Leather working: what is it?
Man has always been linked to the leather: he fed and heated himself through the skin of animals, but not only, leather material was also used to communicate through the engraving of simple drawings or the language of signs on it. With the evolution, the passing of the ages and technology, leather has become more and more a material used and worked, often unconsciously at the center of the life of every human being, up to today reaching its maximum expression, that is the creation of luxury items and leather craft at the highest levels.
Leather working is therefore the practice by which leather is transformed into craft objects, using certain techniques and tools.
Leather working techniques
The main leather working techniques are:
- Engraving/Stamping (Tooling)
- Laser or hand cutting
Leather painting consists in the application of water based pigments or colors, which are absorbed by the pores of the skin but do not penetrate into the leather and remain on the surface. This technique can be applied on semi-finished (crust) or already finished leather.
Leather dyeing is different from painting, as the second is a technique with which the paint remains only on the surface of the skin, while dyeing is absorbed into the skin. Because water-based colors or pigments remain only superficially on the skin, the painting technique is not usually used in flexible or bending objects, since they would break or wear out; in this case the leather surface to be painted is therefore advisable to be fixed together with something rigid. Instead dyeing, is usually carried out with alcohol-based products (aniline) that penetrate inside and allow to obtain much more satisfying and professional results.
Lather carving consists of compressing wet skin, through the use of tools, in order to obtain three-dimensional effects and motifs to the skin. The most used tools for carving are: rotary knife, veiner, bevel, pear, modeller, seeder and various tools for sculpting and for the background.
Engraving and Stamping (Tooling)
The leather tooling or engraving consist in the usage of stamps to be hit with a hammer to put pressure on the surface, so as to create imprints on the skin's surface. This technique is usually carried out on vegetable tanned leather, moistened with water to make the surface workable to the fullest. At the end of the work the skin is usually waterproofed with oils, waxes and fats to prevent the design from being deformed.
This technique consists in immersing the skin in water, to make it more flexible, then shaping it by hand, with tools, forms and molds and the moment it dries, it stiffens and begins to maintain the given shape. Engravings and carvings can be performed both before and after modeling.
Laser or hand cutting
It consists of cutting the skin with a laser of with a cutter that can affect the desired depth. This category also includes the cutting of assembly panels for bags, belts and accessories.
This technique consists of assembling several layers of skin through regular holes that also have a decorative purpose.
The skin is decorated and engraved through a hot needle that gives darker lines until the final image is obtained.
Leather fattening and protecting consists in sprinkling the surface of the skin with special oils, waxes and greases in order to prepare it for subsequent processing or simply to protect, to seal, to hydrate and make it more malleable and partially waterproof.
Main leather crafting and leather working tools
The main tools needed to work the leather are:
- Leather material, the first and most important step is to choose the right leather craft material suitable for the realization of the project you have in mind, usually vegetable tanned leather is used, which is best suited to all the processing techniques listed above.
- Sewing thread.
- Working tablet.
- Round knife, one of the main tools for working leather and leather, thanks to the many functions it can perform, in particular cutting and driving.
- Rotary Cutter, a little versatile tool, but easy to use for cutting.
- Edge Bevelling machines, used to remove parts of the edges, rounding them.
- Diamond Chisels, useful tools to puncture the points through the skin.
- Creaser/Groover, tool used to cut a small channel on the skin surface, to ensure that the seams do not stick and therefore create less friction with the skin during the use of the object.
- Stitching Awl, to stretch and create holes for sewing, the more the blade is pushed into the skin, the wider the hole becomes.
- Edge Burnisher, this tool is used to create smooth surfaces.
- Stitching Needles, for sewing, the holes must not be too large, so that once the knot is tied to the thread it remains fixed.
- Stitching Horse, a useful tool to hold the skin while it is being sewn.
- Rubber hammer, tool used for hammer punches and setters, in particular punches, rivets and tools.
- Punches, for punching rivet holes, are available in different sizes.
- Riveting Setters, tool for attaching rivets.
In conclusion, to be able to carry out a project with leather, it is necessary to choose first of all what type of object you want to achieve, after this, you need to have the knowledge on leather working techniques and leather crafting tools, choose the type of leather suitable for the work that you are going to do and which tools are the most useful for the project.