Leather Hole Punch For Belts & Leatherwork

Posted on: January 28th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

Which Type of Leather Hole Punch?

This post covers the best methods for making holes for belts and other leatherwork projects, using several different types of leather hole punch tools. It will teach you how to use the drive punch, rotary hole punch, oblong hole punch, and four hole punch. The post will also help you choose which leather handtool or leather punch set is the best fit for your leather crafting needs. At the end of the post is a video where you can watch how to make a hole in leather with each different type of leather hole punch.

Round Hole Drive Punch

The drive punch is the most basic, strongest, and most universal type of leather hole punch. They come in a range of sizes. We use our small 3/32 inch leather punch to make holes for small rivets and small jacket snaps, our 1/8 inch drive punch tool to make holes for medium and large rivets, and our 5/32 inch hole punch for large jacket snaps. These sizes can be used for some buckle holes as well, but often the larger hole punch sizes are better for buckles with thicker pins. For this, you will need to choose a punch based on the circumference of your buckle tongue. To make holes for grommets and eyelets, you will need to choose a punch size based on the interior circumference of the eyelet or grommet.

crafttool round drive punch for leather

Round drive punches are available in many hole diameters.

You can also find adjustable leather punch sets. These consist of a body that can be fitted with different sizes of removable hole tube tips. Our mini punch set includes six smaller tips, and the maxi punch set has six larger tips. These are a good option if you aren’t sure what size you’ll need, or if you need to punch multiple sizes of holes. They are a good economical choice if you won’t be punching a lot of holes, since you won’t have to spend money on many different individual drive punch tools. The disadvantage of this type of punch is that swapping out the ends takes up time.

Mini leather hole punch kit with a variety of hole sizes.

Mini punch set with interchangeable tips and wrench.

How To Use A Drive Punch

To use a drive punch, first start with a sturdy surface that won’t bounce when you’re punching holes. We use a solid tree stump. On top of the stump we lay a piece of scrap leather, so that the sharp point on the drive tool won’t get dull from punching directly onto wood. This also prevents the punch from chewing up the wood and ruining your cutting surface. If you don’t have scrap leather available, you can use a poly cutting board.

Use a pencil or scratch awl to mark the leather where you need the hole punched. On darker colored leather it is easier to see a point mark by the awl than a pencil mark. Then set the piece on your cutting surface and line up your punch. The hole punch should be completely perpendicular to the leather. Hold it securely in this position, and hammer straight downwards. Depending on the thickness of the leather, the punch should cut through cleanly with one or two solid blows.

Using a drive punch tool to make holes in leather on top of a tree stump with a scrap leather underlay.

We punch holes on top of a tree stump, with a scrap leather pad to protect the drive punch tool.

The hammer shown in this photo is a large poly head mallet; a heavy rawhide mallet is also a good option. Both materials will absorb bounce, and the softer surface will protect your tools over time and extend their life.

A traditional carpenter’s hammer can be used as well.  The disadvantage of a metal hammer is that over time it will start to mushroom the end of your hole punch tools, since you are banging metal against metal.

Making Buckle Slots With An Oblong Leather Punch

crafttool oblong punch for belt buckle tongues

Oblong hole punch, used for the pin hole on belt buckles.

Use the same process to punch an oblong shaped hole for a belt buckle. It may take a bit more hammering than the smaller drive punch. You can tilt the leather oblong punch slightly, if needed, to focus the force of the hammer onto a stubborn spot.

If you can’t afford an oblong hole punch when first starting leather craft, you can get around that problem with your round hole punches. Punch two round holes an inch apart, then use a utility knife to make two parallel cuts to join the round holes together.  You could also use a wood chisel to make the straight cuts. However once you have the money and use an oblong punch, you will never go back to the work-around method.

For most of our belts and dog collars we use a 1 inch oblong punch. We use larger punches for items with large or bulky buckles, and smaller punches for small items with slender buckles. If you can’t afford a number of different sizes of oblong hole punch, you can use the one you already own to make a longer hole. Punch one hole and then overlap the punch on the existing hole, extending it past the existing hole to the desired slot length. Give it a blow with the hammer so the two slots make one longer oblong slot. You can see a poly cutting board being used below to protect the bench and the tool’s edge.

An oblong hole punch creates a belt hole with a poly cutting board used as the base.

Use an oblong hole punch tool to punch a hole for a belt buckle. Shown with poly cutting board.

Punching Round Holes With A Rotary Punch

deluxe rotary punch to add a hole in belt is convenient.

Revolving hole punch is convenient for doing the odd quick hole.

The advantage of the rotary hole punch is convenience. It comes with six different sizes of hole punches, which you switch between by rotating the wheel. We used to take this hand tool to craft shows to add a hole to a belt when someone would request it.

The disadvantage is that if you have many holes to punch, using the rotary punch pliers becomes tiring on the hand. It also will only reach about an inch in from the edge of your leather, so you can’t use it to punch a hole in the center of a large piece.  Also, the thicker the leather and the larger the tube size, the harder it becomes to squeeze the revolving punch through.  In these cases, sometimes you have to twist the punch some as you squeeze to get through the thicker leather. This leather tool is good for doing the odd hole, but too tiring and hard for punching lots of holes.

With this type of punch we again use a scrap piece of leather underneath the piece we want to punch, to keep the blades sharp. Otherwise you are crunching the sharp cutting tube into the hard metal anvil. Doing so will dull the tube quicker and wear out the metal anvil. Sandwich your good piece of leather and your scrap piece between the tube and the punching surface, and squeeze the handles together.

Punching Round Holes for Lacing

Four hole leather punch for leather craft.

A four hole punch used for lacing.

Beyond the basic drive and rotary punches, you can find specialty leather punches for different applications. One of the more handy leather work tools is this four hole punch, which is used to make small holes for lacing leather. On this punch each hole is 3/32 inch diameter, spaced 1/4 inch apart. The advantage of the four-in-one punch is that it will save time and keep your holes evenly spaced.  Use this four hole punch for the straight parts of your leather lacing project.  For going around curves, use the single hole punch mentioned at the beginning of the article.

