Leathercraft Tips

How to Oil and Antique Tooled Leather Projects

In this video, I show you my oiling and antiquing process for tooled leather projects. The finish that I did on this piece is what we call a “Light Oil Antique” and it is one of our most popular finishes in the shop. We have created previous videos on antiquing and oiling, but this video dives in a little deeper.

Here are links to those two previous videos if you want to check those out.

Antiquing video

Oiling leather

This is a Bonus Video to our Tooling Series videos that we created. In the tooling series, we walked you through my tooling process step by step showing the tools and techniques to accomplish this floral pattern.

If you haven’t seen those videos, CLICK HERE to a post we created on our blog with all four of those videos all in one location.

If you want to tool this pattern along with us, then CLICK HERE so that you can get your copy of the Free Pattern to print and use. There is also a link in the above mentioned blog post.

Thank you so much and be sure to hit that subscribe button!

Should I turn my hobby into a full time business and quit my job?

One of the most common questions that I get asked from younger craftsmen is, “When should I turn my hobby into a full time business and quit my job?”

This is a question that I do not feel qualified to answer.  Outside of college, I have never had a job.

This usually gets a chuckle in response… but it is the truth.

After I graduated from college I began doing contract work for the man I did my apprenticeship with.

I use the word apprenticeship without a complete understanding as to what a true “apprenticeship” might look like to others in the craft. But more on that in the future.

After some time he offered to sell me the shop and I began my dance with banks to make it happen.

Fifteen years later, years of trial and error, and piles of debt taken and paid off, here we set.

So when someone asks me if they should walk away from a secure career?  Walk away from a steady paycheck?  Maybe even walk away from health insurance, dental, not to mention their own parking spot… I say maybe not.

I once heard an ole boy say, closing his business and getting a job was like “coming in out of the cold.”

The Cost of Full Time

It’s easy to get excited about our businesses early on. We are making improvements on our skill level, product designs, and figuring out our pricing. With this, we are beginning to see some profits left at the end of the month.

If only we could put in more time. Then we would make that much more money. Heck, we have gotten the calculator out and figured the math on what we think we might make. We can’t fail! It’s a no-brainer!

The thing that we forget is all the other areas of a business that require resources when we decide to make it a full time gig.

It’s very easy to feel overconfident in our side hustles. But the thing we have to understand is that there is a ton of things that come with a “real job” that will no longer be there if we make the leap.

This goes farther than just health insurance, steady income, workman’s comp, vacation, and sick days.

When we take something we love, like leather craft, and try to force it to pay for our household, lifestyle, and kids college… the work takes on a whole new appearance to us. It may not happen right away, but it will happen.

Because at that moment, we have taken this thing that we love and put it up in a position of “it has to work.” This is a horrible way to treat the craft that we love.

If it fails to meet our needs, it can leave us struggling financially. Putting a strain on our family and lifestyle. This is a way to create a lot of resentment towards a skill that we once loved and admired.

Resentment Sucks…

I was in that type of a relationship with my beloved craft for a few years in my career.  I had taken something that I couldn’t get enough of and turned it into that one thing that I greatly wanted to quit doing.  I took time out of my schedule during those “dark” years to turn my focus towards trying to use my degree. I felt like I should get a “real job.”

I wanted so bad to come in “out of the cold.”

I smile now looking back on those days in my career, at how naive and immature I was. I look back and wonder what would give a 24 year old recent graduate the confidence to think that he knew the first thing about running a business. And more than that, I laugh thinking, “What was the banker thinking giving that kid a loan!”

Looking back I am glad that my wish to walk away wasn’t answered. Since that time in my life, I have worked on shifting the focus on the business. I have worked to create a business that I now love and plan to do till my ticket is called. But I also know that I could not have gotten to where I am now without the struggle that I went through.

But this is not to say that I would wish that type of timeline on anyone else. I had to experience that struggle and time in the shop’s history only because of the way I started it… unprepared, under trained and naive.

For what it’s worth…

So when a young craftsmen asks me when to take a side hustle or hobby toward a full time business, my answer is always …

If you are in a position in which you have a “real job” that pays for your bills, lifestyle and family, then don’t simply cast that aside so that you can live in your hobby everyday.

Don’t do that to your craft.

Use this season in your life to nurture your skills and craft. Spend time developing your product, honing your business skills, building your tribe of followers and laying the foundation. This will only strengthen your future business and save you the struggle that “is not” mandatory for success in this business.

You are in a unique position to be able to set your financial life on its own path through a full time career.

