| General Conference
|| Skill Level 1
Year of Introduction: 1937
Earning this honor meets a requirement for:
This Honor is a component of the Artisan Master Award.
1. List the necessary tools a beginner needs in leather craft and demonstrate the proper use of each.
Most leather craft starter kits come with the following:
- A few pieces of leather
- Stamping tools
- A Mallet
- Swivel knife
- Leather coloring
You will also need a sturdy work surface.
Additionally, if you wish to lace the leather and do not have a pre-punched leather blank, you will need a leather punch. This tool is similar to a hole punch for paper, but it may have several punch sizes. These are often arranged in a star-shape so that the device resembles an equestrian spur.
The first step in working with leather is to lay out the design (see requirement 4).
Once the design is ready, the leather should be moistened. Moistening softens the leather and makes it more amenable to having an impression made on it by the stamp. The leather is then placed flat on the work surface in front of the crafter. Then the stamp is placed on a section of the leather where the design calls for an impression to be made. The crafter carefully holds the stamp in a vertical position with the stamp face held against the leather. Then the top of the stamp is struck sharply with the mallet.
Once this is done, the stamp is moved to an adjacent area, and the mallet is brought to bear once again. This is repeated until all the areas that are to be impressed have been impressed. The crafter may switch to any number of different stamps as called for in the design.
Once the design has been stamped into the leather, the leather may be cut to shape (though cutting can also be done before stamping).
The piece is then ready for a finish. (See requirement 5).
2. Know how to distinguish different kinds of leather, such as calf, goat, and imitation leather. What leathers are most suitable for tooling?
- Calfskin is a soft leather with dense grain. The hair follicles are tightly packed in a random pattern.
- Goatskin is softer and generally more stretchy than calfskin, but it too has a dense grain. The hair follicles are arranged in rows. Tanned leather from goatskin is considered extremely durable and is commonly used to make rugs (for example in Indonesia) and carpet binding. It is often used for gloves, boots, and other products that require a soft hide. Kid gloves, popular in Victorian times, are still made today.
- Imitation leather
- Imitation leather can be distinguished from genuine leather by its appearance, odor, and feel. The flesh side of genuine leather is fuzzy, whereas the "flesh" side of imitation leather is either smooth, or even cloth-backed.
Do not be fooled by the term "top grain leather." Top grain leather is not, as its name implies, the top layer of the animal's hide. Leather, in its natural form is quite thick, so it is split into layers. The outermost layer is called "full grain." Top grain leather is the next layer beneath.
The only type of leather suitable for tooling is vegetable tanned, full grain leather. This is because the vegetable tanning process allows the leather to absorb water, which is used to soften the leather before the carving process, and the grain of the leather is necessary to allow the leather to hold the shape after the carving process is complete. Other leathers lack these two essential qualities.
3. Give the steps necessary in the preparation of leather.
All leather needs to be prepared before it can be tooled. The leather carver soaks the leather with water, thus making the leather easier to tool.
One point to note is that if leather is too wet, it will not hold a sharply defined carving. Properly cased leather should be cool to the touch, and should feel like wet clay.
A good way to test if the leather is properly cased is to fold the corner. Properly cased leather should fold smoothly and hold a crease well.
Leather can be cased by spraying it with a mist of water, or by going over it with a damp sponge.
4. Transfer a design to leather, and tool and lace some object in leather, such as a billfold, magazine cover, belt, key keeper, or small purse.
Make (or obtain) a full-size diagram outlining the design on paper. Place carbon paper on the leather, and then place the pattern on top of it. Trace over the pattern with a pencil, and the carbon paper will mark the leather. Be sure to trace where all cuts are to be made, as well as any holes that will need to be punched. The design may also include a pattern for stamping.
Cut the pieces out with a sharp swivel knife. Be sure to lay the leather on a surface that will not be damaged by the knife (a regular kitchen cutting board works great for this, but you can also use a piece of scrap wood).
Once the pieces have been cut out, you will need to punch holes with a leather punch to allow the pieces to be laced together. Select a punch size that is just big enough to allow the lace you have selected to pass through. Do not lace it up until you have done any tooling you intend to do. It's a lot easier to tool the leather when it is in its flat, two-dimensional form, versus having to contend with several layers in three dimensions.
After tooling is complete, you can dye or paint the pieces. When the color is dry, you can lace the pieces together.
5. Show how to use leather dye.
Due to changing environmental laws, alcohol-based dyes are no longer available in some localities. They have been replaced by water-based alternatives, though they tend not to work as well.
Leather dyeing used to involve the use of spirit or alcohol based dyes where alcohol quickly gets absorbed into moistened leather, carrying the pigment deep into the surface. "Hi-liters" and "Antiquing" stains can be used to add more definition to patterns. These have pigments that will break away from the higher points of a tooled piece and so pooling in the background areas give nice contrasts. Leaving parts unstained also provides a type of contrast. The predominant brand of leather dye is Fiebing's Leather Dye.
Alternatives to spirit stains might include a number of options. Shoe polish can be used to dye and preserve leather.
6. What kind of finish should be used on leather?
If the leather is allowed to get wet and is then flexed, the impressions may swell and fade. Once the color has dried to the crafter's satisfaction, it should be sealed with a sealing agent, such as neatsfoot oil, linseed oil, or a wax paste. This will slow the absorption of water by the leather, lengthening the life of the design.
- Leathercraft & Weaving (REA's Hobbies & Crafts Series)
- Kingsmere Crafts an excellent web site with a wealth of information about leather craft.