How to Decorate Leather

Written by kim blakesley Google
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How to Decorate Leather
Decorate the surface of leather with leather stamps and modelling tools. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Decorating the surface of a piece of leather is called tooling. The tooling is fancy cuts or stamps placed on the surface of a wet piece of leather. Special tools are required to complete such a project. The best leather to decorating with tooling is called top-grain leather. This means the leather has a smooth side which is the natural surface of the hide. Leather that has not been oiled or waxed is preferred when tooling. A vegetable-tanned leather is appropriate.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Top-grain leather
  • Craft knife
  • Pattern
  • Carbon paper
  • Ballpoint pen or stylist
  • Water
  • Water container
  • Soft cloth
  • Burnishing tool or wooden stick
  • Leather stamps
  • Leather modelling tools
  • Rawhide mallet
  • Spray or rub-on leather sealer

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  1. 1

    Cut the leather to the desired dimensions. Use a craft knife to cut the leather rather than a pair of scissors. For example, cut a bracelet 1 inch wide and 9 inches long.

  2. 2

    Burnish the surface of the leather by rubbing it firmly with a burnishing tool or wooden stick. The surface will become very smooth and shiny if done correctly.

  3. 3

    Trace the design pattern on the leather. Place a piece of carbon paper with the carbon side against the leather. Center and place the pattern on the carbon paper and leather. Trace the design onto the leather. Use a ballpoint pen or a stylist. Push firmly while tracing over the pattern design to ensure the carbon is transferred to the leather. Remove the pattern and the carbon paper.

  4. 4

    Soak the leather in a container of water for 30 minutes. Remove the leather from the water and place it on a stable, flat work surface.

  5. 5

    Select the desired metal stamp or modelling tool. Place the stamp in the desired location. Put the metal shaft into the stamp. Hit the shaft firmly with a rawhide mallet. Alternatively, place the modelling tool in the desired location. Hit the shaft of the modelling tool firmly with a rawhide mallet. Repeat the process until the design is finished. Re-soak the leather in water, as needed.

  6. 6

    Smooth the cut edges of the leather with a burnishing tool or a wooden stick. Rub the burnishing tool or wooden stick over the cut surface making sure to round the top and bottom edge of the cut.

  7. 7

    Allow the tooled leather to dry for 24 hours. Seal the surface of the leather with a spray or rub-on leather sealer.

Tips and warnings

  • Dye selected parts of the leather to add additional colour and depth.
  • Decorating or tooling dyed leather will show a different coloured leather in the stamped design.

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