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Old 12-16-2015, 12:10 PM   #1
WhiteKnightSTi
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Thumbs up My Leatherwork containment thread

I've been meaning to start this thread for a while now, partially just so I have a record and showcase of all my projects in one place, and also as a resource for anyone else who's interested in getting into the hobby.

Backstory: I didn't have any background in leatherwork, sewing, or any other useful skills. Nor had it ever crossed my mind to get into it, until about a year ago when I bought a knife that I really liked:



But that came with a sheath I really hated:



So I started reading tutorials about how to make a basic knife sheath, and it probably wouldn't have really gone anywhere if I hadn't stumbled on Ian Atkinson's youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/satansbarber

I can't recommend his videos enough if you're at all interested in getting into this. He does a great job of breaking down a very complex build into easy to do steps and skillsets.

Fast forward about a month and I've got this:









I made plenty of small mistakes (you can see in the pics above that I wound up redoing the upper beltloop section) but overall I was thrilled with how it came out.

Next up I made a holster for an airsoft pistol I had lying around. Did it more for the experience of forming leather around a 3d object than the need for a holster. Made some more small mistakes, learned some lessons, still happy with how it came out:





Continued...
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:11 PM   #2
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Then there were a few super-simple projects.

Door pulls and matching keychain for my car:






Then a strap for a pair of goggles for my Halloween costume:




I had gotten some nice thin leather (3/4oz) for the goggle strap, so after I was done with that I set about trying to make a watch strap.






Working on small/thin projects is quite a bit harder that the big things like the knife sheath. Small imperfections can easily ruin the whole piece. With my first watch strap I made so many small mistakes I didn't even bother finishing it or doing any stitching, just started over:








So that brings us up to right now, and my last minute rush to start Christmas gifts

Continues...
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:16 PM   #3
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Very nice work! Subbed.
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:16 PM   #4
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Nice work! I was wondering, what is the process for "finishing" the edge of raw leather? Specifically, how it's done in this pic:

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Old 12-16-2015, 12:39 PM   #5
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So yeah, Christmas gifts. I sorta kinda meant to start these right after Halloween. Instead I started last night. That'd be ok if I was making some small gifts, but no. No I had to chose two huge projects that I've never tried before. I'm smarts like that.

The big gifts are going to my long suffering parents, if I have time I'll be making another smaller gift for my GF.

Starting off with the gift for my dad, he builds and restores houses, and does high end cabinetry and other woodwork. For as long as I can remember he has always had a yellow legal pad with him for making meticulous notes on the projects he's working on.

So I'm making him a portfolio (just folio? Not sure if that's the right word) that'll hold a writing pad on the right hand side and pens, business cards, ect on the left.

Started out by dyeing the main piece that'll form the outer shell. Tried a different dying technique that uses a lot less dye but works it into the grain more aggressively to highlight the natural structure of the leather.



My cell pics do not do this justice. It looks like a piece of burled walnut.



In this pic you can see the two inner panels that will go inside the shell and that everything else will mount to. These I dyed in the usual way using lots of dye to give them a very smooth beautiful texture.



Rough layout of the left hand panel. The two bits at the top will be a pocket or envelope for receipts and the like. Middle left will be a pocket for business cards. Mid right will get trimmed and form a pair of loops for pens. Low left is my first attempt at using stamps to make a monogram tag.

That's it for now, hopefully should be done in the next two or three days.
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:46 PM   #6
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That original sheath was OMG craptastic. The one you made is really nice.

Where do you source your leather?
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stretch18 View Post
That original sheath was OMG craptastic. The one you made is really nice.

Where do you source your leather?
Thanks.

