Leather punches are a staple of the leather tool set. With so many types available, you’re likely to have one or more that are used often.
The most common punches are hole punches and strap punches. The KS Blade set will produce quality results and last a long time (click here to view on RMLeather). For strap punches, the Kyoshin Elle are sturdy, have sharp blades, and are very fairly priced (click here to view on RMLeather).
There are a wide variety of punches available, let’s check out the different types.
Leather 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 lined up and rested 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. Lower-quality punches can bend, warp, and break over time from the force. Better quality punches will maintain their form and sharpness for much longer periods of time.
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.
Round Strap End Punch
Leather round strap end punches are used for cutting the rounded ends of straps and belts. They work by placing the punch over the end of the leather material that is to be cut, then 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.
Before investing a lot, this set by Hanperal (click herehere to see on amazon) will allow you get familiar with what sizes you prefer/use the most. When looking for a bit sharper, longer-lasting blade, the Kyoshin Elle is a great choice (click here to see on RMLeather).
English Point Strap End Punch
English point strap end punches are used for cutting the ends of straps and belts. They work by placing the punch over the end of the leather material that is to be cut, then striking the punch with a mallet, hammer, or maul. The result is cut that gradually tapers in from the edges and comes to a soft point at the end. Round star end punches come in a variety of sizes so the proper one can be selected based on the project’s needs.
This WillieSTR set will provide a range of size options (click here to see on amazon), while you learn which you use/prefer the most. When looking for a longer-lasting tool, the Kyoshin Elle is a great choice (click here to see on RMLeather). This is the one I got and have been quite pleased with the feel and performance.
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 generated but the hit drives the cutting end through the leather. This creates a hole in the leather and a small leather circular piece 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 is many different hole sizes. Some are individual tools fixed in size. Others are handles with interchangeable punch size tips, requiring less storage space, though some additional time to change tips between sizes. Most leather crafters will find themselves with at least a few round drive punches in their leather working tool kit.
Round punches are great for making buckle holes in belts, as well as across leather projects when creating holes for grommets, eyelets, or even holes for large laces.
For starting out, this generic brand set (click here to view on amazon) includes 12 punches ranging in size from 1/8” to 3/4”, and includes a case. These will need to be sharpened often, though covers a lot of options for hole size.
For a round punch that will maintain it’s sharpness longer and have sturdier barrels, the interchangeable KS Blade set is a great value (click here to see on RMLeather).
For those that have the workbench space and prefer tools that should last a lifetime, the KS Blade Premium hole punch set is the way to go (click here to see on RMLeather). I was able to buy a single (just 1!) from this set, and absolutely love it. It’s heavily weighted, balanced well, and cuts so smoothly with little force. It would be a pleasure to have a full set one day.
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 can be useful for a variety of cutting/punching needs based on their unique shape. Multiple sizes are available for use based on preference and what might work best for your project.
These aren’t as commonly found as other punch shapes. Some of the CS Osborne trace punches are available from Bruce Johnson (click here to view them on his site).
Leather Oval Punch
Leather oval punches are metal tools with a cutting edge used to create oval-shaped holes in leather material. There often have an opening in the punch 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 a variety of sizes, offering many options to ensure the crafter has the size that is most helpful the the type of project and work that they are doing.
This is another example where you can start with a generic set (click here to view on amazon), then over time decide if you want to invest in something different. for higher quality steel and sharper edges, the Kyoshin Elle is a great option (click here to see on RMLeather).
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 much onto 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, then squeezing the grips closed by hand. The gripping motion pushes the punch through the leather and results 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 also allow more force to be used resulting in generally smoother, cleaner cuts. Though, for smaller holes and thinner leathers, rotary punches can be a quite effective leather working tool.
This Pro-Master version is an excellent one (click here to view on amazon).
Leather Button Hole Punch
Button hole 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.
I order 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 button hole. The slit parts the leather, making it flexible enough around the hole to accommodate the larger stud.
