaning & Conditioning

Leather is a natural material and can last for centuries if it is well cared for. That usually involves periodic cleaning and conditioning to ensure that it stays in top shape during everyday use.

Leather needs to maintain a healthy balance of humidity and oils. If it gets too dry, it can become brittle, flake, and crack apart. If it gets too wet, it can begin to mold and decompose. It very much likes the middle ground of just enough moisture and oil to be a supple, strong, and lasting material.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Cleaner and Conditioner - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

Leather Cleaner

Choosing a leather cleaner is highly dependent on the type of leather being cleaned. There are specialized leather cleaners and more general ones that are safe for many types of leather. The cleaner helps to loosen and remove dust, dirt, debris, and grime from the leather surface. This ensures that when you apply the conditioner, it does not trap any dirt and instead goes right into the leather where it needs to be.

Be sure to check that the leather cleaner you might use is safe for your type of leather. Also, always try it on a small, out-of-sight place first to test for any potential adverse reactions or issues with the cleaner and the specific piece of leather you’re using it on.

Leather Conditioner

After cleaning, applying leather conditioner helps to rehydrate the leather and restore moisture and oils that are essential to its maintenance.

Some leather conditioners also leave a protective finish over the leather, further helping it resist picking up too much water, dirt, and debris before the next time it is cleaned and conditioned. When well-cared for, leather can last and be usable for generations.

Leather Oil

Leather oil is a type of leather conditioner. There are many different types and formulations available. Some cater to specific leather products (shoes, boots, bags, etc.), others to the conditions the leather will be used in, and even others have more general formulations that work well on most leathers.

Leather oils can be just oils or combinations of oils, waxes, and other natural and/or synthetic ingredients aimed at conditioning and protecting the leather. Definitely read up on the particular leather oil you might choose, reviews of its performance, and how well it will work for your specific leather application. With the right oil/conditioning, the leather will look and feel amazing.

Leather Working Creaser/Folder Tools

Leather creasers help put a crease in the edge of leather, often for aesthetic reasons. They can also be used for functional reasons when folding/shaping leather goods or putting an edge onto fine leatherwork.

For projects where thick leather is 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 avoids stretching the leather near the bend, making it much cleaner and visually appealing.

Leather Working Tools - Bone Creaser
Leather Working Bone Creaser

Creaser/Folder

Manual creasers can be drawn by hand against the leather. An example is putting the visual touch of a thin line near the outside edge of a belt. In some cases, the creaser can be heated so it runs more smoothly over and deeper into the leather and more easily creases softer leather.

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.

Creaser/Embosser Machine

When working on a project that benefits from a heated creaser, there is a machine to the rescue! The electric creaser machine feeds electricity to a hand-held creaser. On the end is a metal tip that gets warm from the electricity and delivers a consistent temperature over the leather.

An electric creaser makes a huge difference when finishing the edges naturally or with added protectants such as wax. These are often used on very high-end leather work.

Leather Working Knives and Bladed Tools

So very common in leather craft is cutting leather. In most things you’ll work on, cutting will be some part of the process or design. As such, getting familiar with the different types of cutting and bladed leather tools will be helpful.

They include knives in many varieties, shapes, and sizes. Rotary cutters are rounded blades mounted as a wheel, scissors for rougher cutting, and strap cutters for cutting long leather straps and laces. Each type has various configurations, sizes, and qualities to fit your needs.

With all knives and bladed tools, proper maintenance is important. Leather can be a tough material, knives with sharp, well-cared-for blades will make the work much easier. and the end result will be much cleaner and more professional-looking. Now, on to the fun stuff and all the info! 🙂

Knives

The staple leather working tool is the knife. There are so many variations that are used in so many ways. Sometimes, the only tool one might need for a leather craft project is a knife.

So, where to begin? Like most things, simply. The most basic knives (such as utility and crafting knives) can go a long way. As your skills in leather craft evolve, you’ll get a better feel for what specialized knives might work best for the type of leather working you do. You’ll also develop a preference for what types/styles you like best.

Xacto Knife

This is a handheld knife with replaceable metal blades. The blades come in different shapes, sizes, and angles for almost any crafting and cutting need. New blades are very sharp, reliable, and not too expensive. To replace a blade, just unscrew the base of the knife, remove the old blade, put a new one in, and re-tighten the base. Xacto knives/blades are very handy for leather working.

Leather Working Tools - Xacto Knife
Xacto Knife

Utility (Box Cutter) Knife

Box cutters can also be great for leatherwork. Some come with replaceable blades, and others have multiple blades. Once one is dull, just snap it off, and the new, sharp blade is available. Often inexpensive, this is definitely a viable option when getting into leather crafting.

Round Knife/Head Knife

The round knife, also known as a head knife, is one of the most versatile knives for leather working. It consists of a large, 1/2-circle blade that is sharp on the rounded portion. Since it has such a large blade surface and cutting edge, it can more effectively cut through thicker leather than smaller knives.

Head knives also work well for thin leathers and detailed cutting. The blade edge’s maneuverability makes it useful for cutting curves. The blade depth can also be controlled manually to set lines into the leather without cutting fully through.

Round knives come in many brands and qualities. Handle shapes are important, too. You want to have one that feels comfortable in the hand in all the various positions one might hold it while cutting. Given all the assets of the larger, sharper blade, one must also be very careful when handling and using a head knife. With proper safety and use, it is excellent. This is another of the top leather craft tools to have.

Swivel Knife

The swivel knife is used for leather tossing and carving intricate patterns into leather pieces. Usually made of metal, sometimes brass, the swivel knife has a chisel-edged blade and is held upright in the hand. On the top is a curved piece of metal that acts as a finger rest, so the index finger can lay across the top and help control the angle and pressure applied to the blade.

Blade styles can vary from straight to angled, each benefitting a different cutting style and use. It takes some time to learn and master the swivel knife. Once familiar with the techniques, one can craft some incredibly detailed and impressive decorative work into leather.

Flat Knife

The flat knife is a style of knife with a long, thin metal blade that extends through a long, flat handle. The cutting edge is very similar to the Xacto knife blades, with angled and flat edge options available.

The edge can be re-sharpened for a long time, making it a good investment. The metal handle also adds a comfortable weight to the knife’s movement in the hand. The flatness of the handle helps give it good control.

One of the most popular flat knives is the “L’Indispensable,” made by Vergez Blanchard. It even offers unique angling to the blades better suited for right or left handed users. It’s pretty amazing that the precision is so accurate that left or right-handed options are available for a blade. It’s worth checking out if you want to invest in a high-quality knife.

Bevel point

Beveled point leather working knives have a beveled edge to the blade. This helps for skiving and edge trimming, where you want a little more control over how deep the cut is and how the path of the blade moves through the cut.

For example, you might want to cut fairly deep into the edge and taper it up as you move forward. You might want to taper a cut out as you move along an edge, or even just shave a tine bit of leather from a surface when doing finishing work. The beveled shape of the blade will help with this.

Curved lip

Curved lip knives, usually made of steel, are often used by cobblers for shoe repair. Often designed for right or left-handed use, they have a uniquely shaped bent tip with a sharp edge that allows for easy trimming of shoe soles.

It is important to find one with a comfortable handle that fits well in the hand. These are not as common as other leather cutting tools and are usually intended for specialized uses.

Trimming Knife

Trimming knives are used for finer, detailed leather work. They are available with both straight and curved blades. This is a great choice in the leather craft tool kit for cutting out intricate patterns, trimming thread, or working on smaller details, including edge, seam, and trim work.

Sharp Point Knife

The sharp point knife features a long (maybe 6”-8”) steel blade with a curved end. This gives the blade more cutting surface and control over curved cuts, making it a great choice for cobblers and shoemakers. This style knife also works very well when cutting through thicker leathers, as the larger blade surface makes that sometimes difficult task much easier.

Curved Blade Trim Knife

This specialized type of trimming knife allows for more agility in cuts. It can make curved cutting easier and more nimble movements through other detailed work, such as edge finishing. This trim knife can also trim threads and work on intricate patterns.

Straight Knife

Leather working straight knives have a long, straight blade. It might taper on an angle from the tip, but the sharpened blade portion is straight. These knives work great for cutting very accurately in leather craft, and the blade can sit securely and deeply into the leather throughout the cutting process.

A comfortable handle is important on a knife like this, as the broader cutting style used benefits from resting well in the hand.

Shoemaker’s Knife

Shoemakers’ knives are specialized leather-working knives. They are often made of solid metal and are used for various purposes, including overall cutting, skiving, scraping, large trimming, and shaping the soles of shoes.

These come in straight or curved versions. The curved types are available in left and right-handed styles. The straight designs are usually double-beveled for use in either hand. The overall lengths are usually 10”—12” long.

Rand Knife/Welt Knife

The rand knife/welt knife is another specialty knife for cobblers and shoemakers. Available in right- or left-handed versions, it has a uniquely angled blade that makes it useful for trimming the leather soles of shoes. It is particularly helpful for trimming around the heel area. This knife might not be used often, but it will help produce excellent results when it is.

Channel Knife

Another specialty knife used by cobblers and shoemakers, the Channel knife, is used primarily for cutting a channel into the insole of shoe leather. The blade’s curve helps it rest just right into and through the leather while cutting.

Paring Knife

Leather paring knives really shine in the bookbinding craft. They come in various sizes and blade types, including rounded, angled, and straight.

French pairing knives generally have a semi-rounded blade with an upright handle. Swiss pairing knives feature a similarly rounded blade, though they don’t have a handle; they just have the extension of the metal from the blade to hold onto.

English pairing knives look like very large leather cutting flat knives. The end has an angled blade, and the metal from the blade continues up and is essentially the handle. These knives are available in right-handed and left-handed versions.

German pairing knives are a mix of the other styles. They feature a long blade with a curved end, offering the versatility and agility of a curved blade along with a straight portion that extends up until it reaches the handle, made of a well-finished wood.

Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters are tools with circular blades that can be continuously pushed or pulled to cut fabrics, leather, and other materials. Since the blades rotate, they can easily cut along curves, making them a great option for more complex designs.

Rotary cutters also cut straight lines very well, usually when used with a straight edge as a guide. Blades are as strong as other knife blades and can be sharpened often and replaced when necessary. This is a great tool when looking for something beyond a fixed-blade knife.

Leather Tool - Rotary Cutters
Leather Rotary Cutters

Cut-Resistant Gloves

Cut-resistant gloves help protect the wearer’s hand from cuts when working with or around sharp knives. The level of cut resistance can vary based on the materials, methods of manufacture, and intended level of protection.

They would be a recommended addition to your leather working tool kit, where both hands or one can be used whenever appropriate. For example, if the right hand is holding a cutting knife and the left is holding the leather, maybe wear a cut-resistant glove on the left hand, as that will be nearer the cutting blade.

Leather crafters have survived for centuries without them, and they’re not an absolute need. However, it’s always helpful to be protected if reasonable, and in some cases, these can help.

Strap Cutters

Leather strap cutters are hand-held, wooden devices with a mounted leather blade that cut long leather straps from larger leather pieces and hide. For example, if you want to make a belt from a large leather hide, a strap cutter can be used to cut off a long length of leather in a consistent thickness. It can also be used for making leather laces. Some versions are referred to as “plows.”

There is a means to adjust the thickness of the preferred cut, usually marked with measurements for easy reference. Blades must be kept sharp and are replaceable if needed. Once the thickness is set, the leather is lined up and manually pulled through.

As that happens, it is cut to the thickness set, and the result is the original big piece of leather and a strap in just the width you want it. There is a classic design of this that has been around for years and is very common and useful.

Strap Cutter Machine

A machine can definitely help when doing higher-volume or repetitive strap cutting. These come in both manually operated (hand crank) and electrically powered versions.

The width of the cut is set, the leather positioned, then mechanically drawn through the cutter resulting in straps or laces just the way you need them. These are definitely more expensive than the hand-held strap cutters, though likely worth it if you plan on doing a lot of work that involves straps or laces.

