Leathersmith Designs - Our Blog On Custom Leather Work - Leather Craft
Leathersmith Designs Inc. has been a Canadian manufacturer specializing in quality custom imprinted quality leather goods, promotional leather products and a distributor of leather craft supplies. Mission to produce quality leather products to meet the needs and desires of our valued customers and also to provide leathercraft supplies and knowledge on basic leather craft skills.
An Inside Look At How We Designed New Women’s Leather Wallets
This post covers my process for designing a new product: a women’s leather wallet. I discuss how I went from initial concept to finished item, and how I corrected issues I ran into along the way.
I haven’t written a step by step guide for making this exact wallet. Rather, This blog is meant as an inside look into what goes on during the design process, and as an aid to anyone working on designing their own leather wallet. That said, all my steps are broadly covered in the “Revised Prototype” section in the second half of the post, and I explain how I arrived at my measurements.
Inspiration for the Women’s Leather Wallet
I use these clutch-style wallets myself, so I began the design process by thinking about wallets I’ve had over the years. What features did I like and dislike about them, what did I find necessary and unnecessary? I also measured and examined the construction of the wallet I currently use.
Reducing bulk was going to be a major consideration for this project. I wanted the wallet to be as compact as possible, so it would easily fit most bags. The 2 1/2 oz goatskin I wanted to use for the interior was thicker than the vinyl and fabric interiors of my own wallet, and I knew that small amount of extra thickness would add up fast. The outside of the wallet would be made from 3 – 4 oz premium tooling leather, which would make for a sturdy and durable product, but I would not want to use this for the interior because the wallet would become too bulky.
With that in mind, I decided to keep things simple. I designed the wallet as a rectangle, folded in half and secured with a clasp. All interior elements would attach to this rectangle, such that it would lay flat when opened. I wouldn’t use zippers or pouches or a median section. I also knew I wanted the card pockets to be horizontal, since cards stacked in a vertical column would overlap each other more, creating more thickness.
The Question of Pocket Size
I wanted to use the same pocket-stacking method we use in our men’s wallets. The two upper pockets that you can see in the man’s wallet below are not rectangular pieces of leather. Instead we cut them in a T shape, with two tabs at the upper corners. We sew the bottoms of the pockets to a backing piece, and later sew the side tabs to the body of the wallet. This keeps the bottom and sides of the wallet from being five layers thick.
I did not want my pockets to be the same size as those on the men’s wallet. Those pockets are 4 1/8” wide, and I ideally wanted my wallet to be narrower than 8”. To find the smallest reasonable pocket size I could use, I made a test pocket. From this I knew that a 3 5/8” distance between seams would make a snug but usable pocket.
I made a test card pocket to check sizing.
The First Prototype
The picture below shows my first ideas for the layout and dimensions of the women’s leather wallet. All these measurements changed quite a bit by the end.
After coming up with this plan, I realized we had cutters that might work well for the wallet exterior, and for two of the interior money pockets. By “cutters,” I mean the metal item you can see in the photo below. These are essentially heavy-duty cookie cutters which are custom made for us, which we use on a hydraulic press to cut out pieces for some of our products. When designing new products, we try to come up with new uses for existing cutters. Hand cutting pieces takes much longer, which means that fully hand-cut products are priced higher.
My initial ideas for the ladies leather wallet. Lower left is a cutter we use for our men’s wallet.
The set of cutters I found had been designed for a checkbook cover. The length was slightly less than I’d wanted, and would result in the card pockets being a hair’s breadth narrower than my test pocket. Still, I decided to see how the wallet would turn out using those dimensions. I shortened the tab height from 5/8” to 1/2″ on the card pockets, to make them more compact. I also set the second money pocket on the top flap 1/2” down from the one behind it, to match.
The wallet would look unfinished with a strip of bare tooling leather between the pockets, but I didn’t want to line the whole interior with goatskin because that would make the wallet significantly thicker. Instead I glued a strip of lining down the center, with wings extending underneath the pockets so that no tooling leather is visible.
My first wallet, with ideas for improvement.
This was the end result. I was happy with the look and feel of the wallet, and with the size of the long money pockets. Unfortunately, the card pockets were too small. Once five of them were filled, getting a card in the sixth pocket was a struggle. Putting two cards in each pocket was nearly impossible. It also seemed that the bottom pocket should be taller, to enclose more of the card.
I made two other edits as well. Firstly I decided to line the inside of the closure tab, so the wallet would have no unfinished tooling leather visible. Secondly I decided to glue the central lining piece down completely, rather than leaving the wings inside the pockets loose. I had originally left them loose with the idea that money could be tucked under them, but I felt the lining was not secure enough that way.
