by Gérard HEUTTE
This page presents basic technics for leather working:|
It is mandatory to fully understand and learn those technics before making sheaths.
It is possible to train yourself on leather offcuts.
It is important to have good tools. See the page about
Tools for leatherworking that shows what is
The vegetable-tanned leather has the property to be malleable when it is wet and to keep
its shape when drying.
Here are the different steps to make molding:
> First of all, protect the model by wrapping around it several layers of clear
film (used to protect food).
> Cut the leather at the right size.
> Soak the leather in warm water for 30 to 45 minutes. At the exit of the bath, the leather
must be soft.
> Shape the leather part around the model. Press firmly on the hollows and the angles.
If needed, use a spatula with round end (to avoid marking leather surface).
> Fix the leather for the drying phase. If you use spring clamps, it is necessary to
insrt leather offcuts to avoid marking tht external or visible surface of the leather.
It is possible to use weights (books), foam rubber or any system to avoid leather movement
without marking it.
> Wait calmly the end of drying. Avoid heat sources proximity. Duration : Usually around
> Remove the leather part. It must keep (more or less) the shape of the model!
Immersion in water pan.
Shaping around the blade.
The leather after drying.
To glue the leather, it must be perfectly dry. It is possible to scratch the surface with
coarse abrasive. Spread the glue on both opposite surfaces and wait the required
time for polymerization. Then, press the englued surfaces together. Take care to aim
correctly: On the first contact, the gluing is done! Tighten strongly. Keep this tightening
(one night). Take are to not mark the leather.
Prepare the sewing
It is a difficult point, but a bit of method enables to have rigth results:
> Cut the sides of the leather to get clean edge..
> Wet the leather on the location of the future sewing with a wet rag run on the leather.
> With the creaser, mark a groove at some millimetres from the edge.
> With the pricking wheel, mark the location of the future holes. Carry out carefuly in
the curves. No need to press strongly. There is just to mark the points where to pierce with
> Make the holes with the awl. For that, hold firmly the awl, the handle resting on the hand palm.
Take care to make holes orthogonal to the surface and on the bias in the groove (see diagram).
NB: This work is easier if the different layers of leather are glued! Take care to use the awl with
always the same angle is the groove. If not, the sew will appear quirky even if the holes are
> Cut the required length of thread (with a margin) .
> Slip the thread in the needle eye.
> Go through the thread to block it in the needle eye.
> Make the same at the other side of the thread.
> Slip the thread in a hole at the end of the seam. You can make a knot to fix the thread.
> For each stitch, the thread slip twice by the hole.
> Tighten strongly the stitch by pulling the thread (not the needles).
> The diagram shows how the place the thread in the holes made by the awl.
> To finish the sewing, come back for some stitches and make a knot for each one.
Position of the stitches.
Section of the stitches.
The edges are cut clean. It is better to break the angles with the edge beveller.
The edges can be polished (by hand or with a backstand). For
aesthetic reasons, you can use a special dye for the edge. If not, the polish
is enough to protect.
The surface of the leather (inside and outside) must be protected.
Coat it with polish.