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Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Leatherworking 101

My posts in the Projects megathread have attracted some interest, so I figured it might be worth making an entire thread about leather and leatherwork. I also know, from when I started, that there aren't many good resources online for beginners, so hopefully this will be helpful.

Leather


Leather comes primarily in two types. There is vegetable tanned leather, commonly referred to as veg tan, and mineral tanned, also referred to as chrome tan.

Veg Tan


This is leather that has been tanned using tanning, a chemical that occurs naturally in many plants. I won't go into the details of how it's tanned; the important part is the effect. Veg tanned leather can be tooled, carved, and dyed by the end user.

Chrome Tan


The other type of leather you're likely to find in a shop is Chrome Tan, which is processed with chemical salts to preserve it. Chrome tan is water resistant, and cannot be dyed. It's a little stretchy, and generally has been dyed during the tanning process. Most leather that you see used in fashion has been chrome tanned. If you've got a leather jacket or purse that is made of real leather, not synthetic stuff, it's probably chrome tan. It's lighter and more flexible, which makes it easier to sew in a standard sewing machine.

Buying Leather

I do my shopping at Tandy Leather. They're a nationwide franchise in the US, and they'll ship to you if you're not close to one. They have a large variety of leather and tools, and most stores try to stock everything that is in the catalog. The one near me also has incredibly helpful staff. They don't mind showing me how something is done, even if it takes 20 minutes. The level of customer service I've gotten from my local shop is incredible, and I would recommend them to anyone.

Leather isn't sold by the yard, like fabric; it's normally sold by the cut, and priced based on the square footage. The smallest is a single shoulder, about 6 square feet each, then double shoulders, all the way up to a side, which is half of a full hide, up to a full hide which could be 60 square feet.

Leather is also priced by weight and quality. The thickness is measured in ounces. Very thin veg tan might be only 3 or 4 ounces, and the heaviest you're likely to find is 16 oz, which is almost an inch thick. Higher quality leather is going to be more even, and have less thin spots, marks, scars, or brands. Keep in mind, you're purchasing the skin of an animal that lived outside, so it's quite possible to have marks and such that you don't want. Depending on what you're making, those marks might not be a big deal. If all you need is a bunch of small pieces; say your'e making little pouches or satchels, then a scar in the middle doesn't matter. However, if you need pig pieces of leather, for a garment, or a large bag, then a piece might be worthless if there's a hole in the middle.
This is one reason I am reluctant to purchase leather itself via mail order. At my local shop, I can roll out the individual pieces and see what they look like. There's a lot of variation in grain and color, too.

What to do once you've bought this giant hunk of animal skin?

The primary advantage to veg tan leather is it's truly a raw material. You can shape it and color it into anything you might want. It will retain marks you put into it, too. This is where carving and tooling come in.

The basic steps are : Cut out the leather pieces you need, get the leather wet, then put a pattern onto the surface. Cut into that pattern with a special tool called a swivel knife, then use a hammer and marking tools to decorate it. Once that's done, let the leather dry and dye it.

Cutting the leather can be done in many ways. Previously, I'd been using a utility knife and big, high end fabric scissors.


That was working pretty well, but last week I picked up a round knife

It's a little tricky to get the hand of it, but I've already noticed a huger difference. It makes cutting curves much, much easier. It's incredibly sharp, though, and very easy to catch a stray finger. I've even nicked myself under a fingernail. Feels awesome!

Wetting the leather is called "Casing." You can do it with a wet sponge, or you can just run the leather under running water. I personally prefer running water, but it's definitely a preference thing.

Next, wait for the leather to dry out a little. The rule of thumb is, wait until it lightens back up to its original color, and is cool to the touch. You don't want to mess with it while it's soaking wet.

There are all sorts of ways you can transfer a pattern to the leather. One common thing is by tracing over a paper pattern with a tool that has a rounded point. The tool will leave a small impression in the leather. The downside to this method is it's a little tedious and time consuming, and it's very easy to tear through your paper, especially if it gets damp from the leather. The upside is, you can create, copy, and edit patterns on your computer.

The next most popular method is what Tandy calls a craft aid.

These are pieces of clear plastic that have ridges on the back. You press the ridged side into the surface of the leather, and rub the other side with a spoon. This leaves very crisp, clean marks in the leather. The upside is, it's very easy. The downside is, you're stuck using the sizes and patterns they have for sale. You can't really resize them, and if you're working on anything unusual or different, then you might not get the shapes you want.
Once you've got a pattern on your leather, it's time to cut it with a swivel knife. This is a special type of knife that you hold almost like a pencil, and it has a triangular blade. This was probably the hardest part for me to learn, and one of the first things the helpful staff showed me. You really have to press the knife into the leather pretty hard, and you want to leave a pronounced, v shaped groove. Just simply scratching the surface isn't enough.

