Leather Edge Finishing Explained!
I hear hear a lot of questions about leather edge finishing these days like, "what IS the best method for finishing?" I also hear a lot of people asking, "why should I finish my leather edges at all?"
Both are great questions!
Completing a leather project without finishing the edge is like leaving the house without putting deodorant on.
It's just wrong.
Finishing your edges is what seals the deal on your project (literally applying wax creates a barrier and stops water from seeping in and getting at the stitches, causing thread rot.) What takes it to the next level. What makes it look better and also what makes it look like it was made by a pro.
In case you're not sure what I mean by "edge finishing", i'm talking about the process of cleaning up and sealing your edges when you've finsihed sewing your project.
Edge finishing is the process of creating a sealed smooth edge along your exposed seams by completing a few fairly simple steps, consisting mainly of truing up edges, using various methods of burnishing, applying wax and buffing.
There is no magic here. It can be tedious but it really does elevate your work.
But the best part is, is that it's not complicated and just takes a little elbow grease.
Lets look at the 4 edge finishing steps in detail.
When you've finished saddle stitching, you want to make sure the edges that you've just sewn together, are as straight and even as possible.
To even out your edges, start with some varying grits of sandpaper, starting with course and working your way to fine grit. Sand your edges until they're smooth and even.
If one edge is hanging out over the other edge, you're going to have a tough time getting a nice finish in the next steps. Make sure you complete the sanding step with a lot of care so that you don't have to repeat it later.
Once your edges are smooth and even, take your block of bees wax and rub it back and forth all along the edges until they're coated well. Some people use water or tragacanth gum, but I find that bees wax works very well and gives a nice coat to your work.
Burnishing is the process of polishing something by rubbing. A lot of different methods and tools exist for burnishing the edges of your leather piece. Some people make a burnishing attachment for their power drill. I've also seen some people use a deer antler as a burnisher.
Now thats what I call using every last bit of the beast! But what to do if you don't have any deer antlers laying around?!
Don't worry. Keep it simple.
I use a simple edge slicker that I picked up on Amazon for about $2.
Once you've sanded your edges until they're smooth, you can begin to burnish, or rub vigorously back and forth along the edge.
The friction caused by the rubbing will cause the wax to heat up and work into the cracks, creating a shiny and smooth layer.
If you notice that your edges are not quite even at this point, you'll need to go back and fix that with the sandpaper again. Then go back with another layer of wax and repeat until you're getting the results that you want.
The last part to finishing, is a series of buffing steps. Once i've sufficiently burnished my edges, i'll buff them with a cloth or rag. This is the fun part.
This buffing brings out a beautiful shine and smoothness even more.
The idea is to wax, burnish and buff until it is almost impossible to tell that there are multiple pieces of leather sewn together.
I've created a 1 page checklist to help you remember all of the steps to finish your edges properly. Click below to download!
Whats your method for finishing your edges? Do you use a different technique? I'd love to hear if this method worked for you.