I get my leather (and all my tools) from Amazon. Springfield Leather specifically.
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:57 PM   #8
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Nice work (and thread)! I've always been curious about leather work - I'd love to learn how to do it.
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strider View Post
Nice work! I was wondering, what is the process for "finishing" the edge of raw leather? Specifically, how it's done in this pic:
That's called Burnishing. Basically you dampen the edge of the leather slightly and then friction heat it, using a piece of cloth for thin items or a wooden dowel to rub back and forth against the edge. It's a crazy transformation that takes about 10 seconds.

I took this shot when making my door pulls to show off what a few seconds of burnishing does to the edge:



Burnished vs raw
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:08 PM   #10
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Sub'd
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:12 PM   #11
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Damn, John, that's impressive work for just having done it a year. If you have the time outside of your day job at the shop, you should consider selling your stuff (maybe on Etsy or the like). There's also an old Italian guy that runs a shoe repair shop (the last of a dying breed, I'm sure) diagonally across the street from you. I wonder if he has any need for a leather crafter.
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:13 PM   #12
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Great work, OP. Hard to believe that sheath was your first try at it.
It came out great - both design and execution.

I am always mesmerized by the leatherwork I see on r/DIY.
Makes me want to order bunch of supplies and try it myself. Almost.
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:28 PM   #13
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Same. Nice work, guy! I'll keep an eye out for updates!
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Old 12-16-2015, 01:52 PM   #14
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Thanks for the kind words everybody. I'd encourage anyone who wants to try it to watch some of Ian's videos and give it a shot. At some point I'll make up a list of tools and supplies that you'll need to get started, and while you can spend a ton, you can probably get all the basics for under $100.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaiser View Post
Damn, John, that's impressive work for just having done it a year. If you have the time outside of your day job at the shop, you should consider selling your stuff (maybe on Etsy or the like). There's also an old Italian guy that runs a shoe repair shop (the last of a dying breed, I'm sure) diagonally across the street from you. I wonder if he has any need for a leather crafter.
Thanks Kai, I'm not sure if this is something I want to do for money just yet. But I am sure I want to get good enough at it that I could sell stuff if I ever lost my day job. I think a lot of it might hinge on how these Christmas projects turn out.

And yeah, I know Anthony from across the street, he's one of our customers. I can't imagine the amount of different skillsets you'd need to be a cobbler. It's a whole different league from what I'm doing.
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Old 12-16-2015, 02:13 PM   #15
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Great work! I've been tempted to pick up leather working as my next hobby, but I already feel like I have too many hobbies and not enough time.

What tools are you using? How much did it cost for your tool set up?
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Old 12-16-2015, 02:19 PM   #16
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Dang!!! Fantastic work! Can't wait to see what else you make!
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Old 12-16-2015, 02:26 PM   #17
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Damn.

*subscribes*

May be I'll buy a watch strap from you guys.
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Old 12-16-2015, 02:30 PM   #18
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Looks like a fun hobby, and nice work. Subscribbled.
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Old 12-16-2015, 03:42 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoobZero View Post
What tools are you using? How much did it cost for your tool set up?
So like any other tools, you can spend a lot on leatherworking tools or you can go pretty cheap. And while sometimes you get what you pay for, a lot of times the cheap stuff will be just fine for beginner or even intermediate work. A lot of times you'll be able to use the basic tools to make anything you want, the fancier gadgets just save you time and energy.

I'd recommend starting by watching these two videos:





I'm going to break my tool & supply list into three parts: Cutting, binding, and finishing. I'll start each section with the stuff you need, and then get into some of the stuff that's just nice to have.

Cutting:

-Leather. (gotta have something to cut) You want Full Grain (the full thickness of skin, the junk you get at craft stores is called Split Grain because they slice or "split" it into thin layers) Vegetable or "veg" Tanned (as opposed to Chrome tanned which is used for clothing and chairs and stuff like that). Thickness of leather is measured in ounces here in the good ol USA or millimeters in more civilized parts of the world. What thickness you want depends on what you want to make. A sheath for a heavy knife like the one I made you want 3-4mm thick leather. For a smaller knife, pouch, straps, ect. 2-2.5mm thick would be better. You can cut down a thick piece of leather, or glue layers of thin leather together, so don't worry too much.

