Leather Craft Posts

Homemade DIY Leather Keychains

Posted on: October 29th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

Homemade Leather Key Tags

This leather craft tutorial will teach you how to handmake etched and stamped DIY leather keychains like the ones below. Key tags are a good project for people just starting leather work: they’re small, they aren’t expensive, they don’t take long, and they don’t require too many supplies. Best of all it is easy to learn how to make keychains with the many ideas demonstrated.

Finished stamped leather key tags.

I’ll take you through my process of making the etched cat key tag on the left and the stamped green key tag on the right.

Supplies Needed For DIY Leather Keychains

For this DIY Leather Keychain project you will need:

– A leather key fob piece. We sell key tag kits which include precut keychain blanks together with rivets and split metal key rings. If you’re making this project with kids or as a group activity, I recommend that option, because cutting the leather will be the most difficult step for a beginner.

If you’re cutting the tag shape yourself, you’ll need a piece of vegetable tanned leather. We use 7 oz tooling leather for our key tags, which means the leather is 7/64” thick. Anything from 6 to 9 oz vegetable tanned leather will work, depending on how firm you want your leather key fob.

I also recommend having some scrap leather or a few extra key tags on hand to practice your tooling techniques. You might be able to save money on leather by buying scrap pieces from a local leather shop or craft shop. We currently sell our scrap leather to local customers by the grocery store size bag for a small amount of money. The pieces are too small for belts and guitar straps, but plenty big enough for key tags and other small projects.

– A sharp utility knife to cut out the tag. Make sure you have a fresh blade, as this will make getting a smooth cut much easier.

– A round drive punch or other punching tool to make holes for the rivets. For more info on how to punch holes in leather, see our blog post on how to punch holes in leather.

– One medium rapid rivet or one medium double cap rivet.

– One split key ring.

– Supplies to decorate and finish the key ring. This might include stamping tools, etching tools, leather dye, acrylic resolene polish, edge kote and / or leather paints.

I’m going to cover a lot of options for key tag decorating. You can pick and choose based on your preferences and what supplies you have available. For example, I’ll include instructions for dyeing and polishing your tag, but you can also choose to leave it the natural leather color.

Cutting Your Leather Key Tag

If you aren’t starting with a key tag kit, you’ll need to draw a pattern for your tag shape. You can draw the pattern directly onto the leather in pencil, or cut a template out of paper or card stock and trace it onto the leather.

The easiest leather key tag to cut is a simple rectangular strip, like the tags below, which are 5” by 5/8”.

Two leather rectangular numbered key tags for cars.

We made these simple rectangular numbered key tags from leather for vehicle registry numbers and hotel room numbers.

Any shape can become a key tag, as long as it has a tail for securing the key ring. Below you can see our standard key tag shapes. Our standard round tags are 2″ in diameter, and our standard rectangular tags are 2 1/2″ by 1 1/2″. On all our tags, we space the rivet holes 1 5/8” apart.

If you’re confident cutting leather, you can get more creative with various shapes of your DIY leather keychains. The most intricate custom key tag I’ve made for a customer was in the shape of an acoustic guitar.

Three blank keychains cut from leather.

Our standard blank keychain leather shapes, with rings and rapid rivets.

Cut any straight edges first before tackling the corners. When cutting straight edges, I find it easiest to make two passes with my knife. I line up my ruler and drag my utility knife against it, just firmly enough to score the leather. Then I remove the ruler and follow over my first cut, this time applying enough pressure to slice all the way through. Make sure to hold your blade perpendicular to the table when you cut. It’s best to have a nylon or rubber cutting pad under the leather.

Cutting on a curve takes some practice. For tight curves, I find it easiest to carve off pieces in a series of tiny cuts until the corner is smooth.

Once your key fob is cut, you can punch the holes for the rivets using a 1/8” drive punch.

Tooling The Leather Key Fob

Now that your blank tag pieces are ready, you can start customizing them.

