Making drinking vessels out of leather is an ancient art and is a popular form of leather crafting among medieval re-enactment groups, Renaissance Festival artisans and leatherworkers of all skill levels. Handmade leather drinking vessels are unique and interesting, and allow us to connect with a very old tradition. Some experienced leatherworkers make very intricate, finely-tooled leather tankards, but it is possible for even a beginner to make a good-looking and functional basic leather tankard.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 8 to 10oz. tooling leather
- Utility knife
- Leather needle
- Linen thread or artificial sinew
- Leather glue
- Sewing awl
- Cooking pot
- Aluminium foil
Cut out a rectangle of 8- to 284gr tooling leather. The size of the rectangle is your choice: the short sides should be as long as you want your tankard to be tall; and the long sides should be long enough to wrap the rectangle into a circle, with about an inch of overlap, and create a cylinder as big as you want the tankard to be. If you aren't sure about the dimensions you want, start by making mock-ups out of paper.
Roll the rectangle up into a cylinder, with the smooth side out and 1 inch of overlap, and glue it together. Once the glue is dry, sew the two layers together tightly with two lines of stitching, each close to one of the vertical edges of the overlap. Because it can be difficult to push a needle through two layers of thick leather, you might need to use an awl to pre-punch the sewing holes.
Cut out a circle of leather slightly larger than the outer diameter of the cylinder you made. This will form the bottom of your tankard. You can use somewhat thinner (6- to 227gr) leather for this if you choose, or continue using the same weight of leather you have been using.
Soak the circle in lukewarm water until it stops bubbling. Take it out of the water. Once it is no longer dripping wet (but still damp and pliable) glue the rough-side of the circle to the inside bottom of the cylinder, so that the edges of both are even and pointed down, and the circle forms a dome, rough side up, at the bottom of the tankard like the bottom of a pop can. Once the glue is dry, stitch the bottom piece onto the tankard the same way you stitched the side closed, but with one stitching line going all the way around the base.
Cut out a 1-inch-wide, long strip of leather. This strip will form the handle of your tankard and can be of any length you will find comfortable. Glue an inch or so of each end of the strip onto the overlap section on the side of your tankard, and once the glue has dried, sew the handle on at these points. Make sure to use several lines of stitching on both ends of the handle, as it will need to be sturdy.
Place your tankard on aluminium foil and heat it in the oven at the lowest temperature setting until the leather is warm. While you do this, melt your beeswax in a pot. Once the leather is warm, take it out of the oven and paint the entire outside of the tankard with a coating of beeswax. After one coating, place the tankard back in the oven and repeat the process until beeswax starts seeping out of the leather on the inside of the tankard. Make especially sure to brush plenty of wax over all of your stitching holes.
Pour more melted wax into the tankard, then swirl it around the inside and pour it back into the container. Do this several times, allowing the wax to coat the inside of the tankard entirely with a thick, even coating. Once the wax has hardened, test the coating by filling the tankard with water; if any seeps out, you need more wax coating the inside.
Tips and warnings
- This tankard cannot be used for hot beverages, which will melt the beeswax.
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