Leathersmith has been a popular trade for thousands of years. Today, it can be enjoyable as a hobby, or as a career path. Let’s see if it might be right for you.
A Leathersmith is a person who designs, creates, repairs, and restores items made from leather. They can learn the trade by being self taught, by taking classes, or by becoming an apprentice for a professional leathersmith. The average leathersmith earns approximately $28,000 dollars per year.
Take a closer look at how to become a leathersmith, the tools they use, and what the career is like.
What is a Leathersmith?
A leathersmith is a crafter that produces items made from leather. Generally, they’ll work within the different phases of leather goods production and use including design, crafting, repair, and restoration. Most often, leathersmith worked to produce useful goods such as handbags, purses, luggage, belts, wallets, saddles, shoes, boots, armor, and virtually all types of goods made from leather.
This is a standard leathersmith definition, though sometimes, a leather crafter will focus on a particular type of leatherwork, for example, saddlery. This allows them to develop a specialized set of skills and often produce a higher quality leather item. It is also common for such a leather worker to be capable hope producing the leather goods beyond their specialty.
Most often a leathersmith works in a workshop. This space consists of simply a desktop work surface at home, Or can be much larger and complex; bigger shops can have multiple rooms and feature a wide array of machinery used for high-volume and larger production leather work.
Working hours in larger production facilities and workshops can be the typical 9 – 5. Independent leathersmiths, who work for themselves, often set their own hours. These can vary based on preference, volume of work, and general availability.
What Do You Call a Leathersmith?
Beyond the leathersmith name, there are other leathersmith synonyms to refer to this type of tradesperson and those who work with leather. You might already be familiar with some of these, They include:
- Leather Craftsperson
- Leather Craftsman
How to Become a Leathersmith?
There are several ways to become a leather. Just as with many careers and hobbies, there are multiple paths that one can take to acquire the skills necessary to be effective at working with leather. The path selected might be based on personal preference, goals from the trade, and or financial/time availability. Let’s explore some of the most common ways to become a leathersmith.
Self teaching is a great way for those with beginning interest in leatherwork to find out more about the craft, and see if they like practicing it. There are a number of videos and tutorials online which make it very easy to access this material. Also, this is a very low-cost way to get into leatherworking.
Online Course Training
For those looking for additional structure in their education towards becoming a leathersmith, online course training is available. Typically, these are created by experienced leather workers, and provide an organized way to learn an increasingly complex set of skills.
Online courses are generally more expensive then free training, though sometimes they provide helpful guidance and in-depth looks at the tools and techniques necessary to become effective at leatherworking.
For those students that prefer in person training, or more rigorous coursework, leatherworking classes and certifications are available. Typically, these are taught by a professional leathersmith or group of leathersmiths, and allow for hands on experience with real time guidance.
These types of classes may run four days, a weekend, or months depending on what one has signed up for. Of the additional benefit, is that these classes often provide materials and leatherworking tools, thus making it easier for the student to simply show up and have everything available that is necessary to learn.
If one finds themselves very serious about becoming a leathersmith, apprenticeship might be the best option. Generally, in an apprenticeship, the apprentice works very closely with a professional leathersmith for an extended period of time. During this time, the apprentice gains a very valuable skills and experience while directly helping.
Depending on the type of leather specialty, such as saddlery, footwear, or bookbinding, there often unique skills in each of those type of leather craft. Thus, working working as an apprentice can help one acquire skills in just a few years that might have taken the professional leathersmith decades to develop. While this path is the most time intensive, it also allows the student the most exposure to developing highly refined and professional level skills.
Common Leathersmith Tools
When working with leather, there are generally a few basic tools that are used across most types of projects. While some projects require specialized tools, here is a brief overview into what most leathersmiths will have in their workshop.
Knives are a staple leathercraft tool. They are used to cut leather from larger sections of material, as well as trimming and finishing.
Mallets, mauls, and hammers are often used to generate a striking force when hitting other leather tools. For example when putting an additional hole in a belt, a maul would be used to strike a punch which cuts the hole.
Punches include a wide variety of pre-shaped metal tools with sharp cutting edges. When punches are struck with a hammer, they cut a precise hole or shape out of the leather.
Edgers are tools used to remove the square edge from leather material. This helps make the leather goods more visually pleasing, as well as more functional.
Burnishers shares are tools used to finish leather edges. When leather is cut, exposes the natural fibers. These fibers can attract moisture and or weekend, thus making the leather deteriorate faster. Burnishers help generate heat and friction which helps to seal the edges while also making them look more even. Burnished edges typically take on a darker color than the leather around it. They can be left as is, or finished with a protective, decorative, edge paint.
Leathersmith Job Description
A Leathersmith is an individual whom designs, creates, fixes, and restores leather items. These can include every day things such as auto upholstery, furniture upholstery, purses, briefcases, handbags, backpacks, hats, belts, footwear, boots, shoes, clothing, and personal accessories; most anything that is made out of leather.
