When cutting and tracing a leather template it can be very hard to use regular paper. As you trace with an awl, there is no hard surface to butt the awl against. So today we will help go over a couple ways on how to make a cutting template for your favorite leather templates.
You can do this for any template whether you made it yourself or have downloaded one. We do have a guide on making your own template you can check out. This goes over how to measure out item, sketch it, then computerize it to a PDF format.
How to make a cutting template
Making one in itself is fairly easy as you will just trace then cut out the template on a harder surface.
To start you will take your template, either one of ours or your own. Cut this out and try to make it as close to perfect as you can. Spend some extra time on this because making a template out of the items below will last a long time.
Once you have your paper template cut out find your item you are going to use for the template. Below we are going over a handful of ideas for very sturdy and long lasting material to use for your template.
Cut the item you are using to a much smaller size, but bigger than the template.
Now you can use any glue you have around you and apply this to the back of the paper template. Set the template onto your item you are using and allow it to dry. This will keep your template from moving away as you are cutting.
Now you will either need to use scissors or an X-Acto knife to cut out the template. If you are using a thinner material, scissors will work fine. But if not, use a razor blade knife and preferably a metal ruler for clean cuts.
Trace the template with your cutting tool being very careful not to slip. After you cut the the template out you should now have a much more durable template.
You can now rub away the paper template that is on your new template or leave it on. Also grab some sandpaper or a file and smooth out the edges around your template.
Making one is pretty cut and dry, but let’s go over items to use for templates. We’ll compare these between their pros and cons.
If you have ever made a leather item that needed some extra strength you will probably be familiar with bag stiffeners. These sheets are added in between leather to allow for bags to stand up or add extra strength to wallet backings.
Perfect for adding support to your bags, book covers and more. Comes approximately 48" x 44" per sheet.
If you have some lying around, these can be great to make a cutting template out of. They are a thicker piece of paper that is much durable under pressure. You will be sure to trace your awl over the template after making it.
For added durability you can use your leather glue/ contact cement to harden the stiffener.
These bag stiffeners work very well for tracing but not so much with cutting. Since these stiffeners are made from paper product, you can easily cut into the template if not careful.
This is by far my favorite one to use as it is very durable and will hold a tough edge. Using these cheap flexible cutting mats you can create close to professional templates. Templates made from acrylic are very common, but can cost a decent amount of money. And if you don’t plan to make money off of your leather products, it isn’t really worth spending the money.
So instead these are a very close runner up for a very affordable price. These will be a little tougher to cut through so you will have to trace your template with a sharp razor a few times until it cuts away.
After cutting the template out, use some sandpaper to smoothen the edges. This will ensure a long lasting edge and durable template for many years.
You can remove the paper template very easily with some rubbing alcohol, making for a very clean look. These can handle having a razor blade run aside them, but be careful as you can snag the edge. I’d still advise to just use this template to trace the template.
You can also find these mats at a dollar store or even a local Walmart has them. If the surface is a bit too thin, you can use some epoxy/ contact cement to stack a few on top of each other.
I will recommend though to cut out all the templates first, apply glue, then sand the edges once dried. This will make the process much easier than trying to cut through multiple layers.
I had some canvas panels boards laying around my room so I decided to give it a try. They worked out much better than I thought as they have a decent thickness and durable edge. These can be purchased at very large sizes too for making much bigger templates.
I just did the same steps as the cutting mats by glue the template and cutting out. After cut I rubbed some sandpaper along the edges to smooth them out. After sanding though I did apply some glue to avoid any fraying from the board. Since these boards are a canvas wrapped around cardboard, they can start break apart after use.
The board is about 1/8in. thick allowing for a good solid edge to butt an awl against.
Wood & Metal
Although these seem like a bit of overkill, they definitely can be used for a very nice template. The difference with these is you will have to use a saw or some type of metal cutting scissors.
For wood, I used a piece of underlayment board since it is thin yet durable. I just used a hand saw to cut out the template then used sandpaper to finish the edges. This no doubt will last a long lifetime without having to add any glue or sealant.
For metal, I am referring to very thin metal like the one I have linked. This also can be cut with a hand saw or any type of saw you have laying around. These templates would very easily take a razor blade running next to it without an issue.
Look around your house
Most items will be much better than using plain paper. This is where you can get creative and look around your house to what you have available. Flatten cardboard and apply some glue around the edges or use and old hard book cover.
Hope this helped go over how to make a cutting template for your favorite templates. And try out using some of the ideas above to create a durable template. Avoid the frustration of folding paper and scratching into the good part of the leather!