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What You Need to Start Leatherworking

What You Need to Start Leatherworking

Leather crafting can be a fun and rewarding hobby or business venture. But in order to start working on your next big project you might want to figure out what you need to start leatherworking. We’ll go over some basic tools, dyes, finishers and added attachments to bring you work to life.

It also doesn’t have to be too expensive to get started working with leather. Our estimate is for around $100 you can make your first wallet or two. This will also supply you with tools you will use for many years to come.

Also a forewarning is to avoid the leather tooling sets you see on Amazon, most the items are junk. I made this mistake when wanting to make my first wallet and many, if not all the items were junk. I knew to avoid these sets, but figured why not try them out.

It left me with an awl and a wobbly spacer wheel that I don’t use. The thread was too big and heavily waxed, the scissor would barely cut thread, and the needles broke on me. I only bought a $20 set but I figured a couple items would be worth keeping, I was wrong. Just save the money and buy each item separately.

In saying that, Amazon has great products for leather crafting it is just the sets that are not very good, especially if you plan to use them more than a handful of times. Tandy leather or Weaver may have some good sets, but you will be paying the price for some of them so just be aware.

What you need to start leatherworking – Tools

In order to start a project we want to go over some of the basic and advanced tools you will need.

Bare Minimum

When making leather projects you are going to need a way to cut the leather and many leather can be hard for your average scissors.

This is why in the beginning we recommend an X-Acto knife or Rotary cutter. While an X-Acto knife will work well, the rotary cutter is great for any long straight pieces of leather you need to cut. Although having an X-Acto knife to get around tight corners will be a bit easier than using a rotary cutter.

Leather cutting tools

Leather cutting tools

You can use an average razor blade and they work just as good. The issue with these is since they have a wider body it can sometimes be hard to see the cut. And unlike an X-Acto knife, the blade will not bend as easily going around edges.

X-ACTO X3311 N0. 1 Precision Knife | Amazon
$6.86

The Xacto X3311 N0. 1 Precision Knife assists best for cutting tasks. Whether you are an artist, hobbyist or carpenter, this knife will sort you out with almost all your cutting tasks as you will be able to get a precision cut each time.

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08/11/2022 04:23 pm GMT

Fiskars 01-005874 Titanium Softgrip Comfort Loop Handle Rotary Cutter | Amazon
$19.06

Our Comfort Loop Rotary Cutter with a 45mm blade makes cutting quilting materials a breeze, and an updated blade and handle make every job even easier. The blade features a titanium coating that is three times harder than steel for improved durability and lasting sharpness, and the handle includes Softgrip to reduce hand fatigue. 

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08/11/2022 06:48 pm GMT

It is also recommended to have a self-healing cutting board to prevent damage to your table plus it will help your blades last longer.

Dahle Vantage 10672 Self-Healing Cutting Mat | Amazon
$20.38

Vantage 10672 Self-Healing Black Mat is a 5-ply, 24" x 18" cutting mat. With an inch and metric rulers, 1/2” gridlines, and diagonal guides, Vantage mats are the perfect work surface for cropping photographs, cutting, drawing, sewing, and tracing.

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08/11/2022 08:52 pm GMT

After cutting your piece of leather you will need some sandpaper to smooth out your cuts. This is why fine grit sandpaper is recommended, usually around 150-220 grit will work well with your leather.

Fandeli 36027 220 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets | Amazon
$9.62

Fandeli's Multipurpose Fine Grit 220 Sandpaper Sheets are made of super heavy paper that works on all surfaces. Features high-quality aluminum oxide mineral for longer-lasting sheets, less clogging, and less waste.

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08/11/2022 02:03 pm GMT

Sewing your leather by hand can be a tedious task but it needs to be done. To start sewing your pieces together you will need to create holes for your needle and thread. This can be done either by using a stitching spacer tool and punching the holes with an awl. Or you can go with the leather hole punch chisels. I prefer the chisels as they take a lot less time and produce pretty identical sized holes.

