Finishing Leather Edges

Posted on: January 27th, 2015 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Quality Increased by Finishing Leather Edges

When I was in my early teens, I first discovered the importance of finishing leather edges well.  The finishing methods learned and discussed in this article apply to vegetable tanned leather which is a firmer leather as opposed to soft garment or soft bag leathers.

In the 1970’s, while still in Junior High School, I was selling my leather goods at the Festival of the Arts.  A stranger commented that he liked my work. However he nicely pointed out that if my leather edges were smooth where the  leather was sewn together, it would add to the overall quality.

It turned out that this stranger was the internationally recognized leather sculptor Rex Lingwood that was living in Halifax at the time.  His sculptures have been exhibited widely in North America, Europe, Great Britain and Australia in both group and solo presentations.  I also proudly own a leather craft book he wrote called “Leather In Three Dimensions”.  When I asked for some suggestions, he kindly invited me to visit his studio and he shared some edge finishing techniques with me.  The main thing I was neglecting to do was sand my edges smooth.

Sander For Finishing Leather Edges

Over the years since then, I have had different pieces of equipment set up for sanding leather edges by various sanding drums. Some drums were home made wooden wheels with foam and sandpaper attached that my Uncle Clint Wilson made for me on his lathe. At one point I even bought a 7 foot shoe maker’s finishing machine that had numerous wheels for working on edges. As my shop became more congested with tools and workbenches, I sold this large shoe repair leather edge finisher as it was taking up too much space for what I needed to do.

Finishing leather edges of knife case on sanding drum.

Finishing leather edges of knife case by sanding it smooth.

Twenty some years ago I converted a furnace blower motor into a edge finishing sander.  I had asked a furnace repairman to save a motor for me when a furnace was being discarded.  At the time I used a sanding drum from Sears.  I bought a bunch of sanding sleeves at the time but many years later, when I tried to buy more sanding sleeves I found they were no longer carried for that size drum any more.  Apparently Sears had discontinued that tool line.

I called many wood tool companies trying to find an alternative and got great results with Lee Valley Tools. Bob who works at Lee Valley Tools in Halifax came up with the solution for me when he asked what I was trying to do.  He sold me a nice drum set kit and a shaft adapter.  He suggested I could pick up a 1/2 inch drill chuck from Princess Auto since he no longer carried them.  I wanted to continue to use my motor and hold my leather products vertically to sand the edges.  I suppose I could put a sanding drum in a drill press and run my work horizontally but I was used to finishing leather edges this one way for decades. As well, I was used to seeing work held vertically for sanding at a shoe repair shop I used to visit regularly after school when I was a teenager.

Drum sander with motor set up for finishing leather edges.

Motorized drum sander made for finishing leather edges.

This homemade leather edge finisher that I use in my leather shop everyday consists of a furnace blower motor with an electric switch purchased at a hardware store for turning it on and off.  An extension cord has been cut and attached to the motor so I can plug the motor into a wall socket.  You can check with an electrician to do this as well as switching wires to change the rotation direction of the motor should you have to do so.  The board is C clamped to a workbench for easy removal in case I need the bench space.

The shaft adapter attaches to the motor shaft with two allen key bolts. The drill chuck screws onto the threaded end of the shaft adapter. Choose a sanding drum size and sanding sleeve grit from the Lee Valley Tool kit and tighten it in the chuck with a drill key.

To cut down on leather dust from the sander, I screwed a leather strap loop to a piece of wood to insert my shop vac tube into near the sanding disc.  I still advise using eye protectors and a shop mask even though the shop vac captures most of the leather dust from sanding the leather edges.

Beveling Leather Edges

Leather edge rounded with beveler leather craft tool.

Rounding corner of leather edge with beveler leather craft tool.

After the edges are sanded, I continue finishing leather edges by rounding the corners with a beveling hand tool.  The larger the number on the beveling leather tools, the more leather is removed from the corner of the edge.

Coloring & Burnishing Edges

The last step of finishing leather edges seems to vary from leather worker to leather worker.  Each leather worker seems to have their own preference for coloring and burnishing the leather edge.   There are a lot of leather dyes and finishes to choose from.

Edge finish applied with foam applicator along edge of leather.

Applying Fiebing’s Edge Kote with sponge applicator to leather edge.