Leather Scissors

Scissors usually have symmetrically sized finger holes and are shorter than 6” in length. They can be held in the air while cutting or rested on the cutting surface while making the cut. Leather cutting scissors are usually made with strong, sharp blades that can smoothly handle thinner and thicker leathers. Choosing the right leather scissors can greatly enhance the precision and ease of your cutting tasks, ensuring clean edges and reducing hand fatigue during extended use.

Leather Shears

Shears are usually longer than 6” in length and have asymmetrically sized finger holes. One is larger than the other to more comfortably fit four fingers, while the thumb can comfortably rest in the smaller hole. Sometimes, shears are intended to rest on and flow along the cutting surface for smooth, stable cuts.

Leather cutting scissors are usually made with strong, sharp blades that can smoothly handle the thinner and thicker leathers that require a bit of heft when making cuts.

Thread Scissors

Thread scissors will most likely be helpful if you’re hand or machine-sewing a fair amount of your leather work. They are usually small, only a few inches long, and have small, very sharp blades.

Their size allows them to reach tough-to-reach places and angles, and their sharpness shears the thread, leaving a crisp end without frays. Thread scissors can also help during edging and finishing if you need to trim any extra-long fibers that come up on the leather’s edge after a cut.

Lacing Cutter

Lacing cutters are specialized versions of strap cutters intended only for lace cutting (smaller widths of leather). They usually allow for cuts up to about 3” and down to about 1/8”. This is good for most straps and strips used for laces, belts, braiding lace, fringe, and tie-straps.

Lacing cutters come in hand-held and table-top versions. The table-top versions are usually secure to the table, making it easier to pull the lacing through. This is especially helpful with more frequent or high-volume work.

Leather Working Clicker Press

A clicker press is a tool that applies tremendous force to a small area to cut out designs in leather. It fits on a tabletop, has a base, usually several cutting board surfaces, and a lever that drives the press.

Due to leverage, when the lever is pressed by hand, it generates literally tons of force onto a very small area through a die. The dies are metal and pre-formed into a shape, such as a rosette, a shape, or even wallet pieces.

The benefit of a clicker press, with its related dies, is that a specific cut in leather can be done much faster than by hand. A leather clicker press can also effectively cut through thicker leather with ease. Clicker presses are relatively expensive, though for the leather worker producing similar products in volume, they can certainly help with scale, productivity, and efficiency.

Leather Cutting Dies

Leather cutting dies are pre-formed, metal shapes with a sharp cutting edge used to cut shapes out of leather. They are laid on top of leather material and struck with a maul, mallet, or hammer. The force drives the sharp edges into the leather, resulting in a cutout piece in the shape of the die.

Leather dies are helpful when cutting many similar patterns out by hand. An example is a wallet maker with a great design. They need many pieces to produce a lot of wallets, though cutting them out one by one by hand can be time-consuming.

Leather cutting dies can be custom-made to any shape or size. They can generally be put into a clicker press for even easier cutting or manually stuck by hand. Although there’s usually an initial investment to make or purchase a die, if it will be used often, it is usually a worthwhile investment.

Leather Working Dyes, Paints, & Finishes

Leather paints, dyes, and finishes help turn leather into incredible products. From the uncolored hide to the undyed finished leathers, the possibilities are endless when considering your final piece.

Leather dyes are pigments used to change the overall color of leather. Leather paints are generally used as accent colors on locations such as edges. Finishes can range from visually appealing to transparent and protective, helping the leather wear well and last longer.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Dyes and Finishes - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Dye and Finish

Wool Daubers

Wool daubers are little balls of wool attached to a wire handle. The balls are approximately 1/2” – 1” wide, and the wire handle is about 5” long. Daubers are great for dipping into leather dyes and finishes and then rubbing onto the leather surface to apply the dye or finish.

The wool picks up an amount of dye or finish depending on how deeply it is dipped. It then offers some control over where the dye or finish is placed on the leather piece and how evenly it is applied. For smaller leather pieces, daubers are a great choice as applicators.

Leather Edge Paint

Leather edges need to be finished after cutting to strengthen them and protect the leather inside. Usually, burnishing is done to seal the edge. Edge paint can be applied for additional protection and, mainly, visual appeal.

Edge paint covers the edges of leather goods and items, sealing the inside of the edge and providing a pleasant finish to look at once it dries. Some leather crafters use this to create contrast with the leather piece. Others use it to blend the edges in. Edge paint is available in a wide variety of colors.

Leather Deglazer

Leather deglazer is a chemical combination used to prepare leather for dyeing. Processed leathers, or even finished leather goods, often have protective finishes. Once applied to the leather, the deglazer helps strip away the existing finish and any additional residues or chemicals underneath it.

With previous finishes removed, the leather is ready to be dyed a different color or have a different finish applied. Deglazers are usually highly toxic and require outdoor ventilation for safe use. They are also temperature sensitive and should be used within the temperature range recommended on any specific deglazer you’re using.

Leather Dye

Leather dyes are pigments mixed with a base (usually alcohol, oil, or water) and applied to leather to change its color. Each type has its own performance characteristics, so use depends on personal preference and the specific project.

For best results when choosing leather dye, keep in mind that a crafter can usually always dye darker, though not lighter. For example, one can dye a vegetable tanned belt gray, then brown, then black. However, they can’t nearly as easily dye a black leather belt a lighter color, such as gray or white.

Generally, dyeing leather requires proper ventilation to ensure a safe working environment. Also, leather dyes are temperature-sensitive, and should be used within the temperature range recommended for any specific dye that you’re using.

Leather Dye – Alcohol-Based

Alcohol-based leather dyes penetrate the leather deeply, so the color goes beyond the surface. The colors are usually vibrant. However, after the dye is applied and the alcohol dries, it removes some of the moisture from the leather.

Leathers dyed with alcohol-based types usually benefit from applying a leather conditioner to restore some of that pliability and the oils within the piece. Often, dyed leathers are coated with a finishing coat to seal in the dye, prevent it from rubbing off, and protect the leather overall.

Leather Dye – Oil-Based

Oil-based leather dyes penetrate the leather deeply, so the color goes beyond the surface. The colors are usually vibrant. Since these dyes are oil-based, less moisture is pulled from the leather when drying than with alcohol-based dyes.

Alcohol-based dyed leather usually benefits from a conditioner applied to restore some of that pliability before a finish is added. Often, dyed leathers are coated with a finishing coat to seal in the dye, prevent it from rubbing off, and protect the leather overall.

Leather Dye – Water-Based

Water-based leather dyes don’t penetrate the leather as deeply as other dye types, and the colors aren’t usually as vibrant. However, they are generally less toxic than the other types.

As with most dyed leather, even though these dyes include moisture, it can be helpful to coat with a leather finish after dyeing. This will help stop the color from rubbing off and protect the leather from excessive wear.

Leather Wax

Leather wax is a wax or oily compound used as a leather finisher. It is often blended with oils and conditioners. When applied to the leather, leather wax helps add moisture and protects the surface from daily use.

Usually, after applying, the leather wax is buffed out to a shine (matte or gloss, depending on the formulation). It leaves a smooth, protective surface over the leather that is resistant to dirt, grime, and water.

Leather Edge Paint Roller

An edge paint roller is a uniquely designed paint applicator for adding paint to leather edges. Some products have very fine edges, such as wallets and watch bands, while others have larger edges, like briefcases and bags.

Using a small paintbrush to apply paint is doable, though it requires detailed concentration and an even application across a usually long surface. In comes the edge paint roller. It has a round, tapered metal tip that can spin/roll. The tip is dipped into the paint and then rolled across the leather edge, leaving an even, consistent layer of paint. Perfect!

Edge paint rollers can be cleaned and reused and are definitely a helpful leather working tool for someone who prefers and performs a fair amount of edge painting.

Leather Working Edger & Beveler Tools

Edgers and bevelers are tools used to shave the square edges off of leather. This is done for both functional and aesthetic purposes. Functionally, it removes the sharper square edges and leaves a more rounded edge on the leather. This makes it less likely to catch on to other items during daily use. The rounded edges are also more comfortable on items that are handled frequently, such as belts and wallets.

Aesthetically, the rounded edges on leather are generally more pleasing to the eye. They soften the look and make it easier to seal the edges when burnished or edge-painted.

Edgers and burnishers come in many different shapes, sizes, and styles. They are usually made with metal blades/tips attached to a wooden handle. One thing to keep in mind is that not all edgers are sized the same way. A particular size from one brand or manufacturer might not match that from another manufacturer.

Similar to clothes, it’s best to try out the ones you’d like and ensure the sizing meets your needs. In general, it is important to keep the edges sharp to ensure smooth, clean cuts.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Edger - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Edger

Leather Bissonnette Edge Beveler

The bissonnette edge beveler is a beveling tool that has a rounded cutting hole towards the tip. While most edgers have a uni-directional cutting edge that needs to be pushed away from the body to make a cut, this one can be either pushed or pulled due to the circular cutting hole.

This makes it a convenient option for edging. They come in various sizes, so preference on edger operation and cutting size will help determine if this works well for you.

Leather Common Edge Beveler

The common edge beveler is, well, the most common beveler type. It features a v-shaped blade with a rounded center, perfect for removing the edges of leather pieces. These are standard leather working tools and work great across many projects.

Available sizes vary greatly, as well as qualities and handle materials. Also, the feel between manufacturers can vary too, so it’s important to try different ones out while determining which feels best to you.

Leather Push Beader

The push header is a more specialized tool used mainly in leather carving and decorative leather work. Its primary function is to imprint in the leather two parallel lines with a rounded “bead” running down the middle of them.

They can usually be either pushed or pulled. If you’re looking to add some visual appeal to your projects, the push header might be a helpful leather working tool addition.

Leather French Edge Beveler

French edge bevelers feature a more square-shaped scoop edge. They can be used for some edging work, though also work well for gouging or skiving. Generally, they are universal and can be used either right-handed or left-handed. these bevelers are good options when looking for straighter edge cuts or to shave down/remove material.

Leather Wheel Beveler

Wheel bevelers are used to efficiently bevel patterns into the leather. They have a rotating metal wheel on the end of a wooden handle. The wheel is generally imprinted with a pattern or design that then rolls into the leather when pushed or pulled. They can be a handy tool that makes beveling decorative patterns much easier.

Leather Round Edger

These edgers are a type of general leather edger, great for both straight and curved cutting. They feature a rounded blade that helps achieve smooth, round edges without leaving edger lines/marks. The edger marks are sometimes visible when using the common bevelers.

This is a nice tool to have when working on finer projects or softer leathers.

Leather Strap Edger Tabletop Machine

The tabletop strap edger works similarly to other edgers, though it gives more consistent results. When using manual edgers, it’s important to be as steady as possible, as variations in the manual pressure can lead to slightly higher or deeper edges along the leather piece.

The tabletop edger has two sets of blades that each edge the opposite of a leather strap. The blades are set, and the strap is pulled through as they edge. Since it’s a fixed machine with fixed blades, the edge will be even on both sides and along the length of the edged strap or belt. This is really helpful if you’re doing higher-volume work and seek consistent edging results in an efficient, slightly more automated way.

Leather Working Finishing Tools

Leather finishing tools are used primarily to refine the edges of leather work. When cut, the natural fibers inside the leather are exposed. They might show as loose or “hairy” as the fibers stick out. This is generally unpleasing to the eye and also exposes the leather to faster wear and damage from moisture.

Leather finishing tools help finish the edges by smoothening and sealing the fibers. This strengthens the edges, protects the leather, and makes them more visually appealing. Leather can be finished using a combination of abrasion/friction and waxes/sealers.

Leather Working Tools - Beeswax
Beeswax

Sandpaper/Sanding Blocks

Sandpaper can be used to smoothen the edges of newly cut leather. The roughness of the sandpaper wears down the loose fibers, shortening them and creating a more dense, smoother surface.