Leather Craft Tools, Craftool Spacer Set | Amazon
$14.99

Spacing is a very important part of making your sewing look nice and neat. It takes all the guesswork out of punching the holes for sewing, nice and even spacing. Comes with four removable spacing-overstitch wheels in the most popular sizes spacing between 3mm,3.5mm,4mm,5mm. A must-have tool if you are doing any type of leatherwork!

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08/11/2022 06:18 pm GMT

I bought the Aiskaer 4mm diamond shaped chisel set about a year ago and for $12 I definitely got my money’s worth out of it. They are not the best chisels out there but they are very good when you are starting out and don’t want to spend too much.

chisel set

Chisel set

Chisel Stitcher Hole Punch | Amazon
$10.99

Made of white steel, is a durable and useful leather craft tool.100% white steel material, non-inferior stainless steel. Each product's surfaces are coated with a rust preventive oil before shipping.

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08/11/2022 04:17 pm GMT

In order to punch the holes with the chisels you will need a rubber head mallet. These are needed throughout leather crafting whether you are adding buttons or stamping your leather as well. Rubber mallets cost around $15 and will last a long time and come in handy for a lot of different features. If you have an average mallet lying around, it will work just as fine, you don’t need to buy a leather crafting one.

Leather Carving Hammer Mallet | Amazon
$14.99

Leather mallet is a leathercraft striking tool to print kinds of figures on the leathercraft. Features a high-quality environmental NYLON head that is perfect for Leathercraft work without harm.

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08/11/2022 02:23 pm GMT

And for the first few months I had used a hammer and glued some pieces of leather on the head to avoid the harsh hammering. This works until the leather started ripping apart on me.

You will eventually need an awl throughout your leather crafting life to mark lines, widen holes or crosshatch leather for glueing. These are fairly cheap so picking one up will come in handy once in a while. I mainly use these for making trace marks in my leather so the X-Acto knife slides a bit more straight through the line.

awl

Awl

Before you punch holes for your stitching you will want to make a straight line for your chisel or stitching spacer to follow. For this you will want a stitching groover. These will help keep your stitching and hole lines at an even width with the edge of your leather and can be purchased pretty cheap.

7 in 1 Adjustable Pro Stitching Groover | Amazon
$9.99

Multi-functions all in one (drawing sideline, pulling ditch, digging trench). Portable, light and comfortable hand feeling and can adjust the distance from the edge of the leather.

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08/11/2022 04:08 pm GMT

stitch groover

Stitch groover

Alternatively, wing dividers work very well also for accomplishing a very solid line into leather.

ZLKSKER 6 Inch Adjustable Lockable Steel Divider Wing Leather Compass | Amazon
$9.59

Precision and durable leather working compass/divider, also used in wood work, metal work and other drawing work. Perfect for drawing arcs, circles, divide gauges, dividing line, line segments, size measurement, etc.

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08/11/2022 04:52 pm GMT

Some of these groovers come with interchangeable heads that will let you bevel the edge of your leather. This is desired so you can smooth out these edges making them have a rounded edge. These edge bevelers can be purchased separately at all different sizes, I usually stay around a zero-two size.

edge bevellers

Edge bevellers

Edge Bevelers | Amazon
$16.99

A variety of sizes, a sufficient quantity to meet your different needs. Quality steel and wood contribute to durability, lightness and practicality. Good workmanship and pointed cutting edges for easily creating smooth and fine leather edges.

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08/11/2022 05:33 pm GMT

Edge slickers can be bought fairly cheap for handheld or dremel attachments. The two that I have are were purchased in a pack around $18 and work with a dremel tool for fast slicking. I tend to use the dremel every once in a while if I am working on a big project or a lot of small projects. If not I will still use these as handheld ones and they work fine but can be hard to get a good grip.

