Author Archives: don Gonzales

Drawing Flowers and Leaves

Drawing flowers and leaves can be challenging at times.  There are so many different variations that can be adapted and designed to fit the particular look that you are looking for within a pattern.  It is very easy to get in the habit of using the same flower and leaf combination in all of your designs, especially if they work well and you can draw them quickly.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with using only a few different combinations of these elements in the majority of your designs and this usually will lead an artist to develop his particular style.  The thing that I want to challenge you to do is to work on at least stretching your skill set in designing some new ones from time to time.

In this article I will show you my process for brainstorming new designs and how I use the process within my pattern layouts.  Designing a new flower and leaf combination can lead you to discover a completely new style within your work.  This is also a great way to rediscover some of those older ideas you had and make them work a little better now.

Continue reading

Leather Floral Designs and Flow

If you have been involved in leather tooling for any length of time, you hear people talk about “Flow.”  Many of us understand the premise behind the flow of leather floral designs, and many times we think we know what that means.  But for some of us, we simply do not truly understand the concept of flow.

Defining Flow

For me “Flow” has always meant simply that whatever I draw within a pattern it should have the sense of movement and seem to be going somewhere and coming from some place. 

This seems simple enough right?

When we are laying out a pattern within the boundaries of the item or the tooling window, we have to take into consideration first where we are going and second where we are coming from.  These are the first two questions that I ask myself when I begin my layout.

Once we have a piece laid out in front of us and have determined the answers to these two questions, now we can determine the steps that we have to take to maintain the flow of the pattern.  The flow of leather floral designs is not something that can be miscalculated because you chose the wrong direction.  In floral layout, left to right or right to left is independent of flow.  This means that we can have flow within the pattern no matter if one direction looks better than the other.

The flow of a pattern is set by deciding on a direction and taking the viewer on that journey without interruptions.  Once the direction is decided, then the pattern layout is now bound by those directional choices as we begin layout.  Decisions must be made according to the direction we have chosen.

I see flow as my ability, as the viewer, to hop onto any point within a pattern with my eye and follow the pattern all the way through the piece.  If I hit a spot within the pattern that dead ends and I am left with no place to go, then the flow has ended.  There are times when this is appropriate but for now let’s just agree that we would rather not see this.

Continue reading

Making a Leather Portfolio

I have had a lot of request for more videos on our YouTube channel that show projects from start to finish.  This video shows the complete process of making a leather portfolio.  These leather portfolios have been great projects for me over the years and they have so much room for customization.

Even during this age of digital organizers, cell phones and apps that help business stay on track, many people continue to use a legal pad and pens to conduct and keep track of daily activities.  The other thing that keeps customers ordering these items is that they tend to catch a lot of eyes.  Walk into a board meeting, have lunch with a client or have one of these on your console when showing properties to a home buyer and you are sure to start a conversation.

My goal with this post and video is to show my process and how I approach making a legal pad portfolio.  There are many different ways to create these and many different styles and sizes, all of which accomplish the same end result.  This video is simply the process that I have found that works best for me.

Continue reading

Undercuts in Floral Tooling

Leather stamping tools can be somewhat overwhelming when you look at all the different brands, styles and types that are available from all the different producers.  Then you try to figure out which tools you actually need versus the ones that are just nice to have.  There seems to be an infinite amount of choices in the “nice to have” category.  While there are many stamping tools that fall into the “nice to have” category, Undercuts are not one of these.

In my opinion, undercuts belong in the “must have” category for any tool collection.  I have seen many collections where the maker simply made his own version of undercuts but the fact is that he had a set.  Much like a beveler, the undercut is one of those tools that can make your job smooth or the lack of them can hinder your tooling progression.

In this article we will discuss the purpose of undercuts along with some of the ways to modify them to make them unique to your style of tooling.  If you have watched my video on My Tool Rollthen you have seen the types of undercuts that I use and the different sizes. Continue reading

How to Sharpen Your Swivel Knife

In this video I quickly show you how I go about sharpening my swivel knives.  A sharp swivel knife is key to a successful tooling session and is more times than not the reason for poor results.  I also take a minute and show you the difference between cuts made in leather with a dull or rounded knife blade compared to a sharpened blade.

