Leathercrafting Introduction

Where can you buy just like... bulk leather?
- Overheard at a Festival.

Leathercrafting is the art of crafting leather. There isn't much more to say about it.

Finding Leather
You can buy bulk leather at lots of places. You might be able to buy it directly from a tannery. You might be able to get it from a taxidermist. You could buy it from tandyleather.com, from shopforleather.com (which I wouldn't recommend for accessories, only leather) or you could get it from my favorite place, EBay. For more information on finding leather check out the supplies page.

Types of Leather:
There are two main types of leather. Chrome tanned and Vegetable Tanned, or veg tan. If the type of tanning is not mentioned it was chrome tanned. Vegetable Tanned is used for tooling, armor, and is more expensive. You can also tell by color, vegtan is almost always a natural like beige shade.

Cowhide is the most common type of leather and is good for armor and other things that need to be stiff and or thick, cowhide is also usually the cheapest (or close to). Pigskin is good for garment leather, it's thinner than cowhide. Deerskin is really nice. It's soft, it's very stretchy, it's also usually expensive and hard to find in large pieces (you'd be hard pressed to find a piece big enough to make a shirt, you'd likely need 2 hides). A good place for deerskin is Ebay, plenty of hunters, taxidermists, and small tanneries sell their skins on Ebay. You can also find rabbit on ebay which is the skin you'll usually use if you want to make something furry.

Tooling or Stamping Leather:
Tooling or Stamping (or embossing) leather refers to the art of embossing three dimensional images on leather. Usually you can only do this on veg tan leather, which is also often called tooling leather. Stamping usually involves using very small metal stamps approximately 1 square inch in size to make small images, like letters, on your leather. Tooling refers to using stamping tools , much like a sculptor might use a chisel, to create a larger and likely more detailed image on your leather. Tooling leather is an artform. It's time consuming and takes alot of practice to do it well. Untooled leather shouldn't be expensive, definitely not as expensive as you will see at faires and festivals. However nicely tooled leather is worth every penny. Untooled leather clothes, armor, or accessories can be made by anyone with the right equipment (leather tools, heavy duty industrial sewing machine). Tooled leather is art, and can only be done by artists. Embossing leather is very much like stamping but the embossing plates (also called embossing dies) are much larger. If you see a nice large embossed image on a piece of leather that looks manufactured (oberondesigns.com) it was done with an embossing plate. You can emboss using a plate with just a piece of metal and a hammer, but there are also embossing presses that you can use.

Sewing Tips
The easiest way to sew leather is using a sewing awl. Instructions on how to do it come on the back of the stiching awl, so I won't repeat them here. However I will tell you that most of the time when sewing leather it is easier to use rubber cement to bond the two pieces together first. Its not like cloth, the cement really helps, especially when the leather is thick. You can also make what is known as a loop stitch. To do this you punch holes in both pieces of leather and then using leather lace (not thread) you loop it around the ends of the leather going through each consecutive hole. This type of stich looks really good on exposed leather, it gives it a definite period look.

Tools and Supplies:
Head over to the tools and supplies page for detailed information on leather tools and suppliers.

This article was written by Staff Writer.