Leather Supplies & Tools

Written by dan antony
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Leather Supplies & Tools
Hand-tooled belts are a popular first project among leather crafters. (leather belts background image by Svetlana Tikhonova from Fotolia.com)

Leather craft retailer Tandy Leather Factory listed about 1,960 items in its October 2009 catalogue, including the leather itself. The tools and supplies generally fall into three categories: tooling, stitching and colouring. A beginner may have trouble attempting to piece together all the necessary supplies, but many leather retailers offer starter kits. A basic kit typically includes a few leather pieces to make, for example, bookmarks and checkbook covers. A deluxe kit is practically a leather shop in a box.

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Tooling is cutting, shaping and stamping patterns and designs into leather. A rawhide or synthetic mallet enables you to stamp the designs. The rawhide or hard plastic heads don't have the same bounce that a rubber mallet has, and won't damage the stainless steel stamps the way a metal hammerhead would.

A pounding board absorbs the blow without damaging the table surface below.

Stamping tools and bevelers enable you to craft a design. A beveler lends a 3D effect to your designs, while the stamps may make a particular design (crosses, acorns, barbed wire and eagles are popular) or a texture, like cross hatching or leaf veining.

A swivel knife enables you to carve outlines into the leather. You then shape the outline with stamping tools and bevelers. Swivel knives come with interchangeable stainless steel or ceramic blades, in various sizes and angles.

Use a sharpening stone and leather strop to keep the swivel blades sharp during a project, since leather dulls the blades quickly.


A stitching awl is like a heavy-duty crocheting needle. It holds a bobbin of thread and enables you to sew quickly along a seam, using two hands.

An awl enables you to punch stitching holes as you move along a seam.

A stitching pony holds the leather in place. You may have a small, tabletop stitching pony, or a heavy-duty type with a foot lever.

Needles come in several varieties. A light glover's needle is for hand-stitching light garment leather, while a two-prong lacing needle is for heavier work, like stitching a saddle.


The leather crafter has a choice of colouring methods, known as dyes or stains. (Some are acrylic paints, but leather crafters call these "dyes".)

Oil-based dyes (and the newer, more environmentally-friendly Eco-Flo dyes) stain the leather, while the acrylic variety sits on top.

Antique stains in tan, brown, mahogany and black generally find the grooves and patterns in tooled leather and darken them, without recoloring the whole of the leather too much. These are used in the Sheridan style of staining, which creates an antique-looking finish.

The crafter might use a finish, polish or sealant; these may contain silicon or wax, or may be lacquer. Regardless of the type, they generally protect the surface design without running the dye or stain.

Wool daubers look like cotton balls on the end of a twisted wire, which the crafter uses to apply the stain.


The leather you buy depends upon what you wish to create, but the most common variety is vegetable-tanned, top-grain cowhide. This is the raw material of leather crafting; you use it in tooling, and it accepts dyes and stains easily. Leather comes in a variety of weights.

A 2- to 85.1gr leather is the lightest, suitable for moulding and embossing. A 7- to 227gr leather is useful for belts and knife sheaths. A 284gr leather is good for heavy-duty holsters and armour. (Leather armour is popular among renaissance-fair re-enactors.)

You may purchase a coloured leather, like black-dyed harness leather, which is popular for motorcycle saddle bags, chap leather, which is lighter weight, hair-on calfskin, deerskin, goatskin or heavy upholstery leather once your skills are more advanced.

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