This is usually achieved by using coarser sandpapers that are rougher and working down to finer sandpapers that leave a tighter edge. Sandpaper is available in many variations, most commonly grit size. Grit size refers to the size of sand grains on the paper. Coarser grits have a lower number (for example, 50), while finer grits have a higher number (for example, 120).

Sanding blocks are blocks of material, usually wood or plastic, with sandpaper attached. When attached to something that fits well into the hand, it can be easier to hold and rub across the leather. Sandpaper is relatively inexpensive and quite useful for leather finishing.

Beeswax

Beeswax is a natural wax produced by bees. It has numerous functions in leather working, including leather finishing. It can be used to condition leather and is applied as a protectant that provides water resistance and, in some cases, waterproofing properties.

Beeswax can also be applied to the edges of leatherwork to form a strong barrier. It protects the underlying leather and provides a smooth finish. Warming the wax during application helps it flow into the leather for effective adhesion while also allowing it to be shaped during burnishing.

Beeswax is a versatile finishing substance that most crafters will find use for depending on the project.

Leather Burnishing Gum

Burnishing gum is a substance similar to beeswax. It is used to coat the edges of leatherwork to protect the underlying leather and seal the edge from outside elements and wear. Burnishing gum also leaves a smooth, shiny surface on the leather edge that is quite visually appealing.

They’re generally available in synthetic and some more natural varieties. While beeswax is more commonly used, burnishing gums offer alternative options with sometimes different properties.

Piece of Canvas

Canvas material pieces can be used, similar to sandpaper, to abrade the edges of leather. It can help “mat” down the look of leather fibers on an edge, giving it a smoother appearance. While using canvas alone likely wouldn’t be the only method applied, it can be used in conjunction with other finishing methods to produce nice edges.

Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is a formula that can be applied to leather. It is usually a blend of waxes and conditioners. When applied, it conditions the leather while also providing a protective layer that helps resist dirt, grime, and moisture.

The wax is usually applied by hand and buffed to a shine. The end result is a soft-feeling, shiny surface that wears well and looks great.

Leather Resolene

Resolene is a synthetic finish for leather. While waxes can be used to seal and protect leather, resolene is comprised of acrylic. It is usually applied in thin layers, each building a thinner layer of acrylic. When dried, it will result in a smooth, durable, shiny surface that provides a fair amount of protection for the underlying leather. Resolene is available in several colors, so a match can be made closely to the leather color that is being coated.

Hand Leather Rougher

In some applications and projects, gluing can be an effective way of joining leather. To help ensure a strong bond between surfaces, glues generally benefit from having a rough area on which to form their bond.

When finished leathers are mostly smooth, a hand leather rougher tool digs into and scratches up the leather, creating a rough surface. This newly roughed surface will greatly help the adhesive set into and join the leather pieces once dried. Hand roughers are relatively common in saddle-making and related work.

Alcohol Heating Lamp

Metal leather creasers can be used for both functional and aesthetic purposes. They generally perform better when heated, as they mark and glide more smoothly into the leather, forming the creases.

Alcohol heating lamps are commonly used to heat up these creasing tools while working on leather craft projects. 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.

Metal Files

Many abrasives can be used when finishing leather edges (to seal and protect them). Along with sandpaper, metal files are another option. With so many varieties available (round, flat, diamond, etc.), they are also available in many grit sizes. For grit sizes, the smaller the size number, the larger/rougher the filing result will be. Likewise, the larger the number, the more fine/smoother the filing result will be.

Generally, one would start with a rougher file and work their way down to a finer file as the edge becomes tighter and smoother. Files make it easy to smooth rough leather edges, helping prepare them for further finishing, such as burnishing, waxing, or painting.

Leather Working Glues & Adhesives

While leathers are typically joined via methods including sewing or riveting, sometimes it can be helpful to first secure the surfaces with glue or adhesive. Once in position, it makes it easier to do the sewing, riveting, etc.

There are many different types of leather glue adhesives available that work well with leather. Some are temporary, with a tacky result that can be easily moved and reapplied. Others are stronger and more difficult to remove. Some glues expand into the materials as they dry. And yet others are extremely strong and considered permanent. For very strong glues, they bind so tightly that trying to remove the adjoined pieces will likely damage the leather.

Wool daubers can help apply and smooth out leather glues. It’s important to know the preferred end result. If you plan to remove stitching later and separate leather pieces, consider using a less strong or temporary adhesive to make this easier. Glues are available with different drying times and some variation in colors.

Leather Working Tools - Wool Dauber
Wool Dauber

Glue Spreaders

Leather glue spreaders are commonly flat-edged plastic tools. They allow for even spreading of glue over flat surfaces, allowing the layers to be very thin or the glue to focus on a particular spot. After being used, they can be washed and reused, as maintaining a clean edge is very important to a smooth spreading of the glue.

Glue brushes are also an option when spreading glue. They are dipped into a liquid adhesive and then applied to the leather. They allow larger volumes of glue to be applied more quickly, though they aren’t as precise as the glue spreaders. The spreaders are an easy way to target glue placement and preferred volume.

Leathercraft Cement

Leathercraft cement is an adhesive specifically made for leather craft use. It helps make strong bonds in an easy-to-use formula. The positives are that it is generally non-toxic, non-flammable, and dries relatively quickly. This is worth keeping in mind as some adhesives can be toxic to breathe in, requiring proper ventilation when working. Leathercraft cement can be useful across leather types and project needs.

Leather Working Metal Roller

Leather working metal rollers are used to smooth out layers of leather that are glued together. Since leather can be thick, and also usually has a nicely finished, smooth surface, a special tool is helpful here.

The metal roller is comprised of a solid, heavy metal cylinder attached to a handle. When pushed or pulled, the roller rolls over the leather, applying pressure and helping ensure a tight adhesion between leather layers. Bubbles and air gaps are removed, resulting in a nicely-finished and fine-looking result.

Glue Pot

Glue can be a really helpful addition to your leather working tool set, though a common issue is that it dries out quickly if it sits out open while you work. A glue pot is an airtight small plastic holder for glues and adhesives. Glues can be stored in glue pots for a long period of time.

When you want to use the glue, an air-tight cap unscrews open, revealing a brush and a portion of the glue. The brush can be dipped into the exposed glue and applied to the leather. Once finished, just screw the airtight cap back on, and the glue will remain in great shape for the next use. Glue pots are a helpful tool to have if you do a fair amount of gluing while working on leather projects.

Gluepot with Cover On - Liberty Leather Goods
Gluepot with Cover On

Leather Working Gouge Tools

Leather gouges are used to remove a bit of the leather material so that the leather can fold or bend in a preferred direction. Since when leather bends, the fibers stretch, removing some of the material at the bend point allows the leather to fold more naturally, creating a visually appealing and functionally helpful element to the design. Leather gouges come in a few different shapes.

Adjustable V-Gouge

A leather v-gouge is pushed into the leather to carve out a consistent line of material somewhat deeply into the leather piece. Depth can usually be adjusted on the gouge tool itself. The blade’s v-shape is preferred and helpful in making sharp, right-angle folds in handbags, laptop cases, notebooks, travel bags, and other leather goods with right angles in their design.

Adjustable U-Gouge

The u-gouge has a u-shaped blade that works well for cutting grooves into leather. The depth of the groove can usually be adjusted on the tool, allowing for accurate depth control based on the specific project you’re working on. The groove it cuts allows leather to be more easily bent around corners, which helps with a variety of leather goods styles, including bag and case making. If needed, the u-gouge can sometimes be used as a stitch groover, adding to its versatility.

Leather Working Groover Tools

Leather groovers are tools used to cut grooves into leather. Grooves can be used just for marking lines. For example, pulling the groover with light pressure will cut a light line into the leather. Grooves can also be cut deeper, creating a channel in which stitching can be set. Since the final stitched will rest within the groove below the surface of the leather, they will be less susceptible to abrasions and tearing.

One can also place grooves where they want to create a fold line in the leather material. Or, cut grooves into leather for decorative purposes. For example, adding a groove along either side of a belt. Groovers are generally available as stitching or scratch groovers, each with its potential benefits.

Leather Working Tools - Stitch Groover
Leather Working Stitch Groover

Leather Working Stitching Groover

Stitching groovers are generally configured with a grooving tip connected to a wooden handle. An edge guide runs through the base of the tool, near the tip.

The edge guide is a piece of metal that extends and pushes up against the edge of the leather being grooved. It can be adjusted for different widths and then fixed securely in position so it does not move. As the tool is drawn towards you, the edge guide runs along the leather edge, ensuring the groove is at a fixed distance the entire length of the groove.

Since the edge guide is adjustable, multiple grooves can be cut, if desired, into leather, creating a wide array of possible designs and visually exciting options. With the edge guide removed, the tool can also be used free-hand to make any design one might want in the leather. The leather stitching groover is also very helpful and will likely be in your leather working tool kit.

Leather Working Scratch Groover

A scratch groover is used to cut shallow grooves into leather. Essentially a simplified version of the stitching groover, the scratch groover can be used free-hand to make grooves in leather. They can be used to prepare for stitching, cut decorative grooves, mark light-cut lines, or remove leather material at a fold or crease point.

A separate scratch groover is likely unnecessary if you have a stitching groover with a removable edge guide, as without the edge guide, the stitching groover acts just as a scratch groover. If you find you primarily use scratch groovers and prefer an array of sizes easily available, one or more scratch groovers might work well for you.

Leather Working Hardware Fasteners & Setter Tools

Leather hardware and fasteners join pieces of leather together. The joining can be temporary or more permanent depending on the hardware used.

Leather hardware not only serves functional purposes but also enhances the overall design and durability of leather goods. Fasteners can be made of many different types of material. Mostly, they are steel, brass, nickel, and copper. Commonly, you’ll see rivets, snaps, and grommets. Each has its own main purpose, while they also have variations in aesthetic and cantonal appeal.

Application of fasteners can be done manually with just a few general tools, manually with specialized tools, or mechanically using setting and pressing machines.

Leather Working Tools - Rivet Set
Leather Working Rivet Set

Rivets/Setters

A rivet is a two-piece mechanical fastener used to join two pieces of material together. One side of a rivet has a round shaft with a head on the end. The other side, called the “tail,” has another head and an area where the round shaft pushes into. Rivers require pressure to be set into place.

When riveting, holes need to be made into the leather where the rivet shaft will push through. The non-shaft head is set onto a base, the shafted head placed through the material, then pounded with a hammer or mallet. The shaft mushes/deforms into the non-shaft head, creating a joined piece that resembles a dumbbell shape. The leather material is now secured between the rivet heads.

Since they need to be secured on both ends, leather rivets require special tools to help. They are called rivet setters. Rivet setters are usually a combination of two pieces. One is a base that the bottom rivet head sits on. the other is a metal bar, about 6” long, shaped to fit over the top rivet. This bar can be struck with a hammer or mallet to “set” the rivets.

Mechanical rivet machines also exist, where instead of setting them with a hammer, they are set by the pull of a handle. Since rivet machines have a fixed range of motion, they can help produce more accurate results than when doing by hand with a hammer.

Snap Setters

A snap setter is a tool used to set snaps into material. Leather snaps generally have five separate pieces to them (three on the “top snap” portion, two on the “bottom snap” portion). The snap setter is used to align the snap portions to the material and provide a surface to hit them (with a hammer or mallet) to set them in place. This is performed on one piece of material for the “top snap”, and a seaport piece of material for the “bottom snap”. When the snaps are “snapped” together, the material is joined.

Hand Press Setter Machine

A hand press is a machine that sets snaps, rivets, eyelets, and grommets. While there are manual methods where these hardware types can be applied by hand with some striking force, a mechanized process can lead to much easier, faster application of these hardware pieces.

The hand press machine operates with a fixed range of motion. It is mechanically connected to a lever arm, which, when pressed down by hand, transfers the force through the machine and into the hardware being set (snaps, rivets, grommets, etc.). A hand press can help when you’re doing higher-volume production or seeking to save time and energy over manually setting hardware by striking with hammers, mauls, or mallets.

