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Enjoy helpful articles on leathercrafting from the knowledgeable staff at Weaver Leather Craft Supply.

  • Teachable: A willingness and capacity to learn

    Aug 16, 2017

    leather-painting

    When I think of the adjectiveteachable,” I think of grade school. Whether it’s from teachers, parents or their peers, as children learn, their brains become sponges and they soak up everything they are taught; unfortunately, as we get older, we seem to become more close-minded and set in our ways of thinking. This can become a big problem if we want to pursue a new career or hobby. Being unteachable not only frustrates anyone trying to teach us but also will greatly hinder our potential to be successful.

    Let’s take leathercrafting for example. There’s a lot of information to learn when you’re new to leatherwork. Learning about leather and its characteristics, proper dyeing techniques, sewing and edge work — not to mention trying to learn ways to decorate leather like tooling, carving or pyrography — can be quite overwhelming.

    The cool thing about the leathercraft industry is that crafters love to share their secrets and tips to help others be more successful. If you’re new to the craft and have the opportunity, find an old-school leatherworker that you can apprentice beside. I promise that will be the best learning experience you ever have. 

    Other awesome sources are teachers such as Chuck, who has been working with leather most of his adult life. He not only applied all the tips and tricks he has learned over the years but also is passing them along to crafters all over the world through online videos.

    The bottom line is that when we work with leather, we will undoubtedly make mistakes and mess up some projects. Luckily, if we tap into the many educational resources available to us, we can avoid a lot of mistakes and retain a little pride along the way.

    Throughout life we are bound to make mistakes and bad choices because — let’s face it — we’re human; however, if we remain teachable and willing to learn, we can save ourselves a lot of headaches and be a lot more successful in the opportunities we pursue.

    “The unteachable man is sentenced to being taught only by experience. The tragedy is he reaches nothing further than his own pain.” ― Criss Jami

    -Marcus Miller
  • A Few Words of Wisdom on Selecting the Best Leather for Your Project, Part 2

    Aug 01, 2017

    selecting-leather-part2

    In Part 1, we learned a few tips from Weaver Leather’s President Paul Weaver on choosing the right leather. From looking at stretch tolerances to considering the techniques you want to use on your project, Part 1 offered a great overview. Now we will continue with a few more points that you will want to keep in mind.

    What cut of leather is best suited for your project?

    The total size of your project along with the total number of individual pieces you are making will determine the cut of leather you should use. For example, I recommend sides for products with smaller straps including 12" x 12" patterns and items that need extra length. Backs and bends are perfect for products that require the best cut of leather and the least amount of stretch.

    How much leather do I need to complete this project?

    To ensure all your leather has the same weight and finish, be sure to order an adequate quantity of leather including your waste factor. Planning ahead and placing an order for all the leather you’ll need for your project at the same time will save you time and frustration in the long run. There’s nothing more annoying than getting halfway through a project and running out of materials.

    By asking yourself the questions in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you’ll be well on your way to choosing the right leather for your project every time.

  • A Few Words of Wisdom on Selecting the Best Leather for Your Project, Part 1

    Jul 25, 2017

    selecting-leather-part1

    When it comes to choosing the right leather, the multitude of options can seem daunting at best. We spoke with Weaver Leather’s President Paul Weaver and he recommends asking yourself the following questions to help make the leather selection process easier.

    What should my finished project look like?

    I recommend thinking about how the item will be used as well as the intended user. Will it be used indoors or outdoors? Will the person be using it as a decorative item or as an item that requires heavy use? This is always a great way to get some insight into how the item should perform as well as how it should look to help you choose compatible leather.

    What strength and stretch tolerances should my leather have?

    When strength is considered a major factor, I recommend using full thickness leathers like skirting and harness as well as unsplit latigo and bridle leathers. Unsplit leathers are stronger and do not stretch as much as split leathers because all the fibers remain intact and are not weakened by the splitting process.

    Will I need to mould, case, carve, tool, stamp, curve or carve this leather?

    If these techniques are to be used, a dry leather such as skirting, strap or regular bridle leather is your best choice. I do not, however, recommend using regular bridle leather for tooling.

    What finish should the leather have?