Dremel Burnishers

Dremel Burnishers

You can also make your own from wood if you have some scrap pieces. Just make sure to sand down your pockets very well or the wood will catch in the leather.

Dremel Burnishers | Amazon
$14.59

Perfect for the rotary tool! It will also fit a drill press, hand drill, lathe, or any other motorized tool.


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08/11/2022 07:08 pm GMT

Lastly you will need some needles and thread to stitch with. These needles are not your average cloth sewing needles as they have a fatter body, wider eye and a dull point. This is because you cannot punch through the leather as easily as cloth fabrics and it helps avoid running your needle through thread.

While sewing you want to avoid this because it will frail out your thread and reduce the strength while making it look less appealing. You can check out our leather thread guide to get a better understanding of the types of thread used for leather. These tend to be thicker, longer-lasting, Nylon or Polyester thread.

Industrial Revolution 170 Meters Waxed Thread Polyester Leather Sewing Cord | Amazon

Made of high-grade polyester material, which gives you a comfortable touch feeling when you stitch the leather, and it is durable and you can use it for a long time.

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Last small tool you probably have around your house are binder clips. These will be used for molding and glueing your leather pieces together.

binder clips

Binder clips

DSTELIN Binder Clips Paper Clamps Assorted Sizes | Amazon
$8.99

Made of tempered steel, durable and strong to use, Assembled with steel arms, the clips provide an extra strong grip for your documents.

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08/11/2022 09:58 pm GMT

Extra tools to help out leather crafting

Poundo boards or cutting boards are very helpful when punching holes and chiseling the thread holes. These can also be used as your average cutting board but they aren’t usually as big as a flat cutting board.

Using the poundo board will allow your tools to last longer to avoid damaging the blades. It also helps reduce the noise of punching holes into your leather.

Weaver Leather Silent Poundo Board | Amazon
$16.08

The Silent Poundo Board's rubber surface helps protect knife edges and hole punches from dulling and chipping. Helps absorb pounding concussion and sound.

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08/11/2022 06:33 pm GMT

Even still I will use some stacked up pieces of leather instead to put below my punch and chisel but it does waste leather fairly easily. The leather will rip away much quicker and can be a pain trying to get your chisel out of six layers of leather.

So you have the board, the next might be the hole punchers used on them. This will depend on what you are making as there are many items that won’t need to be hole punched while some use a bunch.

If you plan on making belts you will definitely need some hole punchers. Many bags, cases and key chain accessories will need holes for rivets or snaps.

hole punchers

Hole punchers

You can try cutting out your own but it will become very frustrating looking at uneven holes and slipped slices into your leather.

Hand Hole Punch Set | Amazon
$12.99

Round hollow punch set easy to use by placing gasket hole punch over the area that needs a hole and hit back end with a hammer or mallet, making distinctive artistic and aesthetic effects on leather with different patterns punchers.

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08/11/2022 03:08 pm GMT

Next to punches are stamps to add some texture or words to your leather. Stamps come in many different kits or can be bought one at a time for around $3-$6 and will add some style to your leather. This also depends on what you are making and if you want to personalize items for other people but can come in handy. You can also purchase customized stamps which is very common to add a logo or business name into your product.

BigTeddy - 20PCs Leather Different Shape Stamp Punch Set | Amazon
$17.99

This 20pcs leather stamping tool is a great way to get started in leather craft.

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08/11/2022 04:37 pm GMT

Carving tools are a whole nother category here in itself but this can add some original style to your leather than stamps can do. These will let you edge out custom artwork and graphics into your leather project. I have a starter guide on how to carve leather you can check out if this interests you.

A leather skiver tool is something I need to add to my own set as I have cut my finger too many times not to have one. These will let you thin out a piece of leather. Very common for the parts of a wallet pocket where the stitch will go. It allows for a little extra leeway for the pocket and creates a flush look on the side of the pocket.