Foot Press Setter Machine

A foot press is a machine that sets snaps, rivets, eyelets, and grommets. While manual methods allow these hardware types to be applied by hand with some striking force, a mechanized process can make these construction elements much easier and faster to apply, especially in leather working and fine leather craft.

The foot press machine operates by having a fixed range of motion. It is mechanically connected to a large foot pedal that transfers the force through the machine and into the hardware being set (snaps, rivets, grommets, etc.) when pressed with the feet. Since the foot drives the force, these machines also provide benefits by allowing the hands to be free to hold onto the material being joined. A foot press can help when you’re doing higher volume production or seeking to have consistent, high-quality results.

Snap Removal Tool

Snap removal tools are used to remove snaps that have already been set. Sometimes, when working, we realize that a snap needs to be undone or moved (due to a design change, a snap being damaged, etc.). Snap removal tools are sturdy metal tools that disassemble a snap so it can come free from the material it was originally joined to.

Some of these tools are hand-held and require a fair amount of force to squeeze them. Others are table-mounted, providing a bit more leverage and an easier task of pushing a lever arm to free the snap from the material.

Tack Puller

A tack puller is a hand tool generally with a v-slotted metal tip used to pry up tacks and nails. It can also help loosen hardware attached to leather goods in some cases. While a specific removal tool (snap removal tool, etc.) is usually best, the general capabilities of a tack puller might come in handy on occasion.

Grommets and Eyelets

Grommets and eyelets are metal hardware that can be applied to reinforce holes in the leather. For example, if you have a hole where a string or rope will pass through. Over time, the rope’s movement will begin to wear down the leather material around the hole, weaken it, and possibly lead to a tear in the material. A grommet or eyelet will cover the inside of the hole, protecting the leather from chaffing caused by the rope.

Grommets and eyelets are available in various sizes, colors, and materials. Some common ones include brass, steel, nickel, and copper. They can be used for both aesthetic and functional reasons.

Leather Working Holding Tools

Leather holding tools hold leather while it is being worked on. For example, one might want to use pliers to hold a leather piece while burnishing it or applying edge paint. They might also be helpful to hold things while stitching or making a specialized cut. Others hold glued leather pieces securely in place while the leather glue dries. While not primary leather working tools, tools that hold leather can be helpful occasionally for various needs.

It’s important to remember that any leather clamp, pliers, or holding tools that come into contact with the leather should have a soft surface. If not, uneven surfaces on the clamp or pliers could deform, cut, or mar the leather. Some clamp or plier jaws are coated with leather, making them perfect for leather-on-leather contact during holding activities.

Leather Working Tools - Smooth Jaw Pliers - Liberty Leather Goods
Smooth Jaw Pliers

Smooth Jaw Pliers

Smooth jaw pliers are a tool with a smooth surface on their “jaws”, or contact points. These can be helpful when working with some leathers, as the smooth surface will be less likely to mar the leather surface. You’ll need to be aware not to press down too hard, as the edges of the jaws can leave an indentation. Though, if used lightly, they can provide a helpful grip during some leather working steps.

Leather Edge Clamp

Leather edge clamps are specialty tools usually made of steel with rubberized clamp jaws. The jaws are smooth, so they don’t mar the leather, and the rubber coating makes it even less likely they’ll leave any marks. Plus, the rubber coating helps grip the leather securely.

Edge clamps are useful for holding glued leather pieces together securely while the glue dries. They can also be used in various instances when holding a piece of leather tightly with one hand is more advantageous using a tool than using only a hand.

Some edge clamps are used for flattening leather. Others are made of metal. and yet others are finished with a layer of leather on the flat jaws to ensure a soft and non-marring surface when in contact with leather working pieces.

Cantle Pliers

Cantle pliers are specialized leatherworking tools used mainly to form leather around the cantle portion of a leather saddle. They are usually metal with smooth jaws that won’t leave marks on the leather. Cantle pliers are usually highly polished zinc or steel and are also handy for shaping leather handles and similarly functioning leather goods parts.

Leather Working Marking Tools

Much of leather work revolves around cutting and shaping leather into an amazing final design. To accomplish that, leather marking tools are extremely helpful. They allow us to put marks onto the leather, some temporary and some permanent, that can be useful guides as we cut, trim, punch, and sew.

Across the types of tools, we’ll see some for scratching, some for pricking and stippling, some for straight lines, some for curved lines, and others for corners. The correct or most helpful marking tool can benefit almost any leather marking need you might have.

Leather Pricking Wheel - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Pricking Wheel

Overstitch Wheel

An overstitch wheel is a tool designed for marking stitch hole locations on leather. It consists of a metal wheel with sharp points all around it. When rolled onto the leather, the points leave a slight impression in the material. This serves as a perfect guide for pricking or stitching later on.

When you’re planning to hand-sew a piece, it’s helpful to know exactly where the stitch holes will be. While one might use pricking irons to make these marks, each time the iron moves, it might not be perfectly aligned with the previous one. An overstitch wheel, if used aligned to a straight edge, will provide a straight guide of hole marks in a very consistent pattern.

These tools come in various pattern sizes so you can find one that matches the stitch volume you need per inch. A range is certainly preferred as you might want larger spacing on thicker, larger leather pieces. And smaller, narrower spacing on smaller, more fine leather pieces.

Overstitch wheels can also be used after the stitching is complete to go “over” the “stitches”. This gently presses them down, securing them more closely to the leather surface and leading to a more durable and aesthetically pleasing stitch.

Some overstitch wheels come with a “fence”. This is an additional metal piece that attaches to the tool, allowing for a variable distance to be set for the wheel to be from the edge of the leather. For example, if you want the stitch line to be 1/4” off the leather’s edge, the fence can be set to 1/4”, and then wherever the tool is used, the markings will be at a consistent distance from the edge.

Pricking Wheel

A pricking wheel is designed for marking stitch hole locations on leather. It is comprised of a metal wheel with very sharp points all around it. It is visually similar to an overstitch wheel, though the pricking wheel generally has sharper points that penetrate the leather more deeply.

This can be helpful when hand-stitching smaller items or of benefit even when planning to use pricking irons to make all of the stitching holes (using the pricked markings as a guide).

Pricking wheels come in various sizes and point spacings, so you can choose the one that best suits the needs of your leather craft project.

Some pricking wheels come with a “fence.” The fence is an additional metal piece that attaches to the wheel and allows for a variable edge distance to be set. For example, if you want the stitch line to be 1/8” away from the leather’s edge, the fence can be set to 1/8”. Wherever the tool is used, the wheel markings will be at a consistent distance from the edge.

Wing Divider/Compass

A wing divider/compass is a tool used to mark the surface of leather, most commonly related to circular or curved lines. Very much like the compass used in mathematical studies, the wing divider has two arms with points on the bottom. They are joined at the top, and in the middle, they have an adjustable screw, which allows for an increase or decrease in distance between the points.

Since it is joined at the top, one point can be placed in a fixed position and the other rotated. The rotated arm will always move around a 360-degree, circular arc, making this a great tool for marking circles, corners, and any kind of curve. As the distance between the arms can be changed, a wide array of circular sizes can be drawn.

Wing dividers/compasses usually have sharp metal tips. This allows for precise placement and the ability to scratch a line into the leather’s surface. These are great for arcs, semicircles, and dividing lines. If desired and in a pinch, just one arm can be held/used as a scratch awl for marking leather up.

Leather Working Tools - Wing Divider - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Wing Divider

Leather Working Corner Tool

A leather corner tool is a stencil guide used to mark off corners and small curves on leather material. Often made of plastic, they are helpful in marking off curved areas. If thick enough, they can even be used as a cutting guide right on top of the leather. The knife can carefully trace the curve, ensuring a geometrically accurate and clean, smooth, curved cut.

Leather Stippler

A leather stippler is a tool used mainly for leather carving. It usually has a wooden handle and a metal end with several pointed tips that generally form a circular pattern. When pressed into the leather, the tips leave a pointed pattern in the material. Pressing can continue, offering a way to add texture to the background of leather carving work. If you are looking to add that stippled/pointed look and feel to a carved piece, the leather stippler can be a helpful leather working tool for the kit.

Leather Working Mauls, Mallets, & Hammers

Mauls, mallets, and hammers are used for a variety of impact tasks during leather work. The choice of which to use is driven by a combination of use and personal preference. Generally, mauls work well for punching and tooling. Mallets can be used with tooling and punching. Hammers work well for forming leather, especially in showmaking and saddlery.

When choosing a leather maul, mallet, or hammer, it’s important to consider how they’ll be used most. The biggest factor in selection is the combination of surfaces — the hitting surface and the surface being hit.

For example, hitting a metal punch with a metal hammer can damage both the hammer and punch. So, for this, a nylon maul or a natural hide mallet (both softer surfaces than metal) would work. Let’s explore more about each.

Leather Working Tools - Nylon Maul
Leather Working Nylon Maul

Leather Working Mauls

Leather working mauls are hitting tools with a weighted head wrapped in a nylon cylinder. The softness of the nylon makes it suitable for hitting metal leather working tools, such as punches and stamps. Since nylon is dense, it provides a very solid and effective hitting surface that absorbs shock and delivers a steady hit. Since it is soft, it won’t damage the tools.

Mauls come in different sizes and weights. The heavier mauls generate more hitting force, though they are a little heavier to hold/swing. The weight and style of the maul used are very much personal preference.

Leather Working Mallets

Leather working mallets are used mainly for striking/hitting other tools. They have a large, cylindrical head and can be made from plastic or rawhide. The rawhide versions usually have a rolled rawhide top, finished so it’s very dense while retaining some softness. This helps with shock absorption as well as the softer surface being less likely to damage metal tools when struck. The rawhide mallets are generally more expensive than the plastic versions.

Mallets need to be inspected frequently. With consistent use, the hitting surfaces can begin to show wear, cracks, or even chipping. This isn’t seen as much with nylon mauls.

Leather Working Tack Hammer

Leather working tack hammers are frequently used in upholstery work. They are thin hammers, usually with steel heads, that have two different ends. A “starting” end allows the tacks to be placed and hit to be “started” into the material. This same end can be used, with its grooves, to pull tacks out. The other end has a small, flat hammering surface to hammer the tacks in.

Other versions of tack hammers include those used for saddlery. They also have thin, steel heads and work well for forming leather or performing tack work in difficult-to-reach areas. In this case, their small size is an asset. Tack hammers come in maybe subtle variations, each with unique benefits specific to their planned use.

Leather Working Shoe Hammer

Leather working shoe hammers are often used for hammering over stitching, tapping through sharp folds, and securing glued leather pieces together. They feature a wide, heavy steel head that produces a deep, steady impact. Used frequently in shoemaking work, they are also a popular choice for those working in saddlery, luggage making, or bag making.

Leather Working Shoe Hammer - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Shoe Hammer

Leather Working Ball Peen Hammer

Leather working ball peen hammers are used mostly for smoothing out or pounding out seams on rawhide. The head is composed of a ball-shaped, rounded end and a flat, hammering end. The roundness of the ball helps it provide surface pressure to areas and in ways not always possible with the more standard flat end (although it has that, too, if needed). It can be handy to have if one does a lot of saddle work or sewing of thicker leathers.

Leather Working Rivet Hammer

Leather working rivet hammers are specialized hammers used for rivet setting (securing rivet hardware onto leather material). They have a very well-balanced head that provides ample once in a comfortable way for securing rivets in place. Rivet hammers are not wildly different than other hammers, though the personal preference for a weighted head just for this job might be appealing. For someone who does a lot of riveting by hand, a rivet hammer could be a helpful addition that makes the work easier.

Leather Working Tap-Off Hammer

Leather working tap-off hammers are specialized hammers often used in leather tooling work. They have wide, flat heads made of steel.

Tap-off patterns are decorative leather design templates that can be hammered or “tapped” into a leather piece. Rather than stamping or engraving similar designs by hand over and over, they can be made into a tap-off pattern.