    When moulding, stamping or tooling, you’ll usually put your own finish on the leather. If not, you should purchase a leather that’s already been finished by the tannery. The tannery can drum dye or spray the leather in a controlled environment for a professional, consistent finish.

    Will the item be used indoors or outdoors?

    For products exposed to harsh conditions, I recommend hot stuffed leather like harness, latigo or “English” bridle leather. If you’re moulding or stamping or using dry leather like skirting, be sure to apply oils, dyes and dressings to help prevent drying out and cracking. For items not exposed to harsh conditions, I’ve found that regular strap, bridle and chrome tanned leather usually work fine. For extra protection and long life, I recommend using leather care and conditioning products on all items.

    Coming soon, look for information regarding selecting the right cut of leather and how much leather to order in part 2 of this post.
  • In Both Products and Life, Flexibility Leads to Success

    Jul 17, 2017

    Stagecoach Leather Braces Image

    The character trait of flexibility means a willingness to change or compromise as a situation requires.

    Throughout the 1800s, one of the primary modes of public transportation was stagecoach. In our hectic day and age, it seems like that would be a romantic way to travel. Sure it was slow-paced so a passenger could enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way, but it was also far from being glamorous. If the fear of bandits or Indian attacks wasn’t enough to keep one on edge, the bumpy roads full of potholes and rocks sure made for a lack of rest or relaxation.

    Thanks to ingenuity and leather though, the quality of the ride was greatly improved. Thick leather strips called braces were strung across the chassis, and the body of the coach rode on top of these braces. It formed somewhat of a cradle for the body to swing back and forth, helping to eliminate the harsh motion influenced by the deep ruts and large rocks. Leather was the perfect material to use for braces because it was strong enough to support the weight and abuse it was subjected to, but flexible enough to absorb shock and compromise as the situation required. Other materials didn’t work because they lacked either flexibility or strength. Wood, for example, would have been strong enough but it didn’t offer the flexibility needed to cushion the bumps and provide a smooth ride.

    Flexibility is a trait that can greatly influence the quality of our lives. People who are flexible are willing to compromise and understand the concept of give and take. They are also approachable and embrace change. In our fast-changing world it is important for us to practice being flexible. Otherwise, we become obstinate and stubborn and will miss out on some of life’s greatest opportunities because we are unwilling to change when a situation requires us to. As Benjamin Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

    By Marcus Miller, Leathercraft Division Manager
  • Things to Keep in Mind When Purchasing Machinery

    Jul 12, 2017

    purchasing machinery

    As a leathercrafter, you may contemplate buying machinery to increase your speed and efficiency. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, there are machinery options in all price levels to meet your needs and boost your productivity. There are so many different machines and so many different suppliers out there that it can seem overwhelming for even the most seasoned leathercrafter to make a buying decision. Following are a few things to keep in mind whether you’re making your first purchase or have made several machinery purchases in the past.

    What repetitive tasks do I currently perform that could be streamlined with a machine?

    Do you set many snaps, spots or crystals? Do you punch lots of holes? Do you crease your leather edges by hand? Do you cut out many leather pieces of the same shape? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, there are machines that can make your job much easier. Check our Master Tools Little Wonder®, Master Tools Rotary Punch, Master Tools Power Edge Slicker, Master Tools Mighty Wonder 4 Ton Hand-Operated Clicker, Master Tools Self-Centering Punch as well as our entire line of Master Tools Machinery and think about whether the time savings you’d experience with these machines would make a machinery purchase a worthwhile use of your budget.

    What is my budget for machinery?

    Obviously, whether you are a hobbyist who makes a few items for family and friends or a professional who produces multiple items for resale will have an impact on your machinery budget. However, you may be surprised how reasonably priced a machine like our Master Tools Little Wonder® is when you take into account your time savings across all your projects. Carefully think about how much time you invest in performing a certain task by hand and weigh the benefit of saving time to determine if it makes financial sense to purchase a machine for your situation.

    What should I look for in a machinery supplier?