Use this hole puncher the same way as an individual drive punch. As with the oblong punch, you may need to tilt the punch to focus the force of the hammer on a particular hole.

The Video

Here you can watch Jamie demonstrating these leather craft tools. He shows how to punch a hole in a leather belt and other leatherwork projects in his custom leather shop.

Video demonstrating how to make holes in leather.


Braiding Leather Tutorial

Posted on: January 15th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

How to Braid Leather With Three Laces

This braiding leather tutorial will teach you how to create a decorative three lace leather braid. You can use this leather lacing technique to make a braided bracelet, belt, dog collar, or any other leather object.

We’ve made a video showing the complete leather braiding process, which you can find at the end of the blog post. Additionally this article includes written instructions and diagrams for reference.

You will need: a strip of tooling leather, leather lace, and three two-prong lacing needles. Optional: garment leather for lining, and contact cement to attach it. Depending on your project, you may need other leather craft supplies such as rivets, D rings, snaps, and buckles.

Three-lace braid on dog collar.

A three lace braid on our Concho Designer Braided Dog Collar

Preparing Your Leather

First, finish your natural tooling leather in whatever way you prefer. The leather in our dog collar in the photo above has been dyed, dipped in neatsfoot oil, polished with acrylic resolene, and coated with dubbin water repellent.

Punch holes in your piece of leather in the pattern shown below. You will need two columns of holes, spaced ½ inch apart, plus one extra hole between columns at the top and bottom of the braid. The holes should be as small as your needles and lace allow. We use a 3/32 inch hole punch for our leather craft projects.

Finished three leather lace braid example.

A finished leather braid. Refer here for hole placement.

Finished three-lace leather braid example, back side.

Reverse side of a finished leather braid.

Cut 3 strands of leather lace. Each strand should be 4 to 4 ½ times the length of the final braid. Use a knife or skiving tool to thin the ends of the laces, removing material from the rough sides so that they resemble the picture below. Next, secure the laces to the two-prong lacing needles by punching the prongs through the finished top sides of the laces.

Leather lacing needles with attached laces.

Attach two-prong lacing needles as shown to leather lace.

Starting the Braid (Step 1)

Thread the leather laces through the top three holes from the back (the unfinished leather side) to the front (the finished leather side). Leave about an inch of lace remaining on the back side.

Hold the leather so that the front side is facing you. Take the leftmost lace and weave it under the middle lace, and then over the right lace. Thread it through the third hole down on the right side of the leather strip. Make sure to leave the second row of holes open, as shown in the diagram.

Next thread the middle lace through the third hole down on the left. The lace which began on the right is now the new middle lace.

Turn your leather piece over. You should have two laces emerging from the third row of holes. Pull these laces back up to the second row of holes, and thread them through to the front.

This step will create two loops on the back side of the braid. Tuck the free ends of the laces into these loops to secure them.

How to start braiding leather shown in diagram.

Braiding leather first requires securing lace ends under loops on the back side of the braid.

Braiding Leather (Step 2)

Begin to braid with the left most free lace (second left hole down from top) shown in diagram “Front-1” below. Weave that lace across the others following an “over, under, over” pattern, then thread it through the fourth hole down on the right side. Thread the middle lace through the fourth hole on the left side. The lace that began on the right will now be the new middle lace.

On the back side of the braid, bring the left and right laces up one hole and thread them through to the front. The laces will now be in their “starting position” again. Repeat step 2 until you reach the end of the braid.

How to follow the three lace leather braiding technique.

Follow an “over, under” pattern for this leather braiding technique.

Ending the Braid (Step 3)

When your leather braid is near the end, the three laces should line up with the bottom three holes. Thread them through, and turn the leather piece over. Tuck the lace ends into the nearest loops, the same way you did at the start of the braid. Trim any excess. Refer to the photo above showing “Reverse side of a finished braid,” to check this step.

You can glue down the lace ends to make your braid more secure. Our finished braided products have a soft garment leather lining glued underneath, to hide and completely secure the underside of the braid.

The Video

This video shows our leather braiding technique in action. Watch to see how it’s done, then refer to our diagrams when making your own braid.

Video tutorial on braiding with three laces.

The Finished Braid

The leather craft projects shown below are finished with the lace holes being 1/2 inch apart running down the length of the leather wristband and dog collar. If you want a tighter looking braid, you can make the holes 1/4 inch apart instead.  However it will be much more time consuming to braid the leather lace, and it will take a lot more lace. We have braided the lace with both distances of hole spacing but prefer the 1/2 inch spacing.

Wristbands with three-lace braid.

Braided leather wristbands.

Dog collar with three-lace braid.

The finished braid on our Braided Leather Dog Collar.

If you make a leather project using this braid, please send us a photo to share on Facebook and let us know how it went for you!


How To Make A Leather Belt Key Holder

Posted on: September 21st, 2018 by Quentin Burns

Leather Lanyard For Keys

Each leather belt key holder shown in this article was made using 5-6 oz scrap vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather, also called tooling leather, is leather that was produced using tannin from natural plant materials such as tree bark. This results in a firmer leather that can be stamped with designs. The 5-6 oz is a measurement for leather that means it is about 5/64 – 6/64 inch thick.

For this quick, easy project you will need one swivel snap or scissor snap of any width, one large jacket snap with long post (post and stud), and one large jacket snap with regular cap post (cap and socket). You will also need a tool for punching holes, a snap setting tool and a dot snap anvil.

Leather belt key holders with swivel clips.

Leather belt key holders in black and natural leather.

Preparing The Leather

This project used scrap leather which had already been dyed, treated with leather conditioner, and polished. This is a great way to use up your small pieces of leather. If starting with natural undyed leather, cut your strap out first and then treat it in whatever way you prefer. Alternately you can leave it untreated. Undyed, untreated vegetable tanned leather will darken naturally over time and attain a light golden brown patina.

