Key LW Techniques

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Some Key Techniques in Working Leather

Cutting

In the picture below, a utility knife is used in the right hand (I'm right handed) to cut a thin strip of latigo leather. A Square provides a straightedge, and ensures that this cut is a right angle. The left hand presses firmly on the square to keep it in place. Note the scrap piece of leather used to protect both the marble surface and the knife blade.

The best technique is to make several light passes, as this limits the tendency of the piece being cut to pull in the cutting direction. Keep the utility knife perpendicular to the work being cut, and the blade at about 45 degrees to the working surface.

Cutting

Punching

The same basic action is used to punch with round and oblong punches. Hold the punch in the left hand and strike it firmly with a mallet held in the right. Hit just hard enough to completely penetrate the target piece and cut slightly into the scrap leather beneath. Even if your supporting surface is relatively soft, a scrap will help your punch last longer. Keep the punch perfectly vertical for a clean cut. A good solid work surface makes punching much easier.

Punching will result in a small piece of leather going somewhere - what used to fill the hole. A round punch holds about four circles, and subsequent pieces pop out the side. The oblong punch holds these pieces inside, and must be emptied occasionally for successful use.

Punching

Riveting

Securing a rivet is very similar to punching. The rivet setter, held in the left hand, has a concave bottom that matches the top of the rivet cap. I strike firmly two times to set the rivet. Note the Square placed beneath the work. This hardened steel surface ensures a good set.

Riveting

Beveling

Beveling an edge is simple using Tandy's edge bevelers. Held in the right hand, the beveler is pushed forward while maintaining a 45 degree angle to the work. The left hand must hold the work firmly in place. A thin curl of leather comes out, and should be discarded. You can take several passes and different angles to get a more rounded edge instead of a distinct bevel.

Beveling

Sewing

While it's a real pain in the hind region, some time you might actually want to sew something together. See the More Tools page for the stuff you'll need. Technique-wise, it's not too terrible. Start by punching matching holes in the pieces to be joined using sewing chisels, 4-pronged for straight areas, 1-pronged in the curves. When using the 4-prong, space holes evenly by placing prong #1 in the most-recently punched hole #4 as shown in the upper left of the diagram that follows. Cut a long piece of thread (actually, waxed lined thread, which is remarkably strong stuff), and thread a a needle on each end. If you're butting two pieces, as in a wrap for a whip handle, use the pattern in the lower left. Otherwise, use the lock-stitch on the right.

To end the stitching or start a new piece of thread (for long work), overlap about three stitches and it will stay put. To end a line of stitching, just backtrack over three or more stitches. Cut excess thread off flat with a razor blade. Make sure to firmly pull the thread tight as you go. Expect to spend at least 30 minutes to sew a 12" line.

Beveling