    When making any major purchase, it is important to choose a supplier who stands behind their product and has knowledgeable people to help you if you run into any problems. Look for a supplier who backs their machinery with a satisfaction guarantee, who provides excellent technical support and who has a reputation for providing knowledgeable customer service both before and after the sale. Purchasing machinery is an investment, and to protect that investment in the long run, it is important that you choose a supplier you can trust.

    Thinking through these questions will get you pointed in the right direction when making a machinery purchase. Like all major purchases, it is best to carefully consider your options and not make spur-of-the-moment decisions. A thoughtful machinery purchase can make the difference between a machine that will serve you well for a lifetime and a machine that only brings you headaches. The right supplier can make all the difference.

  • Choosing The Right Finish for Your Product

    Jul 12, 2017

    choosing the right leather

    One of the topics I get asked about the most is choosing the right finish for a given project. Finishing your leather is a very important step and can make or break your end result. From my early years working closely with Harry Weaver to my experience as a production manager at Weaver Leather, I have learned important lessons about what works, and maybe more importantly what doesn’t work. I’ve also learned a great deal from customers like you through the years. It’s always good to hear your experiences and learn a new tip or technique.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the finishing tips and products that I’ve found to be the most helpful through the years:

    Getting the Right Consistency on Fiebing’s Antique Finish

    I love the way this product gives your product a rich, two-toned patina. However, sometimes Fiebing’s Antique Finish can be a little too thick when you receive it or become dried out from sitting around the shop. This issue can easily be resolved by simply adding a bit of Fiebing’s Tan-Kote to thin it to a consistency that will work best for your current project. This technique will work on all the colors. Simply add a small amount of the Fiebing’s Tan-Kote, check the consistency and continue adding small amounts a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

    Restoring a Smooth Surface with Gum Tragacanth

    It’s easy to restore a smooth surface on the back of skived leather simply by using Gum Tragacanth. I recommend applying the Gum Tragacanth with a sponge and then rubbing it in with whatever you normally use on your edges. Just as this product is used to slick edges, it can also be used to slick the back when you have an exposed skived surface.

    Sealing and Protecting Your Project

    A question I get frequently is what sealant I recommend. A few years ago, we decided to do our own experiment in our shop to settle the debate. We laser-engraved three leather coasters and put a different sealant on each one. We allowed the finish to dry overnight and then puddled water on top of each one the next morning.  Bee Natural RTC Sheridan Resist and Finish outperformed all the rest! This top-notch sealer has become a favorite of belt makers everywhere for sealing in the color of their leather and making darker leather colorfast. A universal concern of belt makers is the risk of color transfer of dark belts to light-colored or khaki pants. Using RTC will give you more peace of mind knowing that your final product will resist color transfer.

    I hope you find these tips helpful. Choosing the right finish and utilizing the right techniques are the keys to consistently successful end products.

    By Myron Stutzman

  • The Secret to Preventing Leather Cracking from Our Founder Harry Weaver

    Jul 05, 2017
    harry-weaver

    Harry Weaver instilled early on to his employees the importance of wetting leather before bending or folding it to apply hardware and to sew the lap. When you fold veg tanned leather, all the leather’s intertwined fibers bend in an unnatural way that puts tremendous pressure on the top grain potentially causing cracking or separating.  The area most susceptible to this is where the grain is tightest, the butt area of the side. Wetting relaxes these tighter fibers enabling you to bend the leather for a flatter position that’s conducive to sewing closer to the hardware.

    For most applications, Harry would place 3"-4" of the ends of his straps in water for five seconds and then fold the straps where they would be folded over the hardware. Before the leather dried completely, he would sew the laps. While the top grain on leather tools, carves and embosses exceptionally well, it is usually about 1 oz. thick and folding it repeatedly may cause it to separate or crack, making wetting a good preventative step.

    Harry used this method on all kinds of leather including strap, skirting, bridle, latigo and harness leathers. He rarely experienced problems with his leather cracking and his laps were always tighter and stitched up farther than most. We encourage you to try this method for yourself and experience the difference it makes.
  • Factors to Consider When Choosing Mauls

    Jun 26, 2017
    mauls

    From tried-and-true to modern, there are many materials to choose from when selecting a maul. To help make sense of it all, we talked to Jeremiah Watt, a custom saddle maker with over 30 years of experience on what to consider when making your next maul purchase. Below are his suggestions.