To figure out the size of strap you will need, measure the inside width of your scissor snap’s loop. The strap should be cut to this width, or very slightly narrower. Next, measure the width of your belt. The length of the strip you cut should be twice your belt width, plus 4 3/4 inches. This measurement doesn’t need to be exact, since you can adjust your snap placement in the next step to make a loop that fits perfectly. If you’re unsure how long of a strip you need, err on the longer side.

Draw an appropriately sized rectangle onto your leather. Then cut out your strap using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.

Cut belt key fob strap from scrap leather.

Cut the strap for your key fob out of scrap leather.

Punching Holes for Snaps

Measure 3/8” from one end of your strap. Make a mark in the center of the piece, to indicate where you will punch the first hole.

Measure strap for leather snaps.

Measure where to place your snaps on your leather strap.

The hole should be the same diameter as the snap post you’re going to use. For our large snaps with long posts, we use a 5/32” hole punch tool. You can refer to our video How To Punch Holes In Leather for more advice on this step.

Once you have your first hole punched, feed the end with the hole through the scissor snap and fold it over by about 1 1/4 inches. Make a mark where you’ll punch your second hole, such that it will line up with the first.

Belt key chain folded through snap loop.

Fold the leather key chain strap over your scissor snap.

 

Belt key clip with holes for snap.

Punch a hole in the other side of your leather belt key clip.

Setting the Snap

To set the snap you will need a snap setter tool, a hammer, and a concave dot anvil. You will also need a solid surface to work on, such as a mini anvil, and sturdy table or work bench so that your snap won’t bounce when you’re setting it.

Snap setting tools for leather lanyard keychain.

Tools for setting the snap in your leather lanyard (dot snap setter, dot anvil, mini anvil & mallet).

There are four components of a snap: the top cap and socket, plus the bottom post and stud. The interior socket that goes with the top cap has rounded edges with a wire spring in it. The stud that matches the bottom post has flat edges, and the same diameter as the post back. You can see the different snap parts being used on belt leather in our video How To Set Snaps With Long Posts.

First slide the scissor snap into the loop, and fold the end over so that the holes match up. Put the bottom post up through the right side of the loop. Place the corresponding stud on the other side, as shown. Set these against the flat side of the dot anvil, or against a traditional flat anvil. Since the snap is going through two layers of leather, we used the large jacket snap with long post (post and stud) for this end of the leather strap.

Position the snap setter on top of the snap and hammer downwards with a few sharp blows. Test that the snap is securely set and can’t be spun around.

Stud and post snap set in leather key lanyard.

Set the stud and post snap parts on a flat anvil.

Once you have the bottom snap on, wrap the belt clip around your belt to adjust the size. Make a mark where the top snap will go, and trim your strap shorter if necessary. Place the mark for the top snap at least 3/8” in from the end of the strip.

Punch a hole and set your top snap the same way you set the first, with the cap side facing down against the concave indentation in the round dot anvil. Since the snap is set through only one layer of leather on this end of the strap, we used the large jacket snap with regular cap post (cap and socket).

Cap and socket snap set in leather key holder.

Set the socket and cap snap against a concave anvil.

Permanent Leather Lanyard Rivet Option

If you prefer to have a permanent lanyard attached to the scissor snap instead of the removable type described with a snap, use a rivet instead. A medium rapid rivet will go through 3 layers of 5-6 oz tooling leather. If you use a thicker leather, you may have to use a longer rivet. A variety pack of different sized rivets with a rivet setter is a good way to start if you don’t know what size rivet to use for your thickness of leather. This is a good video to introduce you to How To Set A Rivet In Leather.

The Finished Leather Belt Key Holder

Here is the final leather belt key holder! If you make this project please send us a picture to share on our leather facebook page, and let us know how things went for you.

completed leather belt key holder

Finished leather belt key holder.


Finding Artisans in Halifax Area and Beyond

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by Quentin Burns

Discover Galleries & Studios of Local Artisans in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a rich arts and crafts tradition. The beautiful natural scenery and the community-focused spirit have combined to make a place where local art is thriving and celebrated. Many artisans in Nova Scotia live solely on their craft, while others do it on a part-time professional basis. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or whether you’ve lived here for years, these resources will help you find new places and events to explore.

Discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map used to discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map

Leathersmith Designs is proud to be a featured location on the 2018-19 Halifax Art Map. The guide has been running since 2002. Leathersmith Designs has been appearing in it since 2016, alongside dozens of other amazing artists and craftspeople from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

I called Keith McPhail, the advertising and business coordinator of the Halifax Art Map, to ask about how the guide started and where it is headed. I thought I had only a few simple questions which would take him a few minutes to answer. At the end of our hour-long phone conversation, I realized how much I hadn’t known about the Halifax art community. Much of my own city and industry are still mysterious to me.

That’s the mission statement of Art Maps: to de-mystify the mystery. Their goal is to make people aware of what’s out there, to get people through the doors of small workshops and studios. Above all, they ultimately want to guide consumers towards finding a piece of art they can fall in love with.

How Halifax Art Maps Started

In 2002, Keith was working for the city in the Tourism and Culture department. “Culture” was a new addition at the time. They didn’t have much funding or much of a concrete game-plan. They were approached by a group of artists who wanted to highlight local art, to combat a perceived lack of knowledge by the public. Thus the Art Map was born.

In its first year the map covered only Downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, and was focused on the tourism market. There was no money available from the city that year, so the project was funded solely by ads. The response exceeded expectations. They learned there was a lot of local interest and local discovery happening as a result of the map. Therefore, they decided to expand the goals of the project.

In the second year they received matching grants (one each from the province and municipality) for three years to develop the project (print layout, website, distribution). Later they added an annual exhibition. In the last six years they added social media, and the Art Map solidified into its modern form. Nowadays, the market for the map is half tourists and half residents of Nova Scotia.

How do they find Artists?

The Halifax Art Map relies strongly on word of mouth from participants. Artists recommend the map to other artists, and recommend new artists to the map.

Artists can apply to be featured at the Halifax Art Map website. The Halifax Art Map doesn’t have any restrictions on what type of artists can apply, but they do vet their artists for professionalism. They want to feature people who are serious about doing art professionally. The goal of the project, according to Keith, is “helping local artists and craftspeople make a sustainable living”.

