Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I hand sew leather pieces. Part of it is because I haven't been able to get my Singer 29-4 working quite yet, but the rest is because it makes it easier to work on things while watching TV or at SCA events. One of the side effects is that I develop and interesting set of calluses on my hands and fingers. I hadn't realized that I had been sewing leather enough lately to develop the callus well, but I discovered tonight that I must have. While I was cutting part of dinner tonight, slipped and pushed the pad of one of my fingers firmly onto a hot baking sheet. I looked just a bit ago and I can't even tell which finger it happened to because they all look normal.

I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Leather Lingo - Silhouette Carving

Silhouette carving is the other main type of tooling that I do.

Silhouette carving starts with a simple design that would work well as a silhouette. One thing that I've found that works particularly well are stencils because they are designed to create the design using painted and unpainted areas. As with the other projects I began by transferring the design and cutting it with the swivel knife. You then bevel in as if you are doing inverted carving. The above picture shows the design at the point where I've beveled the left half of it.

The next step is to flatten the entire design with backgrounding tools. The goal is to get all of the design evenly tamped down, which takes a bit of work. After the backgrounding is done the piece is allowed to dry.

There are two recommended methods of coloring silhouette carving. The first is to either paint or dye the silhouette in a dark color and leave the rest of the leather unfinished or lightly colored. The second is to dye the piece a dark color and paint the silhouette in white. Because I like to be contrary I decided to color this pieces following the second method, for the most part. I dyed the piece with black dye and painted the butterfly silhouette with light purple acrylic paint and then applied an acrylic finish.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Leather Lingo: Inverted carving

Inverted is really what the name implies, it is leather carving that is done the opposite way regular carving and tooling is done.

The first step, as with all tooling projects, is to prepare the piece of leather. This piece is card case so I started out by cutting the stitching groove around the edge so that I can center the design appropriately and then beveling the edges of the piece. The next step is to use rubber cement to attach the leather to a piece of poster board. I don't do this step with all tooling projects, but in this case I did because I am working with a lighter weight leather and the tooling could cause it to distort which could be a problem.

To transfer the design I first trace it onto tracing film, which you can see on the left side of the picture, and dampen the leather and then staple the tracing film to the poster board to keep it in place. Then I used a stylus to go over the lines of the design on the tracing film which engraves it into the damp leather.

This is a shot of the stylus I use and a close up of the design after it had been transferred. The next step is to cut the design using a swivel knife. First I make sure the leather is still the correct level of dampness and then begin cutting. The key is to use a light hand hand because you can cut all the way through light weight leathers with a sharp swivel knife.

Above you can see the piece after I've completed cutting the design. You may notice that the circles in the center of the flowers look a bit different. I am awful at cutting circles with a swivel knife so I used a plain round seeder stamp to make the center of the flowers. Once the design is cut I dampened the leather again and began tooling the design.

In inverted carving rather than bevelling away from the design, you bevel into it. On this particular design I beveled around the edges of the leaves and around each of the petals of the flowers with a patterned beveler which gives the leather a bit of texture. To give the leaves some dimension I beveled along the center line with a plain beveler. since the center line was not cut it doesn't create as deep of a bevel but it does make the leaf look like it has a central vein. Finally I used a modelling spoon to open up the cut vines between the flowers. After all of the tooling was done I set the piece aside to dry overnight.

The next day the leather was dry and I moved on to painting the design in metallic acrylic paints in green, rose pink and gold. The key I've found it to use thin coats, in part because it allows the paint to stay flexible, but also because it keeps the texture from the tooling from getting covered up. Once the paint is applied I let it dry overnight before moving to the next step.

The next step is applying the antique stain. The particular antique I use is a thick liquid which you apply, let sit and then remove with a a damp sponge. The removal portion is a pretty messy process because you have to keep rinsing the sponge out, and while I'm careful to keep from getting it on the table, I usually manage to stain my hands.

Above is the piece with the antique removed (and a shot of the sponge I used). This is the point where you can see why it is important to open up the cut vines, it allows more of the antique to fall into them making them stand out more. That is also why it can help to use textured bevelers, they catch the antique and pull it into the areas that have been beveled down which highlights the design. Now that the staining is done the piece has to go and sit overnight again so it is completely dry before the finish is applied.

And here is the piece with the finish applied. The final steps will be to add the closure straps and lining then to sew the pocket into the piece