Things for Leatherworking

I have a friend that is trying to learn 120 things in 20 years.  Well, one of those internet friends whom I will never meet in real life. He mentioned that he was thinking about learning Leatherworking as a thing so I thought I would give a primer on the subject. Not that I am an expert or anything. Sometimes starting is the hardest part, and not knowing what to start with is a lot of the reason to not start.

My half done leather messenger bag.

A good intro into all the words used in leatherworking can be found at https://www.tandyleather.com/en/leather-buying-guide.html.

Leather is sold by weight. Weight per square foot in ounces. The thicker the leather, the heavier the leather, the larger the number. There are charts out there there that will approximate the weight to the thickness to the scale of 1 oz equals 1/64th of an inch. Or thereabouts.

Thicker leather is used for different things than thinner leather. Next time you have something made out of leather, feel the thickness of the leather. Think about why that thickness of leather was used.

There are different ways they make leather – chrome tanned or veg tanned. This is different ways that it is made, different chemistry. I would imagine that there are different strengths and weaknesses for each type, but I don’t know the details. I get whatever is cheapest at the time.

Once you find your leather, you will also need a few things to get started. A cut thing, a stitch thing, likely a few hole things, marking things, and possibly a hit thing.

Cut things are pretty important. I see a lot of videos where people use a disposable razor knife, which seems to work well. They sell expensive half circle knives, which look like they work really well. I’ve made one, but have yet to try it on leather. I use a rotary cutter and like it.

Stitch things are really important. I use two types of needles. Harness Needles and Glovers Needles. Harness needles are not really sharp and are good for going through existing holes. They tend to be used two at a time, one on each end of the thread. You end up making a stitch that looks like a sewing machine stitch, but is much better. The stitches this way don’t unravel easily if cut like from a machine. Glovers needles are wicked sharp and are used on thinner leather like it is cloth. The two threads I’ve tried are the waxed thread and artificial senew. I like the waxed thread better.

There are lots of ways to make holes. The hole things are the second expensive thing to buy, after the leather. You can use them to make little holes to stitch in and you can make not so little but still small holes to put rivets and snaps into. The simplest hole tool is the awl. This makes small holes. I’ve found that some awls are better than others. Long, thin, well tapered and smoothed awls like a needle work better than cheaper awls with a simple angled ground tip like a nail. I’ve not tried making one yet, but I have a few broken drill bits I may give a try to grind. You can get round hole punches which are handy. The kind that looks like a punch and needs a mallet is fussy to use, but can be used to make holes that aren’t near an edge of the leather. The type that looks like a pinwheel crossed with a paper punch is easier to use, but only works near the edges of the leather. My favorite hole tool is the stitching punches. These are the most expensive, but singularly made my work look better. I didn’t skimp on these, getting the nicer set available at the store. Getting nice even stitches is a huge improvement on the niceness of the finished product.

Nice stitching punches.

Mark things help layout and measuring and stuff. I find ball point pens work well. In woodworking, they say if you want to make a line, use a pencil, if you want a fine line, use a sharp pencil, if you want a perfect cut, use a knife. I do a lot of marking with my knife, but I prefer using an awl – it leaves a good mark but doesn’t cut the surface weakening the leather. I picked up a cheap divider (looks like the old geometry class compass) and use it for marking stitch lines along the edges of the leather. This trick with the stitching punches is what made my work go from a total hack job to not bad.

I use a simple stick as my hit thing. Why buy something that I found in my yard?

A stick found in the yard works as a mallet.

I’ve done a bit of reading, and a lot of youtube watching to learn how to do a bit of leatherworking. It’s hard at first to sort out who knows what they are talking about and who’s not any better than I am. Once you find a good youtube author, give ’em a subscribe so you can keep getting more of the better videos.

The miracle of having all the hobbies, is I tend to have lots of kit with me

My 5 year old picked up a splinter in her big toe.

My botany kit has some tweezers, a sharp knife, and a light on one of the tiny microscopes.

My essential oils travel kit has clove oil. A good topical anesthetic and antibacterial.

A dab of clove oil, a bit of digging around with the razer knife, and a pluck of the tweezers. No more splinter.

A look at the splinter, an explanation of the oil used, a wiff of lavender. A happy little girl.

I made a new wallet last night

A coworker has had some pretty thin ones over the years, folded tyvek, and currently a big skinny brand one that's really nice. 

I've been wanting one of those stainless steel ones for a few years now, but they are much more money then I am willing to spend.

