Beginner’s Roadmap to Getting Started with Traditional Leatherwork
If you’re an absolute beginner, never picked up a leatherworking tool in your life and want to get started with traditional leatherwork, then you might want to check out my road map to getting started with traditional leatherwork. My roadmap ensures you stay on track bypass frustrating situations like:
Choosing the wrong tools or unnecessary tools and wasting money.
Wasting time trying to figure this stuff out on your own.
Learning incorrect techniques and having to correct your mistakes later.
If you want to avoid those mistakes, then follow my roadmap below which lists the 6 steps to getting started with traditional leatherwork. These steps involve getting the right tools and materials, learning the correct techniques and implementing the techniques on beginner projects. Once you have the right tools and materials you’re on your way to learning the techniques and honing your leatherworking skills.
Step 1 | Gather ONLY the essential tools.
This should be your first step right off the bat. It is a misconception that you need a bunch of fancy tools to get started. You don’t. You just need a few. If you want a handy list that walks you through tools and what their uses are, download the Top 10 Leatherworking Tools for Beginners, below.
Step 2 | Gather leather that you can practice on.
I highly recommend getting some good scrap practice leather instead of purchasing an entire side of cowhide. If you opt to go for a side from the get go, you’re spending a lot of money upfront and you run the risk of purchasing the incorrect kind of leather for your project or you might get a piece that you just don't like working with. Expensive leather can also be intimidating to the beginner for fear of messing up and wasting it. Get to know different types and weights of leather first before purchasing a large expensive hide. You don’t want a fancy piece of leather to hinder or intimidate you into not practicing your saddle-stitching or taking action.
Step 3 | Use high quality linen thread.
Use linen thread because of its natural benefits of strength, durability, etc. I have found that this is the best type of thread to use and it’s what a lot of the traditional leatherworking veterans and pros use.
Step 4 | Prepare your piece for saddle-stitching.
There are a few different steps involved in preparing your leather piece. First you must create your stitch guide so that your stitches line up evenly and in straight formation. If you don’t use a stitching guide your stitches tend to look sloppy and crooked.
Next comes the stitching marks or stitching holes. This is a very important part of preparing your work. When you create these marks or holes you are providing the foundation for your saddle-stitching. Make sure your your stitching chisels pierce the leather all the way through so that when it comes time to stitch you have clear access and don’t have to re-punch the holes.
Step 5 | Learn correct saddle-stitching techniques.
By taking the time to learn the correct tools and techniques upfront you will save yourself time, frustration and a lot of headache.
I want to save you that frustration and teach you how to saddle-stitch using 2 needles, the correct thread and a stitching clam. It can be time consuming but it does not have to be a complex process.
Step 6 | Implementation: Use materials and techniques on basic projects.
After gathering tools and materials, learning the preparation steps and saddle-stitching techniques, it is now time to start creating some beginner projects. As I said before, I highly recommend practicing on scrap leather to make sure you have your saddle-stitching technique down. After that, choose a basic wallet or other small accessory and make this same basic project 10 times. This will ensure that you have the techniques and steps mastered and will help you avoid potentially wasting leather on a larger more complex project with beginner mistakes.
To review, your road to successful traditional leatherwork is not a tough road if you follow these steps and make sure you master the basics prior to moving on to more complex projects.