    In general, what are some factors I should keep in mind when selecting a maul?

    “The handle, the head, and finally the balance or weight distribution are all important and to be considered in your purchase.”

    What options do I have when it comes to maul heads?

    “I love the look of those old mauls made up of compressed layers of rawhide. They last for years with a little careful use, mainly being sure to keep turning the maul to even out the wear pattern. If they have a downfall, it is that they wear out and finding a replacement head is difficult. Today’s modern designs are made up of mostly nylon-faced mauls, lathe-turned, and actually replaceable if sent back to the manufacturer. Some of these nylon heads are smooth, while others have radial grooves running around them to reduce slippage when striking tools. As time passes, I think we will see far fewer of the rawhide-type heads and many more heads made from newer materials. Both types have proven highly functional.”

    What about maul handles?

    “I guess if we go with the traditional old standard, then the stacked layers of oak bark tanned leather would come first. These are still made today by many of the contemporary maul makers throughout the USA. They are attractive, comfortable to use all day and take on a rich patina from the user’s handling over time. They require little to no maintenance that I’ve heard of. Then, there are the highly-figured and attractive wood handles that many maul makers opt for. I think as much to make their product attractive as anything. Then, there are mauls that have adapted to more modern technology and make use of high density rubber for the handle. I was a skeptic, but bought one to try and the 65-2332 Maul Master is my favorite maul today.”

    What weights do I need on my bench?

    I have about five mauls located throughout my shop. At my carving bench, I have three that I use every day including a 1.5 pounder for those basket and geo block stamp jobs of a larger nature. Then, I have a 1 pounder for most borders, smaller baskets, and much of my floral work.  I also have a 10 oz. maul made as a custom tool for me by an Aussie bloke. I am thinking of finding a new maul even a little lighter, in the 6-8 oz. range for very small borders and finer floral work. For stamping out parts such as rosette buttons, latigo carriers, etc., you will be happy to own a maul around 5 pounds with a good heavy head…or maybe the 65-3075 Master Tools Hand-Operated Clicker if it’s in the budget.”

    With so many options at both higher and lower price points, you’re sure to find the right selection to meet your needs at a price to fit your budget.
  • Choosing Between Nylon and Polyester Thread

    Jun 23, 2017
    Thread Blog Photo

    Starting with the right materials for the job is the key to quality, beauty and durability of a product. When it comes to choosing between nylon and polyester thread, we asked our thread supplier to share a few tips to help you make the right decision for your project. While filament nylon and filament polyester are both good products, each has their own specific benefits that may make you go with one over the other.

    Nylon Thread
    Nylon thread has the best sewability. It is also a bit stronger than polyester and resists abrasion better than any other fiber. As a result, nylon thread is great for use on products that are subject to abrasion including shoes, bags, boots, furniture, footballs, saddles, etc.

    Polyester Thread
    Generally, polyester thread has better ultraviolet (UV) resistance than nylon which is why it tends to be used for outdoor applications like tents, awnings, outdoor furniture, boat tarps and other products that are likely to get long-term outdoor exposure.

    At Weaver Leather, we use nylon thread exclusively because of its excellent sewability. Anything that causes sewing problems is costly and one area you don’t want to skimp on is thread. Inferior thread could cost you more than you save in the long run. Before your next project, evaluate the benefits of each type of thread to make an informed decision that will impact the life of your product.

  • The Impact of Discernment in Your Life and Work

    Jun 16, 2017

    discernment

    What is Discernment?

    Seeing and understanding people, things, and situations clearly and intelligently.

    How Will Discernment Affect My Life?

    Life is full of choices — some of them momentous, such as deciding on a career path, choosing a life partner, or having children. Other situations are not as major, but they are significant because they impact our lives and the lives of our families, co-workers and friends. Our decisions shape who we are and who we are becoming. Having discernment will improve your life by elevating the quality of your decisions. Discernment helps to reduce distractions so that you can be thoughtful, intentional and wise in your decision making. Discernment minimizes regrets and frustration and multiplies respect, fulfillment, and success in your life and associations.

    Why Use Discernment When Cutting Leather?

