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The Leathercraft

Manual

by

Justin T. Schlichter

The Leathercraft Manual


by

Ju s t i n T. S c h l i c h t e r

Introduction
Welcome to leathercraft! My name is Justin Schlichter and I am 16
years old. I learned how to leathercraft at the age of 12 and began a
leather business, J&G Leather, when I was 13. My business consists of
selling products to stores and individuals. I do anything from making cell
phone cases to repairing saddles. I would like to encourage you to learn
leathercrafting, an enjoyable and worthwhile hobby.
Leathercrafting can also be used as a ministry opportunity. God can use
your leather products to bless other people by giving away leather items
to people at retirement homes, friends, or spiritual leaders.
In this book, I talk about the basics of leather and tooling. However,
there is much more to be learned about leathercrafting. This book is only
designed to whet your appetite in the art. Located in the back of the
manual are recommended sources for all your leathercrafting endeavors.
I hope that this manual will be useful as you explore the exciting art of
leathercrafting!
Justin T. Schlichter, CFC, ALERT Cadets

Table of Contents
Leather ................................................................................. 5
Buying Leather ...................................................................... 5
Tooling ................................................................................. 6
Stamping .............................................................................. 7
Carving ................................................................................. 8
Recommended Shopping Avenues.......................................... 10
Recommended Books ........................................................... 11
Notes .................................................................................. 12
The Leathercraft ManualPage 4

Leather
There are many types of leather on the market today, some are synthetic and others are real.
However, there are three that every beginner should be aware ofVegetable-tanned, Latigo, and
Suede.
Vegetable-tanned (or Veg-tanned) leather can be tooled, molded, dyed, or painted. In the past, vegtanned leather was tanned with certain types of vegetation containing an acid called tannins such as
oak bark, gallnuts and sumac leaves. Leather is now tanned out of country using various chemicals.
Latigo leather is tanned using a special tanning process that puts the leather in a drum and spins it
while packing it with hot oils and waxes. This keeps it from stretching and makes it virtually mold
and mildew resistant. This process makes latigo an excellent choice for straps and other related
items. However, latigo leather cannot be carved. It can be stamped, but it will not look near as crisp
as Veg-tanned leather will.
Suede leather is good for lining, fringe, etc. However, it cannot be tooled, and if dyed, the dye will be
forever coming off all over everything it touches. One example of suede leather is hiking boots.

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Buying Leather
Most leather is priced by the square foot and sold by the hide. Leather is also sold in different
thicknesses referred to as weight. The weight of leather is measured in ounces. One ounce is equal to
1
/64th of an inch of thickness. For example, an eight-ounce hide is approximately 1/8th of an inch thick.

Page 5The Leathercraft Manual

Tooling
There are two main types of toolingstamping and carving. Stamping is when you emboss the
leather using alphabet stamps or picture stamps. Carving is done by first tracing the outline of the
design, then cutting the outline of it, and lastly using special tools to give the design the desired look.
Before you begin either stamping or carving, you will need a few basic tools. Some of these you
probably have at home.
Bowlfor water. DO NOT use a metal bowl. Bare metal and wet leather cause a chemical reaction
which stains the leather black.
Spongeto wet leather. Any sponge will work, but try to avoid one that will scratch the leather.
HammerNEVER use a steel hammer on leather tools or it will damage the tools. Wooden hammers
work well and can be purchased at an inexpensive price. Rawhide mallets last a lot longer, but cost
five to ten times the price. Polymer mallets are the toughest but cost much more.
Hard Surfaceyou will want to work on a solid table or something with a little give so as to give a
crisp, clean impression. (Do not use a bare metal surface and stain your leather. See bowls.)
Stampseither alphabet stamps, picture stamps, or seven basic tools. (Tools are used for carving.)
Leatherbe sure you have the right kind of leather.

Beveler, Pearshader, Camouflage, Veiner, Backgrounder, Seeder


Below: Heel and Toes of Camouflage Stamp (For instructions to use these tools, see pages 89.)

Alphabet Stamps

The Leathercraft ManualPage 6

Stamping
The first step in either stamping or carving is to case (or wet) the leather. To case your leather, first
dip your sponge in the water and squeeze out about half of the water or squeeze until the water stops
dripping off the sponge. Next, wipe the sponge across your leather two to three times so as to make
an even layer of water on your leather. Wait a few minutes until the leather has almost returned to
its original color. You are now ready to stamp. Remember that casing leather takes a lot of practice
to get the exact moisture content, so just experiment until you get the desired result.
When stamping, you want to hold the tool straight up and down with your thumb on one side of the
tool and your four fingers on the other side. (See picture.) Press down firmly to prevent the tool from
wobbling when struck with the mallet. Now hold your mallet above the tool and strike it sharply,
pivoting in your wrist. (See picture.) Next, lift your tool to check your impression. If you have a faint
impression, then carefully re-set the tool and hit it again. You should form the habit of achieving an
even impression with just one blow. When stamping veg-tanned leather, it will appear dark and shiny
where stamped if cased properly.