Making The Revised Prototype
I hand cut new wallet pieces using my revised dimensions. Every time I adjusted a piece I recorded the measurements, so I would know what I’d done when it came time to make my final pattern.
The cut pieces for my final women’s wallet.
Finally, I assembled the wallet. I applied contact cement where needed to the interior pieces. While waiting for the glue to dry, I dyed and oiled the exterior pieces and set them aside. Then I hammered my glued pieces together, and assembled the pockets.
Dyeing and gluing the leather wallet pieces.
When the neatsfoot oil had fully soaked in and the exterior pieces were dry, I polished them with acrylic resolene and dyed the edges with edge-kote. Then I glued the tab top and the tab lining together, and trimmed the excess lining. I sewed around the edge of the tab only on the end where I wasn’t going to sew it to the wallet body. When doing this I made sure my seams would line up and look like one seam on the finished product.
I set the top snap, and worked out where to attach the tab and the bottom snap. Then I sewed on the tab, glued the interior pieces to the exterior, and sewed around the wallet’s edge to permanently fix everything together.
Card wallet pocket interiors of the two different designs.
First prototype vs. final women’s leather wallet.
Here you can see how the first version compares to the second. The card slots are now much easier to use. Each can fit two cards comfortably, but even with one card in each slot the cards are held securely and not in danger of sliding out. The added lining in the tab creates a more unified look.
Making a Pattern
Now that I had my finished wallet, I could make a pattern to use for future wallets. This was easy to do since I had kept records of my measurements.
The pattern has small holes indicating where to sew the tab and where to place the snaps. This way I can simply make a mark on the leather, rather than having to measure for correct placement every time.
My final pattern for the women’s leather wallet.
The Finished Women’s Leather Wallet
This project took about three weeks to complete, from initial planning to the wallet’s appearance on our online shop. I worked on it when I had time between making custom orders. Once I’d finished my part, the wallets I’d made went over to our photo studio with Jamie. He took glamour shots of them and then worked on adding the product to our website.
This article is an overview of everything to do with our leather guitar straps, which are handcrafted by the artisans at Leathersmith Designs. It will show you what goes into designing one of our custom guitar straps, and it will compare different techniques we use for different styles of straps. Read on if you’re curious about how our handmade guitar straps are created, or for guidance on which style of strap would be ideal for your needs.
Custom Guitar Straps - YouTube
Watch artisans handcraft different styles of leather guitar straps.
1: Real Leather Guitar Straps
Every guitar strap starts life as a high quality piece of 5-6 oz vegetable tanned leather. The “5-6 oz” measurement refers to the thickness of our full grain leather; these hides are about 3/32 inches thick. “Vegetable tanned” describes the tanning process, which uses tree bark. This process creates leather that can be stamped and molded when wet.
We often incorporate other leathers in the strap, such as chrome tanned garment leather. We use this soft leather as a lining or inlay option.
Standard size undyed full grain leather guitar strap pieces and cutters.
We cut our standard size guitar strap pieces using cutters on a hydraulic press. You can see our hydraulic press in action in the video below. Extra long straps and wide bass straps are cut out by hand, using a strap cutter handtool and a sharp utility knife.
Cutting Leather Guitar Straps - YouTube
We hand cut custom leather guitar straps longer and wider to customer specifications.
2: Design Elements Of Leather Guitar Straps
Once our pieces have been cut they are ready to be hand tooled. This section will cover some different techniques we use to personalize and embellish our straps.
The embossed classic series are our most popular guitar straps. To create this look the strap needs to be wet, which allows the stamping tool to mold the leather as it’s hammered down.
The key to this technique is precision. We line up the stamping tool exactly in place, and bring the hammer straight downwards to create an even impression. Then we line up the tool again, and repeat a few hundred times to create a beautiful border design around the strap.
After stamping the border designs, we lay out the text. On most of our guitar straps we use one style of lettering: the classic, western-inspired font you can see in the picture above. We also have an old english font set, which is unique but not as easy to read as the classic style.
Hand stamping an “x” pattern onto a leather guitar strap.
Etched designs have a hand-drawn artistic look, as opposed to the uniformity and crisp corners of the stamped designs. To create these we trace an image onto the guitar strap in pencil, wet the leather, and press down the lines of the design with an etching hand tool. The key to etching is to keep a steady hand and apply even pressure. This blog post on making custom candle holders includes a tutorial for etching, if you want to learn more.
We hand paint the etched lettering or layout with an acrylic leather paint. We have several font options for this lettering style.
Etched and painted designs on three unique leather guitar straps.