Where to find Halifax Art Maps

You can find Halifax Art Maps at every featured artist location, at Visitor Information Centres in the HRM, and at some larger Visitor Information Centres across Nova Scotia. They are in Halifax and Dartmouth hotels, at the Halifax cruise ship pavilion, and at and the Halifax and Dartmouth ferry terminals. They are also distributed at conferences, to reach visiting professionals from all over the world. If you’re planning a vacation, Halifax Art Maps has an online artisan directory where you can search for artists by area or category.

Keith told me hotel concierges proved to be unexpected gold as a resource. They get to know the map, and remark on the changes and updates to it year after year. Even more, they are great at getting maps into the hands of serious art and craft lovers … AND they talk up the local scene.

The library and their branches were also a surprise as they help distribute maps to all their 17 branches. They help get it into the hands of locals as part of their mandate and service as information providers.

If you’re in the Dartmouth area, stop by Leathersmith Designs to pick up a free copy of the map. Jamie Hartling, our master leatherworker, has been a dedicated member of the Nova Scotia crafting community since 1975. He can give you a tour of the leathercraft shop and tell you all about the local leatherworking scene.

Creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist shown in the printed Halifax Art Map as well as on the Halifax Map website.

The Halifax Art Map in both print form and on the web displays the creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist.

Who is the Halifax Art Map Team?

For Keith, Art Maps a labor of love. Its creators have all worked in the arts themselves and are passionate about supporting the Nova Scotian crafting community. Keith (second from right) and Kathryn Fraser (third from right) are the core team. Together they do add sales, coordinate exhibits, and organize artist talks. As of this writing, there is a Halifax Art Map event coming up at the Halifax Public Library on how to buy art. To keep up with current craft and artisan events, you can follow the Halifax Art Map Facebook page.

Jane Lombard (far right) is their graphic designer and works on the Halifax Art Map part-time for about three months each year. Peter Eastwood is the webmaster for the Halifax Art Map website, and puts in about one month full time.

Then, of course, there are the featured artists and craftspeople. Every year, Kathryn stops by to talk with Jamie Hartling about the state of Art Maps. Art Maps began as a scheme by a group of Halifax artisans, and aims to stay true to its roots as a “community collaboration”.

Halifax Art Map release in 2016 listing artisans.

Jamie Hartling (leather artisan on left) attending a Halifax Art Map release in 2016 with some of the key Halifax Art Map organizers.

New Directions for Halifax Art Map

Every year the Art Maps team makes decisions on how best to keep supporting artists in their community. Every year they decide to keep the map in printed form. It is now one of few surviving publications in Nova Scotia. Although paper costs continue to go up and the format of the map is expensive, Keith says it’s important for the map to look good, to represent the quality of the art inside it. It’s also important that it remain a tactile piece, because the core buyers of art are familiar with a tactile world. However, the demographic is slowly changing, so the decision must be made anew every year.

This year, they are also considering a new service. They are looking into options for how Art Maps might help facilitate marketing plans for individual artists and small galleries. When Keith spoke to me he was getting ready to attend a seminar on the subject. He told me the next step is to go out and talk to members of the community about what they would want from such a program.

Nova Scotia Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide features Artisans in Nova Scotia

The Province of Nova Scotia Tourism publishes a comprehensive travel guide called “The Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide“. You can request to have it mailed to you anywhere around the world. You can also pick up the guide at any of the Nova Scotia provincial tourist bureaus. On the Nova Scotia Tourism website under the “See and Do” heading ,you can find a section on “Galleries, Shops, and Artisans”. As of 2018 there are 170 listed. While the Halifax Art Map focuses on artists in the Halifax area, this guide is province-wide. It features many small studios and creative artisans off the beaten path.

Artisans in Nova Scotia found on provincial website.

Viewing galleries, shops and artisans in Nova Scotia, Canada on the provincial tourism website.

Citizens of Craft

Citizens of Craft is a good resource for finding craftspeople and artisans in Nova Scotia, as well as across Canada. You can search by location, type of establishment (museums, studios, galleries, etc.), and craft type. There is a diverse array on offer. You can find sculptors, leather workers, fibre artists, glass blowers, furniture makers, metal workers, potters, jewelers, and more. Artisans featured on Citizens of Craft are all registered members of their provincial craft councils, which promote quality in craft.

Artisans from across Canada featured in this national craft directory "Citizens of Craft".

Citizens of Craft is an online directory of artisans from across Canada.

More Sources for Finding Artisans in Nova Scotia

Provincial craft organizations such as Craft Nova Scotia, Arts Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia and Centre for Craft Nova Scotia can put you in touch with the craft community and artisans in Nova Scotia. Even more, there are many regional and local organizations such as the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, Halifax Crafters Society, Dartmouth Handcrafters Guild, and Maritime Makers. Various craft shows throughout the year also provide a great opportunity to meet artisans coming to your area.

Discover the uniqueness and quality of individually handmade crafts. Besides that, nothing is more memorable when visiting an area than purchasing a one of a kind piece by a local artisan, or watching a handcrafted item being created before you in their studio.

Leather handcrafts tooled by leather craftsman in Dartmouth, NS. studio.

Artisan at leather craft studio in Dartmouth, NS shown hand tooling design on leather guitar strap.


Tealight Candle Holders Leather Project

Posted on: July 6th, 2018 by Quentin Burns

How To Make Wood Candle Holders

These vintage candle holders were made by Alana LeBlanc, using reclaimed pallet wood and scrap leather. This is a good project for people looking to improve their leather crafting skills whilst using up spare scrap materials. Any flaws will just add to the rustic look of the tealight candle holders leather project. These leather decorated wood candle holders make great personalized gifts.

leather crafted tealight candle holders

The finished leather project: tealight candle holders.

Preparing the Wooden Blocks

Cut your pallet into manageable pieces and cut to size with a hand saw or chop saw.

