Wednesday, September 30, 2015

So you want to tool leather - Everything you need to get going.

I had a friend ask about what I would suggest for his daughter that had interest in tooling leather. While I'm fairly new to the hobby I'm fully engulfed. I have most of the tools you are going to need. In fact I have two or three of everything. That's because I didn't know what I was doing and that resulted in multiple purchases. I want to use this article to go over my suggestions for someone getting into the hobby.

The big question is what do I need and how far should I go in my purchase? I knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to build holsters. That meant I needed to cut leather, tool leather, hand stitch, burnish, and dye the leather. You may not know exactly what you want to do so I'm going to give you some different options.

I have a lot of books and have watched a lot of videos but there is one book everyone must buy -
The Leatherwork Manual.

Before you make your first cut read this entire book. Keep it in the bathroom and read a little every day. Then maybe read it again. I had so many questions and the internet could only answer so many. This book addresses just about everything. There are rules to leather and this book goes over most of them.

What do you need? Old or new stamps? I wanted to buy the best. I ended up buying slew of tools from eBay. I'm glad I did but there were some key components missing that put a hitch in my leather get along. Learn from me. If you are just getting started you need to basic stamps and a maul.

The Basic 7 Tool set will get you going but you still need a mallet or maul. So even if you start here there are other things you need to buy. A hammer is a no no. I would go with either a leather mallet or nice maul. I use a maul.

The Deluxe Leather Craft Kit is really the bar minimum starter set. You get a mallet, stamps, dye, swivel knife and some kits. I thought, "man, I don't want those kits." Well they aren't there because you want them. They are there to teach you basic leather skills. These are great ways to learn different skill sets.

Finally we have the Ultimate Set. If you know you are hell bent on doing leather and no one is going to stop you them brother go ahead and buy this. Why? Because I didn't and I know I have spent more than $500 to amass this same list of tools. First I bought my stamps, then a maul, then I realized I need a piece of marble....and on and on. Then you have spent a ton of case on everything in this kit. You get the granite, groover for stitching, stitch wheel, hole punch (I still don't have a rotary hole punch), a whole lot more. I see things in that picture I wish I had now. I wish I would have just dropped the money and read the book.

First work on the kits in the starter kit you buy. After that buy your own leather. I drive to Tandy and buy leather. You won't know what you need or what is good until you start cutting and hammering. In only a few months I knew what I needed and I knew what was good leather and what was bad (for my needs). If there is a Tandy store nearby tell them what you want to make. They will help you out. If not give Springfield Leather a call. They are great. In fact Springfield also has almost the same pieces as Tandy. Be sure to give them a look.

Cutting your own leather is cheaper and kit leather is not that great. Practice on the kits and buy leather for whatever it is you want to make.

You can practice on kits. I bought 25 rounders and learned how to carve there. My first one looked like a cave man hit the leather with a rock. In just a month or so my stuff looked like the real deal. My secret was to carve a rounder each night. There is template in the Leather Manual for exactly what I was tooling. What I didn't have was the info in that book on how to make my swivel knife cuts, how to bevel, how to use stamps, etc.

Get your rounders (from Tandy, Springfield or Amazon), order a starter set, read the book, and get to hammering the leather. That is my recipe for you to succeed. Good luck and have fun!

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