Once this pattern is made, it can be laid onto a prepared leather surface and hammered across it to imprint that tap-off design into the leather below it. Since the entire surface is being hammered, a hammer with a wide, flat surface works great here. Thus, tap-off hammers are a great choice for tap-off work. As an alternative, shoemaker’s hammers can be used for tap-off work as well.

Leather Working Saddler’s Hammer

Leather working saddler’s hammers are used to help form leather and hammer seams. The head is usually made of steel, with long, tapered ends. One end usually has a narrow tip, while the other is often a little wider and rounded. They are great choices when hammering in hard-to-reach places and for lighter hammering work.

Leather Working Fitting Hammer

Leather working fitting hammers are used mostly for hammering seams and for flattening leather pieces. They look like hammerheads without wooden handles. They are made of steel, and the piece in between the two heads is where it is held. One end is generally rectangular, narrow, and flat. The other end is usually round, wider, and flat. If one pounds seams often and likes the feel of this handle style over a typical hammer, the fitting hammer might be a helpful leather working tool addition.

Leather Working Measuring Tools

When working with leather, measuring tools are so helpful in marking everything from cut lines to punch and pricking marks. They’re even used when laying out intricate and decorative designs in leather carving.

Measuring tools come in a wide variety of options, shapes, sizes, and configurations for both general and specialized uses. Let’s take a look.

Leather Working Tools - Non-Slip Metal Ruler
Non-Slip Metal Ruler

Leather Thickness Gauge

Leather thickness gauges are tools that measure the thickness of leather. Different leather thicknesses are generally used for different products. For example, thinner leather for wallets and thicker leather for bags. It’s very helpful to know the general thickness of leather used for any project.

This helps ensure uniformity of the materials used (so the overall feel of the finished product is consistent). It also helps when purchasing leather so you know what to buy, and when shaving or skiving leather, knowing you’ve reached the goal thickness.

Leather thickness gauges come in several different forms. Some are flat pieces of wood or plastic with a tapered notch running into them. There are measurements noted along the notch, and depending on how far the leather fits into the notch, the corresponding marking will tell its thickness.

Other leather thickness gauges are in caliper form. The leather is placed into the device, and a metal rod is pushed down onto it, securing it between two points. Based on how far the rod was pushed down, the leather’s thickness is displayed. Displays can be either analog, with a needle layout in analog calipers, or digital, with a digital numeric layout in digital calipers.

Common leather thicknesses run from about 1oz (1/64” or .4mm) to 20oz (5/16” or 8mm).

Rulers/Squares

Rulers and squares are used in measuring and cutting leather. They come in many shapes and sizes (some rulers are bendable, so even curves can be measured).

One thing to keep in mind when looking at rules and squares is their ability to help make leather cuts. Rulers with cork or non-slip bottoms keep them in place on the material being measured. This makes them useful for drawing steady lines and also serving as a cutting edge when cutting leather.

The cutting blade can simply be run over the material and slightly pressed against the ruler to act as a guide. When used in this way, it’s important to ensure the ruler is either thick enough (thicker metal) or raised enough (on a thicker cork bottom, for example) to provide enough height to keep the blade from jumping off the material and onto the ruler.

Rulers and squares are a very common and useful group of leather working tools.

Leather Working L-Square

Squares, also known as l-squares, are generally l-shaped rulers. They have a longer ruler-like side, and connected at a 90-degree right angle is another, shorter straight side. This allows for measuring and marking corners and perpendicular lines, knowing the angle is precise. L-squares are usually available in metal, plastic, or wood materials. They are marked in inches (imperial), millimeters (metric), or any variation of scale and units.

Leather Working Straight Edge Ruler

Rulers are generally straight, approximately 12”-36” long, and made of metal, wood, or plastic. Measurement markings are either printed or etched along their length and can be in inches (imperial), millimeters (metric), or any variation of scale and units. Some rulers have a metal edge built in to serve as a durable edge for running a pen or pencil against while marking material. Metal edges

Tape Measure

A tape measure is a type of measuring device that often retracts into a rolled case. It is generally made with a bendable metal blade that has the measurements printed on it. When pulled from the case, the blade extends out and can be held next to or on top of materials to determine their size. Measurement markings can also be made based on the measurements provided.

When done making measurements, the blade can be retracted back into the case, making for convenient carry and storage. Tape measures are usually available in inches (imperial), millimeters (metric), or any variation of scale and units. They are also available in various lengths, most often ranging from 6’ to 25’.

Leather Thickness Sample Set

Leather thickness sample sets consist of small leather samples, each marked with the specific leather thickness of the sample. Different leather projects require different leather “weights” (thicknesses), so it’s helpful to know which will work best.

A leather thickness sample may consist of 10-20 3” x 2” leather pieces of varying thicknesses (weights). The pieces are usually joined with a metal ring or string to keep them all together neatly. Leather thicknesses range from about 1oz (1/64” or .4mm) to 20oz (5/16” or 8mm). Being able to hold, feel, and see the specific thinnesses is quite helpful when deciding what weight material will be most useful for the work.

Measuring Tape

A measuring tape is a type of flexible distance-measuring device. It is essentially a ruler printed onto a flexible material, such as plastic. This allows it to easily measure organic curves and shapes like people.

For example, measuring a waist size when making a belt or calf size when crafting leather boots. It is important that the material used does not stretch easily, either when new or over time, as its accuracy depends on its ability to provide the correct measurements 🙂 Measuring tapes are usually available in inches (imperial), millimeters (metric), or any variation of scale and units.

Leather Tool - Tape Measure
Leather Measuring Tape

Leather Working Molders

Leather working molders are metal tools that assist in the molding of leather. They’re generally a handle (either wooden or metal) with a solid metal end that comes out. The metal end is rounded, allowing it to fit into, under, and around many areas. They can provide supportive pressure that holds leather in place when it is being hammered or shaped when molding leather in either the wet or dry methods.

Leather Working Pricking Irons

Leather working pricking irons are metal tools with a grouping of equally-spaced “teeth”, sharp points arranged in a line. They are used to mark the location of stitching holes in leather material. Since leather is a generally thick material, holes need to be pre-made for the needle and threads or laces to go through. The holes can then be made using awls or chisels.

Pricking irons are made with a set distance between points to ensure the hole marks are uniform and consistent. This allows for tight seams and a clean visual appearance on the completed leather piece. Pricking irons are usually only intended for marking leather, not pushing holes through it.

While a pricking iron might push into the leather, leather chisels are more functional and intended for making the actual holes that pricking irons are used to mark off. Leather pricking irons come in variations of tooth counts, commonly ranging from one to twelve. This allows the leather crafter to choose which will be most helpful.

For example, when pricking a length of leather in a straight line, more teeth will help accomplish this faster. When pricking a curved end in a leather piece, fewer teeth will be more helpful as they allow the crafter to follow the curve of the edge prick by prick.

Leather Working Chisels

Leather working chisels are metal tools with a grouping of equally-spaced sharp “teeth”, sharp points arranged in a line. They are similar in look to pricking irons, though chisels are intended to make the holes in leather, whereas pricking irons are intended only to mark the holes in leather.

Leather chisels come in variations of tooth counts, commonly ranging from one to twelve. This allows the leather crafter to choose which will be most helpful. For example, when chiseling a length of leather in a straight line, more teeth will help accomplish this faster. When chiseling a curved end in a leather piece, fewer teeth will be more helpful as it allows the crafter to follow the curve of the edge, hole by hole.

"Leather

The shape of the tips of the teeth is also important on chisels. The tooth shape directly impacts the look of the hole in the leather, which will influence the overall visual design of the finished piece. Some chisels have angled teeth, some have diamond-shaped teeth, and others have finer points.

Keeping the leather working chisels well-maintained definitely helps ensure they deliver smooth, clean cuts. They are available in many sizes, so the crafter can choose what works best, from thin, fine leather projects to thicker, heavier leather projects that require larger chisels. These are very common tools that most leather crafters will have in their leather working toolsets.

Leather Working Punches Tools

Leather punches are tools with rounded blades used to cut holes into leather. Generally, the blades have sharpened edges around a hollow metal cylinder, perfect for creating a circular hole. The punch blades can be interchangeable, allowing a single handle to accommodate many sizes. Or, they can be individual tools where the blade and handle are formed from a solid piece of metal.

Punches need to be strong as they are used by pounding them with force. A piece of leather to be punched is placed on a nylon surface on top of a hard, sturdy surface (such as granite). The punch lines up and rests on the leather, where it will make the hole. Then, a mallet, hammer, or maul is used to strike the top of the punch.

The force of the strike pushes the punch through the material. The softer nylon surface protects the punch blade from damage, and the granite absorbs much of the force. The result is a smooth, clean hole punched into the leather.

Leather punches come in a very wide variety of shapes and sizes for many different uses. It is also important to maintain the blades well, as a sharp blade will produce superior punching results.

Leather Working Tools - Hole Punch
Leather Working Hole Punch

Round Strap End Punch

Leather round strap end punches are used to cut the rounded ends of straps and belts. They work by placing the punch over the end of the leather material to be cut and striking the punch with a mallet, hammer, or maul. The result is a semi-circular cut. Round star end punches come in a variety of sizes, so the proper one can be selected based on the project’s needs.

English Point Strap End Punch

English point strap end punches are used to cut the ends of straps and belts. They work by placing the punch over the end of the leather material to be cut and then striking the punch with a mallet, hammer, or maul. The result is a cut that gradually tapers in from the edges and comes to a soft point at the end. Round star end punches come in various sizes, so the proper one can be selected based on the project’s needs.

Leather Round Drive Hole Punch

Round drive punches are thin, cylindrical steel tools used to cut holes in leather. The cutting end is made of a sharpened edge around a hollow metal tip. There is usually an opening in the cylinder near the cutting end. The other end of drive punches is solid steel.

A round drive punch is set onto the leather it will cut, then hit or “driven” with a hammer, mallet, or maul. The force is generated, but the hit drives the cutting end through the leather. This creates a hole in the leather and a small circular piece of leather that used to fill what is now the hole.

As more holes are punched, the circular pieces begin to push up through the cylinder and out of the opening near the cylinder end. Alternatively, after a few punches, the excess circular pieces can be pushed down and out of the punch with a small pin or other thin implement pushed through the opening.

Round drive punches are available in many different hole sizes. Some are individual tools fixed in size. Others are handles with interchangeable punch size tips, requiring less storage space, though it takes some additional time to change tips between sizes. Most leather crafters will have at least a few round drive punches in their leather working tool kit.

Round punches are great for making buckle holes in belts and for leather projects when creating holes for grommets, eyelets, or even holes for large laces.

Leather Trace Punch

Leather trace punches are metal tools with a cutting edge used to punch tapered holes into leather. If you imagine an oblong cut, with one side wider than the other, that is what a trace punch creates. They are generally made of steel with highly sharpened blades.

Trace punches are most popular for harness work, though their unique shape makes them useful for various cutting/punching needs. Multiple sizes are available, depending on preference and what might work best for your project.

Leather Oval Punch

Leather oval punches are metal tools with a cutting edge that create oval-shaped holes in leather material. The punch often has an opening near the cutting end. The other end is usually made of solid steel, providing an area to be struck with a hammer, mallet, or maul.

Oval punches come in various sizes, offering many options to ensure the crafter has the size that is most helpful for the type of project and work they are doing.

Leather Rotary Punch

Leather rotary punches are manually operated, hand-held metal tools with multiple hole-sized punches used to make holes in leather material. The punches are usually arranged around a rotatable, circular “turret.” There is often an integrated surface for the punches to rest on when cutting.

They work by rotating the turret to select the side punch to use, placing the leather material between the punch and cutting surface, and then squeezing the grips closed by hand. The gripping motion pushes the punch through the leather, resulting in a hole.

Rotary punches are available with different sized punches. Some have interchangeable punches, making it easy to have any 6 or so available at a time, quickly accessible at the spin of a turret and squeeze of the grip.

