tooling leather

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.

 

Conclusion

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 Make a Clutch Wallet

In this video I show you how to make a clutch wallet.  These wallets are a great item for rookie leather craftsmen as well as the experienced.  There are many variations that can be made from this simple design.

I walk you through my entire process of creating one of these popular wallets.

These are great gift ideas for the woman in your life or to offer to your customers who are wanting to give that special everyday carry gift.

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

Swivel Knife Tutorial

Many leatherheads make the claim that the swivel knife is the hardest tool in the leather shop to learn and master.  I would agree with that statement, but I also believe that anyone can master it with the right amount dedication and practice.

When I say the word “practice,” I don’t mean practicing on the orders you have or faking it till you make it.  I mean actual practice!  This is not a tool that you will just bump along with and then one day it will magically become your magic wand of art.

This tool can make or break the final quality and beauty of your artwork.  In order to start a project off in the right direction, take the time to put in the hours of practice with this tool.  I recommend taking at least 15 minutes at the start of your day or at the end of your day to do nothing but play with the knife.  You don’t have to layout a complex pattern in order to practice.  Just grab a piece of scrap leather and go to carving and playing around.  If you do this everyday for two weeks, I promise you will see improvement within your patterns that you carve.

The simple techniques in this latest video will get you comfortable with the fundamental elements that are required of you in virtually every pattern you will carve into leather.  Give this video a look and try practicing them in your shop now.

Thanks so much and I hope you find this video useful and informative.  Be sure to hit the subscribe button and if you have any questions or comments send us an email and I would be glad to help.

 

My Antiquing Process

So your belt is tooled, dyed, painted and oiled.  Now all we have to do is antique it and we are ready to line and stitch it!  This is the point at which many craftsmen new to leatherwork will make a few mistakes.  I hope that my process helps you to clear up this step.  You certainly do not have to antique your belt but I feel like the antique really helps to make the tooling stand out and gives added tone and depth.

The first thing that most people new to leatherwork miss is that the belt must be sealed with a resist before applying the antique.  Whether you are using the paste antique or the gel, a barrier is needed so that the overall color and tone of the belt is not changed.  The antique is not meant to change the color of the leather, its main purpose is to fill any cuts, impressions, and background texture to highlight and shadow the depth of the tooling.  This is why I get the final color of the belt with oil before this step; because once the belt is sealed I can’t get oil into the leather if I want it darker.

The resist I use, or sealer, is Feibings’ Tan-Kote Finish.  This finish is not a lacquer finish like NeatLac or WyoSheen, which would lift a lot of any paint work off the belt.  If you are finishing a belt that doesn’t have any paint applied then these finishes are great to use.  But if the belt has a lot of paint then it’s best to stay away from these finishes and use the Tan-Kote.  I apply a liberal amount of Tan-Kote on the belt and work to make sure it’s even and doesn’t have streaks.  Now I let this dry really well, at least an hour or so.

Once the finish is dry, the belt is ready for the antique to be applied.  I use square pads cut from scrap sheepskin to apply all my finishes… keep a pile of these cut so they are ready for any finishing task.  I use the Feibings Antique Paste, and the color I prefer is the Dark Brown.  They make a few different colors and they are all fantastic but the dark brown is my go to color for the look I prefer on my products.  You can put a dollop of paste on a small square of plywood which allows you to wipe up as little or as much paste as you need with the sheepskin square during application.  You want to apply the paste liberally to the belt and work it into the tooling in circular motions to be sure and get it into all the cracks and crevices being sure to not leave any areas missed by the antique.  Do this to the entire belt.  It will appear to onlookers that you have gone mad and you are ruining a perfectly good belt, but stay calm and keep working it around.  Here is where differences vary, some say to leave it for a few minutes before cleaning… I say once you’re sure that it’s worked in well, then take a clean pad and begin wiping the excess paste off the belt.  The goal here is to attempt to get as much of the paste off the belt as possible.  You want to be somewhat gentle as to not burnish the grain of the leather but you want to clean it well with clean pads until you’re satisfied that you got it all.  All that should be left is what is down in bevel lines, background texture, decorative cuts, etc.

My final step is to take a magic towel (This is a towel that is used to wipe hands after oiling, antiquing, cleaning machines, wiping knives after sharpening, spilling coffee, etc.) or any soft hand towel, and gently buff the belt to further polish any residual antique and revive any lost luster from the resist coat of finish.  Don’t go crazy here, as previously mentioned, we don’t want to burnish the grain of the leather but we do want it clean of excess antique.

Now turn the belt over and look at the back… see that mess?  If you would have lined the belt before the finish steps, then your belt liner would look like that… I don’t care how clean you think you can be, antique takes no prisoners.

This post is an excerpt from out eBooklet “Custom Belt Design and Layout” we posted a couple of weeks ago.  We will soon have more of these eBooklets available walking you through the step and processes I use in the shop in creating our custom pieces.  If you are interested in purchasing this eBooklet then click the link below and download a PDF copy today!

Custom Belt eBooklet $5 Download
Custom Belt eBooklet
$5 Download

*I apologize for the lack of photos in this post… fast and furious this morning and Freddy is cracking the whip!  I will try and snag some pics during my day and post them in a followup post!  

Help with hard leather when tooling.

If you tool leather for any length of time, you will find some pieces that seem to feel like your trying to carve into a piece of concrete. Nobody’s leather is perfect and every piece you pick up is different than the last…. Welcome to working with leather!

I have found that adding a little Murphy’s Oil Soap to your case water will help to lubricate the fibers and allow your swivel knife to glide through even tough leather a lot easier. As always, be sure your knife is sharp and strop it frequently.

Sometimes it’s the hard leather that produces the more elegant results, so try and relax and do your best… If leather tooling was easy everyone would be doing it.