How to Leather Craft Posts

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.


Pallet Shelf DIY

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 by Alana LeBlanc

Let me start off by saying thank you for checking out our (do it yourself) DIY Pallet Shelf article from Leathersmith Designs, where we always strive to provide the best quality leather products for our customers. Today we are going to show you how to make a Leather Belt Shelf from old belts and a pallet. Jamie had some old belts from years ago that were well loved but didn’t fit and needed to be retired. After suggesting to Jamie that he throw them out and watching him almost have a stroke (he loves his job that much he can’t stand to let leather reach the garbage), I suggested maybe trying to build a shelf from recycled materials.

Pallet shelf suspended by leather belts.

Pallet shelf hanging by leather belts.

Materials For Pallet Shelf

1.  We receive around 5 or 6 pallet loads of leather each year. It just so happened that when we went to start this project we had just received one pallet. Starting this project meant making a list of materials:

– Two Belts
– Pallet Boards or whatever wood you like to use
– Screws
– Wall Anchors
– Rivets

Tools used:

– Saw
– Crowbar
– Hammer
– Square
– Sander
– C Clamps
– Drill
– Hole Punch
– Level
– Screw Driver

Worn wooden pallet kept from hide shipment at our leather shop.

Old wooden pallet kept from a leather shipment that arrived at our leather shop.

Discarded leather belts to be used for strap shelf.

Leather belts to be recycled for a strap shelf.

Check your closet for some solid leather belts that are no longer used. However they are probably in perfect condition to be used for this DIY hanging shelf. They don’t have to match exactly. We used a black and brown belt on the same shelf for this project.

Salvage Boards For Pallet Shelf

2.  The first step was to take apart our pallet.  Jamie wore eye and ear protectors when he used the circular saw. He sawed off the end piece to avoid having to pry up so many boards that were securely nailed. The balance of the boards were pried apart using a crowbar and hammer.

Sawing pallet boards for pallet shelf.

First saw cut to remove pallet boards for pallet shelf.

Alana using crowbar to take apart boards for DIY hanging shelves.

Alana using a crowbar to pry boards apart.

Just about finished salvaging wood for the hanging belt shelves.

Almost finished salvaging wood for the hanging belt shelves.

Rough wood salvaged from pallet.

Lots of rough wood salvaged.

Finishing Wood Shelf

3.  Next we removed old nails (if needed) and cut our pieces to size. If you are using pallet wood, please take some time to sand off rough edges, discoloration and dirt.

Measuring and squaring the length for the pallet shelves.

Squaring ends and measuring the length for the pallet shelves.

Sanding discoloration and roughness from wooden shelf secured in wood vice.

Sanding roughness and discoloration from wooden shelf that is held securely in wood vice.

Assembling Wood

C clamps securely hold assembly pieces in place.

C clamps secures assembly pieces in place.

 4.  After our boards are cut to size and sanded, we assembled the shelf itself. Drill pilot holes in the wood in advance to prevent the wood from splitting. We used 1″ screws for ours but that was based on the thickness of the wood we used.

Pilot holes for screws drilled while C clamps hold boards in position.

C clamps holds boards in position for drilling screw holes.

Electric drill screws shelf boards together.

Using an electric drill to screw shelf boards together.

Attaching Leather Belts

5.  Now time to attach the leather belts. We decided to incorporate the buckle for appearance and in case length adjustment was required later. Normally we use snaps to attach buckles on the belts we make to allow our customers to change buckles if they so choose. But for this project we wanted to use leather rivets for strength so I used a drill press to drill out the old snaps and then replaced them with rapid rivets. You can use a pair of pincer pliers which is just as easy to remove the snaps. If the buckle is sewn on the belts you are using, that will also work well as long as the stitching is not worn at any point. A rivet setter was used to set the rapid rivet which keep the nice curve on the rivet cap.

Rivets secure buckles on solid leather belts.

Solid leather belts with buckles secured by rivets.

Leather hole punch makes screw holes in leather belt.

Leather punch makes holes in leather for screws.

Belt attached to shelf with screws.

Leather belt secured to shelf with screws.

This next step is a dealer’s choice step. You can choose to either secure the belt to the bottom of the shelf or not. Some people will attach the leather belts to the wall and rest the shelf within the loops without tacking or securing the shelf to the belts. This choice is fine and will not change the strength of the shelf but the shelf could get knocked out of place. Rather than use nails that might split the wood, we drilled pilot holes for screws. We chose to use 1″ screws, two on either side, to secure our shelf to the belts. To do this you should punch a hole in the leather before you attach with screws. The leather hole punch tool we use is a round drive punch. You can also use the hole punch to make holes for more adjustment lengths regarding the buckle.

Secure Hanging Shelf To Wall

6.  The final step is to hang your shelf on the wall. Make sure if you are not securing your shelf to studs in the wall, use drywall anchors. Put a level on the shelf and mark your holes that way. One belt could be stretched slightly so this way you know the shelf itself is level. Although leather is strong it can stretch slightly over time. These shelves are meant more for decoration than something like a long heavily loaded bookshelf.

Wall anchors are used to secure the leather strap to the gyprock.

Leather straps are secured to the gyprock with wall anchors.

DIY Shelves Finished

7.  Then you are Done!! These artistic hanging shelves can be used for displaying decorations, pictures, tools, canned goods or flowers.

Leather hand tools sit on pallet shelf.

Pallet shelf used in shop for leather hand tools.

The finished DIY shelf displays special decorations nicely.

This finished DIY shelf is nice for displaying special decorations.

Pantry goods stored on DIY pallet shelves.

DIY pallet shelves can be used for the extra space required for pantry goods.

 


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.


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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