I have used Fiebings Edge Kote for years to give a hard color leather finish.  The leather can be smoothed down by burnishing the edge with a denim cloth that had been coated with beeswax.  Burnishing is smoothing the leather edge with friction by rubbing it with a cloth in one direction for a number of times until smooth.

For years I used to attend craft shows where a fellow leather craftsman used to apply Fiebing’s Leather Dye to the edge of belts. Then he would rub paste saddle soap into the edge and burnish with a cloth.  The edge was slicked very smooth with this leather edge finishing technique.

A saddle maker from years ago that had his leather carvings displayed in art exhibits used another technique that gave a smooth glass edge finish.  He dyed the edge with Fiebing’s Leather Dye.  Then he dampened the leather edge with water and slicked it numerous times with denim or waxed paper.

When I used to visit shoe repair shops, they would use an edge ink on the edge of the shoe’s sole.  This edge ink contained a wax that made a smooth waxed edge when the inked leather sole edge was heated from the friction of a rotating rubber finishing wheel.

Some leather workers even made their own finish from a mixture of corn starch and water which they applied to the dyed leather edge.  Other leather crafts people use acrylic leather paint while others just apply the leather dye without doing anything else.

If the leather edge is nice and smooth, you have lots of leeway in developing your own personal preference for finishing leather edges with different dyes, waxes, finishes and burnishing techniques.  A well finished edge improves the overall look of your leather craft project.


Travel Money Belt Custom Made

Posted on: November 15th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Making A Travel Money Belt

1.  Our leather travel money belts are made totally from genuine cowhide, both the top and bottom pieces.  The belt is first cut from a piece of 5-6 oz thick premium tooling leather with a strap cutter leather craft tool.  This thickness is for the top piece of the money belt.  The underneath piece of the leather money belt that contains the long zipper pocket is cut from 3-4 oz thick premium tooling leather.  Note that the hide must have a straight cut along the edge for the strap cutter tool to follow along.

Cutting the travel money belt from the hide.

Cutting the travel money belt from the hide with the strap cutter leather tool.

Tooling Design and Name in Leather

2.  The custom money belts are made individually when the order is placed.  Many people want us to make their travel money belts plain.  However, others request it be made with an imprinted design or name.  To imprint a design into the leather, the top surface is first dampened with water to allow the metal stamp to deboss the leather surface.  The metal stamp tool is struck with a wooden or rawhide mallet while the leather sits on a hard smooth surface like this piece of quartz. Also it is important that the table is solid and does not have any bounce.

Designs stamped into the leather belt.

Designs and names can be hammered into the damp leather belt.

 Dyeing the Leather

3.  Four coats of dye are applied to the leather money belt. The applicator in the picture is made of sheep’s wool stapled to a wooden block.  This thick applicator holds a lot of dye which allows it to flow into the design.  If we wanted the dye not to go into the design so there would be a contrasting color of the natural leather leather showing through, we would have used a thinner applicator of flannel fabric stapled to a wooden block. Vinyl gloves are worn to keep the dye and other leather chemicals from absorbing into our own skin which would be unhealthy.   After that, neatsfoot oil is rubbed in to condition the leather.  Finally two coats of resolene polish provides a beautifully shined finish and top seal.

Leather dye applied to the travel money belt.

Leather dye is applied with a sheepskin applicator to the cowhide money belt.

Making Long Zipper Hidden Pocket

4.  The zipper is sewn into the bottom piece of leather on our industrial walking foot sewing machine.  We buy the zipper in very long lengths so we can make the zipper pocket as long as the person’s waist size will allow.  The bigger the waist the longer the zipper pocket.

 

Long zipper pocket sewn in travel money belt.

Long zipper sewn in travel money belt.

Contact cement is applied along the edge inside edge of both pieces of leather.  When the contact cement has dried enough so that it is not sticky, both leather pieces are carefully pressed together.  The two leather pieces are bonded together with the tapping of a cobbler’s hammer on an anvil.  The access leather is then trimmed off with a sharp utility knife.

Hammer taps the leather belt pieces together to bond glue.

The leather zipper pocket and top leather are tapped with a hammer to bond the contact cement.

 

Finishing Edges and Belt Ends

5.  Although the excess leather had been trimmed, the edge is sanded smooth and even before the two pieces of leather are sewn together on our walking foot industrial sewing machine with industrial nylon thread for strength.

Sanding edges of leather travel money belt.

Edges of travel money belt sanded even and smooth.