You can protect your precious leather craft business and keep it from the horrible chore of having to pay for your life. This gives it much better momentum to grow as well as your skill level.

“I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, “Big Magic” (amazon affiliate link for a great book I read last year)

When you get to the point of making the jump, it should be such an easy transition that your family and your finances are not changed at all. It should even be a financial raise for you.

Making the change in this way will make you smile when you look back years later. Your business will be stable and your craft will not be hindered at all with the stress, anxiety and resentment that comes with having to get a project done by Friday so you can get paid and make the light bill.

Learn How to Tool Floral Leather Tooling Patterns

You bought a mess of leather stamping tools for tooling leather tooling patterns.

What do all these tools for stamping leather do and where to use them?

This is a common challenge for us when we start tooling leather.  We gather all the tools, a good mallet and some floral tooling patterns.  Yet we are unclear of what some of tools are for or how to use them.

Other areas that I struggled with early on was the proper order to use the tools in.  I found myself rambling through the patterns in a completely random fashion.  This led to long tooling sessions that left me feeling a bit lost and confused.

If you are new to tooling leather tooling patterns, then you are going to find great value in this!  Here you will find a 4 part video series that we created for our YouTube Channel.  The series is called “How to Tool Floral Leather Tooling Patterns.”

Each video covers a certain number of stamping tools in the order that I use them in my work everyday.  You will see how I use each tool for this particular tooling pattern.  The use of many of these tools takes practice and sometimes requires a little trick to use and we go through this in the videos.

So let’s just jump right in and get started!

Leather Stamping Tools Used in the Videos

Many of my tools are without specific numbers on them, but with these videos you should be able to find a comparable tool that works for you.

Remember:  It isn’t the Tools, it’s the “Tooler” that makes a pattern work.

I mention in the video that a lot of my tools are Barry King Tools, but still a good many of them are Craftool and CraftJapan brand.  I am a big fan of Barry King Tools, but I also will use any brand of tool if it does the job I want it to do and it is readily available.  I also use a few of Clay Millers geometric stamps and I think he builds some great stamps.

Don’t get too wrapped up in having the exact tool that me or someone else uses.  The point is to learn what each tool does and the proper way to use them.  From here you can make a decision on the specific tool that works best with your style.  You do not have to buy only expensive custom stamps.  The cheaper stamps on the market can still be used to create quality projects.

I would rather see you spend your money on quality leather to stamp than investing in a pile of stamps that may or may not fit your tooling style.

In this video, “Leathercraft Tool Roll,” I go through all the stamps in my Tool Roll that I use for 99% of my tooling patterns.  Check it out for a complete breakdown and explanation of my stamps.

How to Tool Floral Leather Tooling Patterns Videos

Before you get started watching these videos, Click Here to download your FREE copy of the tooling pattern used in the video.  That way you can tool along with me as you watch the videos!

Before you get started watching these videos, Click Here to download your FREE copy of the tooling pattern used in the video.  That way you can tool along with me as you watch the videos!

How to Tool Leather Tooling Patterns – Video #1

In this video series, we will show you the complete tooling of floral leather tooling patterns.  The goal of these videos is to show you my complete tooling process when stamping leather tooling patterns.

This video covers the following tools and the order that I use them in:

-push beveler

-flower centers

-flower center liner

-undercuts (4 different tool sizes- small to large)

-crowners (2 different tool sizes)

There is a FREE PDF for this pattern that you are welcome to download using this link, just enter your email address to confirm access to download a copy to use so that you can follow along with us!

Drawing Vinework in Leather Tooling Patterns

Introduction into February Tooling Floral Theme

For the entire month of February, I want to focus on floral design and tooling.  Everything from drawing leather tooling patterns, carving them, and tooling them.  I want to spend the time using our different platforms to help you improve your tooling and design.

So whether you are a seasoned leatherhead or a rookie, be ready to follow us into this deep subject.  We will not have enough time in one month to cover it all.  We won’t even have enough time to cover a quarter of the subject.  But I hope to shed a little light on the subject and hope that you will find value in it.

Tooling isn’t something that you can just read one book about, watch one youtube video, or spend one weekend in a workshop and become a master at.  Learning to draw leather tooling patterns and to tool them, takes practice and commitment to the idea that you will become a true life long student of the subject.

You have to be okay with the fact that you will never be a finished tooler that requires no more training or growth.  Leather tooling patterns change over time and styles are always on the move.  The tooling designs that you come up with today, will be different than the patterns you design 10 or 20 years from now… even if only slightly.