Page 7The Leathercraft Manual

Car ving
Carving is more difficult than stamping and takes much more practice to master. However, it is well
worth the practice. There are many styles of carving such as the following: traditional carving, figure
carving, inverted style carving, filigree carving, and the list goes on. The most basic is traditional style
which will be covered in this manual.

Step one is to case your leather. Then transfer your pattern to the leather using tracing film and a
stylus. Tracing film is just a thin sheet of clear plastic and a stylus is simply a tool with a little ball on
the end of it. A dried ball-point pen works great for a stylus.

The next step is to cut the outline of the pattern onto the leather using a swivel knife. The swivel
knife should be held as shown and drawn towards the body while turning in the fingers to cut curves.
Also shown is a practice pattern that is recommended you cut out before starting on a project. This
will help you get the hang of the tool.

Now you will begin using the other six of the seven basic tools to give the design the desired look.
The order you use the tools does not matter, although you will want to do the backgrounder and
seeder when there is a minimum amount of moisture in the leather. (Usually last.) If your leather
begins to dry, then re-case the same as you did before, wait till it is ready to tool, and resume tooling.

I usually begin by using the beveler. The beveler is shaped in a way so as to make the line you bevel
look raised by depressing the leather around it. Beveling is usually done on the outside of the design;
although if ever in doubt about where to bevel,
simply remember that you always bevel on the
outside of what you want to look raised. The
beveller is walked along the leather slightly
overlapping each impression and hitting with an
even amount of force to give an even appearance.

The Leathercraft ManualPage 8

Next is the pear shader. The pear shader is


used to give flower peals and similar items a
three dimensional look. Be sure you do not
strike too hard with the pear shader that you
flatten the entire section. You only want to
dimple the center. Study the picture to better
understand the correct use of the tool.
Next are the camouflage and veiner stamps. These
stamps are used to add decorative design to floral
patterns and are also good for borders. There are
two different sides to the stamps called the toe
and heel. (See picture on page 6.) If there is not
room for a full impression, then care should be
taken to lean the tool so as not to stamp off the
desired spot onto another.

The last two tools are the backgrounder and


seeder, As mentioned above, these tools should be
used when there is very little moisture in the
leather. The backgrounder, as its name suggests,
is used to background all the areas that are not a
part of the actual design. The backgrounder
should be hit very lightly to help maintain an even
appearance. The seeder is used to make seeds on
the pattern and can also be used for eyes or periods.

Page 9The Leathercraft Manual

Recommended Shopping Avenues


Leather and leather tools can be purchased at special leather stores as well as your local craft store.
Leather stores offer a wider selection of products; craft stores often sell them for a better price.

Tandy Leather Company1(866) 537-2952


Tandy Leather Company is a nationwide store that offers great service. I buy about 95% of my
leather products at Tandy and have always been pleased with the service and quality. Call to get the
nearest store. (If there is not a store near you, you can order through mail or online.)

Hobby Lobby also sells leather tools that can often be bought using a coupon.

Michaels, like Hobby Lobby, sells leather tools that can be purchased using a coupon.

Wal-Martsome Wal-Marts sell leather tools usually at a lower price than most other places.

The Leathercraft ManualPage 10

Recommended Books
Below are some recommended books, each of which can be purchased from Tandy Leather Company.

Tech Tips by Al Stohlmanthis book thoroughly covers the techniques of carving and stamping by
using dozens of illustrations. It also covers the different tools needed for the different designs.

Leathercraft Tools by Al Stohlmanthis book is a must-have for anyone interested in leathercraft.


Through many illustrations, it describes how to use almost all the tools necessary for leathercraft as
well as how to sharpen them.

Projects and Designs by Al Stolhmanthis book is filled with a variety of different small leather
projects. It also includes all the tooling patterns and even some alternate designs.

Leathercrafting Manuals

Page 11The Leathercraft Manual

Notes
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The Leathercraft ManualPage 12

Published by J& G Leather


Copyright 2007 by Justin T. Schlichter
For permission to reproduce portions from this book, or for any other questions, please contact:
Justin T. Schlichter
P.O. Box 98
Willis, Texas 77378
Phone: (936) 499-4385