Leatherworking Cutting and stitching leather

Leather is sold by the square foot and the ounce: 1-ounce leather weighs 1 ounce per square foot. The weight of leather is related to its thickness: 1ounce leather is 1/s4-inch thick, 4ounce leather is 4/64-inch (or V,6-inch) thick. Belts require 7- to 9-ounceweight calfskin, cowhide, or pigskin. Wallets need 2- to 4-ounce-weight calfskin, cowhide, or pigskin.

Use a cardboard pattern and a utility knife to cut leather. Place the leather, smooth side up, on a cutting surface of linoleum, fiberboard, or hard rubber. Hold a pencil with a sharp point perpendicular to the leather and trace around the pattern. Retrace the penciled line with an awl. Initially cut only partway through thick leather. Then make a second, final cut. Eliminate the initial cut on thin leather, or use scissors if the leather is very thin. When cutting straight lines, use a steel rule or a square as a guide. Cut thick leather with a leather knife.

Before sewing leather, plan the stitches 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the outer edge, then use an awl to punch holes partway through the leather to accept them. Use a glover’s needle (sharp point) for thin leather and a harness needle (blunt point) for thick leather with a single strand of nylon or waxed linen thread. The needle and thread should be of the same diameter as that of the prepunched holes. To secure the thread to the needle, pass the needle through the thread near one end; then pass the short end of the thread through the eye of the needle; pull the thread back.

Two of the most common stitches are the running stitch and the saddler’s stitch. Knot a running stitch both at the start and the finish to keep the thread from pulling out, or stitch back to the beginning to create a double running stitch, then knot the two ends of the thread together.

Double running stitch

Use a needle at each end of the thread for a saddler’s stitch. To get extra strength, finish with a locked saddler’s stitch by passing one or both needles back through the last loop or loops, pulling tight, and cutting the ends of the thread flush with the leather.

Locked saddler’s stitch

Leather edges can also be bound by lacing, in which strips of leather are used instead of thread. Use thongs (square strips) orflat lacing. Screw the thong into the hollow end of a brass lacing needle. Wedge flat lacing between the metal strips of a twoprong lacing needle. Punch holes all the way through the leather to accept the lacing instead of only partway as in stitching. A common lacing stitch is the whipstitch. Tuck the end of the lacing under several stitches.