The knife does swivel, as the name suggests, so you can cut curves and flowing lines easily. Of course, it takes practice, but using a swivel knife properly is a valuable skill.

After you've cut the pattern with the swivel knife, it's hammer time! Tandy sells tools of all sorts that leave impressions in the leather. You can get plain ones, lines, crosshatching, curved stuff, round stuff, letters, etc. By combining different shapes and textures, you can make things stand out and look fantastic. You can also skip the swivel knife step and just do patterns, too, like the basketweave pattern on this holster.

After tooling the leather, I do any holes or grooves needed for sewing. First, you use a tool called a "gouger."



This cuts a tiny little round tube out of the leather. Then you run this little spiked wheel along the groove, and it leaves marks where you'll put the holes for your needle.



In theory, the way you're supposed to sew is by using a handheld awl to punch those holes as you go. In reality, I've discovered that is an amazing way to stab the unholy poo poo out of your fingers. So, I cheat : I drill my hole with a 3/32" drill bit on a dremel. Here's an example :



Once you've got the pattern and tooling done, the next step is to dye the leather. Tandy sells many differen brands and types of dye, but the ones I've used the most are either water based or alcohol based. I prefer alcohol based dyes, as I've found that they produce brighter, more vivid colors. There is a staggering array of different products that can produce all sorts of amazing results. You can get things that sink darker colors into the crevices, or produce different finishes, whatever you want, you can probably find a product that does it.
After dyeing, it's time to seal the leather, both front and back. I use a leather wax, and then burnish the back with a piece of wood. This gives some water proofing, and also flattens out the rough back side (often referred to as the flesh side). The front I condition a little differently. These days I use a combination of saddle soap, neatsfoot oil, and a waterproofing compound.
A big part of leather working is waiting for leather to dry. You certainly don't want to sew with wet leather, it will tear and warp. Once I'm done dyeing the leather, I give it overnight before I start sewing.
Sewing is done with two needles, at each end of the thread. The needles work in opposition; each hole gets a needle pushed through from both sides. This interlocks the thread, and makes it so that even if some stitches break, the whole thing won't unravel. Tandy sells a few different types of thread, all of which is much thicker than traditional sewing thread. My favorite is an artificial sinew made of nylon; it's strong and doesn't break during sewing.
Here are some other things I've made and photographed so far.

Here's a little pouch I made out of scraps, I'm pretty happy with this one.



Another holster I made for a goon, this shows off a more traditional western floral pattern.



This is my attempt at a faux snakeskin pattern, which I think came out pretty well.



I've got a few other things I'm working on, including some leather fetish gear, and some more costume / cosplay type things. I'll post pictures as I make more progress. I am happy to answer any questions here, and hopefully some other leather working goons will come out of the woodwork and add to the discussion.

Note : all images on my hosting

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Piss-Ant
Oct 13, 2004

I'm not a malafactor, I'm a Lagomorph!

I have always wanted to pick this up. I really like your designs as well. The gun holster is really cool. I like the idea of this thread and will be following closely.

SpartanIvy
May 18, 2007

this avatar is brought to you by the campaign to pay lowtax's medical bills since 1999
Keep the lights on in this dead gay forum



Hair Elf

I'm going to have to add leather working to my list of hobbies to try out. It will be a good compliment to reloading bullets because I can make a bandolier to hold them in

MaineMan
Jan 10, 2006


Whoah, you've got some awesome looking stuff!

Easy (hopefully) question for you. I bought an old off-brand Duluth (canoe) pack off of Craigslist last summer, and the leather straps are not in the best of condition. I took it to my local saddle shop to have one of the straps replaced (I got the pack for $40, a pretty good deal) and the lady there charged me $20 to put a new strap on, put a few rivets in, and cut it to size. After I took it on a 2-week long canoe trip, the other strap ended up breaking around 10 days in.

It's out in a garage cabinet right now, so I can't take an actual photo of it, but here are a few pictures for reference:

Back of pack (with backpack-like straps)
http://www.acontinuouslean.com/wp-c...Duluth_Pack.jpg
Front of pack (where you open the flap to stash your gear)
http://acontinuouslean.files.wordpr...8/10/1202_2.jpg

Basically, all of the leather has seen a lot of abuse and I'd like to swap it out. The straps that keep the pack shut were the exact same size that the lady had at the saddle shop--guessing it was for bridlework. The backpack straps are a bit wider as you can see from the photos. I saw her do the rivet work and it looks extremely simple... Just need the rivet tool and some brass or copper rivets. I don't have a local place to buy any leather from (the nearest Tandy leather is like 30 miles away).