So I decided to make my own wallet. Out of garbage, of course. Well, I did buy the leather in a 3lb pack from Hobby Lobby, but the piece I used looks like it was cut for a vest maybe? The Tyvek is from a mailing envelope from 1997, the clear pocket is from a plastic cover from an old report. The RFID shielding is a motherboard static protection bag. I collect old junk just for projects such as this.

The design of this one is wider and taller then a bifold or trifold. It is a bifold wallet, but has 2 pockets per face. This means you only keep half the cards in a given thickness. There is also no extra pockets separating the cards, so no extra bulk for that either. Just stack the cards. 

I have the thinness of a tyvek wallet with the finish of a leather wallet. It can bend in the middle, contouring by butt better. I think I am really liking this so far.

The next one, I would sew the card pockets onto just 1 layer of the folded center piece rather then through both. This one give a nicer finish on the inside of the bill area. I would also cut the leather a bit bigger so I can roll the edges and sew through 2 layers of leather for a nicer edge finish. Also, mark on the BACK side of the Tyvek. I kept marking on the front side even though I know better!

I also like keeping fortune cookie fortunes in my wallet. So I may have some clear pockets just for my fortunes. I also carry SD cards, so I will have pockets for that as well.

In album Thin Wide RFID blocking Tyvek & Leather Wallet

It doesn’t look too much bigger this way, right?

My wallet is too fat. It’s slowly grown thicker in pace with my belly. Something has got to change. The wallet is the easier thing to make thinner.

An old Tyvek mailer envelope (From 1997!) a bit of scrap leather, my sewing machine, and about 3 hours….

No plans, just an idea, and a standard sized card to use as a template.

I used an old motherboard static bag for the RFID blocking layer. It’s sandwiched in the divider to deflect enough energy to keep the cards from activating and broadcasting. In theory. I don’t know if it works or not.

4 pockets, one of which is clear sewn onto the tyvek holding the static bag bit.

Trying to get the size of the leather right for the pockets.

Just a quick and dirty build. Trying to proof the concept and the sizes. I will probably make another one in a few months once I gauge how long this one will last.

Leather looks to be big enough to cover the inside pockets.

Binder clips. I don’t know how people did leather work before these things where invented. I love these things.

The leather is bigger then the liner, and needs an unsewn gap at the fold so it can open up correctly.

I sewed the leather on by hand with a glovers needle.

The wood block is for poking the needle down through the layers on so I don’t stab myself or the table. The pliers are to pull the needle through the rest of the way – it likes catching at the eye.

One side sewn up. Not very neat stitching, but it should hold it together.

I found it easier to sew with a card in each pocket. No wonder my wallet is so thick! I carry a metal plate for sharpening knives in it.

Last summer I started a fire by rubbing sticks together

 Luckily, it was caught on video. This was after a 6 hour day, learning about fire making 'from scratch'.  I made the fire set with my hatchet and small knife.

This REALLY makes me appreciate a Bic all the more.

The guy behind the camera was teaching 2 of us. A bit of language, so you can slap on the mute button if you want.

5 minutes of interesting video starting at an hour and 5 minutes. There was a LOT of prep work going into this.
http://youtu.be/c2xk7cU96lE?t=1h5m 

I ordered a copy of the POCKET REF 4th edition by Thomas J

Glover. The book truly is a small book. I decided that I needed to make a case for it to keep it nice as I intend to haul it around with me.

A sharp knife, some scrap leather and an hour, and I have a handy little reference that should stay nice for a long time and not need to be recharged!

In album POCKET REF Leather Cover

The finished book cover. I decided not to dye it black. It took me an hour to make, start to finish.

Flipping through my new favorite book! The case opens up so I can take the book out. Should keep the cover nicer, longer.

Well, the book fits, but I think I can do better than this.

The bits and pieces I need for making a cover for my Pocket Ref. A piece of leather out of a ‘scrap leather’ bag from a hobby store, a sharp knife, a cutting mat, Neatsfoot Oil and Dye.

The leather was an assortment grab bag. I was lucky I had a piece that was big enough I could make something work. There was another piece with a color I liked better, but I couldn’t get something I liked cut out of it.

Works this way…

And it works this way…

I used the cutting mat to mark the cut lines. Just slide it along on the edge. Visible marks on the suede side of the leather. I also oiled  the finished side at this point so the oil has a chance to soak in before I dye it.

Measure twice, cut once. Cut isn’t perfectly straight, but it’s good enough for me.

I cut a belt and a belt loop out of the short side fold overs.

The book just sits in this case for safe carrying.

Fold and mark the tie strap locations. The little triangle is from whatever this was to be originally. Alignment marks or something.

Some strips from trimming the edges to fit better are tied on the inside.

A tidy wrap for a tiny book.