Creating Stamped Designs:

Wet the surface of your key tag with water on a damp sponge, and line up your leather stamp. Give the stamp a light tap with your mallet, just firmly enough to make a slight imprint on the leather. Then lift the stamp to check that your design is placed correctly and deep enough. If the placement looks good, dampen the leather once more and stamp again to make the impression deeper. It should slide back into the groove you’ve made for it.

Give the stamp a stronger tap and check the result again. If part of the impression is too shallow, you can tilt the stamp to focus the force of the mallet onto just one side or corner. Continue tapping and checking the impression until it is uniform and as deep as you want it to be.

Progress photos for stamping a DIY leather keychains.

Test your stamp placement by making a light impression. Then replace the stamp and hammer more firmly to deepen the impression on your DIY leather keychains.

If, after your first tap, you find the image appears slightly crooked or off-center, you should be able to adjust it somewhat. When you replace the stamp, twist it into the correct position and hold it there firmly when you tap it again.

You can get as simple or as elaborate as you like with your stamped designs. I could leave the tag as is, with just an initial in it, but I decided to add floral design just to show you some more options. You could also use smaller stamps to add a decorative border to your tag.

Close up of stamped design on a leather key tag.

I used a leaf stamp and a rose stamp to create this design.

Creating Etched Designs:

Another option for creating impressions on your tag is to etch them. Etching is a good option if you don’t have any stamping tools, or you can’t find one for the specific design you want. All you need is a ball point stylus, a pencil, and a piece of paper.

First, draw or print the design you want to transfer to your leather. Remember that the tip of your stylus is wider than the point of your pencil, so you don’t want to use a design with fine lines close together or the detail will get lost. For this tag you can see that instead of drawing a whole cat, I’ve used a few lines to give an impression of a cat, which will make the design much clearer when etched.

To transfer your design, dampen the leather with a wet sponge and lay the paper on top of it. Trace over your lines with the pencil. When you lift the paper, you will have an image on your leather.

Wet the leather again and retrace the image, this time with your ball point stylus. You’ll need to press down firmly and keep a steady hand.

Progress pictures of etching a key tag.

Left: my inital image transfer. Right: my final etched design.

Since the wet leather is malleable, it is somewhat forgiving of mistakes. For this tag I decided the cat would look better without eyes as if the cat is looking away, so when the leather was still wet I used a tool to smooth over that area where I marked the eyes and flatten it out again. You can also use your fingers to smooth wet leather.

Once you’re finished tooling or etching your homemade keychains, wait for them to dry completely before doing anything else with them. You can lightly blow them dry with a hair dryer to speed things up.

Dyeing Your DIY Leather Key Tags

On my stamped key tag, I wanted to dye the body of the tag while leaving the stamped impressions undyed. To do this I applied dye to a folded cotton cloth and wiped it lightly over the surface of the tag. Then I used a Q-Tip to clean up any areas that needed more dye.

If you push down too hard with the rag or Q-Tip, or if they are overly sodden, dye will seep into the impressions. I recommending practicing your dye application technique on a stamped scrap leather piece first.

Dyeing a leather key tag.

I applied leather dye with a folded cotton cloth and a Q-Tip.

If you want the entire tag dyed one color, impressions and all, you can instead apply the dye with a wool dauber or a piece of sheepskin.

After the tag was dyed, I applied neatsfoot oil which is a leather conditioner, with another cotton rag. This deepens and evens out the color.

For my etched tag, I decided to darken the tag only with neatsfoot oil. I applied the oil with a cotton rag, just as above. You don’t have to be nearly as precise with the neatsfoot oil as you do with the dye.

When the tags are dry, if the color is uneven you can use another cloth or a Q-Tip to add more leather dye or oil where needed.

Polishing Your Homemade Keychains

To polish the key tags using acrylic resolene polish, apply the polish to a folded cloth and wipe it lightly across the tag. If you press down too hard, polish may flood the stamped impression; and if you’re unlucky it may carry some of the color of the dye with it. If you get polish in the impression, use a Q-Tip to dab it out. If there is any discoloration from transfered dye, you can use a tool with a fine point to scrape the inside of the leather impression. We use a dentist tool for this.