Next, the leather edge corners are rounded off for a finished look as well as for comfort.  The hand beveller tool will be used to round all four corner edges along the length of the belt.

Leather edges rounded with beveller tool.

Belt edges are rounded with a bevelling hand tool.

After the edges are dyed and burnished with beeswax, the buckle is ready to be attached.  First rivet holes are punched as well as an oblong shape hole for the buckle tongue.  Rapid rivets are set to permanently secure the buckle. The buckle is a quality silver chrome plated solid brass buckle or a gold solid brass buckle.

Rivets secure the buckle to the custom leather money belt.

Buckle is secured in place by setting rivets in the custom money belt.

A drive punch tool is struck with a hammer to make seven round buckle adjustment holes.  We do all our punching and setting of rivets on a large tree stump that is used as a work table. The stump is solid and will not allow any bounce when hammering.  We also put a piece of scrap leather under the belt being punched to allow the sharp edges of the leather hole punch tool to last longer.

Hammering drive punch to make holes in leather money belt.

A drive punch tool makes holes in the leather travel money belt.

 Finished Travel Money Belt

6.  Our custom made money belt will easily pack a lot of trifolded bills in the hidden zipper pocket.  People hide the money in the belt for vacation travel and business trips.  So not to bring attention to the money belt, daily purchases should be made with money from your wallet or purse.  Back in your hotel room, you would take money from your travel money belt to add to your wallet or purse for one day’s needs.  We can provide you the leather craft supplies to make your own belts. Custom made travel money belts for men and women can also be made by us for you in various widths and colors.

Finished travel money belt ready to securely hide your money.

Tooled design leather money belt ready to hide your money for your vacation.

 


Ox Bell Straps – Ross Farm to Chester Basin

Posted on: November 8th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Nostalgic Ox Bell Straps

Earlier this year, I (Jamie Hartling) had the enjoyment of doing some custom leather work for Mr. Lenethen’s daughter.  It consisted of making a couple ox bell straps to display some of his metal work owned by his daughter, Valerie. These stainless steel ornaments are quite a keep sake.

She told me some interesting stories about her Dad .  In Mr. Lenethen’s youth, teenagers had a lot more responsibilities than today.  What chore could you give a 16 year child that would be dramatically more time consuming than emptying the dish washer or vacuuming a room? Imagine today if you had to ask your 16 year old son or daughter to take the responsibility to get a couple oxen ready for a trip.  The task will involve delivering grain to a mill since it was ready to be made into flour. It will take two days to get there because of the distance and condition of the old dirt roads so you must be prepared to sleep on the wagon for the night. That’s exactly the task that P.O. Lenethen had to do years ago at age 16 when requested by the farmer he was working for at the time. The trip involved taking the two oxen and wagon from the Mill Village, Nova Scotia area to the mill in the Camperdown, NS area.

Mr. Lenethen grew up in East Port Medway, Queens County, Nova Scotia, Canada as a youngster. Although as an adult, he worked at totally different employment than on a farm, he always had an interest in oxen. He would have seen lots of oxen in his day on the South Shore. Because of his love for oxen, he enjoyed making ox bells and decorations from stainless steel in his spare time for souvenirs. He proudly made quite a number of ox bells in the 1980’s.  At the age of 94, in 2012, Mr. Lenethen passed away.

Custom leather ox bell straps crafted for ox bells.

Custom leather ox bell straps crafted by Leathersmith Designs for nostalgic ox bells and hearts made by P.O. Lenethen.

Oxen Transport Goods From Ross Farm to Chester Basin

In 2010 for the 250th anniversary of Chester Basin, I enjoyed viewing a re-enactment of oxen transporting goods from New Ross, NS to Chester Basin on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. This event was organized by Ross Farm Museum and the Chester Basin 250th Anniversary Society.  It involved eight teams of oxen.

New Ross and Chester Basin have been interdependent communities for hundreds of years. The farms of New Ross produced items such as food, lumber and wool-crafted products for local use and export to coastal communities. Imported goods required, such as stoves, books and farming tools, arrived at Chester Basin by sea.  The transportation of the goods between the coastal communities and inland communities in old days was done by ox and wagon.  For the re-enactment, one of the wagons was unloaded onto the Tancook Whaler, which is part of the historic vessel collection of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg, NS.

