How to Use a Swivel Knife

Written by sefira fialkoff
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How to Use a Swivel Knife
Use a swivel knife to carve into leather. (leather belts background image by Svetlana Tikhonova from

A swivel knife is a chisel-edged blade held upright and mounted on a pivot with a saddle on top for your finger. It is used to outline and cut a design into leather. A swivel knife is used to make strong lines that form the basic structure of a carved leather image. It is an efficient tool to use, but, due to the blade's sharpness, extra care must be taken when using the knife.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Hold the swivel knife in your hand with your forefinger in the finger harness on top to control pressure. Place your thumb and middle finger on either side of the barrel to control movement. Place your ring finger against the side of the blade for stability.

  2. 2

    Cut into the leather at a depth of one-half the leather's thickness.

  3. 3

    Cut with the metal knife towards you and keep the knife at a 90-degree angle to the leather.

  4. 4

    Use a metal straight edge as a guide to make straight lines by using the metal as a barrier and placing the knife at the metal's edge to cut.

  5. 5

    Cut the border of your design first if there is one. Then proceed to cut the design working from the foreground to the background.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice the design on a scrap piece of leather before carving into the final product.
  • The blade on a swivel knife is extremely sharp so use caution and keep away from children.

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