Individual punches usually yield more precise results and allow more force to be used, resulting in generally smoother, cleaner cuts. However, rotary punches can be quite effective leather working tools for smaller holes and thinner leathers.

A Revolving Leather Hole Punch - Leather Hole Punch - Liberty Leather Goods
A Revolving Leather Hole Punch

Leather Buttonhole Punch

Buttonhole punches are metal tools used to simultaneously cut holes and a connected slit into leather material. When working with button studs, they join leather by pushing through a hole that is slightly smaller than the stud. Hence, once through, the stud holds the button in place.

To have enough room to push through, there needs to be extra flexibility around the hole to accommodate the stud. This is done by cutting a slit directly connected to the buttonhole. The slit parts the leather, making it flexible enough around the hole to accommodate the larger stud.

Buttonholes can be made using a standard round drive punch, then cutting a slit below it with a knife. Alternatively, they are made with a buttonhole punch. This makes it much easier, with more consistent results, as all of the cutting is done with one tap of a mallet, hammer, or maul onto the button hole punch.

They are available in different sizes, so the proper size can be selected based on the needed hole sizes and the button stud hardware that will be used.

Leather Slot Hole Punch

Leather slot hole punches are metal tools with a cutting edge that create narrow, oblong holes in leather material. There is usually an opening in the punch near the cutting end to insert a thin metal wire and push to release the cut leather material. The other end is usually made of solid steel, providing an area to be struck with a hammer, mallet, or maul.

Slot hole punches are helpful when making holes through which to run straps, such as crafting a bag or case.

Leather Corner Punch

Leather corner punches are metal tools with sharp, rounded edges that cut through leather. Corners on leather projects can be cut by hand, which requires measuring and then carefully cutting out the curved shape. Alternatively, using a corner punch makes this much easier. The corner shape is set as a metal blade and can simply be placed onto the material and hit with a mallet, hammer, or maul to make the cut.

Corner punches are available in different sizes, so one can be found that matches the crafter’s needs. Different diameters are also available if there are preferences for more rounded or angled corners. If you’re cutting many similarly-sized pieces with rounded corners by hand, these punches can definitely be a valuable addition to your toolset.

Leather Shaped Hole Punches

Leather shaped hole punches are metal tools with sharp edges used to cut holes in leather. The cutting edges are available in many different shapes, making adding decorative or functional cuts into leather material easy. An example of the shapes available include stars, diamonds, hearts, squares, and semi-circles.

Cutting intricate shapes by hand can take time. Cutting these with a shaped hole punch makes it a much easier and more efficient process. These punches are usually made of steel with one end the sharpened cutting blade, and the other solid steel. The solid end is used for hitting with a hammer, mallet, or maul to generate the force that drives the punch through the leather.

If you do much decorative leather work or plan to cut out many versions of a specific decorative shape, a shaped hole punch could be a valuable tool.

Leather Stitching Punch

A leather stitching punch is a metal tool with a group of round punches grouped in a straight line. When making holes along a leather’s edge that will be used for running leather lacing through, it is helpful to have the holes be a consistent size and distance apart.

If this is done with a standard hole punch, each hole needs to be measured, lined up and punched. A stitching punch makes this much easier, as hitting it once will punch several holes into the leather at the same time. Stitching punches might have three, five, or more blades.

The size of the holes and number of blades available vary, so the crafter can choose one or more stitching punches that would be most helpful for their particular project.

Leather Hand Sewing Punch

A hand sewing leather punch is used to punch small, round holes into leather. It is usually made of stainless steel and has two grips, a punching surface, and a punch tip. The punching surface is generally circular, rotatable, and has about six different hole sizes.

When using it, the preferred hole size can be rotated under the top, and the leather laid onto the punch surface. The handles are then squeezed together, pushing the punch tip down into the selected hole size, and a hole is cut into the leather.

This is another style of hole punch, and it can be a quick way to punch clean holes into thinner leather.

Leather Ventilator Punch

A leather ventilator punch is a metal tool that punches a group of round holes into leather material. It has a solid steel hitting end and a cutting end with several, usually about six, small, round punches mounted in a generally circular pattern.

Ventilator punches make it easy to punch multiple small, grouped holes in leather goods where airflow can be helpful. This is often seen in bags, cases, and sometimes shoes.

If you’re looking for a ventilator punch it’s likely for a particular project, so ensure the hole size and cut pattern will match your needs. If so, these can surely help save time over manually measuring and punching individual holes.

Leather Rosette/Concho Cutter

A rosette cutter, sometimes referred to as a concho cutter, is a type of metal punch that cuts rosette shapes out of leather. Rosettes are decorative embellishments applied to leather work, usually saddlery. They can come in different designs, though the most common is a circle with about 16 rounded points that make up the perimeter. Think of a many-pointed star, though with rounded points.

Cutting these each by hand can become very time-consuming. With a rosette cutter, it is much faster. Just place the cutter on the leather, hit it with a hammer, maul, or mallet, and the rosette is cut. Many can be made in a fraction of the time of manually cut pieces. These tools come in various sizes, each of which can be used depending on your needs.

Leather Rotary Punch Machine

A leather rotary punch machine is a table-mounted machine that helps punch holes into leather material. Whereas manual punches are most common, for those looking for ease of use, consistency of results, and mechanically-assisted punching, the rotary punch is available.

They generally have a solid punching surface where the leather can rest. Above is the punching arm, which is controlled by a manually operated, rotating wheel. Offset guides can be set to ensure a consistent distance of the holes from the edge of the material, such as when making holes in belts.

The punch holes in punch machines are often self-centering, making it easy to ensure a proper cut. The distance, center-to-center, between holes is adjustable, as is the tube size for the punch cutters.

These machines are generally very heavy and do take up table space. This could be a useful tool if you find yourself doing high-volume or repetitive round-hole punching.

Leather Self-Centering Punch Machine

A self-centering punch machine is a table-mounted machine that helps punch holes into leather material. It is similar to a rotary punch machine, with a solid punching surface where the leather can rest. Above is the punch arm, which is controlled by a manually operated lever that helps apply force that pushes the punch through the leather.

They generally have many punch dies available in different sizes, shaped to cut points, holes, and slots into leather materials of varying thicknesses. The tool is self-centering, helping to provide consistent and accurate cutting results.

Punch machines are generally very heavy and take up a fair amount of table space. However, if you do high-volume production or repetitive hole punching work, this could be a useful tool.

Leather Working Sewing Tools

Leather sewing tools are comprised of a wide range of items used for stitching leather. They generally include needles, thread, sewing machines, and tools to hold leather while you sew. Within these groups, many options are available that fit across needs, styles, and preferences.

While leather can be joined by hardware such as rivets and grommets, sewing provides a wealth of functional and aesthetic means of joining leather material together. Leather sewing tools are used to make endless leather goods, including wallets, bags, belts, clothing, and shoes.

Sewing Machine Needle - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Machine Needle

Leather Sewing Needle

A leather sewing needle is a narrow, cylindrical piece of steel with a sharp point on one end and a small opening, or “eye,” on the other. The thread is secured through the eye, and the needle’s sharp point is pushed through the material. As the needle goes through the material, it pulls the thread. This process is repeated along the edge of leather pieces, resulting in a line of “stitches,” and the thread binds the leather pieces together.

Sewing needles have been used for over 40,000 years. Today, they come in a wide assortment of options. There are leather-specific needles with wider points to help pierce thick leather. There are curved needles (they have a semi-circular, half-moon shape) that make it easier to push through thicker materials such as leather and canvas. Very small needles make it easier to sew smaller, thinner leathers while leaving a smaller hole.

There are also needles for powered sewing machines, each with unique sizes and performance characteristics based on the intended use. A sewing needed, either a hand needle or one used in a sewing machine, will likely be something a leather worker comes across during their leather craft experience.

Leather Two-Prong Lacing Needle

Two-prong lacing needles are a type of hand-sewing needle with two prongs used for sewing with leather lace. Typical needles have an eye where the thread is passed through and secured. This can be tricky or impossible with some leather laces, and the lace, once tied into a knot by the needle eye, would be too large to pass through the lacing hole in the leather.

Two-prong lacing needles have two prongs under spring tension instead of an eye. The prongs are separated, and the lacing material is slid between them. When released, the tension between the prongs holds the lace flat and in place. This helps it maintain a thinner profile when passed through the stitching holes, especially diagonal ones.

These needles are usually made of metal and are valuable tools for hand-sewing with leather lace.

Leather Saddler’s Harness Needle

Saddler’s harness needles are specialized sewing needles with a blunt tip and strong eyelets. Since leather can be a thick and tough material, these needles help guide the thread through without marking up the leather while being sturdy enough to hold up.

Common varieties of needles might also break at the eye when used with thicker threads and through tougher materials. The eye is a thinner part of the metal and is susceptible to breakage. Saddler’s harness needles are stronger all around, including at the eyelets.

Often used for saddlery, they can also be used for bag making, shoe making, and any leather work that requires sewing with thick thread through thick material.

Leather Sewing Machine

A leather sewing machine is a powered, mechanical tool used to join materials together via stitches. Stitches are connecting points made between materials by singular strands of fibers or threads. Whereas hand sewing involves carefully making each stitch one-by one, machine sewing allows for much faster, automated stitching.

Sewing machines, at a high level, have spools of thread, a sewing surface, a needle, a power source, and a control pedal. The materials to be sewn are guided under the needle, and when the control pedal is pressed, the needle moves up and down, inserting stitches into the material. As this happens, the material is moved through the machine and stitched continuously in a linear fashion. The result is a row of stitching that is clean, consistent, and strong. If a leather crafter is producing a volume of items or looking for a consistent finish to their products, sewing machines are indispensable tools.

Also, since they are powered tools, the amount of human effort needed to continually press a needle through thick leather is greatly minimized. What might have taken hours by hand, might take only minutes by machine.

There are many machine options available. Important considerations when choosing a machine include the weight of the material that will be sewn and its durability. A sturdy, well-maintained machine can last decades or longer.

Leather Working Tools - Sewing Machine
Sewing Machine

Leather Stitching Pony

A stitching stitching pony is a wooden tool with two arms that hold leather items securely while being hand-sewn. Leather can be a thick, tough material. Sometimes, having two free hands makes feeding a needle and pulling the thread through much easier. They are similar to a stitching horse, though much smaller.

The stitching pony is generally placed on a chair and sat on. Its position is secured by the weight of the person sitting on it and two vertical arms that extend up to hold the leather. They’re joined in the middle with an adjustment screw, so the space between them can be widened and narrowed. The leather to be sewn is placed in between the arms, and the arms are tightened, holding the leather in place.

It is always important to ensure that any material that touches leather during the leather working process is soft and won’t leave any unwanted imprints or marks behind. Since it’s made of smoothed wood, the stitching pony provides a gentle surface for gripping leather. If preferred, something soft, such as a cloth or other leather can be placed between the stitching pony arms and the leather being worked, further providing protection from scratches.

A stitching pony can be a helpful leather working tool for leather crafters who hand-sew often.

Leather Stitching Horse

A stitching horse is a wooden tool with two arms used to hold leather items securely while they are being hand-sewn. Having two free hands makes feeding a needle and pulling the thread through leather much easier. Stitching horses are similar to stitching ponies, though much larger.

The stitching horse generally stands on the floor and includes a seat for a person to sit on. Two large, vertical arms that extend up and can accommodate very large and thick leather items. They’re joined in the middle with an adjustment screw, so the space between them can be widened and narrowed. The leather to be sewn is placed in between the arms, and the arms are tightened, holding the leather in place.

Stitching horses generally feature smooth, wooden arms that protect the leather. Any working surface that comes into contact with leather must be soft and smooth and not leave unwanted marks or scratches on the material being worked. For additional protection, a soft material, such as soft fabric or even other leather, can be placed between the arms and the leather being worked.

A stitching horse could be a helpful addition to the leather working shop for those who work on larger leather pieces that require heavy hand sewing.