This is a different type of stamped strap. We trace on a design, as with the etched straps, and then we use small, textured stamping tools to tamp down the area around the design. It takes hundreds of hits to emboss the background using this method, which is very time consuming. This technique makes the lettering or image appear raised.
For a subtle look, we will dye the whole design one color. For more contrast, we can leave the lettering undyed. We do this by painting on the dye with a fine artist brush around the exterior of the raised image.
Our script style designs on our tooled leather guitar straps have a chiseled look.
Inlay and Overlay Straps
Inlayed straps have pieces of the main body of the guitar strap cut out, revealing a different leather underneath. We might use a textured leather for these inlays, such as ostrich imprint or stingray, or a soft garment leather, or leather with a metallic finish.
For both the inlay and overlay styles, the first step involves tracing a pattern onto the leather and then cutting out the necessary pieces with a sharp utility knife. The cut edges are sanded and adjusted until the cut-out is completely smooth.
3: Dyeing, Oiling, Polishing
Once a strap has been tooled it is ready to be dyed. For some straps, we use wooden blocks lined with sheepskin to apply the dye. This method floods any stamped or etched impressions, making the whole strap a uniform color.
For straps where the stamped impressions are to remain undyed for a natural contrasting color, we apply the dye with a cotton cloth and use q-tips to fill in the edges.
Dye is applied carefully, so as not to flood the undyed stamped design in the guitar strap.
After the leather strap is dyed, it will be coated with a leather conditioner – usually neatsfoot oil. Then we hang it up and leave it to dry overnight. The next day we may need to even out the color with more leather dye or conditioner. Once the color is uniform, we polish the guitar strap with acrylic resolene. The edges are rounded with a beveler leathercraft tool and dyed with edge-kote.
4: Finishing Touches
Many of our stamped and etched designs have an option for the lettering to be hand painted. We apply several coats of acrylic leather paint using a ball point stylus tool. The first coat establishes an even line width, and subsequent coats build up the color until it is completely opaque.
After painting, decorative conchos are fitted with leather washers and attached to the strap.
We have a few different lining options, each with a different look and feel. Inlay guitar straps need to have a full garment leather lining, to cover the back of the inlay. Otherwise, lining choice is up to preference. In all cases we adhere the lining with contact cement and then sew it to the strap.
Our foam padded straps are the best option for anyone who will be playing onstage for long periods of time with a heavy electric guitar. These straps are sturdy and substantial. The foam is light and doesn’t add much extra weight, but it can withstand a lot. When Jamie designed these padded guitar straps, he tested different foam types by flattening them in a press overnight. Once removed from the press the next day, the foam padding we now use sprang back to its original thickness perfectly, while other types of poorer quality foam remained flattened.
You can watch a video below showing how we add foam padding and garment leather lining to our guitar straps.
Foam Padded Guitar Straps - YouTube
This video shows Jamie making foam padded guitar straps.
If you want a strap with a more finished, polished look, but don’t want the added bulk of foam padding, then this is a good lining option. The garment leather is soft, smooth, and pliant. It adds some extra thickness, creating a slightly firmer strap, but the strap will still be very flexible.
This lining option gives a nice soft cushion for your shoulder, as well as being a major, visible design element. The same strap with or without this type of shoulder pad will look very different! In the video below you can watch how we attach sheepskin padding to our straps.
This post covers the best methods for making holes for belts and other leatherwork projects, using several different types of leather hole punch tools. It will teach you how to use the drive punch, rotary hole punch, oblong hole punch, and four hole punch. The post will also help you choose which leather handtool or leather punch set is the best fit for your leather crafting needs. At the end of the post is a video where you can watch how to make a hole in leather with each different type of leather hole punch.
Round Hole Drive Punch
The drive punch is the most basic, strongest, and most universal type of leather hole punch. They come in a range of sizes. We use our small 3/32 inch leather punch to make holes for small rivets and small jacket snaps, our 1/8 inch drive punch tool to make holes for medium and large rivets, and our 5/32 inch hole punch for large jacket snaps. These sizes can be used for some buckle holes as well, but often the larger hole punch sizes are better for buckles with thicker pins. For this, you will need to choose a punch based on the circumference of your buckle tongue. To make holes for grommets and eyelets, you will need to choose a punch size based on the interior circumference of the eyelet or grommet.
Round drive punches are available in many hole diameters.
You can also find adjustable leather punch sets. These consist of a body that can be fitted with different sizes of removable hole tube tips. Our mini punch set includes six smaller tips, and the maxi punch set has six larger tips. These are a good option if you aren’t sure what size you’ll need, or if you need to punch multiple sizes of holes. They are a good economical choice if you won’t be punching a lot of holes, since you won’t have to spend money on many different individual drive punch tools. The disadvantage of this type of punch is that swapping out the ends takes up time.
