How to Hand-Thin Leather

Written by diana nolen
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How to Hand-Thin Leather
Leather thinning is used to create smooth book covers. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Paring leather is an artistic technique used to thin a leather hide. Leather thinning is used when rebinding books; the leather is used as the book spine and cover. Thinning the leather helps you achieve a smooth transition where overlapping and gluing will occur. Thinning leather reduces the bulk of the leather, making it more pliable and smooth.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Cutting board
  • Paring knife

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Prepare the work area by placing the cutting board at a comfortable level; use marble, granite or glass. Make sure the surface of the cutting board is smooth to ensure an even shave. Make sure the knife you will be using is sharp; a sharp knife relieves some of the force needed to thin the leather.

  2. 2

    Grasp the knife securely; place your index finger on the top of the knife blade. Hold the handle of the knife on each side using your thumb and middle finger. Holding the knife in this manner helps ensure that the knife is held consistently throughout each cut, ensuring a clean and even appearance.

  3. 3

    Shave the edge of the leather, holding the knife edge at the desired angle. Shave using smooth even strokes. You can use the tip or the heel of the knife; use what you are more comfortable with. It is better to shave at an angle that does not shave a lot of leather rather than an angle that shaves too much; you can always go back and shave it again if it is not thin enough.

  4. 4

    Smooth the shaved edge by scraping the leather with the blade. Turn the blade so that it is flat and almost parallel with the leather.

Tips and warnings

  • A knife blade with a 45-degree angle is a good choice for shaving; it allows for a comfortable angle.

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