-Knife. A basic utility knife with replaceable blades works ok. It's what I used up until recently, and you should have one for getting into corners. But if I had to go back and do it over again the first knife I'd get would be a rotary cutter like the type used for fabric. Soooo much easier to get a long straight cut without any hassle.
http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-Contour-Rotary-Cutter-195210-1001/dp/B000B7M8WU/ref=sr_1_1?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450292161&sr=1-1&keywords=rotary+cutter

-Cutting board or mat. Nothing wrong with using a kitchen cutting board for a small project, but a big cutting mat with a grid pattern is worth it.
http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-24X36-Healing-Rotary-Cutting/dp/B000YZASYO/ref=sr_1_7?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450292379&sr=1-7&keywords=cutting+mat

-Ruler. Metal, one with a safety groove would be best.


-Skiver. Like a plane for wood, it lets you take off thin layers of leather. Useful for getting multiple layers to sit flush.
http://www.amazon.com/Tandy-Safety-3001-00-Replacement-3002-00/dp/B00IVS667Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450292174&sr=1-1&keywords=skiver

Binding:


-Glue. You use glue to hold parts together before stitching, and to add more strength to the finished product. You can buy glue made just for leatherwork, but I just got some contact cement at the hardware store that said it was safe for leather.


-Diamond Awl (referes to blade shape, not material) Use the awl to punch holes for your stitching. You can use a drill press with a small drill bit. I was not at all happy with the results and would not recommend trying that though.
http://www.amazon.com/Osborne-144-43-Stitching-Diamond-Shape/dp/B00L6M39I6/ref=sr_1_1?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450292812&sr=1-1&keywords=diamond+awl

-Stitching chisels. A stitching chisel is like series of diamond awl blades set together like a fork. They come in different blade sizes and spacing which determines how many stitches per inch you wind up with. If you want to buy a set go for it, but I would probably start with just an awl and overstitch wheel.
http://www.amazon.com/Vktech%C2%AE-Stainless-Steel1-Diamond-Leather/dp/B00CBRVKOK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293985&sr=8-2&keywords=stitching+chisel


-Dividers. Use them to mark a line parallel to the edge where your stitches will go.
http://www.amazon.com/200mm-8inch-Divider-Spring-Calipers/dp/B00JPC1YIG/ref=sr_1_17?s=power-hand-tools&ie=UTF8&qid=1450292936&sr=1-17&keywords=divider

-Needles. You want needles for leatherwork, they have dull tips so you don't snag the leather when passing them through.
http://www.amazon.com/Tandy-Leather-Factory-Stitching-Needles/dp/B00114RBSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293530&sr=8-1&keywords=tandy+needles

-Thread. Whatever thread you go with will need to be a braided multi-strand thread so you can lock in the needles.
http://www.amazon.com/Tandy-Leather-Factory-Thread-25-Yard/dp/B00HTRXYWI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293621&sr=8-2&keywords=tandy+nylon+thread

-Stitching groover. (optional) Cuts a groove that you can lay your stitching into to protect it from being rubbed against. Also useful for adding decoration.
http://www.amazon.com/Craftool-Adjustable-Leathercraft-Tandy-8074-00/dp/B0038HQM0E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293710&sr=8-3&keywords=tandy+stitching+groover

-Hole punch(es). If you're going to be putting in hardware like the snaps on my sheath you'll need to cut holes. You can use a drill, but a punch is the way to do it right.
http://www.amazon.com/SE-791LP-Heavy-Duty-12-Piece-Hollow/dp/B000KE17JO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293742&sr=8-1&keywords=leather+punch+set

