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Thread: Any leather workers out there. Need some beginner advice.

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Any leather workers out there. Need some beginner advice.

    My leather working experience is basically none. I made a leather sleeve for my axe that turned out ok, but that's the extent of my experience.

    I want to buy some quality essential tools, but I don't truly know what or where to buy. I see weaver leather, Lee valley has some tools etc. I don't want to buy a subpar starter kit on Amazon or anything like that, I am looking to put together a small, quality kit.

    For my first project I want to make a bi fold wallet, or a couple actually. I was thinking I will need a trencher so the stitches are sub surface, a burnisher, needles, thread glue etc.

    Lee valley has a wheel layout tool for stitches, or the have pricking irons. I guess I don't know which is better.

    Thanks for any guidance!
    Always put the crappy side against the wall

  2. #2
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    I should mention I do have some tools in my shop I can use for leather. I have several awls, I have a wheel cutter for cutting leather, layout tools etc. I guess specialty tools is what I need.
    Always put the crappy side against the wall

  3. #3
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    CS Osborne makes a lot of leather tools (all in the US, AFAIK), everything I have from them (many punches, but recently a skiving knife) has been first rate. In my organ work I don't need a whole variety of tools

    https://www.csosborneleathertools.com

  4. #4
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    https://tandyleather.com/

    IIRC, Tandy was the parent company of Radio Shack & they had stores all over the place.

    Their web site has a ton of information & free patterns.
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  5. #5
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    I can do basic full thickness stuff like tool belt modifications, draught horse tack and a bit of saddlery. I use the prick wheels. That way you can puncture or awl or drill at each of the prick points going around curves and your stitches come out even. I do use some kind of special tool for getting my stitching set back uniformly from the edge of the leather, something adjustable like this: https://www.walmart.com/ip/30pcs-Lea...hing/908314311 in that image, top row, from the left, coarse and fine prick wheel, and then the marker/cutter tool to mark the seam line the prick wheel is supposed to roll in. None of the rest of that is useful for horse tack.

    Get your needles at a sewing store. You are going to break a LOT of needles getting started. Be kind to the nice lady at the sewing store, you will be dealing with her regularly and buying needles while you learn what works for you. Those curved ones are called mattress needles. In some projects they are the best way to get the job done, but I don't use them often.

    Billfolds and wallets are getting up there above the novice level for final finished look. With working horse tack it is just vegetable tanned leather and white flax thread until you get into pedigreed animals and prize money, or beer commercials. The horses sweat all over the pretty tack too, cleaning show horse tack was one of my shortest careers ever in this lifetime.

    Maybe a pair of moccasins or a knife sheath for camping on your way to taking on a billfold?

    Say no to nylon thread. It will eventually cut through leather goods, shortening the life of your product. I have never burnished anything leather, can't help you there. Never skived, never carved, never glued thread down.

    You can (and should) make your own stitching horse. You need some 2x4 scrap, some plywood scrap, an old door hinge, and a little time. If you hate it, modify it. Use your long 2x4 scrap as the fixed arm, clamp it vertical in your bench vise and start adding stuff to it.

    Coarse and fine prick wheel, seam marker, lump of beeswax, linen or flax thread, a friend at the sewing store for needles, some way to make some holes, DIY stitching horse, you are ready to go buy some hide. Flax thread usually comes with five twisted strands, for most of my stuff I use all five strands, make my holes with wire gauge drill bits and good sized needles. You can untwist Flax thread and only use 1-2-3-4 strands instead of all five. Plan to apply your own wax even to "waxed" flax thread. Hair on leather is a royal pain in the neck for stitching. I pretty much use neatsfoot oil on everything (they changed the packaging a few years ago), coats and coats of the stuff until the leather won't absorb anymore- after the item is fully stitched up. I can't remember the last time I dyed any leather, it has been decades.

    I have hot formed "boiled leather" to make a few sheaths for some sgains dubh. I am not sure it would be a reasonable step between moccasins (easy) and a billfold (has to be pretty), but ideally the sgian sheath should hold the knife well enough that it doesn't fall out walking around, but loose enough to stay behind in the sock when the knife is drawn. I find hilt shape to be key for these.

    I am trying to think of something that uses billfold like pretty stitching that doesn't use a lot of material, so cheap to practice on, but is useful item so you are not just throwing stuff away. My grandpa used to keep all his coins in a little leather thing in his pocket, but we all have debit cards now.

    I keep coming back to knife sheath. There is a blue million styles and finish levels. If you have a fixed blade knife in the say 6-10 inch total length range you could make a fairly simple camping sheath for it with leather in the 6-10 ounce range with reasonably fat holes and use all five strands in flax thread, dye the back of it one color, the front some other color, think of it as a shop appliance. Then build a nicer one. Holsters for handguns, and clothing like jackets or skirts are harder than billfolds by a lot.

    You could just make better and better billfolds if that is what you really want to do. Start with fairly rugged ones like for truck drivers or bikers or outdoorsmen and work your way up to M&A lawyers.

    Good luck, have fun.

  6. #6
    You might check out this place: https://www.springfieldleather.com/shop-now/tools
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  7. #7
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    In my younger years, I did quite a bit of leather work. You need to me more specific on what you plan to do. If you are going to stitch pieces of leather together with a sewing machine to make items, that is a different set of tools than hand tooling leather with leather swivel knives and stamps and then putting the pieces together with leather lacing. Hand tooling takes considerable time to do before you can assemble the pieces. As noted by other posters above Tandy Co. used to be the main source of leather working tools dyes, finishes and stamps.
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  8. #8
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    Years ago I bought a "Speedy Stitcher", that is hand held made to do a lock stitch in heavy material and leather. I have used it to repair my wifes hand bags.

  9. #9
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    What tools you need depends a lot on what you plan on doing, but you can probably get some nice old tools online. I did some leatherwork back in the early 70's, I made boots and shoes, I asked around and found an Old retired shoemaker, who was kind enough to teach me how to make the threads from single strand flax, how you unroll it and pull it apart so it has a fine feathered end, then blend five or six together, roll in a badger hair for a needle and use pine pitch and bees wax rosin to wax it. Then showed me how to sew a goodyear welt, and sold me some of his old tools , pliers and stuff. You cant beat that. I bought an old Singer patcher sewing machine for sewing the uppers, and handstiched the welts.
    Leather sewing needles are sharp chisel pointed, not round like fabric needles.

    It was a ton of fun.

    See if you can find some local to help you. good luck/

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  10. #10
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    Mark H's point about the special needles might be real handy for billfolds. With horse tack the holes drilled for the 5 strand thread are big enough that just about any needle will be fine, the needle is really a thing to grab on to when pulling the thread through the hole.

    Good to know Mark, thanks.

  11. #11
    First thing is if you want good tools stay away from Tandy they are not quality tools. Bruce Johnson, Barry King, CS Osborn make good tools, not cheap.You want a good Grover, decent pricking Irons. Saddle Stitching needles, an awl , waxed thread. a stitching pony,I assume your going to hand stitch before you invest in a leather sewing machine . Wallets take some practice for bifolds. Simple card wallets or Minimalist wallets are a little less technical . You want good leather, Herman Oak,wickett and craig, Horween ect ect.4to 5 oz exterior 2 to 3 oz inside.Theres a lot more . Do some research, lots of good videos on wallet making.
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