Two key tags with freshly applied resolene polish.

I brushed on a light coat of leather polish with a cotton cloth.

Wait for the polish to dry completely before adding a second coat if you want the leather glossier – about 10 minutes. You can also choose to leave your tag unpolished, for a more rustic look.

Painting Your Cool Keychain

If you’re going to paint your homemade key tags, make sure you find a paint made specifically for leather. Leather paints dry rubbery, so they can bend and flex without flaking off the way an ordinary acrylic paint would. For this project I used edge kote, an acrylic leather dye, to dye the edges of my tags and also to paint the cat design on the etched tag.

To paint the tag edges, I used a sponge brush. This is the quickest way to get an even line and coat the whole edge of the tag. I waited for the paint to dry, and then burnished the edges by rubbing beeswax on them with a cloth.

Dyeing the edges of key tags with acrylic dye.

I used a sponge brush to quickly edge dye my key tags.

To paint the etched impression, I used a ball point stylus. You can use the same one you used to create the etching. You can also use a paintbrush, but I find the stylus gives me more control.

Painting an etched key tag.

I used a ball point stylus to paint my etched key tag.

You may need to apply two coats of paint, especially if you’ve dyed your tag a dark color and want to paint a lighter color on top of it.

Riveting the Split Rings on your DIY Leather Key Fobs

There are two ways to secure your rivets. On the stamped tag, I used a rivet setting tool to maintain the domed shape of the rivet. Hold the setting tool perpendicular to your anvil, and hammer directly downwards onto it. I usually give it two or three firm blows with the hammer.

If you don’t care about preserving the domed shape, you can also set rivets using just a hammer. Hammer straight downward onto the rivet.

Two methods of securing rivets in your DIY leather keychains.

Left Photo: I used a setting tool to maintain the rounded rivet shape. Right: Photo I used a carpenter’s hammer to flatten the rivet in the DIY leather keychains.

The Finished Custom Key Fob

Here are my finished key tags, with an assortment of other personalized key rings from around the shop. You can get as simple or as complicated as you want with these DIY leather keychains, from a basic initial to a miniature work of art.

Various finished homemade DIY leather keychains.

An assortment of finished DIY leather keychains.

If you make key tags using this tutorial, we would love for you to send us pictures to share on facebook!


Women’s Leather Wallet Design Process

Posted on: June 20th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

An Inside Look At How We Designed New Women’s Leather Wallets

This post covers my process for designing a new product: a women’s leather wallet. I discuss how I went from initial concept to finished item, and how I corrected issues I ran into along the way.

I haven’t written a step by step guide for making this exact wallet. Rather, This blog is meant as an inside look into what goes on during the design process, and as an aid to anyone working on designing their own leather wallet. That said, all my steps are broadly covered in the “Revised Prototype” section in the second half of the post, and I explain how I arrived at my measurements.

Inspiration for the Women’s Leather Wallet

I use these clutch-style wallets myself, so I began the design process by thinking about wallets I’ve had over the years. What features did I like and dislike about them, what did I find necessary and unnecessary? I also measured and examined the construction of the wallet I currently use.

Reducing bulk was going to be a major consideration for this project. I wanted the wallet to be as compact as possible, so it would easily fit most bags. The 2 1/2 oz goatskin I wanted to use for the interior was thicker than the vinyl and fabric interiors of my own wallet, and I knew that small amount of extra thickness would add up fast if too many leather layers were used. The outside of the wallet would be made from 3 – 4 oz premium tooling leather, which would make for a sturdy and durable product, but I would not want to use this for the interior because the wallet would become too bulky.

With that in mind, I decided to keep things simple. I designed the wallet as a rectangle, folded in half and secured with a clasp. All interior elements would attach to this rectangle, such that it would lay flat when opened. I wouldn’t use zippers or pouches or a median section. I also knew I wanted the card pockets to be horizontal, since cards stacked in a vertical column would overlap each other more, creating more thickness.

