How To Carve Leather

If you are a fan of carving leather, you might want to know how to carve leather. Carving leather for decorative purposes can be a bit time-consuming. But with practice, you will learn to do it fast and with perfection.

To carve leather, you will need a stumping tool, swivel knife, leather tooling, etc. For this, you have to use a particular type of leather known as vegetable-tanned leather or tooling leather. Keeping it on a hard surface and following some easy steps, you can carve the leather to your desired design.

Craving leather has been in trend for centuries. In the past, people used to carve in leather to write. They mainly used leather carving for pages of books, royal letters and preserving history for a long time. But now leather carving is done for beautification. People make jewelry, clothing, shoes, and art pieces out of leather.

Tools Needed For Leather Carving

Various tools are used in leathercraft—the more professional work you want to do, the more accessories you will tend to use.There are mainly two stages of leather carving. One is the beginner stage, and the other one is the professional stage.

In the professional stage, you will develop a lot of skills in leatherwork. With that kind of skill, you will need more defined tools specified for your work. Those two will allow you to give more decorative cuts.

Here we will mention the tools that are necessary for beginners. All the tools discussed here are the basic things one needs to start designing on leather.

  1. Vegetable-tanned leather
  2. Sponge
  3. Swivel knife
  4. Water
  5. Stamping set
  6. Mallet (Rawhide Mallet or Rubber Mallet)
  7. Tracing stylus
  8. Tracing paper
  9. Marble slab or delicate hard surface

These 9 are the primary tools that anyone will need to begin crafting leather.

Carving Leather

After accumulating all the necessary tools, you can start doing patterns designs in the leather. In the very beginning, the work can be divided into three parts.

1st Part: Choosing Leather And Tracing The Design.

The first part of carving leather is to choose the best leather for your work. The best leather is tanned vegetable leather or naturally tanned leather. The texture of this leather helps to carve designs easily and build patterns on them. It is easy to use for beginners.

After you get your leather, you will need to do “casing”. Casing means you will have to moisten the leather.

To do so, you will need a wet sponge or wet cloth. Rub both sides of the leather. Make sure the leather is not over wet. Otherwise, it will become too soft and will not hold the carving.

After rubbing, dry the leather until it turns back to its original color. You will find the leather moist and flexible. Working on dry leather will crack, and carving will not be possible.

While the leather is drying, you can prepare your drawing. Take tracing paper or wax paper. With the help of a pencil, draw the design on the tracing paper. You can use utensils or go for freehand work, depending on the patterns you are expecting. Draw the lines softly so that you can redraw them if you have made any mistake.

To transfer the drawing into the leather, attach the tracing paper to the backside of the leather with the help of tape. Sticking on the front side can tamper with the tanning.

Now with a soft stylus, trace over the design. Don’t forget to give a slight pressure while you are dressing. Applying gentle pressure will impress the design into the leather. To make the design more visible, you can use white markers to outline the markings.

2nd Part: Cutting And Shaping

After the casing is done and the tracing of the design is completed, start carving immediately. Waiting for too long can writhe the leather too much. You can wet the leather again, but it will compromise the texture.

One of the essential tools is a swivel knife. With this, start curving on the impressed lines. While carving, makes sure to have constant pressure all over the design.

If you are coming up with a design with a background, cut the foreground line first and go for the background. With your swivel knife, you can do decorative cuts, western floral carving, etc.

Using a bevel, round and shape curved lines. Hit the back of the beveled gently to smooth the edges of the line.

Don’t do dip cutting in a single stroke if you want any deep cut to overlap the previous strokes. There is a u-shaped blad with the beveler tool. This helps to take out large chunks of leather.

Smoothing out is very important in leather art. If it is not too late, you can correct your mistakes. In smoothing out the error, a spoon-shaped modeling tool is a great help. Applying gentle pressure with it will polish away your mistake and leave a smooth leather.

3rd Part: Using Stamping Tool

With different types of stamping tools, you can make leather designs. These stamps allow you to make flowers, leaf patterns, floral carvings, etc.

With the help of a pear shader, you can add dimension to visual textures. This stamping tool helps you to make some easy patterns in a lesser amount of time.

Some background tools help to smoothen out the background of the design. This makes the design more visible and vibrant. It also helps to smoothen your patterns.

Leather Carving Tips

You can do leather carving for lots of leather projects. With this leather art, you can make bracelets, belts, leather sheaths, shoes, etc. You can also make your leather book or book covers. With proper technique and maturity, you can even use paint in your leatherwork!

Just like wood crafts, leather crafts also need practice and practice to have the perfect designs. The more you work on them, the more perfect your finishing gets. After learning the basics, you can use video tutorials for different design patterns.

If you are passionate about your leatherwork, you should start with the basics. Try to learn more about the tools. Follow other artists’ work to enhance design knowledge.

Summing Up

How to carve leather is not a simple question. The technique of carving leather is not very critical, butcutting critical patterns or using color might be technical.

One of the crucial steps of craving leather is selecting the leather and then casing it. If the leather is too dry or too wet, working on the leather will be difficult. Also, attaching the tracing paper or wax paper properly is essential. Doing it wrongly can tamper with the texture of the leather.

Decide what kind of work you want to do in your leather and select the perfect tool. It doesn’t have to be always tough. Sometimes, patterns can be drawn just with the help of a scissor. And sometimes, shading might need the use of several tools at a time.

Choose your tools according to your work, and you’ll become a pro in leather carving soon enough!

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