Saturday, March 10, 2007

Leather Lingo - the tooling process

Today I'm going to talk about the process I go through when I do leather tooling. I've gotten pictures of pieces in process so this will be a picture heavy entry.

The first step is to case the leather. This requires dampening the leather and letting it dry a bit so that it feels cool and slightly damp to the touch. You then transfer the design to the leather using tracing film and a stylus. (No pictures of this right now, but I may add some later.)

The next step is to cut the design into the leather with a swivel knife. Below you can see a design that has been cut.

The next step for a piece that is being done using standard tooling is to bevel the design using a bevelling tool. A beveler is somewhat wedge shaped and presses the leather down where it is used. In standard tooling the process is used to make the design stand out. Next I use a backgrounding tool to press down the background of the design. Below is a piece that has been bevelled and the backgrouning has been started on. If you look at the left side of the picture you can see how the beveling has been done to make the interlaced beasts and the boarder stand up from the rest of the piece. Starting with this picture I'll be following a specific piece all the way through the rest of the tooling and finishing process.

The following picture shows the piece after the backgrounding has been completed. As you can see everything except the interlace design and the border has been compressed. The next step is to let the piece dry completely so it can be colored.

Once the piece is dry you can move on to coloring it. In this case I painted the interlaced beasts with acrylic leather paint. (You can use regular acrylic paint, but I prefer the leather paints because they are a bit thinner and seem to bond to the leather a bit better. ) Once the painting is done, you let the piece sit to make sure the paint is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

The next step for this piece is to apply antique stain. Leather antique works by falling into the lower parts of the leather, particularly tooled areas. I generally prefer to use antique because it creates an interesting effect on large pieces. As you can see in the picture below the antique I use is a thick liquid, you apply it to the piece and let it sit, then remove it using a damp sponge.

After the antique is removed and the piece dries, the next step would be to touch up the paint if it is needed. In this case i needed to touch up the light purple on the bird because the antique had discolored it pretty badly in places. Once the tough ups are done this is the effect you have. As you can see the color is darker in the portions that I backgrounded and into the portions of the interlace designs that are lower.

The final step is to apply the finish to the piece. For this piece the back and sides are sealed with a wax finish that is forced into the leather using a scrap of denim and the front is sealed with an acrylic finish.

Next time I'll discuss the other styles of tooling I do, again with pictures of some recent pieces.

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