Mini punch set with interchangeable tips and wrench.
How To Use A Drive Punch
To use a drive punch, first start with a sturdy surface that won’t bounce when you’re punching holes. We use a solid tree stump. On top of the stump we lay a piece of scrap leather, so that the sharp point on the drive tool won’t get dull from punching directly onto wood. This also prevents the punch from chewing up the wood and ruining your cutting surface. If you don’t have scrap leather available, you can use a poly cutting board.
Use a pencil or scratch awl to mark the leather where you need the hole punched. On darker colored leather it is easier to see a point mark by the awl than a pencil mark. Then set the piece on your cutting surface and line up your punch. The hole punch should be completely perpendicular to the leather. Hold it securely in this position, and hammer straight downwards. Depending on the thickness of the leather, the punch should cut through cleanly with one or two solid blows.
We punch holes on top of a tree stump, with a scrap leather pad to protect the drive punch tool.
The hammer shown in this photo is a large poly head mallet; a heavy rawhide mallet is also a good option. Both materials will absorb bounce, and the softer surface will protect your tools over time and extend their life.
A traditional carpenter’s hammer can be used as well. The disadvantage of a metal hammer is that over time it will start to mushroom the end of your hole punch tools, since you are banging metal against metal.
Making Buckle Slots With An Oblong Leather Punch
Oblong hole punch, used for the pin hole on belt buckles.
Use the same process to punch an oblong shaped hole for a belt buckle. It may take a bit more hammering than the smaller drive punch. You can tilt the leather oblong punch slightly, if needed, to focus the force of the hammer onto a stubborn spot.
If you can’t afford an oblong hole punch when first starting leather craft, you can get around that problem with your round hole punches. Punch two round holes an inch apart, then use a utility knife to make two parallel cuts to join the round holes together. You could also use a wood chisel to make the straight cuts. However once you have the money and use an oblong punch, you will never go back to the work-around method.
For most of our belts and dog collars we use a 1″ oblong punch. We use larger punches for items with large or bulky buckles, and smaller punches for small items with slender buckles. If you can’t afford a number of different sizes of oblong hole punch, you can use the one you already own to make a longer hole. Punch one hole and then overlap the punch on the existing hole, extending it past the existing hole to the desired slot length. Give it a blow with the hammer so the two slots make one longer oblong slot. You can see a poly cutting board being used below to protect the bench and the tool’s edge.
Use an oblong hole punch tool to punch a hole for a belt buckle. Shown with poly cutting board.
Punching Round Holes With A Rotary Punch
Revolving hole punch is convenient for doing the odd quick hole.
The advantage of the rotary hole punch is convenience. It comes with six different sizes of hole punches, which you switch between by rotating the wheel. We used to take this hand tool to craft shows for when someone might request us to add a hole to a belt.
The disadvantage is that if you have many holes to punch, using the rotary punch pliers becomes tiring on the hand. It also will only reach about an inch in from the edge of your leather, so you can’t use it to punch a hole in the center of a large piece. Also, the thicker the leather and the larger the tube size, the harder it becomes to squeeze the revolving punch through. In these cases, sometimes you have to twist the punch some as you squeeze to get through the thicker leather. This leather tool is good for doing the odd hole, but too tiring and hard for punching lots of holes.
With this type of punch we again use a scrap piece of leather underneath the piece we want to punch, to keep the blades sharp. Otherwise you are crunching the sharp cutting tube into the hard metal anvil. Doing so will dull the tube quicker and wear out the metal anvil. Sandwich your good piece of leather and your scrap piece between the tube and the punching surface, and squeeze the handles together.
Punching Round Holes for Lacing
A four hole punch used for lacing.
Beyond the basic drive and rotary punches, you can find specialty leather punches for different applications. One of the more handy leather work tools is this four hole punch, which is used to make small holes for lacing leather. On this punch each hole is 3/32 inch diameter, spaced 1/4 inch apart. The advantage of the four-in-one punch is that it will save time and keep your holes evenly spaced. Use this four hole punch for the straight parts of your leather lacing project. For going around curves, use the single hole punch mentioned at the beginning of the article.
Use this hole puncher the same way as an individual drive punch. As with the oblong punch, you may need to tilt the punch to focus the force of the hammer on a particular hole.
Here you can watch Jamie demonstrating these leather craft tools. He shows how to punch a hole in a leather belt and other leatherwork projects in his custom leather shop.
