The Art of Leather Craft
WOULD you like to enjoy yourself and at the same time earn an income? In this time of rising costs and widespread unemployment, more and more people are looking for work or ways to supplement their salary. Others seek satisfying relaxation from their everyday routine. Leather craft provides both profitable work, which can be done right at home, and wholesome diversion for the whole family.
Leather that is suitable for carving must be vegetable tanned. Such leather absorbs moisture readily so that it can be carved, stamped, dyed or given a high-gloss finish. Chrome-tanned leather, on the other hand, cannot be tooled.
To carve or tool leather, you must first moisten or “case” it. Rub a damp sponge over the flesh side of the leather. When the leather begins to return to its natural color, it is ready for carving. Additional moisture may be added as required, but unnecessary dampening should be avoided because it darkens the leather and makes it hard. Always use glass or porcelain containers for the water used to dampen the leather. Water from metallic containers may stain the leather permanently.
When transferring a design onto the leather, never use ball-point pens or pencils, as these will leave indelible marks on your product. By tracing onto the damp or cased leather with a dull-pointed instrument, you can transfer a design from paper to leather. Next, the outline of the pattern is cut with a swivel knife that cuts about halfway through the leather. After this, various stamping tools are used to hammer down the background and bring out the highlights of the pattern, giving it a three-dimensional look. Leather to be stamped should be placed on a hard, smooth surface, such as marble, and stamping tools should be struck with a wooden or rawhide mallet held loosely in the hand.
Stamping tools usually are divided into the following categories: camouflage or cam, shade, bevel, vein, seed, background. Additional tools could include a plier-type rotary punch, used to make lacing holes in the leather, a good sharp knife with a short blade, dividers, square, lacing needles, punches for setting rivets and snaps, and rubber cement. Also, a small pair of sharp tin snips is very useful in cutting leather.
With practice in using stamping tools, you can develop a rhythmic tapping motion that will give the best results. To gain skill in the work and experience in determining proper moisture content for carving, practice on small pieces of scrap leather.
Your handiwork may be assembled by various methods of lacing, or the pieces could be sewed by hand. Commercial lacing may be made of plastic or genuine leather. However, a person may wish to experiment with lacing made from nylon fishline, single strands from certain synthetic ropes, or thin leather cut in narrow strips and spliced together. Some items can be assembled with rivets alone.
With practice and careful thought, some people have been able to develop their own style and technique. The pleasure and satisfaction of leather craft comes from creating with your own hands something that is both attractive and useful. So, whether you are looking for profitable work or a relaxing pastime, leather craft may well fill your needs. As with other work and hobbies, it is necessary to control this work and not let it control you. Recognize that it is only a means to an end. As you work with leather, you may find that your pleasure can be profitable in more than one way.