Leather Craft Tools Posts

Viking Outfit – L’Anse aux Meadows

Posted on: February 28th, 2016 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

The Viking outfit worn by each Viking interpreter was very interesting to me when my family visited L’Anse aux Meadows in Northern Newfoundland, Canada a couple years ago. L’Anse aux Meadows is the first known evidence of Europeans in North America. Over 1000 years ago, a Norse expedition sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland and built a small encampment of timber and sod buildings.  The archaeological remains of  this Viking encampment is found in a beautiful coastline location with rugged cliffs and bogs.  This internationally renowned archaeological find was made an United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1978 because it is the first and only authenticated Norse site in North America.

L'Anse aux Meadows Viking encampment in Northern Newfoundland, Canada.

L’Anse aux Meadows Viking encampment in Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.

When we arrived at the Viking Heritage Site, first we viewed the museum which had many of the Viking artifacts displayed as well as an interesting film to watch.  Next a guide walked us to the Viking ruins which were discovered in 1968 by two Norwegian archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad. The stories of adventure, discovery and history told by the guide were fascinating. After that, a short walk took us to the recreated Viking settlement where we could wonder through on our own and enjoy our own discoveries. Historic experts might say a lot of the reenactors leather items worn are not period correct when compared to actual archaeological finds from the period. However being a leather worker, I was still very interested in their Viking outfits which had leather accessories hand made by many of the costumed Viking interpreters.

Outside Viking Long House

As we came to the entrance of the Viking settlement, we could see the long house in the center of the compound.

viking settlement entrance

Entrance to Viking settlement.

Standing outside the door of this recreated sod covered Viking long house, this interpreter is clothed from head to foot in a Viking outfit. In the excavations, items for sewing and knitting were found which suggested there were women in the settlement. The largest dwelling unearthed had several rooms and measured 28.8 by 15.6 m (94 by 51 ft).

viking outfit worn by woman

Reenactor wearing Viking outfit at long house.

Viking Accessories

Her Viking outfit includes a leather pouch hung from a cloth belt.  A small leather case shown just above the comb has significance which I will explain in a moment.

leather viking accessories

Viking leather accessories.

The leather Viking case which was previously mentioned, holds a needle. This Viking woman shows me her needle and asks us “Have you seen another needle around the encampment where you were walking because I have seemed to have lost one needle?” The actors play their parts in time as there was actually a bone needle that was discovered in the archaeological digs.

viking pouch needle

Viking needle pouch.

Viking Outfit

This Viking reenactor wears a long leather belt which threads through a metal piece. The belt is held taught by wrapping the leather end up under, over and through the loop.  It hangs down in front of the tunic. From the belt on his left, hangs a light colored leather pouch and small knife case.

Viking clothing includes leather belt

Leather belt worn over Viking clothing.

On his right side hangs a darker leather pouch and a deer antler handle knife in a case.

viking pouch

Viking pouch & knife case.

Hand sewn leather shoes protect his feet. Wood pieces are scattered over the dirt floor.

viking shoes

Viking shoes were hand sewn.

L’Anse aux Meadows Landscape

While walking back past the archaeology digs to the museum, we saw a couple moose wondering through the bog. Although there are about 150,000 moose on the Island of Newfoundland, they were not there when the Vikings landed. The moose were brought to Newfoundland in the early 1900’s.

Evidence suggest the Vikings would have fished and hunted animals that used to inhabit the area. These food sources would have included bear, marten, caribou, wolf, fox, lynx, birds, fish, seal, whale and walrus.

The encampment was near the coastal waters for transportation. This viking settlement was likely a seasonal camp for obtaining timber and game to be transported back to Greenland.

The Vikings did not remain at L’Anse aux Meadows long. According to sagas, there were clashes between the Norsemen and the indigenous people, who they called Skraelings. The Norse were vastly outnumbered and returned to Greenland after a few years.

This area has harsh winter conditions that cover the area in deep snow and ice.  The harsh conditions results in hibernation of a lot of animals or movement south.  These difficult winters and lack of food sources may have also caused the Norse to stay for only a short period of time.

moose L'Anse aux Meadows

Moose seen at L’Anse aux Meadows.

 

 

 

Viking Forge

Hanging on the stone wall of this iron smithy building is a leather work apron.  The Viking worker wears a leather knife case and leather Viking footwear. The archaeologists uncovered the ruins of eight buildings, cooking pits and an iron forge.

Some estimate that 75 people, mostly sailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, hired hands and perhaps even serfs or slaves lived at L’Anse aux Meadows. Local bog iron was apparently smelted, purified and made into nails, rivets, and other iron work. The settlement probably was a base camp for repairing Norse ships and for expeditions further south, possibly to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

viking tunic

Viking tunic worn by reenactor at the forge.

The Viking outfit worn by this fellow has an interesting closure on his leather belt pouch.  It looks like a bone, wooden pet or antler tip with a leather lace loop that secures over it to keep the flap closed.

viking garb

Viking garb includes a leather pouch.

A similar type of closure fastens the leather upper of his well worn Viking shoes.

viking footwear

Viking footwear with an interesting closure.

Inside Viking Long House

Hanging in the center near the ceiling are a number of ducks ready for eating.  Other supplies hang in bags on the wall. A rough bed on the left has some woollen blankets for warmth hanging above.

viking house interior

Viking house interior.

Another style of hand made shoe sits beside a hand sewn leather bag on the floor.

viking leather shoes

Another style of handmade Viking leather shoes.

The long house is very large and has lots of interesting objects such as Viking shields, netting and wooden barrels. Some animal pelts are hanging in the center. It looks like they might be fox pelts. Another larger animal pelt lies on top of some supply bags.

viking shields

Viking shields and supplies.

A wooden box holds another small leather pouch and  other needed articles.  This leather pouch appears to have been hand sewn by wrapping the thread in an X pattern around the edge of the leather.  A draw sting pulls the top tight.

viking box

Viking box with hand sewn leather pouch.

Location of L’Anse aux Meadows

Move, enlarge and decrease the map to see where you are located in relation to this historic Viking settlement. See how far they had to travel from other viking settlements in Greenland and Iceland.

Make Viking Pouch

Should you want to make your own leather Viking pouch, you will need some leather craft tools and leather sewing tools.  The leather can be cut with a utility knife or shears. Holes for hand thread can be made with leather punches or an awl.

cutting sewing tools for Viking pouch

Leather craft cutting and sewing tools to make your own Viking pouch.

 


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


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.


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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