This braiding leather tutorial will teach you how to create a decorative three lace leather braid. You can use this leather lacing technique to make a braided bracelet, belt, dog collar, or any other leather object.
We’ve made a video showing the complete leather braiding process, which you can find at the end of the blog post. Additionally this article includes written instructions and diagrams for reference.
Punch holes in your piece of leather in the pattern shown below. You will need two columns of holes, spaced ½ inch apart, plus one extra hole between columns at the top and bottom of the braid. The holes should be as small as your needles and lace allow. We use a 3/32 inch hole punch for our leather craft projects.
A finished leather braid. Refer here for hole placement.
Reverse side of a finished leather braid.
Cut 3 strands of leather lace. Each strand should be 4 to 4 ½ times the length of the final braid. Use a knife or skiving tool to thin the ends of the laces, removing material from the rough sides so that they resemble the picture below. Next, secure the laces to the two-prong lacing needles by punching the prongs through the finished top sides of the laces.
Attach two-prong lacing needles as shown to leather lace.
Starting the Braid (Step 1)
Thread the leather laces through the top three holes from the back (the unfinished leather side) to the front (the finished leather side). Leave about an inch of lace remaining on the back side.
Hold the leather so that the front side is facing you. Take the leftmost lace and weave it under the middle lace, and then over the right lace. Thread it through the third hole down on the right side of the leather strip. Make sure to leave the second row of holes open, as shown in the diagram.
Next thread the middle lace through the third hole down on the left. The lace which began on the right is now the new middle lace.
Turn your leather piece over. You should have two laces emerging from the third row of holes. Pull these laces back up to the second row of holes, and thread them through to the front.
This step will create two loops on the back side of the braid. Tuck the free ends of the laces into these loops to secure them.
Braiding leather first requires securing lace ends under loops on the back side of the braid.
Braiding Leather (Step 2)
Begin to braid with the left most free lace (second left hole down from top) shown in diagram “Front-1” below. Weave that lace across the others following an “over, under, over” pattern, then thread it through the fourth hole down on the right side. Thread the middle lace through the fourth hole on the left side. The lace that began on the right will now be the new middle lace.
On the back side of the braid, bring the left and right laces up one hole and thread them through to the front. The laces will now be in their “starting position” again. Repeat step 2 until you reach the end of the braid.
Follow an “over, under” pattern for this leather braiding technique.
Ending the Braid (Step 3)
When your leather braid is near the end, the three laces should line up with the bottom three holes. Thread them through, and turn the leather piece over. Tuck the lace ends into the nearest loops, the same way you did at the start of the braid. Trim any excess. Refer to the photo above showing “Reverse side of a finished braid,” to check this step.
You can glue down the lace ends to make your braid more secure. Our finished braided products have a soft garment leather lining glued underneath, to hide and completely secure the underside of the braid.
This video shows our leather braiding technique in action. Watch to see how it’s done, then refer to our diagrams when making your own braid.
How To Braid Leather With Three Laces - YouTube
Video tutorial on braiding with three laces.
The Finished Braid
The leather craft projects shown below are finished with the lace holes being 1/2 inch apart running down the length of the leather wristband and dog collar. If you want a tighter looking braid, you can make the holes 1/4 inch apart instead. However it will be much more time consuming to braid the leather lace, and it will take a lot more lace. We have braided the lace with both distances of hole spacing but prefer the 1/2 inch spacing.
Braided leather wristbands.
The finished braid on our Braided Leather Dog Collar.
If you make a leather project using this braid, please send us a photo to share on Facebook and let us know how it went for you!
Each leather belt key holder shown in this article was made using 5-6-oz scrap vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather, also called tooling leather, is leather that was produced using tannin from natural plant materials such as tree bark. This results in a firmer leather that can be stamped with designs. The 5-6 oz is a measurement for leather that means it is about 5/64 – 6/64 inch thick.
For this quick, easy project you will need one swivel snap or scissor snap of any width, one large jacket snap with long post (post and stud), and one large jacket snap with regular cap post (cap and socket). You will also need a tool for punching holes, a snap setting tool and a dot snap anvil.
Leather belt key holders in black and natural leather.
Preparing The Leather
This project used scrap leather which had already been dyed, treated with leather conditioner, and polished. This is a great way to use up your small pieces of leather. If starting with natural undyed leather, cut your strap out first and then treat it in whatever way you prefer. Alternately you can leave it untreated. Untreated, undyed vegetable tanned leather will darken naturally over time and attain a light golden brown patina.
