Leather Tooling (Wreath Pattern)


Last fall I was asked to make a leather piece to replace one that after years of wear had torn. This is the original piece from the chair. Following are the steps taken to produce the new piece.

Leather Tooling
The very first thing I drew up a few sketches for her to choose from. Once she had picked the outline she like the best, I traced it onto the hide. To do this the leather must first be wet down with water and allowed to dry just until the center of the hide has moisture and the outer layers are almost dry. Then a piece of plastic film is place over the piece and the paper pattern is laid on top. Using a tracing tool, carefully trace the pattern. When tracing be very careful as to not move the pattern. When the lines are drawn they are very hard to remove, so being off somewhere is not good.

Leather ToolingOnce the tracing is done, the hide may or may not need more water. It is important to keep the same moisture content throughout working on the piece. (It can dry out between working times.) Using the swivel knife the whole pattern is then cut. Again there is no erasing on leather. If you mess up you start over. The pattern is not cut all the way through the piece, only about half way, give or take.

Leather Tooling

After the piece is cut I begin to make it “stand out”  by using a beveller tool and the rawhide hammer. Carefully tapping the tool around every cut line. You can kind of see it pictured on the left.

Leather Tooling
Once the piece has been outlined I have a ton of other tools all with different ends that will create different details and effects.  On the right side of the wreath you can see where I started to add some detail.

Leather Tooling
After I have completed the basic tooling of the piece, using a swivel knife with an angled blade, I cut in a little more detail.

Leather ToolingI should have taken a before picture of the edge, I forgot. This is the after. The edging tool is used first to take a very little cut of leather off the edge. Then the slicker is used to smooth and round the edge.

Leather Tooling

So close to being done! The next step is to use the Deglazer on the entire piece. This cleans the leather allowing the dye to better color the piece. Then on wet leather the dye is applied. I do this using a brush and sponge, trying to keep it even and wiping any excess as I go.

Dyed leather

Once the piece has again dried, I give it a good wash to remove any excess dye. I do this so the clear coat will soak in because of the oil base dye.

Tooled leather

Now for a quick conditioning with some Saddle Soap and it’s ready for the chair!

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