Imprinting Leather Posts

Leather Tools For Bookbinding

Posted on: December 6th, 2015 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Stamping Extremely Thin Leather?

Earlier this year, a customer visited my shop looking for some leather tools to decorate a bookbinding cover he was working on. It turned out his name is Ronny Fritz, owner of Peregrino Press in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia who does professional bookbinding. He wanted to buy some leather stamp tools for a particular job he was doing which involved bookbinding an old book that was falling apart.

He showed me a sample of the vegetable tanned calf skin which he was planning on imprinting with the new leather tools.  Like other bookbinding leathers, it was very thin and I could not imagine how he could imprint such thin leather by striking the stamp tool with a hammer without going right through the leather.  I myself am not a bookbinder and work with much thicker leathers and leather craft tools for belts, dog collars, knife cases and guitar straps etc which take deep impressions.

However Ronny said he would send me some info on how he successfully can imprint on these thin vegetable tanned calf skins. He graciously shared these photos and info on how he beautifully imprinted, rebound and restored this old worn book.

Front covered imprinted with leather tools that were heated.

Front covered design stamped with leather tools that were heated.

Titling between the stamped designs was done with a gel pen.

Titling with a gel pen.

Design lines embossed with wheel of map measure tool.

Design lines made with wheel of map measure tool.

Heating Leather Tools For Stamping

The technique he used to imprint the thinner leather was to use heat with light pressure as opposed to pressure impacts with a hammer which would leave too deep an imprint. He made wooden handles for the metal stamp tools so he could pick them up from the hot plate without scorching his fingers.  A 1/4 ” hole was drilled about 3″ deep into 1″ x 1″ x 6″ wood. He used an electric hot plate to heat the tools. (See photo below). Without a thermostat he had to keep testing the tool shaft against a damp cloth until it just sizzled. He tested hand pressure and dwell time on scraps and when things were looking good, he imprinted the actual leather on the book.

Some leather tools used by Peregrino Press for stamping leather and bookbinding.

Some leather tools used by Peregrino Press for imprinting leather and bookbinding.

Design Layout For Imprint Tools

Layout of the design elements–lines, fleurons, title patch–was done on tracing paper. This template was used as a guide to transfer the designs onto the leather. First, a light cold impression was made through the tracing paper template. Then the final heated impression was made with the template removed. Just hand pressure was used to push the leather tools into the dampened leather so as to not cut through the delicate calfskin. He did a few touch ups to try to make all impressions the same “intensity”.

If you look closely at some of Ronny Fritz’s tools (shown above), you will see some non-traditional items that were used with ingenuity as leather tools to imprint the leather. Lines were made on dampened leather with an unheated tiny wheel of an old map measurer drawn along a straight edge, and the terminal dots with the head of a 3d finishing nail.  The title was written with permanent ink using a o.5 mm black gel pen.

Bookbinding Project Notes

To see the long process of rebinding this book that was falling apart and refurbishing it, view the the photos and notes below that Peregrino Press shared with me.  Bookbinding is a trade in itself as you can see from the many steps such as removing worn parts, cleaning, trimming, hand sewing, mounting, rounding, molding, pasting, polishing, titling & tooling. Many thanks to Ronny Fritz of Peregrino Press for all the information provided for this article on this particular bookbinding project.

Page 1 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 1 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 2 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 2 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 3 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 3 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 4 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 4 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 5 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 5 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 6 - Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press

Page 6 – Bookbinding Notes from Peregrino Press


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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