Leather Table Stitching Clamp

A leather table stitching clamp is a wooden tool with two arms used to hold leather securely while it is being hand-stitched. They’re joined in the middle with an adjustment screw that can make the space between the arms wider or narrower, ensuring a tight hold around the specific leather being worked on.

It works similarly to a stitching horse or stitching pony, though rather than being sat on, this simply clamps to a table or other work surface. 

Leather Stitching Clam

A stitching clam is a wooden tool with two arms used to securely hold materials, especially leather, while it is hand-stitched. They’re joined in the middle with an adjustment screw that can make the space between the arms wider or narrower, ensuring a tight hold around the specific leather being worked on.

While similar to stitching ponies and horses, the stitching clam is a little simpler and slides under one leg for support. Its position can be adjusted for the proper angle of stitch access and personal comfort. If one does a fair amount of hand-stitching with smaller to medium-sized leather pieces, a stitching clam might be a help.

Leather Sewing Tower

A leather sewing tower is a wooden tool used to hold leather pieces while being sewn by hand. It is often helpful to have both free hands for stitching work, and a leather sewing tower helps make that possible by providing a versatile group of holding clamps and surfaces on which to secure leather pieces for stitching.

They are generally secured to a tabletop. Extending out (about 9”-12”) is an arm, onto which two additional arms run, with screws to adjust their distance. Leather can be clamped between each of these arms and the main extension. The main extension can even be positioned higher or lower on the device.

The flexibility of positions and the shape of the main extension allow leather to be positioned securely for a number of stitching needs, including right-angle stitching. They function similarly to stitching horses and stitching ponies. For those who do a lot of leather stitching and might prefer the feel of a sewing tower, it’s certainly another option to add to the leather craft tools list.

Leather Working Thread

Leather sewing thread is a thin yarn used to join leather materials together. Threads are very common leather working tools and come in endless colors. They also come in various “weights” or thicknesses, each with benefits depending on the type of leather being sewn.

Generally, thinner leathers will use lighter “weight”, thinner threads. Thicker leathers are usually sewn with thicker or heavier “weight” threads. Leather thread weight choice can be a matter of function. For example, is it strong enough to hold the materials together and not wear out easily from rubbing or abrasions? Thread can also be selected based on aesthetic preference. For example, does the color look great on the leather it is used with? Does the seam size create a nice, finished visual appearance?

Along with colors and wights, threads are also available in many different material types. So much thread! 🙂 Each material type has unique properties that can benefit some types of leather work over others. Let’s explore a little more about each and which you might want to add to your leather craft tools list.

Sewing Thread - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Thread

Waxed Thread for Leather Working

Waxed thread is a type of thread lightly coated in wax. The wax stiffens the thread, making it stronger. This also makes the thread more abrasion and water-resistant and stretch less over time.

Waxed threads are great for leather work. They provide a very durable thread that handles well and looks great. Ideal for hand-sewing, these threads are available in various colors and thicknesses (weights).

Bonded Nylon Thread for Leather Working

Bonded nylon (or polyester) threads are very strong, synthetic threads. Whereas many threads are composed of material strands twisted together, bonded nylon is also physically bonded together, making it a much stronger thread. The fact that it is nylon (essentially plastic) makes it very sturdy, water-resistant, wear-resistant, and lasts a very long time.

Bonded thread is a staple thread used for many leatherworking projects. It is available in a range of colors and thicknesses, so one can be selected to best suit the project. Nylon threads are also great for machine and hand sewing.

Linen Thread for Leather Working

Linen thread is made of natural cotton fibers. While not as strong as waxed or bonded nylon threads, it still provides solid holding strength for thinner leathers and leather goods that will not experience a lot of daily wear.

While functional, linen thread can also be decorative in the color selections chosen. Also, since it is a natural fiber, the look of line thread is certainly a bit different on finished leather goods. If you’re working with fine leather accessories or want to try a different visual finish, line thread might be worth adding to the leather craft tool list.

Linen thread is generally best for hand sewing, though it can also be used in lighter machine sewing applications.

Sewing Thimble

A thimble is a protective device that fits over a finger and assists in pushing a needle through materials when sewing by hand. They can be made of many different materials, including metals, wood, leather, and plastics.

When sewing by hand, the needle needs to be pushed through the materials being sewn. Certainly, with some thicker leathers, this can require a fair amount of force. That force, applied from a finger onto a tiny needle head, could be painful or, in some cases, dangerous, especially over time with repeated stitching.

A thimble covers the finger and provides a harder surface for pushing the needle. So smart! 🙂 Thimbles are available in different sizes and surface finishes/styles, so one can be found that works best with the types of needles and style of sewing being performed. Most leather workers that hand-sew will have one, two, or many needs around the workshop.

Leather Lacing Fid

A leather lacing fid is a metal tool with a pointed end used to stretch and enlarge lacing holes when working with leather. They commonly have a wooden handle for comfortable holding.

A tight-fitting stitch and appropriately sized lacing holes are preferable on finished leather goods. Depending on the tools available, a leather crafter might need to slightly enlarge or adjust some lacing holes, in which case a lacing fid can come in handy.

Hand Sewing Punch

A hand sewing leather punch is used to punch small, round holes into leather. It is usually made of stainless steel and has two grips, a punching surface, and a punch tip. The punching surface is generally circular and rotatable, with about six differently-sized holes.

When using it, the preferred hole size can be rotated under the top, and the leather laid onto the punch surface. The handles are then squeezed together, pushing the punch tip down into the selected hole size, and a hole is cut into the leather.

This is another style of hole punch, and it can be a quick way to punch clean holes into thinner leather.

Wood Burning Tool (also used as a Thread Trimming tool)

A wood burning tool is an electrically-powered tool that is used to burn marks into wood. They generally have a handle, and a metal extension that gets very hot, powered by electricity. When the metal tip is hot, it can be used to burn marks into the wood.

This same tool can be used to trim threads, especially nylon and synthetic threads. Sometimes, little pieces of thread are left over when sewing by hand after finishing the stitch and tying it off. The thread can be snipped to create a smooth and clean finish.

Due to the scissors’ natural material thickness, they can only get so close to the seam. Sometimes, a little bit of thread fray is left behind. Burning it with a wood burning/thread trimming tool is a very easy way to eliminate these tiny bits of thread.

Just hold the tool lightly on the thread for a very short period of time, and it will burn away. Leather crafters have different preferences for finishing threads, for some, this the leather craft tool of choice.

Hand Held Lighter

When sewing by hand, sometimes, when the stitch is finished, a little bit of thread is left behind. Even after trimming with scissors, just a bit of thread fray remains. Since the scissors have a material thickness to themselves, they can’t always get precisely close.

Some leather workers burn the remaining bits of thread away, and a common hand-held or disposable lighter can work great. Certainly, ensure safe handling practices. This can be an inexpensive and effective way to finish thread trimming on leather goods when done correctly.

Leather Working Skivers Tools

Skivers are tools 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.

A leather skiver 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 folded 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 thin leather pieces. Leather skivers are available in hand-held versions, manually drawn against the leather, and tabletop versions, where the leather is pulled through the skiver.

Additionally, skiving knives are used to free-hand skive. Carefully removing leather layers is part art and part skill. Most leather craftsmen will, at some point, have one or several skivers on their list of leather craft tools.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Skiver
Leather Working Skiver

Leather Hand Skiver

Leather hand skivers are manually 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, shaving off a thin layer of leather as they are drawn.

Flat blades will shave leather in an even way. Curved skiver blades will shave more towards the blade’s center, 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.

Hand skiving is effective, though it 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 tools used to skiver leather efficiently and consistently. They usually have large 6”-10” blades and adjustable skiing heights.

To skiver 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 allows for variable skive thicknesses, for example, towards the ends of a belt or for a bag strap.

The incredible benefit of these tools is that they produce a very consistent result 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.

Leather Skiving Knives

A leather skiving knife is a specialty knife used to shave off thin layers of leather material. It is usually shaped with a handle and has a rectangular blade that is sharpened on the short end. The blade is used to push into the leather to shave it away.

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 skiing knives are generally referred to as “lap” skiving knives.

Since these skiving knives are manually operated, they require skill development to be used effectively. Once experienced, skiing knives can quickly remove leather from belts, straps, and other work. They are also agile enough to use on smaller pieces and even help with detailed skiving in tight places.

Leather Working Splitters Tools

Leather splitters are tools used to uniformly remove a thickness of leather material. They can split leather evenly or by a preferred and set thickness. They are comprised of strong, metal blades generally 6”-8” wide.

Once the thickness of the cut has been set (via an adjustment mechanism), the leather is placed into the splitter, secured by lowering a level, and then pulled through. It is split as it is pulled through. This produces clean and consistent results very quickly.

The thickness of the split can also be manually adjusted by pushing or pulling on the lever as the leather is being pulled through. This allows for variable thicknesses to be split, for example, towards the ends of a belt. A leather splitter can be a very useful tool for a leather craftsman who produces higher-volume work that requires consistent adjustments to leather thicknesses.

Leather Working Stamps Tools

Leather stamps are metal tools used to imprint decorative designs into leather. They generally have etched designs on the end of a solid metal handle. When rested on the leather and struck with a hammer, mallet, or maul, the force pushes the stamp into the leather material, leaving an imprint in the leather of the design that was etched onto the stamp.

Leather stamping is an extensively used craft in leather tooling. Stamps are available in a tremendous variety of shapes, sizes, letters, numbers, and designs. Since stamps only require striking force, they are a very quick way to add visual embellishments to leather work. Carving the same designs by hand could take hours, with sometimes less-than-desirable results.

Stamps are available individually or in sets. In this area of leather craft, the imagination can really run wild with options for using and combining stamps to create a decoratively finished piece.

Tooling Leather with a Leather Stamp - Tooling Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Tooling Leather with a Leather Stamp

Leather Working Tooling, Etching, & Engraving Tools

Leather tooling, etching, and engraving are styles of leather working that involve altering the surface of leather material for visual and aesthetic enjoyment. Some of this work requires tremendous skill and practice to do well.

Leather tooling is the practice of imprinting designs into leather, usually with metal stamps. The stamps available cover a nearly endless amount of designs, shapes, sizes, letters, and numbers.

Leather etching, which can also involve leather engraving, is the practice of cutting into the leather’s surface to produce intricate or decorative patterns. This usually involves using specialized knives as the crafting tool for this impressive style of leather work.

Leather Tooling Stylus

A leather tooling stylus is a metal tool with a rounded tip used for tracking patterns into leather for tooling. When a leather crafter has a design in mind and is sketched onto leather tracing paper, they can transfer that outline to the leather by pressing into it with the rounded end of a tooling stylus.

The pressure applied to the stylus pushes the tracing paper, leaving a colored mark/line on the leather’s surface. The lines traced with the stylus serve as a guide for the next step in the tooling process. They are handy tools for leather tooling work.

Leather Tracing Film

Leather tracing film is used to help transfer a pencil-sketched design onto leather. The original design, possibly sketched onto a piece of ordinary paper, can be traced onto the tracing film. When transferring the design to leather, the leather is moistened, and then the tracing film with the design is laid over it.

Finally, a leather tooling stylus is used to trace of the tracing film, which transfers an outline of the design pressed into it by the tooling stylus. This is quite a helpful tool for transferring sketches and artwork to leather.

Leather Modeling Spoon

A leather modeling spoon is a tool with a small, spoon-shaped metal end used to remove material from leather. It is generally used for figure carving, where removing leather material is similar to sculpting. The rounded end of the spoon can also be used to smooth out areas of the leather during tooling and etching.

Leather Pyrography Tool

A leather pyrography tool is an electric, pen-shaped device that burns marks into leather. It usually consists of a handle, with a metal piece sticking out with a connection point for a burning tip. The tips are interchangeable.

When the pyrography tool is plugged in, the tip heats up. Once hot, it can be used to burn different lines, shapes, patterns, and designs into leather. With various tips available, it makes it very easy to burn patterns, shapes, and even calligraphy into leather.