This historic transportation re-enactment journey with the oxen also took them two days to reach Chester Basin. I watched the oxen come down the road with their custom leather head pieces beautifully decorated in metal ornaments. Among the hoofs clip clopping, I heard the oxen bells making their unique clanging sound hanging from the ox bell straps as Mr. Lenethen would have enjoyed years ago.

There were a lot of responsibilities, chores and daily work for youth and adults from times gone by.  What kind of chores or responsibilities did you, your parents or grandparents have growing up that are different from today?  Are the responsibilities and chores of today’s youth less, more or just different than the youth of the past?  What’s your opinion?

decorative-studded-leather-oxen

Brass ox bell hang from the beautifully decorated studded custom leather work on this oxen team.

 

oxen-chester-basin

Goods being transported by oxen teams from New Ross to Chester Basin for the 250th Anniversary of Chester Basin.

 

oxen-pulling-wagon

Goods arrive in Chester Basin, NS from New Ross, Nova Scotia by ox and wagon.

 

 

 


Making Knives By A Teenage Craftsman

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

 

Keon Maskell Making Knives Since Age 13

Over the years I have met different people with unique talents that have walked into my custom leather shop.  Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Keon Maskell who enjoys making knives from his home workshop in Westphal, Nova Scotia, Canada.  He wanted to order a custom knife case to fit one of his latest creations.  He showed me a beautifully made knife that he had just finished.  What is really interesting is that Keon is a young man of age 16 in grade 11 high school that taught himself how to make his own unique knives.

In elementary school he had an interest in swords and knives.  At age 13 he wanted to own a good quality knife but did not have the money to buy one.  He was totally self motivated and decided to teach himself the craft so he could have an unique knife.  At that young age he started  to forge his own knives all by himself.  He researched the internet for articles, watched instructional youtube videos, read books and experimented.   By age 15, Keon started to get requests for his work and has shipped his custom knives to places as far away as Sweden, Ohio, Pennsylvania in addition to doing local orders.

Process in Making Knives

When he found out that I was interested in the process he used to make his knives, Keon shared the following video showing his knife making steps using a forge and machine tools.  To my surprise, he even included the custom knife case I had made for one of his knives in the video.  It is very interesting watching the process of  making knives which he starts with a plain piece of spring steel and transforms it into a beautifully finished knife with a real deer antler handle.

Video showing the steps to making a knife.

Keon starts making his knives from a piece of 5160 spring steel leaf spring for the blade.  He explains that this type of steel is a good balance between being too brittle and too soft.  After the spring is separated, it still has a curve in it.  To flatten the curve and to flatten the bevels that will later be ground, the steel is first heated red hot to soften it.  Then it is pounded to shape on an anvil with a heavy hammer and then cooled in a bucket of cold water.

flattening knife blade

Keon pounding flat a red hot blade that just came out of the fire.

With a hand grinder, Keon shapes the blade.  Sparks continue to fly from the grinder until he gets the desired bevel into the blade.

Grinding Bevel In Knife

Sparks fly as the bevel is ground in the knife blade.

Quenching which transforms the property of the metal is the next step in making knives.  It involves heating the metal to a high temperature and then cooling it extremely quickly.   The extremely high temperature is obtained by dipping the hot metal in a quenching oil.  This makes the steel very hard but brittle.  To take the brittleness out, the steel is then tempered by adding a constant heat.

Quenching step in making knives.

Quenching is an important step in making knives.

Real deer antlers are used to make the handle.  Keon obtains antlers from family members that hunt.  First the antler is cut to size.  The antler is then boiled to soften the marrow.  This allows the tang to be more easily inserted in the handle after the hole is drilled.  The handle is pinned and the ricasso (unsharpened part of the blade) is wrapped in brass wire.  Both the wire and handle are then epoxied.  Engraving of initial in the antler is done with a Dremel tool.  Danish Oil is applied to the handle to give a beautiful polish as well as for sealing and conditioning.

Engrave knife handle

Engraving knife handle with Dremel tool.

To sharpen the knife blade, Keon hand hones it on a coarse stone.  For the final touch, a fine stone is used.  People interested in contacting Keon about his knives or for custom knife requests can do so by clicking on the youtube button on the above video and leaving him  a comment.