If I were to measure all the strap material and arrange them in a way that they could be cut from a large piece of leather, would replacing all of the straps be easy work for a newbie? The saddle shop lady said I could bring it in and have her replace all of the straps... But at the prices she charged I am better off just buying a brand new pack! The canvas is in good condition, and has a rubber liner at the bottom, so I'd rather just re-do it myself and save my cash. I have the old pieces to use as a pattern.

Where would you suggest buying such a piece of leather to cut the pieces from? What type would you recommend for this project? I don't really care about the color as long as it's tan/brown, but it needs to be strong enough to withstand heavy abuse and stand up to water exposure.

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


I was wondering if DIY had an old leatherworking thread lurking in the past last night.

I worked with leather ~20 years ago when my dad, my brother and I were into knife-making. Nothing as serious as the OP but we did alright. As long as you don't aim for complex patterns and forms, it's pretty easy to get into. We formed (with water) the holsters for the knives, stitched them up and made belt loops using only leather and thread. Experimented with only leather but is was far more challenging.

Been thinking of making belts and armbands again so I can get them just right. Will keep a close eye on this thread.

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



MaakHatt posted:

I don't have a local place to buy any leather from (the nearest Tandy leather is like 30 miles away).

My nearest Tandy shop is 90 miles away, and I go there once or twice a month. Unless that's a typo and it's 300 miles, you should just go in person.

MaakHatt posted:

If I were to measure all the strap material and arrange them in a way that they could be cut from a large piece of leather, would replacing all of the straps be easy work for a newbie? The saddle shop lady said I could bring it in and have her replace all of the straps... But at the prices she charged I am better off just buying a brand new pack! The canvas is in good condition, and has a rubber liner at the bottom, so I'd rather just re-do it myself and save my cash. I have the old pieces to use as a pattern.

Where would you suggest buying such a piece of leather to cut the pieces from? What type would you recommend for this project? I don't really care about the color as long as it's tan/brown, but it needs to be strong enough to withstand heavy abuse and stand up to water exposure.

If price is your biggest concern, you're better off buying another pack. You could easily spend $50 or $60 just on the supplies you need, and that's assuming you do everything perfectly the first time.

For leather, you'd want some thick, heavy duty veg tan, like in the 8 to 10 oz range. A single cheap shoulder will set you back about $50. That's probably enough to cut the straps you need, but it may not be long enough for you to get the longest straps you need. Your next option would be buying belt blanks and strips. The cheapest strips start at $10 a piece, and a 2" wide, 42" long belt blank is $16.

Assuming you've got a knife to cut things with, you won't need to buy that. Rivets can be purchased in a set with a tool for $10.00

Buckles, you could probably use the existing ones. Oh, and you'll need a hole punch, also $10 each. For buckles I use a large oblong punch, those start at $20 each.

That's not counting any finish treatment or anything like that. You could easily spend another $10 on oil and waterproofing. At a minimum, if you did this yourself, you're looking at $40 or $50. The only other cheaper way would be to find some heavy duty leather somewhere cheap; I've had some luck looking at Salvation Army / Savers and buying old clothes and things there.

I'll be the first to admit that this hobby can get expensive, fast. I think every time I cross the Tandy threshold, I spend at least $100. The good thing about tools is you only have to buy them once, but the leather itself isn't cheap.

Cambrinus
Jan 3, 2007

The Duke of Beer


Your stuff looks great Pagan! It makes me regret leaving all of my leatherworking tools at home; my fingers have been itching to get something done, but it'll have to wait till May when I'm back. I mostly tool leather for 'armor'/costuming and it's a shame I haven't taken many pictures of my work/my progress while I was working.

I'll get on that once I'm home and probably post some stuff in here as well. To atleast contribute something, here's the link to the old, archived, leatherworking thread: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...hreadid=3260854 And one picture of something I did a while back, including a prop 'clawhand'. The edges were tooled, as well as the symbol, which I painted white for contrast/colour matching with the hand:


Also, in regards to transferring your patterns for tooling onto the leather, I've found that working with kite paper can be very handy. It's see-through, but quite water resistant and I've found you can use the same pattern for a very long time before the paper wears out.

