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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Finally The High Chair (Part 3)

leather strapFinally time for the straps.

The old ones were fine, nylon straps with the plastic clips, but I’ve done so much already I’d hate to put the old ones back on when I could make some new ones.

Another one of my hobbies is leather work. Go figure, right. I cut new straps about 3/4 inch wide out of 6-7 oz. leather.

edge belever

I used an edge beveler on all four edges of each strap. This takes the 90 degree corner off  and begins the rounding of the edges.


leather skiver

Then the skiver to shave the under side of the ends that I need to put rivets through. By tapering the end it makes the under side semi-smooth when folded.



leather  v gouge

The V gouge I use is adjustable for cutting different depths. I used this where the fold will be, right at the top of where I just skived. By cutting this gouge the leather will lay a little flatter when folded rather than round.



leather punch

I then punched the holes for the rivets, buckle hardware and buckle strap.

Now, if I knew there wasn’t going to be little squash covered fingers touching the straps I would do some tooling on them. So this time I can save myself a few steps now by not tooling and later by not having to try to wipe squash out of the crevices.

wood slicker

To get the edges smooth I use a wood slicker. To use this you must first wet the leather. The is a perfect moisture level you want both when tooling and using the slicker; not too wet and not too dry. In another post about tooling we can go more into that. Then you want to apply a little pressure with rubbing back and forth. This will compress the leather into a smooth, shiny, rounded edge.

fiebrings leather dye

While the leather is still damp its time to dye it. Having the leather damp when you apply the dye will help to end up with a more even color as the dye soaks into the leather rather quickly. I like to use oil base dye. Personally I like the color depth it provides.

Usually I put an acrylic clear coat on my projects after this step. Although it says it’s flexible it always seems to crack after a bit of use so this time I didn’t. We will see how it goes.

leather rivetsI then rubbed all the pieces with the saddle soap. It gives it a nice shine and works as a protectant.

Rivets are next. Using a rivet setter is pretty easy too. The rivet is two pieces, the cap and the post. The cap goes onto the plate and the post through the leather and into to cap. Using a punch and a mallet simply pound the punch and the post will flatten in the cap and hold securely.

High chair

Lastly the straps are screwed to the underneath of the chair. The old ones were fastened with a whole bunch of staples. They might have worked ok with the nylon but not with the leather.

And finally done!

High chair

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