Trace your tealight in pencil onto the tops of the candlestick holders, and measure the diameter so you will know what size drill bit to choose. Measure the height of the metal cup for the tealight to determine how deep you will need to drill. Secure the wooden block in a clamp so it will not spin when you drill. Wear safety glasses and hold the drill perpendicular to the top of the block and drill to the desired depth.

Apply wood stain to your candlestick holders with a wet sponge brush, to best cover any crevices in the rough wood. Before each coat dries, wipe off excess stain with a damp cloth. Seal with varathane satin finish.

Cutting the Leather

We use a cutter to make these stars, but you can also print out a paper template of the pattern you want, trace it onto the leather, and cut using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.

leather project: decorative star cut-outs

Cut out decorative star pieces for your candle holder leather craft project.

Etching Your Leather Project

Make a template for the design you want to etch. You can do this by drawing or printing your design onto regular computer paper. If you want to etch a word, a thicker font with rounded edges will be easiest to replicate with the etching tool.

Wet the top of your undyed tooling leather with a damp sponge of water, and line up your template on top of it. Using a sharp pencil, trace over the design with a firm hand. This will mark the leather underneath and create a guide for your etching. You must use undyed tooling leather also known as vegetable tanned leather and carving leather in order for the leather to accept the etching or hand stamped designs.

Pattern for personalized leather craft project

Use a pattern to trace a personalized message onto your leather pieces.

Discard the paper template and re-wet the leather. Trace the design again with a rounded modeling leather craft tool, applying steady pressure. Retrace and touch up the etching until it has a consistent depth. The goal is to indent the leather, not to cut into it, so don’t be too rough at this stage. Designs can also be imprinted in the tooling leather with leathercraft stamp tools as shown in this article on tooling and dyeing leather guitar straps.

Etching letters into your leathercraft project

Etch lettering to personalize your leather pieces.

Painting and Finishing

Once you’re happy with your etching, there are several options for finishing the leather. Alana’s pieces for this project have been brushed with neatsfoot oil, a leather conditioner. You might also color the undyed tooling leather with a leather dye. Apply two or three coats of leather dye with a dry flannel cloth or sheep’s wool. Then apply the neatsfoot oil, if using. The conditioner will darken the leather.

Leather craft project darkened with neatsfoot oil.

Use neatsfoot oil to darken your leather panel.

Wait an hour or more for the oil to soak in. Finish by polishing the leather with Fiebing’s acrylic resolene, if you want a glossy look. Apply two coats of polish with a damp cloth, brushing in the same direction with a light hand. Let dry for ten minutes after each coat.

The last step is painting the etched designs with acrylic dye. We use the round headed modeling tool but you can also use a fine artist’s brush for this.

Painting letters on leather project pieces.

Handpaint letters onto your etched pieces for the leather project.

Gluing Leather to Wood Candle Holders

Position your leather pieces where you want them on the wooden candlestick holders, and trace them in pencil.

Lining up decorations for wood candle holder.

Trace the decorative leather pieces onto your wood candle holders.

Apply contact cement to the back sides of the leather, and to the wood where the designs will be placed. Once the glue is dry, stick your leather pieces onto the candlestick holders and tap with a cobbler’s hammer to firmly adhere.

Contact cement application for wood candle holders.

Apply contact cement to the wood candle holders.

 

Cementing decorative pieces to wood for leathercraft project.

Tap decorative leathercraft pieces with a hammer to cement to the tealight candle holders.

The Final Tealight Candle Holders Product

Complete leathercrafting project: tealight candle holders

The finished tealight candle holders.

If you make this project let us know how things went for you, and send us pictures so we can share them!


Custom Leather iPhone Case Handmade

Posted on: November 9th, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Leather Used For Custom Leather iPhone Case

Our handmade custom leather iPhone case is made from rugged natural tooling leather and lined with goatskin. The thickness of the undyed tooling leather is 5 – 6 oz thick (5/64 – 6/64 inch thick) and the goat skin is about 2 oz thick (1/32 inch thick) used in the leather smartphone case. The following steps shown on how to make a hard leather cellular case applies to both custom iphone cases and custom smartphone cases.

Custom handmade molded leather iPhone cases.

Custom leather iPhone Cases handmade and molded to the shape of the cellular phone.

Molding The Custom Leather iPhone Case

The first step in hand making the custom leather iPhone case is to accurately measure your smartphone. Next, make a block from wood or plastic that is the same size. Attach a spacer to the block such as a piece to 6 oz leather to give a little extra room for the phone when molding the leather. This extra room will make it easier to pull the cellular phone out of the cell case.

The natural tooling leather is placed in a bucket of water for about 10 minutes so it is thoroughly soaked through. Then the leather is stretched over the block with the help of a white plastic bone folder. When it is almost formed, staple the molded leather over the block, fine tune the shaping and let it dry over night.

Custom leather iPhone case molded with a bone folder.

Molding custom leather iPhone case with a white bone folder.

Trimming The Leather

The amount of lip required for sewing the front to the back of the leather case is marked. A utility knife or box cutter is used to trim the excess off the lip of the leather.

Lip on cellular case trimmed with a utility knife.

Trimming leather lip on cellular case with a utility knife.

Dyeing Custom Leather iPhone Case

The natural full grain leather is dyed with an alcohol dye such as Fiebings Oil Dye or Eco-Flo Leather Dye. The leather dye can be applied with a cloth or sheep’s wool wrapped over a wooden block or with a wool dauber.

One main difference to consider when buying leather dye is how it can be shipped. Since the Fiebings Pro Dye or Oil Dye is flammable, it can’t be shipped between Canada and the United States through the postal system. We can ship it through the postal system if we ship to a Canadian customer since we are located in Canada. It has to be shipped by other couriers between Canada and the United States which are more expensive. However, the Eco-Flo Leather dye is not flammable and can be shipped inexpensively through the postal system between Canada and the United States.

After the leather dye dries, a leather conditioner such as neatsfoot oil is applied to the top surface of the leather. When that is dry, a couple coats of polish such as resolene can be applied to give it a nice sheen.