    Whether leatherwork is your business or your hobby, you soon discover leather is the most expensive part of most any project you undertake. As a result, using discernment to cut every piece of leather that lands on your cutting table is essential to maximizing your leather’s yield potential. At Weaver Leather, we utilize discernment not only to save money, but also because we respect the animal that the leather came from and try to utilize every square inch that we possibly can. Following are a couple tips to keep in mind next time you cut leather to be sure you maximize the leather's potential:

    1. Before cutting into the leather, be sure to examine the leather’s surface to find all brands and scratches. Try not to use the brands or scratches on anything where strength is a major factor because it may compromise the integrity of the product. You can, however, use brands in places where strength is not an issue and doing so makes for a truly unique, one of a kind piece.
    2. Check the back side of the leather for butcher cuts and work around these because they will also compromise the integrity of the leather.
    3. Save scrap pieces of leather. Try to come up with ideas to use even the smallest pieces of leather. Anything from keychains to leather washers to Christmas tree ornaments are great ways to use up smaller pieces of leather.

    Practicing discernment is important when cutting leather because it has an immediate effect on you, your wallet and your products. However, it is even more important to practice discernment in all aspects of life because it will affect the decisions you make, the friends you keep, and the overall quality of the life you live.

    -Marcus Miller
  • The Popularity of Leather Goods

    Jun 08, 2017

    Popularity of Leather Goods

    For products that stand the test of time and get better with age, leather is still the material of choice. A recent search on Etsy, an e-commerce website where people from around the world buy and sell unique goods, delivered 1,092,774 results for the search term “leather.”  From economical to high end, a full range of products are available from budding leather crafters to experienced artisans.

    Jewelry – Artists are designing a wide range of jewelry from leather including wrap bracelets and necklaces. Oftentimes adorned with beads, spots, studs, nameplates, and more, jewelry making is a great way to express your unique style.

    Handbags and Luggage – There is something luxurious about carrying a well-made handbag or piece of luggage handcrafted from leather. Whether you take pride in your precise stitching or intricate tooling designs, these items are the perfect canvas for your skills. Try your hand at crafting personal accessories and adding special details that cannot be duplicated in today’s mass merchandise society.

    Belts – Perfect for your own use or as a special gift, handmade leather belts are coveted not only for their beauty, but also for their longevity. Compare the life of a leather belt to that of a mass produced belt constructed from man-made materials. There simply is no comparison. From simple and sleek to highly detailed and decorated, belts are always a popular project.

    Pet Collars – The demand for items for our four-legged friends is growing year after year. Making collars is a fun way to utilize your talents. Tooling, conchos, spots, spikes, specialty hardware, hair-on hide inlays — the options are limited only by your imagination.

    Garments – Maybe you’re interested in the latest fashions? If so, making wearable art can be very fulfilling. From classic apparel to unique costumes, garments made from leather are always in high demand.

    As you can see, there are numerous projects to consider when you want to utilize or expand your leather crafting skills. Check out what others are working on for inspiration and pick something a bit out of your comfort zone. This is a great way to challenge yourself and hone your craft in the process.

  • Innovation: Introducing New and Original Ideas

    May 24, 2017

    innovation

    To be innovative, you must have the ability to see past the average. You must not be afraid to act on inspiration to create something better or something unique. You must be eager to take a risk and act on the spark of invention that sets a brand new idea in motion.

    When creating things from thoughts and ideas, we draw inspiration from what has delighted us and what we’ve learned by creating successful products. As a creator of leather horse tack, I was running into some design challenges. I realized it’s not about reinventing the piece of tack I’m creating, as that worked just fine; it was finding out how to make it more relevant and distinctive.

    I was faced with the challenge of choosing the right hardware to complete my collection. I was finding old and tired options that were used over and over again. I didn’t want the collection to look like what everyone else was selling.  I had a specific look I was going for and I found nothing that would complete it. That’s when I decided to create my own designer hardware. With some inspiration and some sketch paper, I drew up some designs that I thought I would fit the look of the collection.