The Question of Pocket Size

I wanted to use the same pocket-stacking method we use in our men’s wallets. The two upper pockets that you can see in the man’s wallet below are not rectangular pieces of leather. Instead we cut them in a T shape, with two tabs at the upper corners. We sew the bottoms of the pockets to a backing piece, and later sew the side tabs to the body of the wallet. This keeps the bottom and sides of the wallet from being five layers thick.

I did not want my pockets to be the same size as those on the men’s wallet. Those pockets are 4 1/8” wide, and I ideally wanted my wallet to be narrower than 8”. To find the smallest reasonable pocket size I could use, I made a test pocket. From this I knew that a 3 5/8” distance between seams would make a snug but usable pocket.

Pocket test for women's leather wallet.

I made a test card pocket to check sizing.

The First Prototype

The picture below shows my first ideas for the layout and dimensions of the women’s leather wallet. All these measurements changed quite a bit by the end.

After coming up with this plan, I realized we had cutters that might work well for the wallet exterior, and for two of the interior money pockets. By “cutters,” I mean the metal item you can see in the photo below. These are essentially heavy-duty cookie cutters which are custom made for us, which we use on a hydraulic press to cut out pieces for some of our products. When designing new products, we try to come up with new uses for existing cutters. Hand cutting pieces takes much longer, which means that fully hand-cut products are priced higher.

ladies leather wallet planning.

My initial ideas for the ladies leather wallet. Lower left is a cutter we use for our men’s wallet.

The set of cutters I found had been designed for a checkbook cover. The length was slightly less than I’d wanted, and would result in the card pockets being a hair’s breadth narrower than my test pocket. Still, I decided to see how the wallet would turn out using those dimensions. I shortened the tab height from 5/8” to 1/2″ on the card pockets, to make them more compact. I also set the second money pocket on the top flap 1/2” down from the one behind it, to match.

The wallet would look unfinished with a strip of bare tooling leather between the pockets, but I didn’t want to line the whole interior with goatskin because that would make the wallet significantly thicker. Instead I glued a strip of lining down the center, with wings extending underneath the pockets so that no tooling leather is visible.

Womens leather wallet prototype.

My first wallet, with ideas for improvement.

This was the end result. I was happy with the look and feel of the wallet, and with the size of the long money pockets. Unfortunately, the card pockets were too small. Once five of them were filled, getting a card in the sixth pocket was a struggle. Putting two cards in each pocket was nearly impossible. It also seemed that the bottom pocket should be taller, to enclose more of the card.

I made two other edits as well. Firstly I decided to line the inside of the closure tab, so the wallet would have no unfinished tooling leather visible. Secondly I decided to glue the central lining piece down completely, rather than leaving the wings inside the pockets loose. I had originally left them loose with the idea that money could be tucked under them, but I felt the lining was not secure enough that way.

Making The Revised Prototype

I hand cut new wallet pieces using my revised dimensions. Every time I adjusted a piece I recorded the measurements, so I would know what I’d done when it came time to make my final pattern.

Goatskin and cowhide wallet pieces in women's wallet.

The cut pieces for my final women’s wallet.

Finally, I assembled the wallet. I applied contact cement where needed to the interior pieces. While waiting for the glue to dry, I applied leather dye and neatsfoot oil to the exterior pieces and set them aside. Then I hammered my glued pieces together, and assembled the pockets.

Women's leather wallet in progress.

Dyeing and gluing the leather wallet pieces.

When the neatsfoot oil had fully soaked in and the exterior pieces were dry, I polished them with acrylic resolene and dyed the edges with edge-kote acrylic dye. Then I glued the tab top and the tab lining together, and trimmed the excess lining. I sewed around the edge of the tab only on the end where I wasn’t going to sew it to the wallet body. When doing this I made sure my seams would line up and look like one seam on the finished product.

I set the top line 2o small jacket snap, and worked out where to attach the tab and the bottom snap. Then I sewed on the tab, glued the interior pieces to the exterior, and sewed around the wallet’s edge to permanently fix everything together.

