Leather skivers are a very helpful tool whenever thinning leather at locations where it will be sewn or joined together. Let’s look at some of the most useful skivers. Some recommendations include paid links to products that I trust.
The skiver I use most is the Tandy Super Skiver (click here to view it on amazon). I’ve found that it works great for most day-to-day projects, it is easy to control, and the blade stays sharp. After using it for a few projects, I’m very comfortable having it as my go-to skiver.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a skiver. Mainly, these depend on what you’ll be skiving, and the volume of work you’ll be doing. Let’s look a little more closely at each.
What to Look For in a Skiver
The most critical element of any skiver is blade sharpness. The blade is what cuts (skives) the leather, so ensuring a clean, consistent cut is key.
One thing that sets skivers apart if blade material. While many/most are made of steel, the quality of steel will make a big difference between a blade that will need to be sharpened frequently and last a few years, and a blade that will need to be sharpened periodically and last decades. The better quality blade also often performs far better while it’s being used too.
It’s also helpful to consider what you’ll be working on. More basic projects can find hand skivers helpful. They’re not too expensive, easy to maintain, and produce good results. More detailed edge work can benefit from a skiver knife. And high-volume production work, such as big production runs or upholstery work, can benefit from a bell skiver machine. Here’s a little more about each.
These come in two main varieties, a “push” type and a “pull” type. The push type looks a bit like an apple/vegetable peeler, with a blade that can be pushed against the leather to skive off material. They can be a little tricky to get consistent results with, and the blades can be a hassle to change. These are often the least expensive options.
The pull types offer a little more control, as they’re larger, and can be pulled towards you. The leather can often be held in place while puling the skiver, so it provides a little more stability and consistency in the material removal. The blades are replaceable, and this is the type I used most often. A good option is the Tandy Super Skiver (click here to view it on amazon).
Hand skivers work well for removing material from larger areas, or from straps. When looking to do detailed skiing or accurate edge work, skiver knives come in handy.
Skiver knives are skivers that have large, sharp, fixed blades. Essentially, they are a large blade with a handle attached. The handles are often made of wood, and the blades made of steel. These are great for working edges of leather from all angles. They provide a sharp edge and precise handling.
Skiver knives can be basic, or high-quality, with various blade shapes and sizes. An interesting element of hand skivers is that some come in left-handed and right-handed versions. The bevel of the blade is made in such a way that more control is possible when used in the hand it’s designed for. Pretty incredible. Not all hand skivers are left or right handed, many are universal, with a symmetrical blade.
A hand skiver doesn’t have to cost a lot. The C.S. Osbourne 67-1 skiving knife (click here to see it on amazon) works well for most project types. It will need to be kept sharp, to provide a good cutting edge.
If you’re looking to invest in a tool to last a lifetime, Chartermade makes some of the best. They’re made in South Africa with steel from Austria. Quality is superb. Their Premium Skiving knife (click here to view it on amazon) has a unique blade shape and is hand made.
Some older tools are also great options if you can find them used. As mentioned earlier, great quality tools can last decades if properly maintained. There is talk that some of the newer CS Osbourne and Vergez Blanchard skiing knives are not made with as high a quality steel as they once were. If you can find an older one, used, it might be worth considering.
Bell Skiver Machines
If you’re doing very large projects, or high-volume production of leather goods, a bell skiver might be best. Hand skivers and skiver knives require the skill of the craftsperson to get accurate results, and like any craft, this can take time. That might be totally ok for one wallet, or a small bag or upholstery project. However, if you’re working on making dozens of the same design or looking at factory volume, a machine can be helpful.
Bell skivers are machines that skiver leather. They are often desk-mounted with a separate motor that drives them. Models come in top, bottom, and both top/bottom feed to help move the material across the blade. Some have vacuum attachments to pull away the leather fibers as they are skived, keeping the work area clean.
Bell skivers are more expensive than the manual tool options. And they’re very heavy. However, in a workshop they can quickly become a favorite tool as they make speedy and consistent work of otherwise tedious skiing by hand.
One of the most popular bell skivers is the Consew DCS-S4 (click here to view it on ebay). When buying a machine like this, it’s important to consider the seller and the support they offer. Often, these are heavy machines that need to be shipped (keep that in mind when comparing costs). Also, having a seller that stands behind their product and can instruct on setup, use, and maintenance is key.
Ensure you can rely on them before the purchase, and that they’ll be there for you when needed down the road. A quality bell skiver can last decades or more with proper maintenance, so definitely a consideration if you’re into high-volume work.
I’ve found a useful skiver to be a core leather working tool that I always keep handy. It’s also fun to carve away at the leather and end up with a really cool finished piece 🙂