Tandy Super Skiver | Amazon
$18.99

Skives most thicknesses of leather without cutting too deeply. Includes replacement blade ten pack 3002-00.

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08/11/2022 12:28 pm GMT

This can be done using an average blade/razor knife but can be very hard and dangerous. There are even anvil style manual machines and electric machines to create a near perfect skive you can check out.

Stitching ponies are used to help keep your project in place when sewing. These run around $20-$25 and can be very useful to speed up the sewing process. It allows you to clamp your project together so you can efficiently use both hands to thread each needle.

Leather Craft Stitching Sewing Pony Horse Table | Amazon

This leather stitching pony securely holds the leather, the vise section can be positioned so you can sit on the long base section to hold the pony steady while in use. Make your job much easier and faster.

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I will be making an article and video soon about making your own as it is fairly easy to do.

Sewing machines can also be a great advantage to someone looking to speed up projects and even work on much bigger items. Some machines can handle leather crafts while others cannot. So spend some time looking into which ones will be able to handle the thickness of leather you aim to sew.

Half-Round Punches can help around to stamp out edges of your leather project. This can create a very smooth finish when trying to round off an edge along your project.

Materials Needed

As you can assume, you may need some leather to start working on a leather craft project so you might want to start with that. There are many different types of leather out there and we have created a buyer’s guide for leather. This will go over what to look for when buying leather!

Dyed Veg-Tanned Leather

Dyed Veg-Tanned Leather

But for starting out you should look for top/full grain veg-tanned leather. This will allow you to stamp, shape, cut, and mold the leather to create a sturdy item.

I usually tend to look for cowhide leather since it is fairly inexpensive than some other high end animal leather. It is a very nice leather used in a lot of high end products.

There are different types of weight (or sizes to leather) where you can check out our sizing guide to ensure you get the right size for your next project. But if you are unsure of what to make you can always buy a scrap lot. They tend to have various sizes included and can get you started making small items.

I would recommend to look on Tandy Leather as they have some good deals on leather and check out the veg-tanned leather section. If there is nothing in your price range on their site you can look on a couple eBay stores I recommend. Which would be SLC Leather and The Leather Guys.


They usually have some good pricing with different shapes/ sq.ft to buy and different size(weight) to choose from. I still buy leather from eBay and have not had a problem any time I did.

When buying, you will be charged more though if you buy a perfect cut-out piece of leather like a 12” x 12” or 24” x 12”. These are nice slabs to work with and you know the whole piece will be usable.

Buying a belly, side or shoulder piece will give you more bang for your buck but may have some unuseable pieces. There will usually be a small percentage that will be unusable or will be cut/damaged. Many companies tend to have a less than 10% damage rating or else the piece will not be sold, so just be aware of that.

Even with some areas too damaged to use, you will get more out of a 5sq. ft piece with some damage  than a 24” x 24” square slab that are around the same price range.

Next you will need some thread and luckily we have put together leather sewing thread guide for you to check out. In short though you will want have smaller thread when using smaller leather and larger thread for heavier pieces. Look for nylon or polyester leather thread and decide whether you want it waxed or not waxed. The wax will help it last longer and be more resistant to weather but cannot be used in sewing machines.

threads

Threads

Thread will come in usually flat or round thread and that will be personal preference. I recently bought this coffee color wax at 45.mm round cord. But Ritza “Tiger” Thread is a very common thread that a lot of leather workers use!

Fiebing's Leathercraft Cement | Amazon
$5.49

Super high strength, permanent bonding with long lasting results. Water-based contact adhesive can be used for a variety of crafts and on leather items such as shoes, purses, wallets, jackets, baseball gloves, furniture and more.

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08/11/2022 12:47 pm GMT

Ointment & Dyes

You will need to add some protective layers to your leather to ensure that it lasts a long life. This is where you have finishers and there are many out there.