Leather used to make cellular case is hand dyed.

Leather used to make iPhone case is dyed by hand.

Setting Snap In Leather Smartphone Case

Small jacket snaps set great in 5 – 6 oz thick leather. A sturdy anvil on a solid surface is used with the snap setter so there won’t be any bounce when tapping with a hammer. A goat skin liner is glued on the inside of the case on top of the under side of the snap. This will protect the smartphone from coming in contact with the metal snap.  A goat skin liner is also glued over the rivets on the back piece of the custom cell case for the same reason.

Snap being set in a leather smartphone case.

Setting snap in a leather smartphone case.

Making Finger Holes In Leather Smartphone Case

To make it easier to take the phone out of the case, finger holes are punched in the leather sides of the case. If the phone is too wide or is positioned horizontally in the case, you fingers may not reach wide enough to grab the phone. In that situation, finger holes are punched in the bottom of the case so the phone can be pushed upward to be able to grab.

Finger holes hand punched with hole punch.

Hole punch tool used to make finger holes.

Sanding Edge Of Custom Leather iPhone Case

The front and back of the handmade iPhone case are glued together with contact cement. Next, a drum sander is used to sand smooth the leather edges. The beveler hand tool is then used to round the leather edge by removing the leather from the corner edge of the leather.

The edge can be dyed black with Fiebings Edge Kote or another leather dye. It can then be burnished smooth with some beeswax on a piece of denim.

Sander smoothing leather edge of custom smartphone case.

Sanding edge smooth of custom smartphone case on drum sander.

Sewing Custom Leather iPhone Case

We sew our custom iPhone cases with a strong nylon thread on an industrial sewing machine. If you wanted to make a case yourself, you could use leather sewing tools such as an awl, overstitcher hand tool and an adjustable groover to  handsew the hard leather cell case with waxed linen thread.

Leather iPhone case sewn

Sewing leather iPhone case.

Stretching Cellular Case

After the custom iPhone case is finished, we sometimes stretch it a little if we want the phone to be removed a little easier from the leather case. The forming block is placed inside the leather case and then a wooden stick about the size and thickness of a wooden yard stick is inserted between the block and leather to stretch the depth of the leather case. Sometimes we might insert a screw driver down the side of the case to stretch the width. If more space is required, you can dampen with water the inside section of the hard leather cellular case and stretch again with the stick or screwdriver.

Video showing leather cellular case being stretched.

Quality Made Custom Smartphone Cases

Leather artisans such as ourselves take pride in creating our handmade custom smartphone cases. The custom iPhone cases are built to last as they are industrial in strength when compared to what can be purchased in chain stores.


Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Posted on: October 13th, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs
Communion Pyx Leather Pouch

Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Leather Pouch

The small leather pouch for this communion pyx was recently handmade for a customer who visited our custom leather shop. Importantly, the leather pouch has a sturdy leather lace so the small leather pouch can be worn around a person’s neck for safe keeping which is commonly done with a leather pyx case. A cowhide bag leather was used for the body of the leather pouch. The inside of the front part of the leather pouch is lined with a soft leather to cover the inside part of the metal snap. This is done to prevent damage by not allowing the metal snap to rub against the metal pyx.

What Is A Communion Pyx?

The word Pyx is rooted in Greek and means a container. Many centuries ago if you wanted to carry your coins to the market, you might put them in a pyxis. However over time, the pyx came to refer mainly to a sacred vessel.

The metal pyx is used in Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. The host is carried in the pyx to people that could not attend the mass/communion church service. The idea is that by doing so, the celebration is extended to the whole community. The host is the bread or wafer consecrated in the celebration of the Eucharist. Mainly people that are sick or homebound have the consecrated bread from the church service taken to them. The pyx is like a portable tabernacle that is used to hold the host.

In the Catholic tradition, the pyx containing the host (communion bread) would be put in a fabric or leather pouch called a burse. The burse would be carried around the neck hanging close to the heart of the eucharistic minister or priest to take the consecrated bread to the infirmed.

Most pyxes are made of brass, gold, silver or pewter material. Usually a Christian symbol adorns the cover. The pyx is usually in the shape of a cylinder. The cover normally has a hinge and clasp to keep it closed.

Christian Gifts

Other Christian gift items we have custom made for members of the Christian community include personalized guitar straps with Christian symbols embossed, leather inserts for collection plates, leather crosses, imprinted leather neck discs for Cursillos, carrying cases for large bibles, imprinted leather wristbands and slip on leather covers for hymn books. The imprinted Christian symbols could be a cross, triquetra, fish or praying hands.

 


Horseback Riding – Horse Riding

Posted on: May 3rd, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Horseback Riding Adventure

Horseback riding is one of the exciting adventures a family can enjoy while vacationing. Part of our summer vacation led us to Boulderwood Stables in Ardoise, Nova Scotia, Canada which is only about a forty-three-minute drive from our custom leather shop in Dartmouth, NS.

Ann and James Wootton have run these stables since the early 1990’s. They expanded their business into a huge leisure and activity center. It includes a swimming pool, hot tub, day camps, birthday parties, red cross swimming lessons, tennis courts, play area in addition to their horse riding lessons and trail rides.  Our daughter enjoyed a couple days stay there years ago with her Girl Guide Trex group.

Not being experienced riders, we chose a one hour trail ride which took us about four kilometers though beautiful wooded trails and fields. We thought the 10 kilometer trail would be a bit too much for us. Horse riding helmets are provided for safety. The experienced guide led us through a route and speed that was tailored to our ability.

Horseback riding through beautiful fields at Boulderwood Stables led by Cassidy.

Cassidy, our guide leads us horseback riding through beautiful open fields at Boulderwood Stables.

The change of scenery on the many trails is interesting. Some trails are geared for more experienced riders and other trails are geared for taking the novice on.  The guide chooses the appropriate trail for her group.

Horseback trail rides going though woods.

Much of the horseback trail ride winds through woodland.

The Horse Stables

After the trail ride James Wootton showed us around the stables which has numerous horses. He explained about the care of horses which we appreciated. We enjoyed petting some of the horses in the stables.

