An embossed design is a pattern or image that is in relief. That is, the artist created the design by depressing the spaces around it, allowing the design itself to stand out. Embossing is as much an art of texture as it is a visual art. The leather crafter can use a variety of tools to emboss leather, each one creating its own effect. However, these tools only work well with vegetable-tanned leather, and only when wet. Using the tools on other kinds of leather will not yield satisfactory results.
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Embossing wheels are textured wheels affixed to the end of a roller. Each wheel has a different pattern carved along its rim. When rolled along the leather, the embossing wheel creates a line of patterning. These patterns are often woven braids or other border designs suitable for the edges of a leather project or as a repeated design on belts. The crafter must apply considerable pressure when using an embossing wheel. Doing so will yield crisp, deeply carved designs.
Stamps for leather are similar to ordinary rubber stamps in that they leave an impression of their design when pressed on a surface. However, rather than depositing ink on paper, this kind of stamp creates an embossed design on leather. The design may appear to be either raised from the surface of the leather or pressed into it. Some small stamps with very simple textured designs can be used repeatedly on the surface of the leather to create an embossed image or textured background of your own design.
A swivel knife resembles a craft knife on the end of a U-shaped crutch. The crafter braces the U-shaped part of the swivel knife against the base of his thumb. The crafter then places the blade to the leather, at an angle, and pushes. This action causes the blade to bite into the leather and carve away at it. Thus, this tool is similar in function to certain engraving tools. With it, the crafter can create custom lines in the leather.
The stylus resembles a pen or a pencil, but with a metal, spoon-shaped tip. The crafter drags the stylus along the leather to create custom bevelled lines and fine detail. Styli come in all varieties, each with a differently shaped head. This allows for a wide variety of line effects.
Gouges act similarly to the swivel knife and stylus in that they make bevelled lines through a push motion. They tend to have broader heads, however, and are often used for a trim around the edge of a project or to create fold lines.
Rubber or wooden mallets are critical for embossing leather. Leather stamps must be pounded on the back with a mallet to texture the leather. An ordinary hammer will not work for this task; they do not apply pressure as evenly as mallets do. Additionally, the metal head of the hammer will damage the stamp it strikes. Wood and rubber heads, on the other hand, have enough give to them to leave the stamp unharmed.
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