Custom Leather Knife Case

I was pleased to be able to craft a custom leather knife case for one of Keon’s original knives.  A thick leather blade guard was sewn around the inside of the leather knife case.  The perimeter of the hunting knife case was sewn with two rows of thick thread on our harness stitching machine.  It was very interesting to make a personalized knife case having met the actual knife maker.  Thank you Keon for sharing your talent in the process of making knives.

Custom knife case

Custom knife case by Leathersmith Designs for handmade knife by Keon Maskell.


Guided To Leather Craft Shop

Posted on: July 9th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Tourists Discover Leather Craft Shop

Margaret MacKenzie, a tourist from Glasgow, Scotland, arrived at our leather craft shop near the beginning of her trip to order a custom guitar strap.  When she returned to Halifax a week later, she picked it up.    She has been enjoying spending her vacation in many of the quaint towns throughout Nova Scotia, Canada.

She said she wanted a personalized hand made craft from Nova Scotia to give as a gift to a musician in her family living in Europe. She arrived at our studio with “The Guide To Craft & Art In Nova Scotia” in her hand which enabled her to find our custom leather craft shop.  The free Guide to Craft & Art made her aware of the many talented craftspeople throughout the province. I agreed that the “The Guide” is a great resource for finding unique shops and gifts from the area as well as for meeting the craftspeople that create these original products.

When I asked what were the highlights of her stay in Nova Scotia, she responded “My, there are too many highlights to narrow it down to just a few”.  However she did mention enjoying visiting the following communities such as Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Pictou and Truro. She said the people were very friendly and would go out of their way to be helpful.  Aboriginal Day events were most interesting.  Jazz music was enjoyed at the Public Gardens in Halifax as well as visits and participation in many of the churches.  Most of her touring was done on the public transportation system.

After she made her purchase, my family had to go to Halifax.  We offered her a drive as opposed to waiting for the bus.  Ms. MacKenzie graciously accepted.  While on the way, we pointed out the sights before letting her off on Spring Garden Road to continue her touring.   I mentioned the ferry, Citadel Hill and the MacDonald Bridge make great spots for taking photos of the city and Halifax Harbour. It is enjoyable meeting tourists at our leather craft shop.  Over the years we have met some very interesting people from various parts of the world.

Margaret Mackenzie - Tourist from Scotland visits our leather craft shop.

Margaret MacKenzie enjoyed her vacation touring Nova Scotia. We were pleased she discovered our leather craft shop through “The Guide To Craft & Art” when she visited Halifax. In the other hand she is holding a custom guitar strap we made for her.

Meet Talented Crafts People Throughout Nova Scotia

You don’t have to be a tourist to check out the quaint studios tucked away in interesting communities throughout Nova Scotia. Let the beautiful full coloured free booklet called “The Guide To Craft & Art In Nova Scotia” guide you to the many interesting studios run by individual crafts people and artisans. See where the pottery, jewellery, paintings, glass work, woodwork, weaving, blacksmithing, folk art, leather crafts, stone work, textile creations, basketry, photography and other fine artwork are created and designed.  It is available at most tourist outlets and other tourist destinations throughout Nova Scotia.

What is great about the “The Guide To Craft & Art In Nova Scotia” are the several versions that are available.  The printed version is an easy carry size and very interesting with all the full colour images throughout the booklet. The web version is great to do some research in advance on your computer or laptop.  For convenience when travelling, all the same info is also available in a mobile version as well for viewing on your iPhone etc.  Google maps shows the location for each studio beside each artisan listing.   You can easily search by region, type of craft, business name or for demonstrations.

The Guide To Craft & Art - Web Version

Web version of “The Guide To Craft & Art”. It is also viewable in a mobile version.

Great Info In “The Guide To Craft & Art”

What makes The Guide so useful is it’s geographical divisions of Nova Scotia for easy travel.   Each geographic section has short descriptions about the studios and artisans so you can do some checking to see which interests you the most.

As many shops are small family businesses, I would advise checking to confirm business hours in case they are closed due to participation in craft shows or away for some personal reason.  Contact info is provided with each listing along with the normal business hours or a recommendation to call first before visiting.  Although our leather craft shop has normal business hours, we still advise a call first in case we have to step out of the shop for a business errand.

The Craft Guide has tons of useful information.  The artisan’s social media links are provided with their listings.  Many studios are designated in “The Guide” that do demonstrations.   Tour the workshops to see the crafts being created.  At our leather craft shop, we will walk you through, explaining the equipment and tools used in our trade.  In addition to the craft studio listings, other useful info included are listings of the craft shows, craft organizations, art shows, shops and galleries  throughout Nova Scotia.

