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A Guide to Leatherworking Tools

A Guide to Leatherworking Tools main article image
Posted on January 29, 2022 by Lyndsey Drooby
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Leatherworking is a whole different craft to get into, and with that, a plethora of new tools and accessories are needed as you delve further and further into the skills to create various leather items. Some tools are very specific, and others can be something you already own and can use in a pinch. There are also some tools that are meant for unique techniques in leatherworking. To get started, let’s take a look at the various tools needed to create leather projects, which include a variety of cutters, bevelers, and awls. 

As a beginner, and after dipping your toes into the leatherworking waters, you may want to go a bit further into the trade. This is when your tool collection will surely begin to grow. 

Tools & Tips:

Awl

An awl is a tool with a metal point used for marking placements such as where holes in a belt will go, piercing holes, punching, or sewing leather. There are different types of awls, depending on the type of leatherworking project. For example, there are lacing awls, needle awls, curved awls, diamond-tip awls, and even awls made specially for creating horse saddles. 

Beveler

A beveler is a tool with a sharp metal blade that is used to remove square corners from the edges of the leather. Bevelers can have rounded, angled, or straight blades which will all create a different finished look to your leather project. 

Burnisher

A burnisher is used to smooth and harden the edges of the leather by applying friction and pressure. The generation of heat changes the leather’s surface and wears away at the little hairy fibers that remain from cutting the piece measured for the project. 

Burnishers can be made out of various woods, plastics, or glass, for example.. If made of wood, they are usually made of pine, oak, maple, or rosewood, to name a few. Some may have a preference for particular woods as the textures can yield different results. 

Plastic burnishers are cheaper than wood burnishers but they generate heat much faster, thus something to look out for as they can burn the leather. 

Brass burnishers are also quick to heat generators and can burn leather, but being that they are heavier, can easily create a super smooth finish with added pressure. 

Burnishers made of glass do not retain heat like the other materials. They can safely create a smoothed edge on the leather without burning. 

Box Slicker

A box slicker is a solid block, typically made from wood, that acts in the same way as a burnisher to smooth the surface of the leather. Box slickers can vary in size, usually in preference to the individual or project size. Box slickers can also be found made of glass. 

Cutting Tools

From scissors to a rotary cutter, there are a few options here when it comes to cutting leather. The right cutting tool will depend on what and where you are cutting. Strap cutters and scissors can cut clean straight lines while pull straps and rotary cutters can cut around curves. 

Cutting Mat

A cutting mat is important for saving any work surface. 

Leather Glue

Look for glues that are specific for leather and suede.

Maul

A leather maul is a tool used for stamping and setting rivets. It has a head and a handle, used in a similar fashion as a mallet. 

Pricking Irons and Chisels

Pricking irons and chisels are used for marking and creating holes in leather. They are made with equally spaced pronged pointed edges to make evenly spaced stitch marks.

Punches

Leather punches do what their name suggests; they punch holes into leather and are used for setting rivets in belts and collars. 

Skiver

A leather skiver is a metal tool used to remove and shave thin layers of leather material off of the surface.

Stamps

Leather stamps are made of metal and are used to create designs on the surface of the leather. 

Sewing Tools

An assortment of needles and thread are needed. Always choose ones that are appropriate for, and will withstand, the strength of leather. 

Knives

X-acto knives and other craft knives with sturdy, sharp blades can work with straight cuts, as can a utility knife. Each has sharp blades and is incredibly inexpensive. 

Swivel knives are used for carving intricate designs and patterns on leather pieces. They have a chisel-edged blade and are held upright when in use. Blade styles can range from straight or angled, perfect for different cutting styles and uses. 

Bevel point knives have a beveled edge and help with skiving and edge trimming. These knives are best for having control over how deep the cut will be.

Curved lip knives have a bent tip and are typically used for the trimming of shoe soles. 

Trimming knives are used for fine, detailed cuts with straight or curved blades. Trimming knives are great for edges, seams, and trim work.

Cleaners and Oils

Since it is a natural material, leather needs to be maintained and taken care of by heaving a healthy balance of humidity and oils. A dry leather can crack and flake apart. If it gets too wet, it can mold and start to decompose. There is an even balance of keeping leather moisturized and buttery soft to be a long-lasting material. 

Leather cleaners, conditioners, and oils are used for this purpose as well as keeping dust, debris, and dirt away from the material. Oil and waxes can help preserve the natural feel. 

If there is any important piece to note about acquiring leatherworking tools is that it is best to search for quality. The better the quality, the better the performance and longevity of the tool. The overall craftsmanship of the project will look better whereas something made with lesser quality tools can look a little rough. How do you go about this? Always do your research and ask around at craft stores. It also comes down to your own experience. As you go further in your leatherworking adventure, your own knowledge of tools will advance. 


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