Achievement Course: Leather Workmanship
Recommended Ages: 10-18 years of age
Approximate Completion Time Frame: 1-3 months
Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of leather work and cobblers. They preached by day and made shoes and leather items by night to support themselves. They were martyred in the third century and their feast was immortalized by William Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin Day speech in his play “Henry V”.
Objective: To learn the basic art of leather crafting and demonstrate that knowledge through leather projects.
Leather work is not something that many of us have experience with, but men in the wilds as recently as 100 years ago in the USA had to be able to make clothes for themselves, and using animal hides was the best way to make a set of clothes or shoes that would stand up to the rugged life they led. There probably won’t be a shortage of malls selling everything under the sun in the near future but you may find yourself in a situation one of these days where having leather working skills will prove very useful.
Types of Leatherwork
- Stamping – With a slightly wet sponge moisten the piece of leather, but not too much or it will be too drippy. Make sure to position your piece of leather over a piece of hard stone or a steel anvil. Using hand stamps and a wooden mallet / hammer, position the stamp over the spot and hit the stamp handle on top with the mallet a couple of times. If hit too lightly, it will not impress the shape into the leather and will fade out over time. Repeat this process over the area of your leather as often as you want the image stamped in to your piece of leather.
- Carving – With a slightly wet sponge moisten the piece of leather, but not too much or it will be too drippy. With a Swivel Knife, make bold cuts in the leather to half the thickness of the leather. Keep the knife in a vertical position at all times to allow for proper stamping later on. Then shade the cut on one side with a Pear Shader, using a mallet to press and shade one side of the cut at a constant color. A Beveler is used to create a curved surface on one side of the cut to help create the illusion of a depth to the cut fabric. Veiner or Shell Tool is used to create closely spaced lines for the look of a curved line. A Seeder is used to create a small circular impressions that look like small seeds. Remember not to hit all of these too hard or it will push it all the way through the leather.
- Molding – Submerge the entire piece of leather in warm water until it is soaked all the way through. Once it is soaked all the way, bring it out of the water and start molding and pressing it into the shape that is desired. The leather surface is very malleable at this time, and as it cools down and starts drying out, it slowly losses its flexibility for molding. Make sure not to impress anything into the leather surface at this point, since it will make a lasting impression on it. Make note, each time the leather is submerged in warm water and dries, the leather will shrink down in size.
- Shaping – Submerge the entire piece of leather in water and get it completely wet. Once it is wet, pull it out and wrap it around the desired object or form. Make sure that the form is not metal, since it will rust and stain the leather. Attach non- painted or stained leather thongs or strings around the leather to keep it pressed to the desired molded shape. Tie these off but do not leave impressions in the leather, then let sit until leather is completely dry.
- Staining / Dyeing – Stain the leather with a rag, dipping it into the stain and applying it evenly to the leather surface. With a clean rag, wipe down the entire leather surface after finishing staining. Let dry. Once all the different color stain and dying / paint has been applied and dried, spray with a special lacquer for leather. This will seal the stain / paint in so that it does not rub off easily.
- Painting – Use water based acrylic paint and thin out with water for desired intensity. Brush on or apply with rag or other for smaller detail work. Once all the different color stain and dying / paint has been applied and dried, spray with a special lacquer for leather. This will seal the stain/paint in so that it does not rub off easily.
- Lacing – With a hole punch, punch out holes evenly spaced along the two edges that are being stitched together. Thread a large sewing needle with lacing and tie the end of the lacing so that it does not slip thru the first hole. Start at one end, and choosing one from the many different decorative stitches, sew the two pieces of leather together with the leather lacing. Tie the leather lacing off at the end so that it does not slip back through the last hole and trim with scissors.
- Riveting – Riveting is used instead of lacing to attach two pieces of leather together for stronger and longer durability. Rivets come several different sizes and for each size there are two different ends, so that when put through the holes punched in the two pieces of leather, the inside, non- decorative end of the rivet is hit with a hammer and pressed into the flat headed end of the other rivet piece. Thus the two pieces of leather are securely riveted or crimped together.
Tools for Leather crafting
- Spray Bottle of Water
- Wood Mallet
- Steel Anvil or Hard Stone
- Leather Stamping Tools
- Alphabet / Numbering Stamping Set
- Swivel Knife
- Pear Shader
- Leather Hole Punch
- Crimping Hole Punch
- Leather Sewing Set
- Discuss the process by which you go about making a leather object using the different methods from above.
- Know the tools that one will need to be able to achieve this. Know what First Aid items you might need for anything that might occur when working with tools around leather.
- Discuss where leather comes from, hair on or off the leather and what is the best type of leathers to use. Where do they come from?
- Discuss the process of stamping, carving and molding leather.
- Discuss how to paint or use dyes to color the leather.
- Discuss the use of stains on leather.
- Discuss the process of lacing leather together and how to use rivets to attach two pieces of leather together.
- Demonstrate and show how to polish leather with polish: Sunday / Dress Shoes, Baseball Glove, etc.
- Visit a local leather shop or store.
- Using what has been discussed and learned from above, apply this to making and achieving two projects from the ideas listed below.
- Rosary Pouch
- Knife/Sword Sheath
- Missal Cover
- Arrow Quiver
- Hatchet Sheath
- Luggage Tags
- Any other project approved by Troop leadership
Additional information will be provided within the “blog” section of this webpage.