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.
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.
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?
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.
It's a big machine for the hobby side of things. I think they call it a 60150. It will hold a 2 foot by 4 foot piece. 220v water cooled spindle. It's a solid machine.
It had been suffering from disuse – not neglect, just simple not getting used enough. Rust pitting on the important bits and some rusting on the threaded rods. A couple of years in an unheated garage without being used to re-coat all the parts in oil will do this.
Not too much work to clean it up. It took a couple of evenings over a couple of weeks. Last night I got the electrical stuff all sorted and got it to move!
So I dug up a bucket, and connected water and electricity to the same spot on the machine. This is generally a bad idea in my experience.
It cuts! A little bit of tweaking, and it cuts correctly!
About an hour into running it, it gave an error and shut down. Not really sure why, but I think it's because the controller got hot. There was a reading of 75c on the screen when I was pushing buttons. I think I found why the controller box was open.
Next project is to improve the airflow in the controller box. I have a plan for this. I will install rubber grommets around the holes the wires poke through too.
I also need to learn about "Speeds and Feeds". CNC Routers have an ideal window where they work well for a given material. The 3D printing methodology of slowing down, sorting things out, then speeding back up does NOT apply to CNC Routing it appears.
Lots of photos in the album. Each one is captioned.
I've been wanting the Learning Herbs Herbal Remedy Kit for several years now. They just had a 50% off sale, so I got it. It really helps that Bella is almost as interested in Herbal remedies as I am. So I justified the kit as much as for her as for me.
This weekend we opened up the kit and started making stuff out of it. We got the Echinacea Tincture started – that takes 6 weeks. We also made the Healing Herbal Salve.
The kit came on Friday, so that night I put the herb mix into my crock pot to infuse and we went to dinner with friends. I let it cool in the crock pot over night and turned it back on in the morning to heat back up for the next step.
The girls and I made up the salve in the morning. I chose to use different containers than what came with the kit as I want to use the little tins with some other salves I've already got the oils made up for.
We also put a tincture and a glycerite I made earlier this year into a couple of the dropper bottles in the kit.
It's pretty neat to have my 5 year old tell me some of the properties of the plants as we are making the salve.
I've spent a lot of money at LearningHerbs.com over the last couple of years, but it's worth it. Not only for myself, but for my kids.
Some of the Learning Herbs Herbal Remedy Kit. I had already taken out and used half of it by this point that the photo was taken.
I used the crock pot on low to infuse my herbs into my oil. I think it runs just a little bit warmer than I want, but I can address that with either a mechanical timer to just on/off cycle it so it runs cooler or to build an actual heat controller for the crock pot.
I used my french press to separate the oil from the herbs. Works great.
My double boiler bowl is actually a dog bowl. Cheap stainless steel that won’t trigger an argument with my wife over her good kitchen gear.
I made a tin, 2 baby food jars, and the big jar that came in the kit. I chose to use the other tins in the kit for other salves. I can’t EVER follow directions.
More exciting than watching paint dry, watching salve cool.
A work of art!
The kit came with labels. A very nice finishing touch.
I've been attending non-core and small sessions so far to broaden my knowledge, as the big ones and keynotes will be available online. Over 8 miles of walking today my phone tells me. I packed light and carried the full week's stuff with me all day.
dreamforce. I’ve been reading about it and watching the videos for the last couple of years. I am actually here, in San Francisco this year!
They knew I was coming, the soda selection? Top notch!
The top bag is my Kelty Oriole bag. I packed for the week in this bag. A little inspiration from my online Ultralight Backing Group. I knew I was getting a backpack at the event, so this works out for me, I have room for bringing stuff home in the 2nd bag.
I’d drive it to work lettered up without shame! Well, the ‘win me’ on the hood could be removed to clear up any confusion.
Talk about a surprise, seeing one of my machines at dreamforce for the Internet of Things Cloud booth. We could do oh-so much more to really show off everyone’s capabilities.