Leather Working Tools Maintenance

Leather tool maintenance is key to ensuring a quality leather working product. When cutting blades are kept sharp, work surfaces clean, and machines well-maintained, they all perform to their best potential.

While it might seem like an afterthought compared to doing fun projects (which, yes, are more fun than maintenance), maintaining great leather working tools will ultimately help make great work.

Leather Strop

A leather strop is a tool used in sharpening blades. It helps even out any tiny burrs on the blade edge, making it smooth and sharp. When blades get dull, it is generally due to tiny degradations in quality from the sharpened blade. These can include small nicks and burrs on the cutting edge.

When blades are sharpened, they are usually done so by going over the edge with increasingly-fine-grained stones or sharpeners. Coarser sharpening stones are used first to even out larger burrs. Then finer stones are used to reduce smaller burrs. Once the leather strop is used, it’s usually the last and finest-grained tool in the sharpening lineup.

They help produce a smooth edge on the blade while polishing it some as well. When sharpening knives, a leather strop can be a helpful addition to the process.

Leather Strop - Leather Strop - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Strop

Aluminum Oxide

Aluminum oxide is a chemical compound of aluminum and oxide that is applied to leather stops to aid in the knife sharpening process. When rubbed into the leather strop, this compound helps draw a smoother, sharper edge than when stropping with leather alone.

Jeweler’s Rouge

Jeweler’s rouge is a compound that can be rubbed onto the flesh side of a piece of leather to turn it into an effective polishing strop. The strop can be used when sharpening and polishing knives and edged tools. It helps ensure they are well-maintained for maximum effectiveness when used.

Sharpening Stone

Sharpening stones are solid blocks of material used to sharpen the edges of knives and tools. They can be made of various synthetic, chemical, or natural materials and can vary in size and shape.

The sharpening stones are run in a linear fashion over the edge of the blade being sharpened. This helps to smooth out the blade and reduce any burrs that might have been caused by use. These stones are a common tool used in the sharpening process.

Sharpening Compound

Sharpening compounds are finely abrasive mixtures of natural and or chemical materials used to refine the sharpened edge of knives and blades. The components in sharpening compounds are abrasives intended to polish the blades and be the last step in the sharpening process.

If one is looking to bring an almost-new edge to a knife or bladed tool, adding sharpening compound onto a strop and running the blade over it can be quite helpful.

Leather Working Surfaces

Leather working surfaces encompass the various workspaces and areas used for leather working. They can include tables, mats, stone slabs, and a number of other various materials and surfaces that help when crafting, tooling, or adding hardware to leather.

Leather craft doesn’t require too many surfaces, though there are a few very helpful ones that can make things so much easier. Generally, a sturdy table is essential. This is important as it will need to support the pounding pressure when hitting punches and stamps with a mallet or maul.

A smooth cutting surface, such as a cutting mat, is key. A strong pounding surface helps absorb shock and produce a clean cut. For this, a granite slab can work great. With just a few items, the leather working shop will be set to go.

Leather Working Tools - Cutting Mat
Cutting Mat

Anvil

An anvil is a steel or iron tool used mainly as a hitting surface for setting rivets. Most anvils are solid metal, while others can have hollowed-out areas that serve specific purposes. These can include grooves for straightening metal pieces or areas for loose hardware or accessory storage. Anvils commonly sit on top of tables or work benches.

Common anvils are solid and usually have a wide, flat surface. They also have a rounded, curved end that tapers into a point. The flat surface is great for hitting on, as it absorbs much of the force. The curved end is great for hitting pieces on a unique angle or for shaping curved items.

Anvils are available in many sizes, often denoted by weight. They range in size from a few ounces up to 50+ lbs for larger ones.

Japanese Cutting Mat

Japanese cutting mats are a specialty leather working surface used for cutting and stamping. They are approximately 1/4” thick and can provide an “all-in-one” surface for leather crafting.

Where standard cutting mats are thin and great for cutting, sturdier surfaces are usually needed to take the pounding of punching, pricking, and chiseling. For this, nylon boards or granite slabs can be used. However, this style of cutting mat can be used for all those needs, making it a useful and versatile leather working surface.

Japanese cutting mats are generally clear in color and come in various sizes to fit different work areas and preferences. While generally more expensive than self-healing cutting mats, Japanese cutting mats offer more functionality for the leather worker.

Poly Cutting Boards

Poly cutting boards are plastic boards used under leather punching and cutting tools to protect the blades. They absorb impacts and vibrations, and the softness of their material will protect both the cutting blades and the work surface underneath.

Punching leather requires a tool to be placed on top of the leather and then hit with a maul or mallet. This drives the blade through the leather and makes the cut. When the blade passes through the leather, it makes contact with the surface underneath. If this surface is metal or very hard, it can damage the cutting blade and make it dull or ineffective.

Placing a poly board under the leather when punching or cutting allows the blade to enter the softer plastic. This won’t harm the blades, and the blade generally does not go through the plastic. It also protects the work surface underneath.

These are a very common leather working tool and are available in a wide variety of shapes, thicknesses, and colors.

Self-Healing Cutting Mats

Self-healing cutting mats are specialty plastic mats comprised of several layers of material that serve as a cutting surface underneath sharp blades. To help ensure the longevity and sharpness of knife blades, it’s important to use softer surfaces underneath them when cutting. Harder surfaces could mar or disaffirm the blade.

Cutting mats work great. They are made of layers of materials that allow the knife to sink into them, though not cut all the way through. This protects the knife and the work surface underneath (such as a desk or table).

Some cutting mats are self-healing, meaning when a knife mark is made during a cut, the plastics in the material will push together, mostly eliminating the previous visible cut. In actual practice, different quality mats perform differently in the “self-healing” area, where some really do look like they haven’t been cut on, while others look like they’ve been cut on a million times 🙂

These mats often come in green and white, with other colors also available. Magnetic cutting mats are an option, too. When cutting lighter or thinner materials, magnets can be rested on top of them, securing them from slipping when cutting.

Cutting mats with measurement markings printed on them are also available if preferred. This can make it easier to lay out materials and line up angles for cuts. A cutting mat is usually a stable leather working tool.

A Self-healing Cutting Mat - Self-healing Cutting Mat - Liberty Leather Goods
A Self-healing Cutting Mat

Novolene Chopping Block

A novolene chopping block is a synthetic material formed into a block shape that is used under leather punching and cutting tools to protect the blades. The soft yet firm material provides a sturdy surface that also helps absorb shock when leather working tools are struck with mallets, hammers, and mauls.

Novolene blocks are generally available in several rectangular sizes. The color is usually red. This is another option for the leather worker when considering what to use for blade protection and shock absorption for cutting, punching, and stamping activities.

Stone Slabs

Stone slabs are blocks of stone used for shock absorption underneath leather punching, stamping, and cutting tools. The density of the material helps absorb and distribute the hitting forces while also providing a solid surface on which to perform these tasks.

When stamping, punching, or cutting, a fair amount of downward force is applied through the tools via a hammer, mallet, or maul. This concentrated force is great as it allows the tool’s blade to cut smoothly through the leather. However, if the surface it is being performed on is shaky, it could cause less than desirable results or even damage the surface.

Stone is a very dense material that absorbs shock well. When a stone slab is placed underneath a cutting mat, it is a great punching combination. The mat protects the cutting blades, and the stone slab absorbs the hitting force, evenly distributing it throughout the slab.

Stone slabs are available in many sizes and thicknesses, though they don’t need to be very large. 6” x 6” is fine, and 12” x 12” provides a bit more force distribution due to its larger size. they really only need to be a bit bigger than the punch or dir being used on top of them.

Quartz is a popular material for stone slabs. Granite also works very well, as it is a bit denser than quartz, improving its shock absorption performance. Stone slabs can be purchased, or discarded stone samples can be obtained from kitchen remodeling or home improvement stores.

Poundo Boards

Poundo boards are rubber surfaces for blade protection or shock absorption in leather work. When cutting or punching with leather tools, the tool blades pass through the leather and onto a surface underneath. If this surface is hard, it could damage the blade. If this surface is soft, the blade goes lightly into the material, protecting the blade and the surface underneath.

These rubber boards, which are usually black, come in a variety of sizes. They can also be placed underneath a granite or stone slab when punching or pounding to help absorb shock.

Leather Tool Holder/Stand

A leather tool holder or stand is a device used to hold and organize leather tools for easy access. They can incorporate a number of holes for placing tools into. The tools stand upright and are easily picked up and put back

The holder can have multiple levels, tiered for access to differently sized tools. It can also incorporate various hole sizes so tools of different thicknesses or diameters have a secure place to be stored. For example, a maul would be much larger in diameter than a small punch.

Some leather tool holders have uniform holes, such as those that store metal stamp sets. Holders are available in different sizes, from small, 12-hole versions to larger, 48+ hole versions.

Leather tools can also be stored in toolboxes or drawers. A stand can be most helpful, as all tools are always visible and within easy reach. Building your own leather tool holder can be beneficial for a more personalized way to hold all your tools.

Leather Tool Holder - Finished - Angled Side View - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Tool Holder

Cork Board Tool Holder

A cork board tool holder is a material used for holding leather working awls and sewing needles. Cork is a natural, firm material that is easily penetrated by sharp objects. Once inserted, the firmness of the cork generally supports and holds those objects in place.

Leather awls and needles can have very sharp points, and in the case of needles, they can be very thin and hard to pick up. Sticking these types of tools upright into a cork board holder helps store them with their sharp tips embedded into the cork. This is a little safer. It also makes it convenient, as the tools can be easily picked up, used, and returned to their location.

Cork board tool holders are available in a variety of sizes. Usually, a helpful shape for leather working is a round, 4”-6” cork board embedded into a wooden base that sits flat on a desk or work surface. If one finds they have several awls and many needles all around their workspace, a cork board holder could be a helpful leather working tool to have.

Leather Weights

Leather weights are small metal devices that hold leather in place when cutting, stamping, or punching. Have smooth, polished surfaces so they will not mark or mar the leather when placed on top of it. They are often made of brass or steel.

When cutting thin leather materials, they can easily shift. Placing metal weights on top can help hold them in place for a stable, more even cut. When cutting thicker leather materials, they might have a natural bend to them. Placing leather weights can help flatten the material into a more even working surface. Leather weights come in various sizes, from a few ounces to a few pounds.

Many things can be used as leather weights if their surface does not scratch the leather. If you’re looking for well-balanced, nicely machined, and high-polished weights, dedicated leather weights could be a helpful addition to the leather craft tool list.

Leather Work Apron

A leather work apron is a layer of material worn to protect the clothing underneath it. It is usually made from leather and generally covers just the front of the person wearing it. A loop goes over the head and secures it behind the neck. A second securing tie goes around the waist.

Work aprons help keep dirt and debris from the work being done from getting onto the person doing the work. They can also protect the wearer from tools that might accidentally get dropped while working. For example, an awl rolls off the table and falls onto their lap. Where a sharply pointed awl might scratch, the apron would provide a layer of protection.

Leather work aprons are available in various sizes, materials, qualities, and finishes. While denim and canvas are options, leather is usually most popular for the look and the material’s function.

Some leather aprons also feature various pockets, offering places to hold frequently accessed tools, pencils, or rulers. While not an essential tool to have when starting out, a leather apron can be a helpful addition as you become more familiar with leather working and develop preferences for working style and tool storage. And they look really, really cool. 🙂

Leather Apron for Leather Working - Guide to the Leather Working Tools You Need - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Apron for Leather Working

Related Questions

What tools do I need for leather work?

When beginning leather working, a few commonly used tools will be helpful. They include a sharp knife, cutting surface, edger, skiver, groover, and an awl. If you’ll be using any punches, a nylon board and leather maul would be needed, too. Leather sets can begin simply and grow over time.

What are the best leather working tools?

The best leather working tools depend highly on preference, working style, and budget. While there are some very high-end tool makers, many leather tools are capable and will perform great if properly maintained. As you gain experience, tools can be upgraded to those that work best for you.

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