Button holes can be made using a standard round drive punch, then cutting a slit below it with a knife. Alternatively, they be made with a button hole 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 is different sizes so the proper size can be selected based on the needed sizes of the hole and the button stud hardware that will be used.
Tandy makes a solid button hole punch (click here to see on amazon).
Leather Slot Hole Punch
Leather slot hole punches are metal tools with a cutting edge used to 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 to run straps through, such as in bag or case making work.
This is another case where you can start with a generic set (click here to view on amazon), then over time decide if you want to invest in something different. for higher quality steel and sharper edges, the Kyoshin Elle is a great option (click here to see on RMLeather).
Leather Corner Punch
Leather corner punches are metal tools with sharp, rounded edges used to cut through leather. Corners on leather projects can be cut by hand, which requires measuring, 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 need. If there are preferences for more rounded, or more angled corners, different diameters are available as well. If you’re cutting many similarly-sized piece with rounded corners by hand, these punches can definitely a valuable addition to your tool set.
To start out, this generic set will provide several great size options at lower cost (click here to see on amazon). If you use them often and decide you want something that will be made of stronger steel and stay sharper longer, the Koyshin Elle corner punches are an excellent choice (click here to see on RMLeather).
Leather Shaped Hole Punches
Leather shaped hole punches are metal tools with share edges used to cut holes in leather. The cutting edges are available many different shapes, making it easy to add decorative or functional cuts into leather material. 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 make 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 us 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 to have.
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 both be a consistent size, and a consistent distance between each other.
If this is done with a standard hole punch, each hole need 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 3, 5, or more blades.
The size of the holes and number of blades available varies, so the crafter can choose one or more stitching punches that would help most for their particular project.
Shaped hole punches are an area where you’ll likely want to know you’ll be using them often to invest in premium, individual punches. To have a nice general set that will cover a lot of ground, this 39-piece generic brand set is great (click here to view on amazon). For sharp, strong blades in generic shapes, the Kyoshin Elle is excellent (click here to see on RMLeather).
Hand Sewing Punch
A leather hand sewing punch is used to punch small, round holes into leather. They are usually made of stainless steel, with two grips, a punching surface, and a punch tip. The punching surface is generally circular shaped and rotatable, with about 6 differently-sized holes of differing 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 can be a quick way to put clean holes into thinner leathers. This is a strong and reliable standard brand version (click here to see on amazon).
Leather Ventilator Punch
A leather ventilator punch is a metal tool that punches a group of round holes into leather material. They have a solid steel hitting end, and a cutting end with several, usually about 6, small, round punches mounted in a generally circular pattern.
Ventilator punches make it easy to punch multiple small, grouped holes in leather goods where air flow can be helpful. This is often seen in bags and cases where air flow can be helpful, 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.
This CS Osborne is a very solid ventilator punch (click here to see on amazon).
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 decorate 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 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.
Cost-effective if you do a lot of conch cutting, this Master Tools version is strong and reliable (click here to see on Weaver Leather). However, if you don’t do a lot of conch cutting, it might be more cost effective just to buy pre-cut ponchos whenever you might need a few.
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 punch arm that is controlled by a manually-operated, rotating wheel. Offset guides can be set to ensure 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. If you find yourself doing high-volume or repetitive round hole punching, this could be a useful tool.
This Master Tools rotary punch is a professional-level machine (click here to view on Weaver Leather).
Leather Self-Centering Punch Machine
A self-centering punch machine is a table-mounted machine that helps punch holes into leather material. It is very similar to a rotary punch machine, having a solid punching surface where the leather can rest. Above is the punch arm that 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 mater of varying thicknesses. The tool is self-centering, helping to provide consistent and accurate cutting results.
Punch machines are generally very heavy, and do take up a fair amount table space. If you find yourself doing high-volume production or repetitive hole punching work for, this could be a useful tool.
Here is a quality is a Master Tools professional self-centering punch (click here to view on Weaver Leather).
There’s certainly a lot of options when it comes to leather punches. Keep it easy, though. Start with something basic, get a feel for what you like and use most, then go from there.