Comparing first and second interior womens leather wallet card design.

Card wallet pocket interiors of the two different designs.

Closed women's leather wallet, prototype and final.

First prototype vs. final women’s leather wallet.

Here you can see how the first version compares to the second. The card slots are now much easier to use. Each can fit two cards comfortably, but even with one card in each slot the cards are held securely and not in danger of sliding out. The added lining in the tab creates a more unified look.

Making a Pattern 

Now that I had my finished wallet, I could make a pattern to use for future wallets. This was easy to do since I had kept records of my measurements.

The pattern has small holes indicating where to sew the tab and where to place the snaps. This way I can simply make a mark on the leather, rather than having to measure for correct placement every time.

Women's leather wallet pattern pieces.

My final pattern for the women’s leather wallet.

The Finished Women’s Leather Wallet

This project took about three weeks to complete, from initial planning to the wallet’s appearance on our online shop. I worked on it when I had time between making custom orders. Once I’d finished my part, the wallets I’d made went over to our photo studio with Jamie. He took glamour shots of them and then worked on adding the product to our website.

Check out our ladies leather wallets at our online store!

Imprinted women's leather wallet handmade at our leather shop.

The first of our personalized women’s leather wallet to leave our shop – this one traveled to Florida!


Braiding Leather Tutorial

Posted on: January 15th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

How to Braid Leather With Three Laces

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

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

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

Three-lace braid on dog collar.

A three lace braid on our Concho Designer Braided Dog Collar

Preparing Your Leather

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

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

Finished three leather lace braid example.

A finished leather braid. Refer here for hole placement.

Finished three-lace leather braid example, back side.

Reverse side of a finished leather braid.

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

Leather lacing needles with attached laces.

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

Starting the Braid (Step 1)

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

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

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

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

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

How to start braiding leather shown in diagram.

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

Braiding Leather (Step 2)

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

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

How to follow the three lace leather braiding technique.

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

Ending the Braid (Step 3)

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

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

The Video

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

Video tutorial on braiding with three laces.

The Finished Braid

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

Wristbands with three-lace braid.

Braided leather wristbands.

Dog collar with three-lace braid.

The finished braid on our Braided Leather Dog Collar.

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


Finding Artisans in Halifax Area and Beyond

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by Quentin Burns

Discover Galleries & Studios of Local Artisans in Nova Scotia

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

Discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

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

Halifax Art Map

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

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

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

How Halifax Art Maps Started

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

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

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

How do they find Artists?

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

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

Where to find Halifax Art Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is the Halifax Art Map Team?

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

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

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

Halifax Art Map release in 2016 listing artisans.

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

New Directions for Halifax Art Map

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

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

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

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

Artisans in Nova Scotia found on provincial website.

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

Citizens of Craft

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

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

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

More Sources for Finding Artisans in Nova Scotia

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

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

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

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


Tealight Candle Holders Leather Project

Posted on: July 6th, 2018 by Quentin Burns

How To Make Wood Candle Holders

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

leather crafted tealight candle holders

The finished leather project: tealight candle holders.

Preparing the Wooden Blocks

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

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

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

Cutting the Leather

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

leather project: decorative star cut-outs

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

Etching Your Leather Project

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

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

Pattern for personalized leather craft project

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

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

Etching letters into your leathercraft project

Etch lettering to personalize your leather pieces.

Painting and Finishing

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

Leather craft project darkened with neatsfoot oil.

Use neatsfoot oil to darken your leather panel.

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

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

Painting letters on leather project pieces.

Handpaint letters onto your etched pieces for the leather project.

Gluing Leather to Wood Candle Holders

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

Lining up decorations for wood candle holder.

Trace the decorative leather pieces onto your wood candle holders.

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

Contact cement application for wood candle holders.

Apply contact cement to the wood candle holders.

 

Cementing decorative pieces to wood for leathercraft project.

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

The Final Tealight Candle Holders Product

Complete leathercrafting project: tealight candle holders

The finished tealight candle holders.

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




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