Leathercraft as a Hobby

Leathercraft is the art of making useful and beautiful articles from leather. It is one of the oldest crafts. Early man made foot coverings and clothing from leather. Through the centuries leather was used in many other ways. In the Middle Ages people drank from leather cups, wore leather armor, and rowed in leather boats.

As the uses for leather grew, people's skill in working with leather grew, too. Craftsmen began to decorate the articles they made so that they were pleasing to the eye as well as useful. American Indian women made practical garments from the hides of deer and bison. Porcupine quills were dyed and sewn in designs on the garments.

Today most of the leather shoes, belts, and jackets we wear are made in large factories. But skilled leather craftsmen continue to make fine articles of leather by hand. These include richly decorated saddles, harnesses, belts, and wallets. In addition, many children and adults enjoy leathercraft as a hobby.

Leathercraft is a hobby for everyone. Beginners can make such simple things as bookmarks, coin purses, or key cases. There are kits that contain the leather, tools, and directions needed to complete a project. The parts are cut and ready for assembly. All you have to do is lace them together. More experienced craftsmen can make wallets, handbags, and a variety of other interesting things. They can also decorate the articles they make in a number of ways. Tooling, or pressing a design into moistened leather, is one of the most popular ways of decorating leather. Calfskin, goatskin, cowhide, sheepskin, steerhide, and other kinds of leather can be used.

You can buy leather from a hobby shop or from crafts-supply firms that sell by mail. Send for a catalog so you will have information about leathers and tools.

For each article you plan to make, cut a template, or pattern, out of heavy paper or thin cardboard. Place the pattern on the piece of leather with which you are working, and trace around it with a sharp pencil. Leather must be cut with a very sharp knife. You may use a knife made especially for leathercraft or any other knife with a sharp, pointed blade.

Cut the leather on the smooth-grained pine or maple board. Avoid any surface that has knots in it. These will turn the knife blade as you cut. Use a metal-edged ruler as a guide for cutting straight lines. Hold the knife firmly, and bear down so that you cut through the leather and into the wood. Curved lines must be cut freehand.

To make a simple bookmark, cut a strip of leather about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long. You may use it just as it is, or you may decorate it by cutting fringes in one or both ends.

You can further decorate the bookmark by tooling it. This involves pressing a design into the grain, or finished, side of the leather with a special modeling tool. (The other side of the leather is the flesh side.) Leather must be moistened before it can be tooled. Place the leather on a piece or marble, tile, heavy plate glass, or stainless steel. Moisten the flesh side of the leather with a sponge until the piece is thoroughly wet but not sopping. You should not be able to squeeze water out of it when you press your fingernail against a corner. Turn the leather over so that the grain side is uppermost. Draw a design on a piece of thin tracing paper. This need not be complicated. It can be a simple initial. Place the paper of the leather so that the design is centered. Trace over the design with a pencil, but do not press too hard, or you may go through the paper. Remove the paper. Then, using the pointed end of a modeling tool, go over the design to deepen the lines in the leather.

Flat Modeling
You may press down the area around the tooled initial or design so that it is raised and stands out. This process is called flat modeling. To do flat modeling, you will need a modeling tool with a spoon-shaped end. Working on the front, or grain, side of the leather, rub the area surrounding your design with small, circular motions.

You can raise the initial or design still more by tooling it from the back, or flesh, side of the leather. This is called embossing. Turn the leather over and use the spoon end of the modeling tool to push the design out from the back. Hold the leather in your hand as you do this, working against the palm of your hand.

You can also make the design stands out by texturing the background instead of pressing it down with a modeling tool. For texturing you will need a stippler. This looks like a cluster of nails set into a handle. To use the stippler, simply press the pointed ends of the tool into the moist leather. This will leave a group of dots. The more you stipple a particular area, the finer the texture will be. If you do not have a stippler, you can use the end of a blunt nail or a used-up ball-point pen. You can also texture an area by stamping it with a background tool. One end of this tool has a fine texture imprinted on it. Place this against the most leather, and strike the other end firmly with a wooden or rawhide mallet. (All stamping must be done on a wooden surface, never on glass.)

Another way to decorate leather is by burning. A special tool is used. It looks like a small electric soldering iron with a fine tip. Plug it into an electric outlet, and allow it to become hot. The use the burning tool as through it were a pencil, drawing directly on the grain side of the leather. You may do this freehand, or you may trace your design on the leather beforehand. The leather should be clean and dry. The hot tool will scorch the leather, darkening it. The longer you leave the tool on the leather and the harder you press, the darker the impression. You must be careful in using this hot tool.

No comments:

Post a Comment