For those that follow me on my other social media, I mentioned I’d write an article describing how I am burnishing the edges of my leather projects, as it is relatively simple and doesn’t require much “elbow grease”! So let’s get after it and I hope this may make it easier for anyone that is trying.
I’ve been making some leather sheaths for knives and some other items for a few months now, and have a basic background with working leather as a young kid, but it was focused more towards putting together pre-created pieces together or carving basic enhancements. My current projects are getting better in all aspects, as I’m fine tuning little by little. The edges on all of my recent items were left “raw”, as in the same surface texture as the cutting device transferred. I’ve looked at a number of professional leather pieces and almost all have edges that are what I’d best describe as “finished”.
I don’t recall ever see anyone finish the edges like that when I was young, at least not on the things we were making, but I really do appreciate this look. With that in mind, I decided to try a number of things in the attempt to create a similar look on my edges. I started off with some sand paper, and depending on how consistent the flow of the lines were, started at 100-grit or 150-grit, followed by some 220-grit. I read where some were using different types of waxes, during the burnishing stage, and others used oils. I decided to go with a blend, by using Jojoba oil, which is a waxy oil. After applying a coating to the edge, I tried a number of different smooth/hard items, but nothing really seemed to occur.
I decided to apply a light coat of Liberon Black Bison wax to the edges, and left it to dry. This time I tried using my Dremel with one of the felt wheels, to see if I could cause some friction action, and get the look I was after. This still left it a long way from my target look.
Next I put a 12″ length of hard maple onto my Teknatool Nova XP wood lathe, and using a gouge, created a groove a little bit wider than the widest width on my current pieces. The gouge left a very smooth surface in the groove, and I applied some wax all the way around the shaft, so the groove was ready to do the work for me. (or at least I hoped so)
I turned on my lathe and brought the speed up to 1800 rpm, moved the rest out of the way, and then brought the edge of my sheath under the groove. I raised the sheath enough so it was touching the rotating groove, and started working the sheath slowly along so that all of the edge received the results of the spinning groove.
The results were nothing short of surprising! The mix of wax, oil and the friction provided by the spinning piece of maple, provided a nice sealed surface to the edge and raised the overall level of the sheath.
I brought two other recent sheaths out to test to see if this was a fluke, or if I could repeat it at will. I decided to again apply the Jojoba Oil, followed by Black Bison wax, and the maple shaft did the rest. Both of the test sheaths looked equally as nice as did the first sheath.
I will keep this maple shaft for any future leather projects, and mount it on the lathe whenever it is needed, so it won’t take up any real space in the shop in between uses.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it helps you improve your projects. As always, please make sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments.
@LeeLairdWW – Twitter
@LeeLairdWoodworking – Instagram
I recently got a pair of Hand Chisel Pliers (mentioned in my previous post here) from my local Tandy store, as I was experiencing some negative issues when trying to pierce two or more layers of leather, from one side. This tool looks like it would be one of the most simple tools to use, and while the actual functional aspect is quite easy, I learned really quick there are some nuances everyone should know.
If you were to ask me if I could use a set of pliers, before knowing about these chisel pliers, I would have laughed so hard that I’d truly roll on the floor. The idea that I might not know how to use pliers would have seemed so absurd! So this set can take a little bit to get used to, especially if you are someone that is detail oriented.
When I got home with the Chisel Pliers, I was ready to tackle the world, and nothing could cause the rare outlier of holes that was out of line with the masses (or almost missed the edge of the leather completely, jeez!). I’ll give you a brief run-down on my initial plan of action, and then the solution to get the best results.
Most of my work is using two layers of leather, although I have added a third layer on certain pieces. This work-flow will handle either. After I’ve cut my leather into the desired shapes, I mark a line along the edge where I will punch, so my results are as consistent as possible. I use the actual 4-toothed thonging chisel to lightly cut into the leather, creating my layout, by pressing the sharp chisel teeth gently into the leather. I follow this using my Japanese hammer to drive this same chisel deep enough so the teeth just come out the other side of the leather. I shift to my single-toothed chisel as design and shape require. After all of the stitching holes are complete on the first side, I apply contact cement to the inside mating surfaces of both pieces of leather (assuming just two layers on this example), and leave them to dry for about 25 minutes. When this time has elapsed, I carefully align the two pieces of leather, and press the areas that received contact cement, bonding them together. It is now time for the Chisel Pliers.
On my first piece, I put one of the plier’s teeth into one of the existing holes from my chisel, and squeezed the handles together. How much easier could it get, right? Well, I did this on four or five holes, since I “knew” this was so simple. Then I flipped the piece over to see my handy work. OMG! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked all snaggle-toothed, with one hole above my intended line, and the next below, and one really close to another. Wow, talk about brought back to reality! I grabbed a scrap piece of leather, from an earlier piece, that was already two layers thick. I laid out my stitching line on both sides, and then tried to make the chisel teeth from the pliers, hit the line on both sides. After a couple of tries I found something that worked. (I repeated this test, but on a single layer of leather, to show the difference.)
If I place one of the plier’s chisels into the pre-chiseled hole (on the first side), and sight along the top of the Chisel Plier’s head so it is in line with my stitching line, the rear chisel hits my line or so close that after stitching it is irrelevant. At first it may feel like this is adding a lot of extra time to the work, but after a couple of pieces, I noticed it has become automatic and flows at least as quickly as before, with better no damage to either side’s holes. (The results aspect is related to the thonging chisel not needing to cut as deep, and the damage from the chisel’s shoulders when using the multiple-head thonging chisel.)
On two-layer pieces, I don’t usually need to follow behind the Chisel Plier’s cut on the rear piece with my single-toothed chisel. This tool was extremely sharp out of the packaging, and required no additional sharpening or honing, and as it arrived, cut the leather as though it was butter; And this is with very minimal squeezing pressure on the handles. When I have 3-layer pieces, I still create the holes on the first side, glue up and then use the Chisel Pliers to generate the rear hole/alignment. I follow up with my single-toothed chisel, to connect the two outside holes, and as long as it is sharp, it only requires a gentle tap. Even though you’ve already created the alignment with the earlier process, you can potentially drive the chisel in a position that isn’t in alignment, and cut through at another position on the first side. Just try to be light-handed at first, and pay attention to how you hold the chisel and it’s alignment.
These Hand Chisel Pliers are a great addition for my work, since everything I make is hand-stitched. You might want to get yourself a pair if you’ve experienced any of the random error holes like I did, which can quickly cause a super leather piece to diminish in worth, or even kick it to the discard pile!
I hope this will help others to better use this type of tool, or perhaps give one a try, if you haven’t already. Thanks for stopping by to check out my article. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comment. You can also check out my other social sites, and reach me at them, too.
@LeeLairdWW on Twitter
@LeeLairdWoodworking on InstaGram
I’m sorry its been a while between articles, as it seems I’ve had less periods of contiguous time to knock out a full thought. For those who don’t know, I am (somewhat recently) active on my InstaGram account (@LeeLairdWoodworking) and as it is a more brief scenario, post quite regularly which hopefully can help fill […]
I made my version of a saw vise with which to sharpen my hand saws, a little over a year ago. I’d picked some oak out of my “shorts” bin, that I could use to make the heads for the front and back legs of the vise. A couple of weeks ago I was in the middle […]
I have two of the screwdrivers that are offered by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, the No. 4 which is the stubby straight blade used on the chip breaker’s screw, and the No. 2 which is another stubby used on the split nuts on Lie-Nielsen’s hand saws (I’ve found it doesn’t fit all of my vintage saws, but […]