-Overstitch wheel. (optional but recommended) A little toothed wheel that you can use to mark where to put holes for stitching, then you run it over the stitching when you're done to push the thread down flush with the surface of the leather.
http://www.amazon.com/Embossing-Leather-Leathercraft-Tandy-8091-00/dp/B0038HWMB2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293800&sr=8-1&keywords=overstitch+wheel


-Stitching Pony. (optional but highly recommended for large projects) Holds your pieces at chest height so you have both hands free for stitching.
http://www.amazon.com/Lacing-stitching-Leathercraft-Tandy-Leather-3132-00/dp/B003RL5FKO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293882&sr=8-2&keywords=stitching+pony

Finishing:


-Dye. You don't need to dye leather. It doesn't add strength or protection, it's just for looks. If you are going to use dye, use an Oil Based dye, not water or spirit based. Oil based costs more but gives much nicer results. I used Fiebing's oil based dye and was very happy with how it came out. (use disposable gloves when applying dye, it will dye your skin just as well as it does dead cow skin)


-Finishes. You want to add at least a little bit of water protection to leather, if it's going to be something used outside you probably want to add a lot of water protection. For lighter duty I'd go with Fiebing's Resolene, for heavy duty you want something with a wax base. I used Sno-Seal. For the inside of your leather parts (called the flesh side, as opposed to the skin side) like inside a beltloop or inside the sheath, use Fiebing's Tan-Kote. It provides a nice smooth finish so the leather doesn't get beat up over time.


-Edge Beveler. Cuts the corners off your leather, giving it a rounded rather than square edge. Very useful, but you could use a knife if you're brave/cheap.
http://www.amazon.com/Springfield-Leather-Company-Piece-Beveler/dp/B008RLT3K2/ref=sr_1_9?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450294689&sr=1-9&keywords=edge+beveler

-Edge Burnisher. To burnish an edge you wet it slightly, then rub it with a piece of wood or cloth to build up some friction heat, this locks the fibers of the leather together giving you a strong smooth edge that won't fray. An Edge Burnisher is just a nicely shaped bit of wood or plastic that makes the process easier.
http://www.amazon.com/Multi-size-Leather-Burnishing-Leathercraft-Tandy/dp/B0048FM2OU/ref=sr_1_5?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1450294723&sr=1-5&keywords=edge+burnisher
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Old 12-16-2015, 03:42 PM   #20
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Double post.
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Old 12-16-2015, 05:41 PM   #21
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Do you kills the cows and skin them with that knife?
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Old 12-17-2015, 09:58 AM   #22
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Quote:
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Do you kills the cows and skin them with that knife?
No. I kill them with a sledgehammer and then skin them with that knife.



Made decent progress last night.

Started by cutting the three main panels to size, then cut reliefs into the two side panels using graph paper and an awl to mark the cut:





Then the straps that will hold the writing pad in place get prepped for glue by scratching up the smooth surface with an awl or a bit of sandpaper.



After the glue has had a few minutes to set, the two ends of the straps that are going to be on the 'open' side of the panel get stitched down (the rest will get stitched when the side panel gets stitched to the main shell panel)

Stitching chisel in action:



A quick run of stitching, since this strap will be holding the writing pad down I did an overstitch at each end to make sure it wont pull up over time:



What it looks like with the pad in place:



Still a long way to go though...

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Old 12-17-2015, 10:12 AM   #23
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Oh wow! I might do this as a hobby. It's not cheap but I can see this paying for itself should one decide to sell the work.
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:14 AM   #24
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The sheath the knife came with looks like a piece of cardboard.

Awesome work! You have a good talent there and I am sure everyone will love your gifts.
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:30 AM   #25
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Quote:
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The sheath the knife came with looks like a piece of cardboard.

Awesome work! You have a good talent there and I am sure everyone will love your gifts.
The bad lighting in the pic makes it look worse than it was, but even if it looked great it still would have worked like crap. Getting the knife in or out was a two handed affair. With the new sheath all I have to do is flick my thumb and the strap pops off and the knife draws out easily.
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