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


Question for you lot that know "stuff": If I set out to create what I write earlier, belts, armbands and stuff like that; I expect to use regular untreated leather that I'll tan myself later. Will it be flexible enough for something like a belt and not crack over time? It worked for the knife holsters I made ages ago, but "ages ago". I remember close to nothing of the coloring process.

Tanning yourself: How do you prevent the leather from rubbing color off onto clothes? Especially when freshly tanned.

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Iskariot posted:

Question for you lot that know "stuff": If I set out to create what I write earlier, belts, armbands and stuff like that; I expect to use regular untreated leather that I'll tan myself later. Will it be flexible enough for something like a belt and not crack over time? It worked for the knife holsters I made ages ago, but "ages ago". I remember close to nothing of the coloring process.

Tanning yourself: How do you prevent the leather from rubbing color off onto clothes? Especially when freshly tanned.

I have never tried tanning my own. Well, I did once, and it was such an abysmal disgusting stinking failure that I will never try it again. (Start small, kids. A rabbit hide. Not an entire bull's hide for your first project.)

"Untanned" leather is basically raw meat, so I think you may have your terms confused. You may be thinking of veg tanned leather, which has a blonde, raw color to it, but it's been tanned. It stays flexible, and can be oiled if it ever dries out.

The dyes are permanent. Once you dye your leather properly, there should be no worry that the color will rub off. I have not had that as a problem.

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


DUHR. Yes, I mixed up the terms. I meant dyeing of course.

(Incidentally I've tanned some sheep skins many years ago but I don't want to do that again.)

philkop
Oct 19, 2008

Chomp chomp chomp...We have the legendary Magic Beans
Goon Made Wallets
.


Pagan posted:

Cutting the leather can be done in many ways. Previously, I'd been using a utility knife and big, high end fabric scissors.


You have some really crazy stuff man. Will be checking out the thread often.

I thought this was strange too..

Took this 5 minutes ago on my desk.
I guess my next step will be a round blade.

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



philkop posted:

You have some really crazy stuff man. Will be checking out the thread often.

I thought this was strange too..

Took this 5 minutes ago on my desk.
I guess my next step will be a round blade.

I got a round blade on sale a few weeks ago. I'm still getting the hang of things, but it's pretty useful so far.

The most recent project I've finished : A mask! This girl wanted a cat mask for some pictures, and who am I to say no?

May be due to skimpy clothing







That's my first attempt at making a mask, and I'm quite happy with the results. I bought a mask at a ren faire last year, and although I paid $70 for it, it's cheap crap in comparison to what I made. I designed a pattern in photoshop, printed it out on paper, and test fitted the paper a few times on me. I soaked the leather an extra long time before carving and tooling, and then shaped it as it dried.

TheNothingNew
Nov 10, 2008


This is good stuff, and I thank you for it. I'm trying to teach myself leather stitching, and it's slow going.

Can anyone talk about mating edges in leather? I've done a couple of backpacks, but I'm really not happy with how the 90-degree edges turn out. Might also be a result of using cheap chrome-tanned leather.

Also, what's the name of the rotary spiky tool? I am so making a trip to Tandy once you tell me; marking out every quarter-inch with a scratch tool is the biggest pain in the rear end.

e: oh yes, does the water-treatment method of paper pattern transfer work on chrome-tanned leather? I thought water was just for tooling marks, so I haven't tried it at all.

TheNothingNew fucked around with this message at 05:01 on Apr 20, 2012

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


Pricking Wheels -
These consist of a frame into which different wheels are mounted. Expensive but useful for long or curved stitch runs. Sizes refer to the number of teeth per inch. Also available as a fixed wheel and frame.

From http://www.bowstock.co.uk/tools.html

Guessing that's what you are referring to.

TheNothingNew
Nov 10, 2008


That's the bunny, thank you.

I think I'm not going basic enough: anyone recommend a beginner's website or something? Tandy has some videos, but while the old guy is adorable, they assume a certain base knowledge that I don't have.

Atticus_1354
Dec 9, 2006

Don't you go near that dog, you understand? Don't go near him, he's just as dangerous dead as alive.


I think I found my summer hobby. First thing is that I have a small patch knife that needs a sheath and a larger knife that could use a new sheath. What thickness of leather would I want to do this with? Also, is there a difference between working cow leather and deer leather or something like alligator hide? Have you ever worked with hides that still have the hair on? I have an idea in my head for fancy matching sheathes for one of my knives and my tomahawk.

This is the small knife. I figure if I mess it up then I am not out as much leather and work as for a larger knife.