Designing Vinework in Leather Tooling Patterns

*This is an excerpt from our eBook “Introduction to Leather Floral Design” 

The bulk of leather tooling patterns is the “fill” or vine work that surrounds the flowers and other elements within the pattern. As we talked about in a previous section, this fill determines the direction and flow of all the elements. This is the part of the pattern that is the reason for different elements being where they are in the pattern.

Designing the fill is where the majority of the creativity is shown in your designs. You have the opportunity to be as creative as you would like to be with this area of your patterns. You are free to design the fill in any way that you find fits with your style but you are bound by the rules of direction and flow. This means that as you begin to construct the fill of your pattern, you must be aware of the direction and flow that you decided upon when laying out the framework of your design.

Before we begin trying to construct the fill of any of our leather tooling patterns, we must first understand the different aspects of the vine work that make up the fill. Much like flowers, leaves, and other elements that you will draw, the vine work has certain aspects in their design that need to be understood to design them well for tooling into leather.

Vine Structure

The simple vine structure that is most common is shown in this drawing. As you can see this structure is usually used in conjunction with many of the same in order to create a group of vines moving along a circle or flow line to create the fill.

When we dissect one section of the vine work, we can see that each one of the vine segments is simply a LONG LINE and a SHORT LINE.

The Long Line is the bottom side of the vine and is the part of the vine that gives it its length and its motion.

The Short Line is the top of the vine and the portion of the vine that finishes off the vine. This short line normally intersects the long line of the next vine up the line.



In this drawing I have drawn the Long Lines in pink and Short Lines in green.

You can see here how the long lines are setting motion from the flower at their tips and curving back towards the layout circle as they get longer.

Each long line is spaced apart taking into consideration the space needed for the short line while considering the size of the background piece that will be left.

If you want more background or less, then you would space the long lines accordingly. If they are closer together, you will have less background. If they are farther apart you will have more background.

After the long lines are in place, the short lines are added in which closes off the vine and separates it from what is to become background.

The long lines are set in place using the layout circle as a guide for their motion. The long lines are not touching the circle as they end. This is to leave space for the next long line to come in. This same concept is used on flow lines as well as we will see next.

This same architecture works on flow lines as well to carry the desired motion of the vine work on a given path.

No matter what side of the flow line the long lines are on, they still work back towards the flow line much the same way they do in a layout circle and do not touch it.

This simple idea of the framework should help you to see the way the majority of vine work is created and why.

Virtually every piece of vine work can be broken down into the two individual pieces that are used to create it… the long line and the short line.

Take a pattern that you have drawn before reading this book and use two different highlighters to highlight the long lines and short lines in your pattern to see what areas of your design you need to work on.





Many times there are places in a pattern where there is not quite enough space for two separate vines, yet too much space for only one vine to be there.

This is when two leg and three leg vines come in really handy. These are constructed in much the same way as any other vine.

The three leg vine, as drawn here, has three long lines and three short lines.

This allows you to add a small amount of motion in a tight area as well as gain a glimpse of direction change within the pattern.

A two leg vine would be the same as the three-leg only without the center long and short line in it.




Although Scrolls are technically a part of vine work, I do not consider them a part of the Fill.

These are more of an element in the pattern and we use them as focal points to enhance the balance and motion of the design.

For this reason I do not use the terms Long Line and Short Line when referring to their construction. They would be drawn into the pattern much the same way as a flower or leaf.

I usually decide on their placement in the pattern during the framework or initial lay out of the design. This is to ensure that I have them balanced the way that I want them and in place before I begin adding in my fill.

Once the Scroll is drawn, you can build upon it with your vine work as we have discussed using the scroll as your flow line or guide for flow.



The vinework of any floral pattern is, for me, the funnest part of the pattern.  This is where you can let your mind go a little and be as creative as you want.  Outside of the handful of fundamental rules, there are no limits to what you can create within this aspect of the tooling.

If you are just getting started in drawing your own leather tooling patterns, then I would strongly suggest focusing on the vinework in your practice sessions.  Drawing vinework is very often the most challenging part when folks are learning to draw.  Take the time to practice everyday until drawing vinework becomes second nature.  Then you can turn your attention to Drawing Flowers and Leaves.

Did you find this article helpful?  If you would like to go deeper into this subject of drawing your own leather tooling patterns, then get a full copy of our eBook “Introduction to Leather Floral Design.”  Receive a free 5 Day Mini Email Course with your purchase of this digital book. Each day for 5 days, you will receive an email with an exercise that will help you to dive a little deeper into the topics discussed in the book.