With so much repetitive mass produced products in malls, it is a breath of fresh air to be able to be guided to crafts people throughout Nova Scotia making quality original unique products and gifts.  How many places can you actually claim that you met the makers and designers of the products and gifts you just purchased?  We hope you can visit our leather craft shop in Dartmouth as well as the many other interesting artisan studios throughout the province.

Guide To Craft & Art In Nova Scotia

“The Guide To Craft & Art” booklet is a great resource for discovering the unique artisan studios throughout the province of N.S., Canada.


Leather Craft On Shoestring Budget

Posted on: May 28th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Tree Stump For Leather Craft Work Bench

When I was in school in the 1970’s at Admiral Westphal Junior High School, some friends came home with me on the school bus to help haul this tree stump out of the woods and down the basement stairs at my parent’s home. A neighbour came over with a chainsaw to level off the top for me. Although I now have my own leather shop, this tree stump has been moved to several locations over the years and has been continually used for punching holes in leather and for holding leather craft tools.

A tree stump is very common in leather shops since it is so solid that their isn’t any bounce when pounding holes in leather or for setting rivets.  On the side of the tree stump is attached a wooden block with holes drilled in it hold the various sizes of leather hole punches.  More leather craft tools are held in place with short strips of leather nailed to the tree stump.  I have been using this same tree stump work bench for many decades.

Hand Make Leather Craft Tools

The anvil on it is actually a train rail. My metal shop teacher in Junior High allowed me to come in on many many noon hours to use a hacksaw to saw the bottom off the train rail. A friend of mine helped me carry it from school to his house about half a mile a way where we took turns with a large electric hand grinder trying to smooth the narrow end which someone had originally cut with a blow torch. I still use the anvil for setting, rivets, setting snaps and pounding leather.

In the background you can see a red handled awl in a cork block which my uncle made for me out of screw driver. I have been using it since I was a young teenager. Other tools made at that time which I still use from time to time are imprint stamps that were made by hand filing and grinding designs into spike heads or metal rods.  With my father’s guidance, we built a workbench out of 2″ X 4″ studs and heavy plywood for cutting my leather.  Sometimes when I was able to pick up larger rusty items cheap like metal shoe lasts, another neighbour sandblasted off the rust and painted it for me so it look brand new.  Even the local furnace repair man saved me some old furnace fan motors from replaced furnaces.  I converted the motors into grinders and drum sanders with some attachments.

Involve Other Leather Hobbyists

You could also get someone else involved with your leather craft hobby so you could go splits on the tools to make it more affordable.  My brother did leather work with me for about half a year when I first started and he bought some beginner leather craft tools.  However his interest was only short lived.

When I was a young kid, I was lucky to have so many people support me and help me get started in my business since I did not have the money at that age to buy a lot of tools. Many of my original tools were made by myself or with the help of others.  Every year for birthday or Christmas gifts, I would always ask for a new leather craft tool to start building my collection of tools which would expand my leather crafting capabilities.

 

Tree stump used as work bench for punching holes, riveting and holding leather craft tools.

Tree stump used as work bench for punching holes, riveting and holding leather craft tools.

 


Making Customized Guitar Straps

Posted on: May 18th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Leather Hide For Making Customized Guitar Straps

First a premium piece of tooling cowhide must be chosen to avoid marks and nicks that could be visible in the finished leather craft project.  5 – 6 oz leather thickness works well for making customized guitar straps to give the required strength but also enough suppleness. We choose leather that has been properly prepared on the underneath side from the tannery so there will be no fuzzy pieces of leather coming off on your clothes when you are wearing the guitar strap. Leather hides are supplied in various thickness for different leather craft projects.

custom guitar strap on roll of cowhide

All our custom guitar straps are cut from quality premium tooling cowhide.

Stamp Design

After the leather guitar strap has been cut, we dampen it with water on the top surface only. A firm solid flat surface to work on such as a piece of marble or granite is used when making customized guitar straps. When stamping the guitar straps, we need a firm and solid surface so the stamp tool will not bounce when we hit it with the rawhide mallet. As we stamp the design down the guitar strap, the water will start to dry out so we will have to dampen it again with a wet sponge. If we want to stamp in a name, now is the time to do that as well. This is a labor intensive process since not only each stamp has to be lined up neatly but each stamp has to be hit with the same hardness so the design will all be the same depth. There are lots of leather craft stamps available to decorate your special leather project.

