The characteristics of leather that make it desirable---its strength, durability and toughness---also mean that certain tools are required to work with it. If you wish to take up leather crafts you will need a few essential tools. Once you have got the hang of the basic tools and techniques involved in the craft, you will probably begin to acquire numerous other tools. Leather crafters use tools to cut, sew and glue leather, to decorate it in creative ways and to turn leather into useful products.
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To cut leather you need a sturdy knife that is specifically designed for leather. Swivel knives allow you to cut smoothly around curves and corners. Knives are available with steel or ceramic blades, and many can be fitted with replacement blades when the original one becomes dull. Sheers are also used for cutting leather. They resemble utility knives or scissors but are designed for leather.
Punches make neat holes in leather, which is essential when you want to attach hardware, or make belt holes. They are available in different shapes and sizes. The simplest punch makes small circular holes. Rotary punches with a wheel of different-sized circular punches are very useful. Strap end punches cut smooth ends and corners on narrow strips of leather such as belts and purse straps, giving them a clean, finished look.
Bevelers and Skivers
Bevelers and skivers are used to cut grooves into leather without cutting all the way through. This is necessary for creating sharp fold lines and rounding edges, and for decoration.
To stitch leather you need special needles---regular sewing needles are not strong enough for leather. Leather needles either have blunt points for stitching through previously created holes, or chiselled ends for pushing through leather. Awls and rotary "overstitchers" make holes in leather for stitching. Some leather needles are curved or D-shaped. You can also get leather needles that can be used with a home sewing machine. Some leather crafters use a sewing palm, which is like a thimble for the palm used to push a needle through tough leather without hurting the hand.
One of the most popular ways to decorate leather is by stamping it. Leather stamping essentially means pounding a metal stamp with a mallet at 90 degrees onto the surface of the leather to create a permanent imprint. There are two categories of leather stamps: basic shapes such as circles, squares and teardrops that are used as components of larger designs; and stamps with individual motifs such as flowers, leaves and arrows. Both kinds of stamps come in an array of shapes and sizes, and are often sold in themed sets.
Pigments, permanent markers, enamel paint, paint pens and leather dyes are available for colouring leather. Some are designed for spot colour; others dye whole leather pieces or items. Various leather finishing products are used to impart a sheen, make the leather more flexible or water repellent, or make tooling easier.
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