Patch Knife2 by atticus_1354, on Flickr

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Atticus_1354 posted:

I think I found my summer hobby. First thing is that I have a small patch knife that needs a sheath and a larger knife that could use a new sheath. What thickness of leather would I want to do this with?

Anything above 5 ounces would work. I tend to buy 8 to 12 ounce stuff most of the time.

Atticus_1354 posted:

Also, is there a difference between working cow leather and deer leather or something like alligator hide?

The only difference is going to be in the thickness and the way it's tanned. Veg tan, you can carve and tool. Chrome tan you can't. I imagine most alligator and snake will be chrome tanned, but I haven't looked at exotic leathers much.

Atticus_1354 posted:

Have you ever worked with hides that still have the hair on? I have an idea in my head for fancy matching sheathes for one of my knives and my tomahawk.

I have done a little work with rabbit hide that still had the hair. It's tedious and annoying work; the hair gets EVERYWHERE, and it makes it harder to see and to sew. My thread kept snagging the hair and pulling it through the stitching, making it look very messy.


Atticus_1354 posted:

This is the small knife. I figure if I mess it up then I am not out as much leather and work as for a larger knife.

Patch Knife2 by atticus_1354, on Flickr

I would take a look through the scrap bin at Tandy for the leather, but you'll end up spending more on tools then on leather to make a sheath for it.

Atticus_1354
Dec 9, 2006

Don't you go near that dog, you understand? Don't go near him, he's just as dangerous dead as alive.


Pagan posted:

I would take a look through the scrap bin at Tandy for the leather, but you'll end up spending more on tools then on leather to make a sheath for it.

Thanks for the help. I figured tools would make up the bulk of the cost, but I think my dad has some left over from when he did leather work years ago. I just need to dig through the garage and his workshop. I did a small amount of leather work as a kid and have been considering taking it up again for a while now. Believe me I have plenty of projects planned to offset the cost of tools. The only problem is there is not a Tandy anywhere nearby, but I can swing by the Austin or Houston store this summer when I am back on that side of the state.

One more question. How do I get the sheath to form fit to the knife handle like in this picture?

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Atticus_1354 posted:

One more question. How do I get the sheath to form fit to the knife handle like in this picture?



Get it wet, and put the knife in the sheath while the leather is still wet. If you really want to get fancy, press the leather against the knife handle, or tap it with a hammer.

Atticus_1354
Dec 9, 2006

Don't you go near that dog, you understand? Don't go near him, he's just as dangerous dead as alive.


Pagan posted:

Get it wet, and put the knife in the sheath while the leather is still wet. If you really want to get fancy, press the leather against the knife handle, or tap it with a hammer.

Thanks again. I really appreciate the help. Now to see if my dad remembers where he put his leather tools.

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


Pagan posted:

Get it wet, and put the knife in the sheath while the leather is still wet. If you really want to get fancy, press the leather against the knife handle, or tap it with a hammer.
Remember to pack the knife in plastic wrap so you don't damage the knife with the water. A quality forged blade will seldom be stainless so you risk rust and while I expect the handle to be treated with wax and oils, better safe than sorry!

If I remember this correctly:

1. Make a paper mockup of the sheath.
2. Cut it out of leather.
3. Stitch it up.
4. Soak it in water.
5. Press the knife in. (it will likely be very snug)
6. Form the sheath.

I think this was the order of things.

horribleslob
Nov 23, 2004


Mind if I ask a question?

I recently bought a leather couch and the douche helping me move hosed it up a bit. The leather got some light grating along one side (I'd rate the damage a 5 or 6 out of 10) and I want it fixed. There are some kits being sold online that get mixed reviews (I'm afraid they're all some hogwash serpent oil) so I've been looking into commercial repair. There's a professional repair service in my area that I've emailed for a quote (http://www.fibrenew.com for the curious) but I wanted to cull those who've tried this sort of poo poo before out from forums' woodwork. What's the general cost of a pro repair? What should my expectations be? I'm open to just saying "gently caress it" and leaving the couch as-is.

Here are some pictures of the hurt:



The dark spots you see are my feeble attempt at coloring in the damage. It actually improved its appearance but you can't hide ugly under a white light.

Ambrose Burnside
Aug 29, 2007

pensive


1) Can I make cuir bouilli scales out of old belts?

2) I've been wanting to make an armoured -something- out of beer caps that have been flattened and domed slightly roundish for strength. I was thinking of riveting them all overlapping-like to a leather backing. What would I need to rivet metal scales to leather? I'd only be doing a vest or something else very simple, but would it be worth buying the raw leather and making a cuirass-esque thing from it or just mangling an old leather jacket?