Horse saddles are removed by James Wootton.

James Wootton unsaddles the horses in the stable after the trail ride.

Appreciation of Horseback Riding Gear

Of course being a leather worker, I was very interested in all the leather horseback riding gear used in the bridles, harnesses and saddles. Although I don’t make horse gear, my business Leathersmith Designs supplies harness buckles and other leather hardware such as D rings, bridle buckles and O rings to saddle makers, harness makers and leather repair shops.

Cassidy explained the many differences between English saddles, Australian saddles and western Saddles. The English saddles tend to be lighter and are geared for the ride positioning for jumping as well as dressage. The western saddles which have a horn but no knee pads tend to be best suited for reigning, barrel racing, pole bending as well as hold and tie maneuvers. The Australian saddles are designed for comfort and rider stability. This is important when horseback riding in steep country or when making sudden changes in direction when handling livestock. They are characterized by the knee pads that stick out on the front side. For securing young novice riders better in the saddle, Boulderwood Stables tend to use the Australian saddles.

Horse saddle variations explained.

Cassidy explains the difference in horse saddles. She points to the horn between the knee pads sticking out on the sides of this Australian saddle.

I enjoyed examining the saddle room which had lots of leather bridles hanging on the wall. As I spent a bit too long examining all the interesting leather gear, my family eventually got me out of this saddle room as their highlight which was the trail ride had ended.

Bridles hanging in the saddle room.

Saddle room with lots of leather bridles hanging.

Boulderwood Stables

Boulderwood Stables is certainly an exciting place to enjoy for the novice wanting a horseback trail ride or for people that want to be trained for more serious horse riding. What a wonderful way to spend a day as it certainly was an exciting horseback trail riding adventure.


Axe Sheath & Hatchet Sheath Handmade DIY

Posted on: April 18th, 2017 by Alana Leblanc

An axe sheath – hatchet sheath is handmade in this step by step DIY hatchet cover article. This snug fitting leather axe cover design protects you and your axe blade. Learn how to make an axe case & hatchet cover with the required leather craft tools.

Leather hatchet sheath & double head axe sheath handcrafted.

Leather hatchet sheath and double head axe sheath custom made.

Tracing the blade

1.  Place the axe on a thin piece of cardboard and trace the blade. An average measurement is around two inches in from the blade tip. Since this axe sheath is not covering the entire head of the axe, you only need to trace the three sides which are the blade edge shown on the top and the left/right side of the head in the following photo.

Hatchet put on firm bristol board.

Hatchet placed on firm bristol board or card stock paper.

Hatchet blade tracing to make pattern for case.

Hatchet blade traced on three sides to make a pattern case.

Adding Space For The Rivets

2. This hatchet sheath is designed in a way that protects your blade from the rivets to prevent damage. For this, we add a third layer of leather for the blade to rest against. Take your tracing of your blade and add 5/8 inch to the surrounding edge. Although there are three sides to the tracing, you only do this to the top and blade sides. The handle side will be where the blade slides into the sheath. On that side you are going to draw a tab to fold and snap the blade secure onto the case.

Axe case pattern parts for leather cover.

Axe case pattern showing parts for leather cover.

Cutting The Leather Hatchet Sheath

3. Next step is to trace the pattern you have created onto your leather. You want to make sure your sheath will be strong, so use 9 ounce tooling leather. 9 oz thick leather is 9/64 inches thick. First you must flip the pattern over and trace this on the leather. It is important to do this so the top grain side of the leather is always facing out. Next, cut the tab off the pattern and trace it on the leather. DO NOT FLIP this part. Lastly, separate the leather insert piece from the axe head tracing and trace your insert piece on the leather. The leather is easily cut with a utility knife on a cutting pad. I will refer to this leather insert piece in the rest of the article as a welt.

Coloring Leather

4.  You can dye, neatsfoot oil and polish the leather to give it a nice finish immediately after you cut the leather shapes being careful not to get oil on the areas where you will glue as glue does not stick well to oily leather.  However, in this example we just applied pure neatsfoot oil with a cloth or sponge and polished it with Fiebings resolene just before we set the rivets. The neatsfoot oil gave the leather the nice deep tan color.  When using leather dyes it is best to avoid the flamable types if you are buying outside your own country as they have to be shipped by special means which can be expensive. Stick to the nonflammable leather dyes and leather finishes. Also wear protective gloves and use in well venitilated areas.

Gluing your pieces together

5. You want to make sure you rough up the areas where glue will be applied to the hatchet sheath. A low grit sandpaper will do the trick.  This inside leather welt piece protects the sharp blade from being damaged by preventing the axe blade from touching the metal rivets.

Inside welt cemented to two sides of leather hathchet cover.

Inside welt glued to two sides of leather hatchet cover.

Leather welt protecting sharp axe blade from metal rivets.

Leather welt protects the sharp axe blade from the metal rivets.

Sanding Edges Of Your Hatchet Case

6. After the gluing stage, sand the edge of the three layers even on a drum sander or by hand.

Sanding edge even of leather axe case on drum sander.

Sanding the edge of the leather axe case even on drum sander.

Beveling Edge Of Leather Axe Sheath

7. The leather edges can be beveled with a hand beveler tool or sanded by hand to round the square edges.

Hand beveler leather craft tool rounds corners of leather.

Using hand beveler tool to round corners of leather.

Holes for Rivets

8. The most common way to put holes in leather is to use a drive punch but you can also drill them. The more layers of leather, the harder it can be to punch a hole perpendicular through such a combined thickness of material. If you have a drill press it can make this process much easier.

Rivet holes made with leather craft hole punch or drill.

Rivet holes made with leather craft drive punch or drill.

Setting Rivets In Your Axe Sheath

9. There are a few types of rivets you can use for this project. We suggest you use Double Cap Rivets X Large for going through three layers of 9 oz thick leather. If you use thinner leather, you might have to use a shorter post rivet such as large double cap rivet. These types of rivets are very strong and have the same finished cap on both sides when set.