Before anything, you will need some glue for your projects. This will secure your items in place before stitching. You can use Fiebing’s leathercraft cement or your average contact cement. Either one will work fine for leather but I like the Fiebing’s since it does not have a harsh smell.

leather cement

Leather cement

Fiebing's Leathercraft Cement | Amazon
$5.49

Super high strength, permanent bonding with long lasting results. Water-based contact adhesive can be used for a variety of crafts and on leather items such as shoes, purses, wallets, jackets, baseball gloves, furniture and more.

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08/11/2022 12:47 pm GMT

You can add some acrylic resolene by Fiebing’s which will help protect the leather from ware and tare. There are different looks to finishes and it is really personal preference whether you want a glossy or matte look. Some finishers will be a sheen and these work well but have a very shiny coat to them that I don’t like too much.

leather resolene

Leather resolene

Fiebing's Acrylic Resolene | Amazon
$9.98

A flexible, durable and water-resistant acrylic top finish for dyed, antiqued or polished leathers. Provides a soft, mellow shine while protecting your project for years to come.

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08/11/2022 12:07 pm GMT

Wax can be applied to your leather as well to protect and bolden the color of the dye. These are usually made with beeswax and can come in a liquid or a solid state.

Beeswork Yellow Beeswax Bars | Amazon
$6.99

natural, and premium filtered yellow beeswax is the highest quality cosmetic grade so you know you are making an effective and safe choice when using it to make your own cosmetics or for a variety of hobby and craft activities!

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08/11/2022 05:23 pm GMT

Saddle Soap is another popular treatment for leather and can be added to finnish as well throughout the life of your leather item. This will help protect and preserve the life of your leather and helps clean off the leather after usage. I use Kiwi Saddle Soap, although it’s not the best compared to Fiebings but it is fairly cheap and can be found around Walmart in the shoes section.

If you beveled your edges and got done sanding them you may want some gum tragacanth. This is very useful when burnishing the edges and even can be used to smooth out the back (furry) side of the leather. This will make the leather edge sticky when wet and shiny/satin finish when dried and slicked. The Seiwa Tokonole is some of the best to use for slicking and is highly recommended.

Tokonole

Tokonole

Seiwa Tokonole Leather Finish Burnishing Gum Clear Leathercraft | Amazon
$8.89

Our premiere Tokonole burnishing gum, this product far surpasses Tragacanth for your leathercraft needs. Odorless, irritant-free and easy to apply this gum will give excellent results every time. 

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08/11/2022 09:28 pm GMT

If you do not have any, try using saddle soap with the edges. This works pretty well but not have the glueing affect as the gum tragacanth/Tokonole.

Dyes have a wide range of colors from natural brown to bright red and it is all based on your project and preference. Fiebing’s has a nice color chart to show the types of dye you can choose from.

Fiebing

Fiebing

You can also check out Eco-Flo as they are a highly rated product and work well with many leather. You can check out our tips on how to dye leather with two different methods.

Closing

So if you bought some of the basic tools, thread and a piece of leather you should be looking at around $100. Of course I am sure you may have some of these tools laying around your house and maybe even some old pieces of leather from items you don’t use anymore.

Use any old belts or bags you have lying around the house to start. You can even find some nice leather items at thrift stores. Use our guide to see if the the leather is real or not and start taking apart the item.

These tools will last you a decent amount of time if you take good care of them so your money will not be wasted.

Leather itself can get pretty expensive though so that’s why you may want to start small at first. My first purchase of leather was from The Leather Guy eBay, two square foot slabs for around $22. Now I am buying full shoulders and sides while still using the same tools I started with.

Hope this helped explain what you need to start leatherworking and you give it a try! Avoid the basic sets you see for a very cheap price and use our site to help guide you through some of the basics to leatherworking.

You can also check out our resources page to see some upgraded items you may want to invest in. And if you ever get stuck and are not sure what to make, check out our templates. We do not have many right now, but more will be coming very soon.