They generally perform their work in a workshop. The workspace is typically a large flat surface that can be used for a number of leather working tasks. The space can be as simple as a small room, or can be a larger workshop comprising multiple rooms with various mechanical, powered leather tools.
Leathersmith working hours can vary based on their type of employment. Those working in larger production facilities might experience a typical 9 – 5 workday. Those that are self-employed, or independent leathersmiths, generally set their own hours which can vary based on availability, personal preference, and demanded for their work.
In the United States, the annual salary for a leathersmith is, approximately $27,550 per year. This is an average and so some will make more in some will make less. Often, income potential depends upon the leathersmith’s level of skill, their specialty, and overall demand for their goods.
Leathersmith Career Outlook
Working leathersmith have a generally stable career path. According to a 2017 survey by the United States Bureau of labor statistics, there are approximately 7,180 leathersmith jobs across the United States.
The majority of these jobs are in the area of personal and household goods creation, repair, maintenance. If one is looking for the highest paying type of leathersmith work, that would most likely be with cobblers. These leather crafters focus their work on footwear, and earn approximately $34,700 dollars per year.
Let’s review some more detailed leather craftsman employment statistics below. For an even more detailed dive, click here for the leather-working-focused page at the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
Leathersmith Job Numbers and Salary by Industry
|Industry Area||Number of Leathersmiths||Average Income|
|Hide Tanning & Finishing Work||670||$31,700|
|Shoe Stores and Related Repairs||360||$34,700|
Highest-Paying Industries for Leathersmiths
|Industry Area||Average Income|
|Hide Tanning & Finishing||31,700|
|Leather Goods Repair & Maintenance||27,250|
|Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing||27,040|
Highest-Paying Metro Areas for Leathersmiths
|Metro Area||Average Income|
|Tampa Metro Area||41,760|
|Washington DC Metro Area||35,250|
|Minneapolis Metro Area||32,970|
|Nashville Metro Area||31,050|
|St. Louis Metro Area||30,460|
Setting Up a Leathersmith Workshop
If you are considering up a leathercraft workshop, there are a few elements to keep in mind. First you will need a clean, flat workspace. Next you’ll need some basis leather working tools and materials to work with. Lastly, you’ll likely need a plan to acquire customers and to sell your goods.
Setting up a Leathersmith workshop is generally low cost, though can certainly grow depending on your specialization, tools needed, and production volume of leather items.
How to Find a Leathersmith Near Me?
Sometimes, we need something repaired and are curious, how to find a leathersmith near me? Hey local leather crafter can be a great choice in finding someone skilled who can professionally repair leather at a fair price.
While it is generally rare to find a dedicated leather repair shop, there are often skilled leathersmiths employed in other shops that would be open to and very happy to do that work. For example cobblers that working shoe shops very often take jobs to repair shoes, belt, bags, and personal accessories.
Another option to keep in mind is a local saddle shop. Sometimes, they keep the leathersmith on staff to help them produce saddles and tack, and/or repair those goods that they sell. If the shop does not have a leather worker on staff, they will often be able to recommend one that they know and/or use themselves. This can be a great way to get a quality recommendation, and find someone whose work you would be very happy with.
It is often fun to find inspiration in leathercraft by learning from and studying the work of professional leathersmiths. They often demonstrate some of the absolutely incredible types of items that can be produced, while also showing the highest levels of craftsmanship.
Below is a table guide this thing just a few of the more recognized leathersmiths in the industry. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, more just a great place to start in learning about the types of finished goods and working styles available.
|Leathersmith||Description||Link to Site|
|Ian Atkinson||Based in the United Kingdom – his YouTube channel shows solid and high quality craftsmanship||Link|
|Charlie Trevor||Eqqus Leather – Based in United Kingdom – his YouTube channel features exceptional work in a fine workshop||Link|
|Nigel Armitage||Well-known within the industry, his channel provides excellent tool reviews and helpful DIY leather guides by a true professional||Link|
|Christian Xian Marsh||He produces some of the finest and most original leather chop seats and related goods.||Link|
|Parker Lichfield||Stock & Barrel Based in Ogden, UT, USA – his YouTube channel presents fine examples of leather work and the crafting process||Link|
If you are considering getting into leathercraft as a hobby or a career, becoming a leathersmith can be an incredibly creative, and rewarding experience. To learn more about the tools a leathersmith uses, click here for my leather tools list overview.
What Does a Leathersmith Do?
A leathersmith will use specialized leather working tools to craft leather goods. When crafting, they will use tools such as knives, skivers, edgers, and burnishers, to shape, cut, mold, and form leather into the unique items they produce.
What Tools Do I Need to Become a Leathersmith?
A leather smith uses some basic leatherworking tools including knives, hammers/mallets/mauls, skivers, punches, edgers, and burnishers. While there are some specialized leather tools, only a few are needed to begin working with leather.