If you are wanting to insure that your tooling sessions go as smoothly as possible, check out this video and see if it helps you to get a good edge on your blades.

*I apologize for the audio quality in this video… I am not sure what happened to it.

Properly Casing Leather

 From seasoned veterans to greenhorns, casing leather can be a trying task for many of us.  This is compounded with the fact that different brands and tannages of leather can react much differently to our standard casing process.  This makes it difficult sometimes to achieve the results that we want in our leather projects.

In this article I will discuss my process for casing leather and how I adapt for different thicknesses in order to get that perfect water content for carving and stamping.  I will also touch on casing leather during forming and how I case leather parts that require gluing during the forming process.

What is Casing leather?

“Casing” leather is the process of adding water to vegetable tanned leather.  This is done to soften the fibers of the leather to achieve many tasks within a leather crafting project.  These tasks can include carving with a swivel knife, stamping, forming and skiving or thinning down of leather.  Vegetable tanned leather has been tanned but is still in a bit of a raw state which allows the craftsman to introduce water easily into the fibers of the leather.  This is what is called “casing” and is an essential skill that must be learned.

Continue reading

A Review of the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

resistanceThis is a review of the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  Pressfield has written many books in both the fiction and nonfiction space with one of his most successful being “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

I am an avid reader of nonfiction books specifically directed at business and development.  I came across “The War of Art” last year and consumed it first in audio form while working in my shop.  After listening to the book multiple times and gaining great insight every time, I have added this book to my list of “Must Reads” for anyone wanting to succeed in their business and personal life.

If you are a creative in any field, this book will bring to the surface those things we all do that sabotage our focus and productivity.  Whether your gifts and talents are put to use as a hobby or they are the sole form of revenue for your household, using these talents in a way that the universe calls for you to do is not something you can ignore.  What Pressfield calls “Resistance” sets up shop in our lives with a sole purpose to keep you from that which your guts tell you has to be done to be complete and happy.

Continue reading

Do You have Projects You Procrastinate On?

img_1011Have you ever found yourself working happily on the project that you are most excited about only to have a voice in your head reminding you of that one job you put off for way too long?  Those projects you procrastinate on consistently? That one job that you set on the bench in the corner of your shop and feel it staring at you throughout the day?  In your mind you know that you need to just put down what you are doing and get it done so you can get back to what you love.  But as the days, weeks, or maybe even months continue to cycle by, you make an honest attempt to convince yourself that you will do it “tomorrow.”

 This is procrastination, resistance, or simply lying to yourself.  We all do this from time to time, but for some of us this can become a chronic disease among the best of craftsman.  We work so hard to improve our skills and talents, that we tend to put off the types of work that don’t add value to our skill set.  In an attempt to be good stewards in our business and remain financially responsible, we take these jobs because of our lack of confidence in our true passion.  We tend to look at these jobs as a necessary evil because it must be a sin to turn down work.  So we end up taking the project on, knowing in our minds that we don’t want to do them and in turn putting them off to the point that the customer is upset.  And we ourselves are upset for having to do them.

Continue reading

Make a Pancake Knife Scabbard

In this video I show how to make a pancake knife scabbard.  These scabbards are very popular and easy to make.  They are a great project whether you are new to leatherwork or a seasoned maker.

The scabbards that I am making in this video are patterned for a double blade trapper knife set at a forward tilt for a more comfortable fit and ease of taking the knife out.  In the video I walk you through my entire process from cutting them out to finishing the edges.

If you are wanting to make a few simple items that sell well to your customers, or want to make some gifts for christmas this is the item I suggest.

If you enjoy the video and would like to purchase the companion pattern pack for the video you can purchase it HERE.  The pattern pack is an INSTANT DOWNLOAD PDF that includes the cut patterns for both the front and back including stitch lines as well as 8 different tooling patterns to get you started.

The versatility of these scabbards are endless.  You can buckstitch them instead of sewing them, you can make them rough out for a more rugged look, you can make them simple by using scrap latigo, or make them as ornate as you would like with tooling, painting, and maybe bling (if your into that).

Thanks so much and I hope you find the video helpful.