How to Cut Parts from a Leather Hide

In this video, I show you how to cut parts from a leather hide for many types of different projects.

Choosing the right leather and the right spot to cut the parts on the hide, is crucial to creating the most functional and beautiful piece that you can.

If you are new to leatherwork, then cutting into a brand new full side of leather can be daunting.  But in this video I help to clarify some of the mystery and hopefully help you to feel confident that you are utilizing the resource to the best of your ability.

For more video tutorials like this, be sure and subscribe to this channel.  Also be sure and check out all our other Leathercraft Resources at https://dgsaddlery.com/ and while you are there don’t forget to sign up for the Leathercraft Newsletter!

Here are some links for suppliers of Herman Oak Leather which is the leather that I use in my shop:




Thanks a bunch!

Installing the Cobra Class 4 Stirrup Plate

In this video I show you how to install the Stirrup Plate on a Cobra Class 4 Sewing Machine from Leather Machine Co.  The process in this video can also be used for other sewing machines that have a similar stirrup plate option.  This is also the process for installing the Holster Plate as well.

If you have been putting off trying out your stirrup plate on your Cobra machine, then I hope this video helps with any fears about the difficulty in changing this plate out.  Changing the plate out isn’t difficult and is worth the steps so that you can easily sew your stirrups or holsters using these plates.

If you haven’t watched our video on how I cover my stirrups, then you can watch that video here:


I also mention in the video a use that I found for the holster plate.  This plate makes sewing the gusset on our shave kits much easier.  You can watch our video on how I make my shave kits here:


Thanks so much for watching and I hope you found this video helpful.  If you have particular questions concerning your Cobra machine, then be sure and give Maker’s Leather or Leather Machine Co. a shout.  They are both very helpful with any help you may need with these machines.  And if you are thinking of getting a sewing machine then I would highly recommend checking out all the machines in the Cobra Lineup!  Here are links to both:

Maker’s Leather Supply

Leather Machine Co.



How to make a Leather Moleskin Journal Cover

In this video, I show you how to make a leather Moleskin Journal Cover.  I am a HUGE fan of journals and notebooks… to the point that I probably have way too many in the shop.  I have to write everything down or I won’t remember it.

My favorite journals are made by Moleskin.  These journals come in many different sizes as well as types of paper.  This project video shows you how to make a leather cover for my favorite Moleskin notebook.  The exact name the one from Moleskin that I use is “Moleskine Classic Soft Cover Notebook” and the size is 5″ x 8.25″.  You can get this notebook from amazon by using my affiliate link by clicking here.

These notebook covers are a lot of fun to make and don’t take as much time as other projects.  They also make great gift ideas or products to offer to your customers.

In the video I mentioned our video on slicking edges on leather.  If you missed that video, be sure and check out our video on Slicking Edges.

The patterns for this project are available in a full Companion Pattern Pack that you can DOWNLOAD and print out on your printer.  The pattern pack includes all the cut patterns and lineup marks to help you quickly get into making one of these journal covers.  The pattern pack also includes 6 different floral tooling patterns to help you get started.  Here is the link to the pattern pack if you would like to purchase these:

Moleskin Notebook Companion Pack

*REMEMBER THAT ALL OF OUR PATTERN PACKS ARE INSTANT DOWNLOADS.  We do not mail these out to you, instead you will get an email with links to download and print them out immediately after purchasing.  No waiting on the Post Office!

I hope you enjoyed this video and be sure to check out our other videos.  We have many other project videos, tutorials and quick tips on our channel!  Be sure to Subscribe while your there too!

Sanding Tools for the Leather Shop

When it comes to getting the best possible edges in your work, sanding tools are one of the most important areas to focus on.  Without a well sanded edge on your leather project, you won’t be able to get the smooth finish you are looking for.  Even the best possible cut piece of leather still needs sanding on the edge to prepare the leather to be burnished.

There are many different ways to accomplish the same thing in leather work.  Sanding is no different.  There are antique line finishers, who’s sole purpose is to sand and burnish any leather edge to a high gloss finish… particularly on shoes and boots.  But these machines are heavy and take up a lot of room in a workshop.  There are cabinet finishers that take up much less room and do just as good of a job.  But finding one of these on the used market can be difficult… most folks won’t part with them.  There are even other “powered” machines used in other industries that can accomplish your sanding needs. Continue reading