When making customized guitar straps, designs and lettering can be hand stamped into the damp leather.

When making customized guitar straps, designs and lettering can be hand stamped into the damp leather.

Dye Leather

After the water has dried from the leather, we are ready apply leather dye the top surface of the leather. Professional oil dye by the Fiebing Company is used for coloring our guitar straps. It penetrates deeply into the leather while allowing the natural grains of the leather to be seen. Although it is more expensive, we choose to use it so we will not have to worry about rub off like some poorer quality leather dyes.  However, Eco Flo dye also works well and is less expensive to ship since it is not flammable, it does not have to be shipped a special way and therefore is often less expensive to ship. We have a folded piece of flannel cloth nailed to a wooden block. The cloth makes a nice applicator to rub the dye into the leather. The wooden block allows us to hold the applicator easily. Protective gloves are worn so we won’t have to have our hands dyed for weeks. The dye is rubbed on the guitar strap being very careful not to get it into the stamped design. This is a tedious time consuming process when making customized guitar straps. Many applications are applied to get an even coverage and the desired darkness we want. Keep in mind that this leather dye is meant for natural undyed vegetable tanned leather and not meant for redying leather that has already been colored.

Guitar Strap Dyeing

The custom leather guitar strap is dyed by hand, being careful not to go into the imprint.

Border Design

Once the dye has dried, we can make a boarder design along the guitar strap with this groove tool. This adjustable groover tool is also used for making stitch grooves for doing sewing for other leather craft projects. There is a small set screw which allows us to adjust how far from the edge we want the groove to be. This groove tool is also a great leather craft tool to make channels for sewing other leather projects.

Guitar Strap Line

A boarder line adds a nice touch to our imprinted guitar straps.

Round Edges

Rather than have a square edge, we round the edge of the guitar strap with this beveller for a more finished look. There are different size bevellers for taking off a little from the edge to a lot. When making customized guitar straps, we even bevel the underneath side for a more comfortable feel on the shoulder. Although we bevel both the top and bottom side of our guitar straps, the bottom is a lot harder to do. Using proper leather craft tools makes the job a lot easier. Now that all the design work is in the leather, we dip the guitar strap into a vat of neatsfoot oil compound to keep the leather from drying out and to give it some more suppleness. After the neatsfoot oil is absorbed over a few hours, we touch it up a bit more with some neatsfoot oil on a brush to even out the color since the neatsfoot oil darkens the leather.

Guitar Strap Bevelling

The corner edges are rounded with a bevelling tool.

Dye Edges

The edges of the guitar straps are dyed with a different dye than the surface. We use Fiebing’s acrylic dye because it holds down all the edge fibers of the leather. Since it is a hard finish, we burnish the edges when dry with beeswax using a denim applicator. Now the surface is ready to have a couple coats of polish, letting each coat thoroughly dry before the next is applied. There are many polishes for leather that will work well. However, we choose Fiebing’s Resolene since it helps seal the dye as well as giving a brilliant quality finish to the leather. There is also other types of leather polish that give a nice finish on the leather. The leather polishes we supply are made for vegetable tanned leather.

Guitar Strap Edge Dyeing

Dyeing the edge of the guitar strap.

Slot Hole Punch For Making Customized Guitar Straps

We punch the slots for adjustment and the round holes for the guitar knobs using a heavy rawhide mallet and an oblong slot punch. So we will not get bounce when we punch the holes, we use a solid wooden tree stump as a work bench. These oblong leather hole punch tools are also used for the slot when using a buckle in a leather craft project.

Punching oblong holes for making customized guitar straps adjustable.

Punching oblong holes for making customized guitar straps adjustable.

Guitar Strap Finished

Now the customize guitar strap is finished and ready to be worn by a musician. This quality personalized leather guitar strap will last for many years and will become more supple with wear. You can see what has been involved in making customized guitar straps from the unfinished piece of leather to the finalized leather craft product. See more of our finished guitar straps on our web page custom leather guitar straps. If you do leather craft work and enjoy making customized guitar straps, check out our leather craft supplies pages for leather hides, leather tools, hole punches, leather craft stamps and leather dyes.

Guitar Strap Leather

Finished custom guitar strap on cowhide it was originally crafted from.


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