Sapphaholic
Mar 21, 2008

Delicious.

I figure this is the best place to ask:

I have a really nice leather tricorn hat that I purchased at the local ren faire four years ago. This last summer I noticed it had become extremely tight on my head to the point where it gave me a headache wearing it around. Is there something I can do to safely stretch it back out to fit my head proper without damaging the hat itself?

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



I apologize in advance that all three of my answers seem to be "I dunno, it depends."

Lief posted:

What's the general cost of a pro repair? What should my expectations be? I'm open to just saying "gently caress it" and leaving the couch as-is.

You're probably better off just saying gently caress it. I have a really nice reclining leather couch, and the cushions are starting to go. I called around, it would cost more than the couch was, brand new, to fix the cushions, because there's no easy way to remove the leather.

You MIGHT be able to find someone who can replace just the one section that's damaged, but I would imagine you're looking at, at a minimum, $100 to $200. If the leather repair kits are less than that, they might be worth a shot. I've never used one, so I can't say one way or the outher.

Ambrose Burnside posted:

1) Can I make cuir bouilli scales out of old belts?

Are they veg tan? Probably not. I've never tried boiling other types of leather, so I don't know. Try boiling a piece, and if it hardens up after it dries, then you're good to go!

I've made cuir bouilli out of veg tan and it works great, you only have to boil the leather for a few seconds, though. Maybe 30 seconds at the most. I don't know how chrome tan (which is what most commercially bought belts are made of) reacts to being boiled.

Ambrose Burnside posted:

2) I've been wanting to make an armoured -something- out of beer caps that have been flattened and domed slightly roundish for strength. I was thinking of riveting them all overlapping-like to a leather backing. What would I need to rivet metal scales to leather? I'd only be doing a vest or something else very simple, but would it be worth buying the raw leather and making a cuirass-esque thing from it or just mangling an old leather jacket?

The same rivets I use from Tandy would work fine. I'd get two punches, though; a metal one for the metal so you're not messing up the leather punch.

I'd look for a cheap leather vest, like what bikers wear, and start with that. It wouldn't be worth trying to build your own cuirass; the hide and tools alone would be enough that you could buy a pre made piece of armor from a commercial site. Plus, fabricating things from scratch has a lot of trial and error. Anything more complicated than the simplest arm bracer is going to take a few tries to get right. If you think you'll be getting into this as a hobby, I'd say make things from scratch, because all the tools you'll end up buying, you'll use for other things. If not, then get a used vest or jacket from Goodwill, two punches, a hammer, and some good sharp fabric shears.

Sapphaholic posted:

I figure this is the best place to ask:

I have a really nice leather tricorn hat that I purchased at the local ren faire four years ago. This last summer I noticed it had become extremely tight on my head to the point where it gave me a headache wearing it around. Is there something I can do to safely stretch it back out to fit my head proper without damaging the hat itself?

Is it all leather? If so, dunking it in water then putting it on your head should work without damaging it. Even if it's made of leather that won't wet mould easily (Chrome Tan instead of Veg Tan), you won't hurt anything. However, if there are fabrics or paint on the hat, those might get damaged.

Is there a tag or indication of who made the hat? Most Ren Faire stuff is hand made by individuals who love talking about their craft; could you look them up and ask what it's made out of? If it is made by a leather craftsman, they'll be able to give you the best advice.

Sapphaholic
Mar 21, 2008

Delicious.

Pagan posted:

Is it all leather? If so, dunking it in water then putting it on your head should work without damaging it. Even if it's made of leather that won't wet mould easily (Chrome Tan instead of Veg Tan), you won't hurt anything. However, if there are fabrics or paint on the hat, those might get damaged.
It is all leather, no paint or anything. I'll give this a shot, thank you!

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Sapphaholic posted:

It is all leather, no paint or anything. I'll give this a shot, thank you!

Just dunk it, for a second or two, then dump all the water out of the bowl. Jam it onto your head, and try not to mess with the actual corners; the goal here is to just mould the bowl / hatband to your skull, so it fits just right. You don't want the hat soaked or drenched, as it will lose all it's shape.

Once you've had the hat on for a few minutes and it feels like it fits, take it off, set it somewhere level and safe, and let it dry for at least two days.

Iskariot
May 25, 2010


Or see if you have a hatter close by. They will probably do just this but have tools to widen the crown without using your head head. They can even widen paper, wool, cotton and straw hats.

