The leather workshop often includes a large, flat surface for creating and crafting. Having a cutting mat on top can help protect tools and lead to higher quality finished goods. Some recommendations include paid links to products that I trust.
The best leather work surface for cutting is the Fiskars Self-Healing Rotary Cutting Mat, click here to see it on Amazon. It is 24″ x 36″ providing ample room for working, is self-healing, and includes inch measurement markers across the surface, as well as square-shaped markers, providing helpful guides for corner cutting.
Work surfaces can vary in strength and durability, while cutting mats have a variety of options for material, color, and printed notations. Let’s explore the options available and which can work best in the shop.
Types of Leather Work Surfaces
Working with leather usually involves using a few different surfaces, depending on the type of job that is being performed at the time. Some surfaces are needed for all working, others for cutting, others for punching, and others for setting hardware. Here are the most common types of leather surfaces.
A sturdy desk or table, mainly a flat surface, is most common. This can be as simple as a kitchen table, an office desk, a solid-core door set onto filing cabinets, or a piece of plywood laid onto the ground. Most useful are work benches, thicker tables, and surfaces that are strong and have a solid connection to the floor through sturdy legs.
Cutting with knives and leather tools is a very common element in the craft. Having a quality cutting mat helps to protect the desk, table, or other surface that is beneath the mat. The cutting mat also helps protect the blade of the tool being used, assisting in keeping them sharp, while also leading to higher quality and more consistent cuts in the leather materials.
Nylong boards are really helpful for when one is using striking tools, such as punches and chisels and tooling and hardware setting. The board helps protect the edges of the tools, while also providing a mechanism for the stricking force to travel and spread out onto the work surface more evenly.
When a leather tool is struck, we aim for that force to travel through the tool, puching through the leather, and into the nylon board. The nylon board helps absorb some of that force while also distributing it more widely into and across the surface (ideally a sturdy one) that is underneath it.
A Poundo Board is a great surface that helps absorb and distribute force generated from striking tools (such as punches and chisels and tooling and hardware setting). It also works well to help absorb sound; if one has a shop in a living space that require more quiet work, this surface can be beneficial. It works similar to a nylon board, providing a way for the stricking force to be spread across a wider area, and into the work surface below it. This is a relatively dense material, and great for shock-absorbtion.
Granite and Marble Slabs
Granite and marble slabs are very dense, stone materials used to help absorb and distribute force used in striking tools (such as chisels and punches and tooling and hardware setting). While nylon boards work well, and Poundo Boards a little better, granite and marble slabs are the densest of them all which helps with absorbing force.
Along with this density also comes increased weight, so these work best when used on very sturdy and secure surfaces such as tables and work benches. Thickness is important, too, as a thicker slab will be more effective than a thinner one.
Marble is a denser material than granite, so helps absorb even more force, while also being a little heavier. Also, since granite is solid and hard, they’re best used underneath a softer board, such as a nylon board or poundo board. This is so the softer boards can help protect the tool edges, while the granits or marble slab below helps to absord the striking force generated.
Best Leather Work Surfaces
Let’s explore some of the best and most recommended options for each type of popular work surface. The need for these will depend on one’s particular working style, preferences, and budget.
Best Leather Cutting Mat
The best leather cutting mat is the Fiskars Self-Healing Rotary Cutting Mat, click here to see it on Amazon. It comes in a black color, which helps lighter leathers stand out visually when workin on it. The 24″ x 36″ size provides great working space.
This mat is is self-healing, so as knives and blades slightly cut into to, small, shallow nicks will generally not be noticeable, and the surface stay mostly flat and consistent. The 1″ (one-inch) measurement markers across the surface, as well as square-shaped markers, provide helpful guides for measuring and cutting.
Best Leather Nylon Board
A great nylon board for leather work is the Winco Cutting Board, click here to see it on Amazon. It is 10″ x 6″ x 0.5″, making it small enough for easy stoage, though large enough for most punching and chiseling work. It’s white, making the leather on top of it easy to see, and it’s a non-porous surface for a relatively even and consistent surface.
If you’re looking for a larger one, similar nylon cutting boards can work well too.
Best Leather Poundo Board
The Weaver Leather Silent Poundo Board is an excellent choice, click here to see it on Amazon. It is available in 12″ x 12″ or 12″ x 24″ sizes, depending on workspace preferences. It’s rubber surface is darker in color, making it easy to see lighter leathers while working on it. If one is looking for quiet, reliable working, this is worth checking out.
Best Leather Granite Tooling Slab
The Tandy Leather Deluxe Granite Tooling Slab is a very nice one, click here to see it on Amazon. At 6″ x 6″ x 1-3/16″ it’s not huge, and doesn’t need to be, as it helps absord concentrated force while stricking tools. The thickness helps a lot, and the small size helps keep the weight down, which is always nice when moving it around the shop. It weighs approximately 8.5 pounds.
Best Leather Marble Tooling Slab
This Marble Tooling Slab is a solid choice, click here to see it on Weaver Leather. It is available in a 6″ x 6″ x 1.5″ slab, or a 12″ x 12″ x 1.5″ slab. The 6″ x 6″ should work well in most cases (and weights about 9 pounds), and for those that prefer a larger surface the 12″ x 12″ should do nicely (and weighs around 18 pounds). Either of these should generally work well for someone that prefers marble slabs.
The leather work surfaces are generally guided by the types of work being done, as well as personal preference. One can consider what they need, what they like, what their budget is, and then what would help make the shop most useful. And, it’s always fun getting new tools 🙂 since they can sometimes make all the difference in producing some great, quality work.
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