To figure out the size of strap you will need, measure the inside width of your scissor snap’s loop. The strap should be cut to this width, or very slightly narrower. Next, measure the width of your belt. The length of the strip you cut should be twice your belt’s width, plus 4 3/4 inches. This measurement doesn’t need to be exact, since you can adjust your snap placement in the next step to make a loop that fits perfectly. If you’re unsure how long of a strip you need, err on the longer side.
Draw an appropriately sized rectangle onto your leather. Then cut out your strap using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.
Cut the strap for your key fob out of scrap leather.
Punching Holes for Snaps
Measure 3/8” from one end of your strap. Make a mark in the center of the piece, to indicate where you will punch the first hole.
Measure where to place your snaps on your leather strap.
Once you have your first hole punched, feed the end with the hole through the scissor snap and fold it over by about 1 1/4 inches. Make a mark where you’ll punch your second hole, such that it will line up with the first.
Fold the leather key chain strap over your scissor snap.
Punch a hole in the other side of your leather belt key clip.
Setting the Snap
To set the snap you will need a snap setter tool, a hammer, and a concave dot anvil. You will also need a solid surface to work on, such as a mini anvil, and sturdy table or work bench so that your snap won’t bounce when you’re setting it.
Tools for setting the snap in your leather lanyard (dot snap setter, dot anvil, mini anvil & mallet).
There are four components of a snap: the top cap and socket, plus the bottom post and stud. The interior socket that goes with the top cap has rounded edges with a wire spring in it. The stud that matches the bottom post has flat edges, and the same diameter as the post back. You can see the different snap parts being used on belt leather in our video How To Set Snaps With Long Posts.
First slide the scissor snap into the loop, and fold the end over so that the holes match up. Put the bottom post up through the right side of the loop. Place the corresponding stud on the other side, as shown. Set these against the flat side of the dot anvil, or against a traditional flat anvil. Since the snap is going through two layers of leather, we used the large jacket snap with long post (post and stud) for this end of the leather strap.
Position the snap setter on top of the snap and hammer downwards with a few sharp blows. Test that the snap is securely set and can’t be spun around.
Set the stud and post snap parts on a flat anvil.
Once you have the bottom snap on, wrap the belt clip around your belt to adjust the size. Make a mark where the top snap will go, and trim your strap shorter if necessary. Place the mark for the top snap at least 3/8” in from the end of the strip.
Punch a hole and set your top snap the same way you set the first, with the cap side facing down against the concave indentation in the round dot anvil. Since the snap is set through only one layer of leather on this end of the strap, we used the large jacket snap with regular cap post (cap and socket).
Set the socket and cap snap against a concave anvil.
Permanent Leather Lanyard Rivet Option
If you prefer to have a permanent lanyard attached to the scissor snap instead of the removable type described with a snap, use a rivet instead. A medium rapid rivet will go through 3 layers of 5-6 oz tooling leather. If you use a thicker leather, you may have to use a longer rivet. A variety pack of different sized rivets with a rivet setter is a good way to start if you don’t know what size rivet to use for your thickness of leather. This is a good video to introduce you to How To Set A Rivet In Leather.
The Finished Leather Belt Key Holder
Here is the final leather belt key holder! If you make this project please send us a picture to share on our leather facebook page, and let us know how things went for you.
Discover Galleries & Studios of Local Artisans in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia has a rich arts and crafts tradition. The beautiful natural scenery and the community-focused spirit have combined to make a place where local art is thriving and celebrated. Many artisans in Nova Scotia live solely on their craft, while others do it on a part-time professional basis. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or whether you’ve lived here for years, these resources will help you find new places and events to explore.
Halifax Art Map used to discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.
Halifax Art Map
Leathersmith Designs is proud to be a featured location on the 2018-19 Halifax Art Map. The guide has been running since 2002 and Leathersmith Designs has been appearing in it since 2016, alongside dozens of other amazing artists and craftspeople from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
I called Keith McPhail, the advertising and business coordinator of the Halifax Art Map, to ask about how the guide started and where it is headed. I thought I had only a few simple questions which would take him a few minutes to answer. At the end of our hour-long phone conversation I realized how much I hadn’t known about the Halifax art community. Much of my own city and industry are still mysterious to me.
That’s the mission statement of Art Maps: to de-mystify the mystery. Their goal is to make people aware of what’s out there, to get people through the doors of small workshops and studios. Ultimately they want to guide consumers towards finding a piece of art they can fall in love with.
How Halifax Art Maps Started
In 2002, Keith was working for the city in the Tourism and Culture department. “Culture” was a new addition at the time. They didn’t have much funding or much of a concrete game-plan. They were approached by a group of artists who wanted to highlight local art, to combat a perceived lack of knowledge by the public. Thus the Art Map was born.