TheNothingNew
Nov 10, 2008


Pagan posted:

Are they veg tan? Probably not. I've never tried boiling other types of leather, so I don't know. Try boiling a piece, and if it hardens up after it dries, then you're good to go!

I've made cuir bouilli out of veg tan and it works great, you only have to boil the leather for a few seconds, though. Maybe 30 seconds at the most. I don't know how chrome tan (which is what most commercially bought belts are made of) reacts to being boiled.

I can speak on this a little, having ruined a pair of gloves (chrome tanned, I assume) that I was attempting to shrink just a bit.

Chrome tan (assuming that is what they were, pretty safe assumption) shrinks very quickly without attaining a useful hardness.

Note also that if you intend to try something as dumb as I did, "a few seconds" seriously means one or two seconds at a time. I dunked the gloves I had in boiling water for eight seconds, and they went from slightly too large to "appropriately sized for an eight-year-old, maybe." Wish I'd kept them, or taken before and after pictures, might have made a decent demonstration.

And yeah, they only got a little stiff, not blow-deflecting hard like you'd want for armor. Still, if you're just using old belts, give it a shot.

ndmain1977
May 24, 2012


Well sir, it's your fault that I just ordered the Tandy Starter kit... they're on sale for 34.99 fortunately, and not the 79 you paid. What is funny though, is that after I sent the order in, the confirmation email came, and at the bottom, it says:

Visit us today at:
2000 Esters Rd #200
Irving, TX 75061

I live in Irving TX, and according to google maps, about a 5 minute drive from this place.

Hopefully that means I can go down there and pick up leather whenever I need it instead of shipping it.

I think you've got me started on a hell of a hobby here. I saw the holster you made, and then when you said you had only been doing leather work about 6 months, I thought "Hell, I can make that for my dad in a few months then."

I hope to contribute to this thread soon.

ndmain1977
May 24, 2012


So, I've had the leatherworking kit for two days now. I figured I would start with the keyfob first, since I don't care if it gets messed up cause I'm not gonna use it. It's ugly, but that's okay, I actually just ended up using it as kind of a doodle sheet, to see what the tools would do, and try to figure out how to get the pressure right, etc.

I think I'm going to run over to the Tandy Leather store here Tuesday and get some other things. I am finding this to be rather enjoyable, and actually relaxing. Hopefully they have scrap leather that doesn't cost too much that I can just use for playing around with. I want to just get down the stamping, cutting, etc... before I move on to actually doing projects. I don't really want to mess up something that I actually want to use.

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Congrats on getting into the hobby!

I don't think I did a single project out of the basic kit, I just used it to experiment. So don't feel bad about that.

A few pieces of advice, in no particular order : Practice a LOT with the swivel knife, and learn to press hard. I'd say you should try actually cutting through a piece of leather with it, just so you can see how much pressure it takes. You don't use the swivel knife to make a shallow scratch; you need a deep, v-shaped gouge.

If you're going to be dyeing, invest in a few things. Latex or Vinyl exam gloves, first and foremost, but there are little applicators sold by tandy that are worth their weight in gold. The little metal ones with poofs of wool at the end are awesome, and they also sell small roundshaped ones that are good for polishing, too.

Figure out which stamping tools you use the most, and buy better ones. The aftermarket ones Tandy sells are good, but you can find great ones from other leather retailers. Prices vary, but if it's a tool you use all the time, it's worth spending $35 or so.

Sign up for Tandy's mailing list, if not their higher level accounts. I get coupons in the mail all the time, and a lot of them are really worth it.

Fiebings Saddle Soap is awesome.

Finally,experiment with how wet you get the leather before carving it (this is called "casing.") The starter set tells you to wet it with a sponge. That's one way, but you almost can't get it too wet. For a belt, I might soak it in the sink overnight, then in the morning move the wet belt to a ziplock bag which I seal, then that night, I take it out of the bag and let it dry for an hour or two. Then I start carving. Feel free to try different methods, times, etc.

Pardalis
Dec 26, 2008

The Amazing Dreadheaded Chameleon Keeper


I really want to try this out but I don't have the money to invest in the starter kit, even when it is on sale like it is now. I have a bunch of leather already that I have used in various projects; is there any reason I can't wet/soak it and try tooling it with various cuts and textures from what I have around the house? I understand the basic concept of what you are doing and how you get the various effects but I'm unsure if there is anything special about leather tools that I am missing. In the past I have carefully made holes with a punch or even just a dremel/drill. I would love to be able to gouge some texture in, too! Fantastic thread! I especially love the little pouch you whipped up.

ndmain1977
May 24, 2012


I like the pouch also. Looks like it was dyed with more than one color almost.

