Although water usually damages leather, leather vessels such as mugs and tankards have been around since ancient times. Ancient leatherworkers devised a way to seal the leather using wax, ensuring that the contents would not harm the vessel and that it would not leak out. Creating waxed, watertight leather mugs at home requires simple leatherworking tools and a double boiler such as you would use for cooking.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Leather knife
- Leather punch
- Leather needle
- Waxed twine
- Rubber band
- Double boiler
Wrap a strip of leather around a mug and pinch the ends together. Cut the leather down to that size using a leather knife. Leave two rounded flaps at both ends of the strip for a handle.
Cut a D-shaped piece out of each flap to form a graspable handle. Then place the mug on a new sheet of leather and cut a circle around its base, leaving a 1/2-inch margin all the way around. This will be the bottom of your leather mug.
Fold the strip of leather into a loop and hold the two flaps of the handle together. Use a pencil to mark the leather where your stitching will occur. Make a line of dots, spaced every quarter inch, down the side of the mug where the two handle-flaps meet. Draw another line of dots down both parts of the handle, making sure that the dots line up. Draw a final line of dots around the bottom of the mug, 1/4 inch up from its base.
Use a leather punch to create a line of small holes for your stitches at each dot. Thread a leather needle with waxed twine. Sew the two flaps of the handle together.
Soak the circular bottom piece in water thoroughly. Turn the kitchen mug you used as a basis for your pattern upside down. Drape the waterlogged leather circle over the mug, allowing the edges to hang over the side. Secure them to the side of the mug with a rubber band. Allow the leather to dry completely, which may take a day or two.
Remove the now moulded bottom piece from the mug. The edges of the leather should be bent. Fit the bottom piece into the bottom of your leather mug and sew it in place with waxed twine.
Fill the bottom section of your double boiler with water. Half fill the central container with wax. Place the lid on the double boiler. Place the double boiler on the stove and bring the water inside to a boil. Once this occurs, turn the temperature down slightly so that it does not boil too violently. Allow the water to boil for 10 minutes and melt the wax inside.
Grip the leather mug in a pair of tongs and dunk it into the melted wax. Swish the mug around gently, but keep it completely submerged. A number of air bubbles should rise to the surface. Keep the mug in the wax until they stop.
Remove the mug and place it on a spare rag. Use another rag to wipe the excess wax from the sides of the mug. Do not touch the waxed mug with bare hands while it is hot.
Allow the mug to cool. Test it by filling it with water. If there is a leak, repeat the hot wax process.
Tips and warnings
- Never touch the hot wax. If you must handle anything coated in hot wax, wear a pair of thick gloves.
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