In its first year the map covered only Downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, and was focused on the tourism market. There was no money available from the city that year, so the project was funded solely by ads. The response exceeded expectations. They learned there was a lot of local interest and local discovery happening as a result of the map, so they decided to expand the goals of the project.
In the second year they had secured provincial funding and a small grant. This was used to put together a website and work on the design of the map. In the third year they added social media, and the Art Map solidified into its modern form. Nowadays, the market for the map is half tourists and half residents of Nova Scotia.
How do they find Artists?
The Halifax Art Map relies strongly on word of mouth from participants. Artists recommend the map to other artists, and recommend new artists to the map. Keith told me hotel concierges proved to be unexpected gold as a resource. They get to know the map, and remark on the changes and updates to it year after year.
Artists can apply to be featured at the Halifax Art Map website. The Halifax Art Map doesn’t have any restrictions on what type of artists can apply, but they do vet their artists for professionalism. They want to feature people who are serious about doing art professionally. The goal of the project, according to Keith, is “helping local artists and craftspeople make a sustainable living.”
Where to find Halifax Art Maps
If you’re in the Dartmouth area, stop by Leathersmith Designs to pick up a free copy of the map. Jamie Hartling, our master leatherworker, has been a dedicated member of the Nova Scotia crafting community since 1975. He can give you a tour of the shop and tell you all about the local leatherworking scene.
You can also find Halifax Art Maps at every featured artist location, at Visitor Information Centres in the HRM, and at some larger Visitor Information Centres across Nova Scotia. They are in Halifax and Dartmouth hotels, at the Halifax cruise ship pavilion, and at and the Halifax and Dartmouth ferry terminals. They are also distributed at conferences, to reach visiting professionals from all over the world. If you’re planning a vacation, Halifax Art Maps has an online artisan directory where you can search for artists by area or category.
The Halifax Art Map in both print form and on the web displays the creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist.
Who is the Halifax Art Map Team?
For Keith, Art Maps a labor of love. Its creators have all worked in the arts themselves and are passionate about supporting the Nova Scotian crafting community. Keith (second from right) and Kathryn Fraser (third from right) are the core team. Together they do add sales, coordinate exhibits, and organize artist talks. As of this writing, there is a Halifax Art Map event coming up at the Halifax Public Library on how to buy art. To keep up with current craft and artisan events, you can follow the Halifax Art Map Facebook page.
Jane Lombard (far right) is the graphic designer for the map, and works on it full time for about three months of the year. Peter Eastwood is the webmaster for the Halifax Art Map website, and puts in about one month full time.
Then, of course, there are the featured artists and craftspeople. Every year, Kathryn stops by to talk with Jamie Hartling about the state of Art Maps. Art Maps began as a scheme by a group of Halifax artisans, and aims to stay true to its roots as a “community collaboration.”
Jamie Hartling (leather artisan on left) attending a Halifax Art Map release in 2016 with some of the key Halifax Art Map organizers.
New Directions for Halifax Art Map
Every year the Art Maps team makes decisions on how best to keep supporting artists in their community. Every year they decide to keep the map in printed form. It is now one of few surviving publications in Nova Scotia. Although paper costs continue to go up and the format of the map is expensive, Keith says it’s important for the map to look good, to represent the quality of the art inside it. It’s also important that it remain a tactile piece, because the core buyers of art are familiar with a tactile world. However, the demographic is slowly changing, so the decision must be made anew every year.
This year, they are also considering a new service. They are looking into options for how Art Maps might help facilitate marketing plans for individual artists and small galleries. When Keith spoke to me he was getting ready to attend a seminar on the subject. He told me the next step is to go out and talk to members of the community about what they would want from such a program.
Nova Scotia Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide features Artisans in Nova Scotia
The Province of Nova Scotia Tourism publishes a comprehensive travel guide called “The Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide“. You can request to have it mailed to you anywhere around the world. You can also pick up the guide at any of the Nova Scotia provincial tourist bureaus. On the Nova Scotia Tourism website under the “See and Do” heading ,you can find a section on “Galleries, Shops, and Artisans.” As of 2018 there are 170 listed. While the Halifax Art Map focuses on artists in the Halifax area, this guide is province-wide. It features many small studios and creative artisans off the beaten path.
Viewing galleries, shops and artisans in Nova Scotia, Canada on the provincial tourism website.
Citizens of Craft
Citizens of Craft is a good resource for finding craftspeople and artisans in Nova Scotia, as well as across Canada. You can search by location, type of establishment (museums, studios, galleries, etc.), and craft type. There is a diverse array on offer. You can find sculptors, leather workers, fibre artists, glass blowers, furniture makers, metal workers, potters, jewelers, and more. Artisans featured on Citizens of Craft are all registered members of their provincial craft councils, which promote quality in craft.