Thanks for the tips Pagan. I wound up just using the little coaster blank that comes in the kit as another testing piece.

Will be going over the the Tandy store Tuesday to pick up a few things.

I was curious if you've worked on anything new since posting the last projects you had done?

Martytoof
Feb 25, 2003

It's called a hassle, sweetheart..



As someone with only an outsider understanding of leatherworking, I'm curious how someone would stitch something like this:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/7530793...-leather-camera

I don't mean specifically how to duplicate this exact case, but more in general how you would go about stitching the sides of a case like this to the bottom. It just seems very difficult with the type of (relatively) thick leather you'd need to make a sturdy case.

e: Obviously I'm not expecting a step by step tutorial or anything, but anything you guys can point me to would be great. Examples or whatnot.

Martytoof fucked around with this message at 05:07 on Jul 10, 2012

Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



Martytoof posted:

As someone with only an outsider understanding of leatherworking, I'm curious how someone would stitch something like this:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/7530793...-leather-camera

I don't mean specifically how to duplicate this exact case, but more in general how you would go about stitching the sides of a case like this to the bottom. It just seems very difficult with the type of (relatively) thick leather you'd need to make a sturdy case.

e: Obviously I'm not expecting a step by step tutorial or anything, but anything you guys can point me to would be great. Examples or whatnot.

If you really want step by step, detailed instructions, buy this book :

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Hand-Sewi...=leather+sewing

For $13.00, it's probably cheaper than any other leather tool.

For now, though : Cases like that are sewn after a rough assembly. The edges come together with a 45 degree bevel on the inside, so they fit flush. Like this : |//_ instead of like this : |_|____

Does that make sense?

Then, the edges are glued, rubber cement is the favorite choice. Once they are held together, you sew through them at an angle, so each stitch grabs both pieces. You push the awl through at an angle, so it pierces both sides, then sew. Depending on the piece, some people use curved needles and curved awls. It's not super complicated, just time consuming. The finished product makes it worth it, obviously.

I haven't done any new big projects. I've made a few belts, but that's not anything worth posting. I spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer; most of my indoor hobbies get picked up again as it gets colder and the days get shorter.

Edit : After a closer look, it appears that for that case, they did have square edges and overlap, but still used the 45 degree sewing method. I imagine it would be very tricky to get a bevel around all those curves.

Pagan fucked around with this message at 17:16 on Jul 10, 2012

Martytoof
Feb 25, 2003

It's called a hassle, sweetheart..



That explains it perfectly, thanks very much for the detail

I'm only toying with the idea of making my own case, but I might pick up that book just for kicks!

Merci.

ndmain1977
May 24, 2012


I'm glad I bought a bunch of scrap leather for practice.

Tried putting my first pattern in leather tonight. I had bought a craftaid at Tandy Leather when I went the other day, and it is a sheet with several different celtic knot patterns to put on belts.

I'm having hell with the swivel knife. This is pathetic, but even with the lines there from the craftaid, I can't keep the knife within the lines. I'm either using it wrong, or I'm going too fast, or not casing the leather correctly, or something.

I watched the video on youtube that shows how to use it, and I'm still not getting it.

Is it just something I'm going to struggle with until I practice for a while?

Batfish
May 25, 2005


A couple of years ago I got into knife making, so also I had to teach myself leather crafting so I could make decent sheathes. I've branched out a little into some other projects like this one:



My first (and so far only) attempt at a belt. My tooling is quite crude compared to the OP's work, and I don't have a hot chick to model it, but I'm happy enough with how it came out to wear it daily.

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Pagan
Jun 3, 2003



ndmain1977 posted:

I'm glad I bought a bunch of scrap leather for practice.

Tried putting my first pattern in leather tonight. I had bought a craftaid at Tandy Leather when I went the other day, and it is a sheet with several different celtic knot patterns to put on belts.

I'm having hell with the swivel knife. This is pathetic, but even with the lines there from the craftaid, I can't keep the knife within the lines. I'm either using it wrong, or I'm going too fast, or not casing the leather correctly, or something.

I watched the video on youtube that shows how to use it, and I'm still not getting it.

Is it just something I'm going to struggle with until I practice for a while?

I made a little video to help you out :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrZ7Wc4D3wY

I realize I'm covering the knife with my hand in some of the strokes, but this video should help.

What craft-aid are you using? Some are a lot tougher than others.

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