The 10 essential tools to start making leather goods

10 leather tools to get started with leather works, Leather tools -

The 10 essential tools to start making leather goods

In this article, I will try to be exhaustive by limiting the list to the essentials, I will name and explain the use of ten tools by proposing a link for the purchase of each of them.

When you start a new activity, whether it is professional or recreational, it is normal to feel drowned by the flood of information that you start to glean here and there, this article will help you to see more clearly in the choice of the essential tools that you will need to start without spending a fortune. You'll then be able to build up your arsenal as you progress, and as your needs change. To begin with, these ten tools should enable you to undertake many projects!

1) The round and diamond-shaped awls:

The round awl is used to mark or pierce the leather. The diamond awl is only used for saddlery hand stitching, it splits the leather like a sword, cutting it, while the round awl pierces it, a bit like a bullet. It is generally preferable to polish the awl and to sand the wooden handle yourself because most manufacturers do not bother with the finish of these tools, this personal touch that you can bring is also a way to adopt them better and to create a natural bond between your and them.

Round and diamond shaped awls

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2) The divider:

The divider is used to mark a distance between two points and to draw lines parallel to an edge, very useful to draw the line on which your stitching will be positioned. As for the awl, it is generally preferable to polish the points of your compass yourself to avoid that they scratch the leather and just mark it, most manufacturers, once again, are a bit lazy on the finishing. 

Tracing leather with a dividerTracing leather with a divider

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3) The skiving knife:

Skiving leather  

To reduce the thickness where necessary, there are various forms, the round knife, very recognizable by its shape, it represents universally as a pictorial symbol the leather trades since the Middle Ages. This knife is not only used to skive leather but also to cut it. I would not recommend it to beginners , because its oblong shape requires a certain know-how to sharpen it and to master its use, some consider it a must-have, in reality one can do without it very well. It is certainly wiser to opt for a straight or oblique knife, easier to use and maintain.

Japanese skiving knife

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4) Pricking irons :

They are used to strike the leather and pierce it in order to stitch it while ensuring regularity between each stitch. It is best to choose a set of two irons per stitch size. One with two teeth for punching curves and one with 5 teeth for straight lines. For sizes, 3 stitches per cm for leather goods and 4 stitches per cm for small leather goods is a standard, like all rules, it can be bypassed but not ignored.

Pricking irons

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5) The mallet: 

It is important to use a mallet with a plastic or wooden end to hit metal tools and avoid damaging them while avoiding unnecessary noise.

Mallet for leather works

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6) Saddler's hammers :

Saddler's hammer

There are different sizes, they are used to consolidate an assembly after gluing or to form a fold by tapping the leather, its shape must be convex, its surface polished and clean to not leave unwanted marks. A face with a diameter of 25 mm is suitable for almost all uses, a tool that is too heavy and could cause the leather to burst. We are leather workers, not blacksmiths.

Saddler's hammer

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7) Creasing iron

Creasing iron for leather

25 years ago they were heated on gas stoves, now they are almost all electric, this has made the control of their temperatures easier, different brands offer on the market, once, a French manufacturer held the monopoly by imposing rather prohibitive prices for a basic technology: a heating element and a transformer. The creasing iron rounds the edge a little while making it more compact, this having the advantage of facilitating the finishing to come, and, icing on the cake, it leaves a small very aesthetic line between the seam and the edge of the leather, the kind of detail that the connoisseur notices. Please note that "vegetable tanned" leather does not need to be hot creased (I would even say avoid it, because it burns) in this case, opt instead for a manual creasing tool, less expensive and less cumbersome, or simply your electric iron used cold.

Affordable creasing equipment

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8) Cutting matts, punching boards and skiving stone: 

The three supports on which you will work. For the cutting matt it is necessary that it is large enough to suit the cutting of large pieces, for a bag for example, a format A1 seems rather appropriate, for small leather goods, a format A3 is suitable.

The punching board is used with punches only, and the skiving stone to tap the leather with your hammer or to skive it.

For the stone, you can get a piece of marble or granite that you will have re-cut and polished if necessary, choose a thickness of at least 3 cm to avoid that it does not shatter on the long run.

Cutting matt

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Punching board

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9) Le cutter ou la pointe de coupe :

There are several schools of thought, some swear by a traditional cutting knife such as the "Indispensable" and sharpen it by hand, others (including myself) will tell you that the cutter is still more practical. Choose a quality cutter with a metal body and whose blade is firmly held in the sheath.

Cutting leather

Cutting leather

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10) Stitching clamp : 

The ones you used to find on the market looked like huge pickle tongs. Even if these were the standard for many decades, it is now easy to find on the market much more practical clamps that can be fixed on the edge of your workbench, they come in different sizes, I strongly recommend this type of model that will save you from serious back pain in the long run.

Leather Stitching clamp

Leather Stitching clamp

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Summary of links for each tool:

• Awls

• Mallet

• Saddler hammer

• Stitching clamp

• Cutting matt

• Punching board

• Pricking irons

• Japanese skiving knife

• Cutter

• Creasing iron kit

• Divider



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