Citizens of Craft is an online directory of artisans from across Canada.
More Sources for Finding Artisans in Nova Scotia
Provincial craft organizations such as Craft Nova Scotia, Arts Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia and Centre for Craft Nova Scotia can put you in touch with the craft community and artisans in Nova Scotia. There are many regional and local organizations such as the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, Halifax Crafters Society, Dartmouth Handcrafters Guild, and Maritime Makers. Various craft shows throughout the year also provide a great opportunity to meet artisans coming to your area.
Discover the uniqueness and quality of individually handmade crafts. Nothing is more memorable when visiting an area than purchasing a one of a kind piece by a local artisan, or watching a handcrafted item being created before you in their studio.
These vintage candle holders were made by Alana LeBlanc, using reclaimed pallet wood and scrap leather. This is a good project for people looking to improve their leather crafting skills whilst using up spare scrap materials. Any flaws will just add to the rustic look of the tealight candle holders leather project. These leather decorated wood candle holders make great personalized gifts.
The finished leather project: tealight candle holders.
Preparing the Wooden Blocks
Cut your pallet into manageable pieces and cut to size with a hand saw or chop saw.
Trace your tealight in pencil onto the tops of the candlestick holders, and measure the diameter so you will know what size drill bit to choose. Measure the height of the metal cup for the tealight to determine how deep you will need to drill. Secure the wooden block in a clamp so it will not spin when you drill. Wear safety glasses and hold the drill perpendicular to the top of the block and drill to the desired depth.
Apply wood stain to your candlestick holders with a wet sponge brush, to best cover any crevices in the rough wood. Before each coat dries, wipe off excess stain with a damp cloth. Seal with varathane satin finish.
Cutting the Leather
We use a cutter to make these stars, but you can also print out a paper template of the pattern you want, trace it onto the leather, and cut using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.
Cut out decorative star pieces for your candle holder leather craft project.
Etching Your Leather Project
Make a template for the design you want to etch. You can do this by drawing or printing your design onto regular computer paper. If you want to etch a word, a thicker font with rounded edges will be easiest to replicate with the etching tool.
Wet the top of your undyed tooling leather with a damp sponge of water, and line up your template on top of it. Using a sharp pencil, trace over the design with a firm hand. This will mark the leather underneath and create a guide for your etching. You must use undyed tooling leather also known as vegetable tanned leather and carving leather in order for the leather to accept the etching or hand stamped designs.
Use a pattern to trace a personalized message onto your leather pieces.
Discard the paper template and re-wet the leather. Trace the design again with a rounded modeling leather craft tool, applying steady pressure. Retrace and touch up the etching until it has a consistent depth. The goal is to indent the leather, not to cut into it, so don’t be too rough at this stage. Designs can also be imprinted in the tooling leather with leathercraft stamp tools as shown in this article on tooling and dyeing leather guitar straps.
Etch lettering to personalize your leather pieces.
Painting and Finishing
Once you’re happy with your etching, there are several options for finishing the leather. Alana’s pieces for this project have been brushed with neatsfoot oil, a leather conditioner. You might also color the undyed tooling leather with a leather dye. Apply two or three coats of leather dye with a dry flannel cloth or sheep’s wool. Then apply the neatsfoot oil, if using. The conditioner will darken the leather.
Use neatsfoot oil to darken your leather panel.
Wait an hour or more for the oil to soak in. Finish by polishing the leather with Fiebing’s acrylic resolene, if you want a glossy look. Apply two coats of polish with a damp cloth, brushing in the same direction with a light hand. Let dry for ten minutes after each coat.
The last step is painting the etched designs with acrylic dye. We use the round headed modeling tool but you can also use a fine artist’s brush for this.
Handpaint letters onto your etched pieces for the leather project.
Gluing Leather to Wood Candle Holders
Position your leather pieces where you want them on the wooden candlestick holders, and trace them in pencil.
Trace the decorative leather pieces onto your wood candle holders.
Apply contact cement to the back sides of the leather, and to the wood where the designs will be placed. Once the glue is dry, stick your leather pieces onto the candlestick holders and tap with a cobbler’s hammer to firmly adhere.
Apply contact cement to the wood candle holders.
Tap decorative leathercraft pieces with a hammer to cement to the tealight candle holders.
The Final Tealight Candle Holders Product
The finished tealight candle holders.
If you make this project let us know how things went for you, and send us pictures so we can share them!