Published on July 23rd, 2015 | by makesupply0
How To Start Leatherworking As A Hobby
Leatherworking is the perfect hobby. It’s a blend of physical and mental focus that is unique. It’s both artistic and industrious requiring strength and finesse. If you have toyed with the idea of making your own leather goods as a hobby I can help you get started on that path!
“What Kind Of Leather Goods Do I Want To Make?”
Leatherworking is a deceptively accessible hobby to pick up. Stroll into your local hobby or craft shop and you are bound to find at least some entry level supplies. Websites like Tandy Leather specialize in beginner tool kits which promise to get you started. The problem is these kits are often poor quality tools and full of things you will never use.
We recommend taking a step back and doing some planning before your first tool purchase. It’s good to have an initial project or direction you are interested in pursuing. This way you will only acquire a baseline amount of tools which saves you money and provide you will an idea of what else you will need to buy going forward.
Inspiration for projects can be found online in many places. Browsing Pinterest is a great place to start because you can find a variety of styles all in one search. Start taking note of the attributes of the leather goods that peak your interest. Do they share a common theme? Maybe they are all a western tooling style with intricate designs imprinted on the surface. Maybe they are reminiscent of something you would see in a Parisian luxury goods store. Maybe they are something you can show off at the next Renaissance Faire. The list goes on! If you notice a common theme in what you like it makes the next step a little easier.
Learning Leather Lingo! (LLL)
Leathercraft, like every other hobby, has its fair share of lingo you will need to learn. This will be for tools, leather, and techniques. The best way to start familiarizng yourself with this world is by reading…. a lot. In the past one would suggest buying a bunch of books but this is 2015. We will learn from messageboards!
The first place you should start browsing is the Leatherworker.net Forums. This is probably the most expansive Leatherworking community on the internet. It is heavily slanted towards a western style of leatherwork (think tooling, saddlery, etc) but has information on almost every style. You will live by the Search bar on this forum. I have been browsing a part of this forum for many years and still use the Search when I have a question I am interested in researching. There are other smaller communities out there that also provide great information.
Spend time just reading through the posts even if you dont understand exactly what you are reading. Register an account and ask questions in the beginner forum. If you see someone post pictures of a project that resembles what you want to build, ask them what kind of tools and materials they used. This process will help you build a mental inventory of the tools you will need to purchase as well as the techniques you will need to learn.
Taking The Dive
At this point I hope you have spent a little time browsing through the Leatherworking world and maybe picked up a few insights. If this is still something that you think you want to try out it’s best to just take the dive and get started. Do not be afraid to mess up or purchase the wrong version of something. You will mess up and you will purchase incorrect items. I’ve been at this for years and still mess up to this day. When it comes to tool purchases I would suggest going with what you can afford. Avoid the kits if you can but if not, its better than not starting at all. There is one item you don’t want to skimp on and thats your diamond awl. At minimum a C.S. Osborne Awl will do the trick. The “beginner awls” you get from Tandy Leather are very dull and dull blades are extremely dangerous.
My Own Journey
I thought I would end this write up with how I started my own journey in Leatherworking. Like most people I was searching for a new hobby and was initially drawn to Woodworking. Living in a small apartment I knew that wasn’t feasible. I stumbled across an old Leatherworking article online and started doing some research. It looked like fun to make something so useful and beautiful with your hands I was immediately hooked on the idea. Taking my own advice from above I set out to find a community of Leatherworkers I could learn from. I joined the Leatherworker.net forum as well as smaller community with more of a focus on leather goods as fashion. That was on a forum called Superfuture in a single thread called Leathercrafting Creations: PYC. I had an idea of the goods I wanted to make in my head and this content was a perfect fit. While much smaller at the time, I have to this date read all 130 pages of this thread multiple times. Again, learning the lingo and applying that knowledge to my purchases and techniques.
Instead of providing a catch all step-by-step guide on how to purchase tools I wanted to provide you with a mindset for starting your own way. There are so many different facets to Leatherworking I think it would be disingenuous to lump them all into one specific path. Get an idea of what you want to create, do a little bit of background research so you can make smart purchases, get started and learn by doing!