You can use a rivet setter to achieve a rounded surface on the top side or you can use a cobbler’s hammer, which leaves the rivet head flat on both sides. A cobblers hammer has a slight convex head so it does not mark or damage the leather surface. However, a carpenter’s hammer would set the rivets as well. Either way, just make sure there is a solid metal surface to set them on that does not have any bounce.

Rivets for leather being set on mini anvil.

Setting rivets in leather on mini anvil.

Setting the Snap Cap

10. The last step to making your hatchet sheath is to set the snap. For 9 oz thick leather, use the line 24 large jacket snaps with a long post.  For thinner leathers, use the large size snaps with the regular post. This is done by first setting the cap part of your snap in the leather tab. The cap is the part of the snap you push with your thumb. To locate where the cap should be set, measure around ¾ inch from the tip of the leather tab and mark it in the center. Punch the hole with a drive punch. Next you put the axe in the case and fold over the tab on to the body of the case. Use a pencil and make a spot through the hole onto the body of the case.

Now you can set the cap of the snap.  First put the snap cap post through the hole. Put a dot anvil under the cap to keep the cap’s curvature. Put the socket through the cap post and strike the line 24 durable snap setter with a hammer to crimp the post around the socket.

Setting the Snap Stud

Before you punch the hole in the body, make sure you put a thick scrap piece of leather inside the axe sheath. This will prevent you punching the hole right through the back of the case.

The last step is to set the stud part of the snap. Put the snap post through the hole. You need to slide a strong metal surface into the axe case and under the snap post such as a mini anvil. A solid non bounce metal surface is required to ensure the snap will be set properly. Place the stud trough the post and set it with the line 24 durable dot setter.  The dot anvil is not required to be used for this part of the snap as you want a flat surface.

Stud part of snap set on hatchet sheath body.

Setting stud part of snap on hachet sheath body.

You are finished!

Finished handmaking leather hatchet cover.

Handmade leather hatchet cover finished.


Leather Belts Made From Which Types Of Leather?

Posted on: November 12th, 2016 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Genuine Leather Belts?

What types of leather belts are you getting when the store clerk tells you “These are real leather belts”? Are all types of leather belts the same quality when they are imprinted “Genuine Leather”? Not all leathers are the same quality and you will learn that even some leather terminology is misleading. Therefore when you are told an item is made of real leather or genuine leather, that is too vague. You must know the specific type of leather used in order to understand the belt’s quality as not all leather belts are created equal.

Types of Leather For Belts

The cattle hides are very thick and the tannery usually splits the hide thickness into a number of layers.  The top layer of the hide which is closest to the animal’s hair is called “Top Grain Leather”.  The grain is only in this top layer of the hide.  Top grain leather is a general term as it refers to both Full Grain Leather and Corrected Grain Leather. The layers under the top grain are called split leather. All of these layers are genuine leather but are of vastly different qualities, strength and cost. Let me explain the differences between the types of leather.

Splitting leather hides into different layers.

At the tannery, thick leather hides are split into different layers.

Full Grain Leather Belts

Full grain leather is the best quality of genuine leather used by belt makers. The full and untouched grain surface is present. Beautiful unique markings are visible such as grain patterns, hair cells and any natural healed scars on the full grain leather belts. This is the strongest and most valuable layer of the hide. Remember that full grain leather is a specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

From the various types of leather, full grain leather is the belt leather for making belts.

This full grain leather belt is one solid thickness. Full grain leather is the highest quality leather from the various types of leather.

Corrected Grain Leather Belts

Corrected Grain Leather is the 2nd best quality of genuine leather used in making belts. Excessive scars and scratches are buffed and sanded from the grain to remove imperfections. Typically, the tannery covers the surface with heavy pigmented finish coats so the original grain is no longer visible. This leather is often embossed with a grain to simulate hair cell patterns. Corrected grain leather is another specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

Split Leather Belts

Split Leather is the third best quality of genuine leather that is used to make belts. It is often finished and embossed to simulate a top grain leather. However, split leather is not as high a quality and much less expensive. Splits are often used for suede and are not as durable as top grain leather. The further the split is from the top grain layer, the dramatically weaker it becomes. In other words a flesh split, which is farthest below the grain and next to the meat, is real cheap junk.

Bonded Leather Belts

Be careful because Bonded Leather is not genuine leather. Chewed up leather fibers are pasted together to form a manufactured sheet of man-made material. Bonded leather is also sometimes called reconstituted leather and fiber leather. The percentage of leather particles in bonded leather varies greatly between manufacturers. Buyer beware as bonded leather tears easily. It is often imprinted and finished to imitate a top grain leather. Unfortunately, the vast number of belts in stores are made of bonded leather which is a very cheap quality material. Most bonded leather belts consequently break in a short period of time.

Bonded leather compared to genuine leather would be similar to comparing particle board to solid wood. In wood work, you wouldn’t build your quality dining room furniture from particle board. Nor would a leather artisan be able to build a strong durable belt from bonded leather.

Bonded leather belt tearing apart.

Bonded leather is not genuine leather as you can see in this belt which tore easily.

Leather Terms For Marketing Belts

Marketers often try to impress buyers by misusing and distorting leather terms. Imprinted terms on products sometimes portray what you want to hear and often only refer to one material used to make the product. The imprint on the back of the belt that says “Real Leather” could actually mean that the belt only has a paper thin layer of split leather adhered to cardboard and vinyl.

The following video shows belts that were brought into our leather shop by customers that had purchased them elsewhere. Unfortunately, these belts shown to us had broken, torn or fallen apart. We took these belts apart to see if the imprinted leather term on the back of the belt accurately portrayed the materials used to make a perceived quality leather belt.

Video discussing leather terms imprinted on belts and dissecting the leather belts.

In conclusion, your best guarantee to insure you are getting a solid full grain leather belt is to purchase it from a leather shop that actually makes the belts. Luckily, there are still lots of leather artisans that continue to individually handcraft their belts from quality leather hides.

Holes punched in handmade leather belts by leather artisan.

Leather craftsman punching holes in handmade belts.


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