    That’s where it starts, from a yearning to be unique and stand out from the boring, from a desire to be recognized for an exclusive product. When thinking about starting any craft or project, turn inspiration into innovation by thinking beyond the final result. Consider how your product could solve a problem; you might be surprised to find that you will have created a better and more unique version from the original design.

    Innovation is thinking beyond the result, knowing each and every idea starts as a spark and develops into something remarkable. As Chuck Dorsett (from Weaver Leather Craft Supply) always says, “Use this idea as a jumping off point,” and there it starts. Good luck with your projects.

    -Tanya Ranta

  • The Leather Tanning Process and the Trait of Patience

    May 09, 2017

    patience-craft-supply

    Leather tanning and leatherworking are some of the oldest professions known to man, but acquiring leather has not always been as easy as going to weaverleathersupply.com and having it delivered to your doorstep in several days. Back in the old days, tanning leather required backbreaking work and lots of patience because the process took up to 18 months from start to finish. Come with me as we step back in time and learn about leather tanning in years past.

    In medieval times, a tanner would buy hides from the butchers. The first step was to trim the hides of all the unusable parts including the head, hooves and belly area. Next he would wash the hide to remove all blood, dirt and dung that remained on the skin. The hide was then soaked in a solution of lime or urine to help remove the hair and any fat remaining on the hide. After the lime treatment, the hide would have a knife taken to it to scrape off the loosened hair. 

    By this point the hide is fairly clean, but a new problem has arisen due to the chemicals impregnated in the hide. The first problem is the pH level is out of whack and needs to be returned to neutral, and the second problem is the hide is stiff and needs to be softened. To cure both of these problems, the hide is rewashed and then soaked in either dog or bird dung or it is soaked in stale barley or rye beer. 

    After being washed again, the hide is now ready for the actual tanning process. Here the hide is hung in a pit with a tannin solution that consists of mostly oak tree bark and water. This is where the patience part is needed because the hide will hang here for over 12 months before it is ready for the last few steps needed to get the leather to the perfect temper and consistency to be utilized for clothing, shoes or harnesses. After a year has gone by — that is, if plague or war hasn’t taken the life of the tanner — the hides are removed from the pits and smoothed using a two-handled setting pin. They are then dried before being sent to a currier for stretching. Lastly, because no one likes stiff leather for clothing articles, the leather is softened by having grease or sometimes animal brains worked into the leather.  Disgusting, maybe, but also effective.  

    With the technology we have today, we are able to tan leather much faster and more efficiently than was possible a millennium ago, but patience still applies. It takes 30-45 days to vegetable tan leather. Hides must go through the six-step process of preservation, rewetting, dehairing, tanning, drying and roll pressing. To consistently achieve the same quality in each type of leather, the tanneries we work with check and recheck the tanning solutions and processes to ensure they are accurate and precise. This is a good example of actively waiting. If this is not performed, it will lead to issues at the end of the process when the leather is not the color or temper that it was supposed to be. Be sure to check out more about our tannery partners at www.weaverleathersupply.com/learn/leather-101/our-tannery-partners.

    When we practice patience in our everyday lives, we nurture good relationships and improve our overall outlook on life. The full definition of patience is “actively waiting without frustration.” I’ll leave you with one more bit of wisdom from our fearless leader, Paul: Willingness to wait and tolerate delays + foregoing gratification for long term results = patience.  – Marcus Miller
  • Conditioning Your Skin: 4 Reasons Why It’s Vital

    May 17, 2016
    lotion-graphic

    • Conditioning can reduce the appearance of other blemishes.

    Keeping skin clean and moisturized is one of the best methods to help with healing, diminishing, and covering your scars. Just as human skin has scars and blemishes; the same applies to leather which is cow skin. The moisture that the leather receives when being conditioned reduces the appearance of the blemish slightly by adding moisture and creating a smoother finish.

    • Conditioning fights wrinkles.

    Just as human skin can form wrinkles with age so can leather. Well-conditioned leather will stay smoother and softer for a longer period of time lengthening the life of the leather product.

    • Conditioning boosts elasticity.

    Leather is slightly flexible and able to bend without breaking due to the thousands of tiny fibers that crisscross each other forming a cohesive bond with one another. As leather is exposed to the elements and heat, these fibers slowly dry out and lose their suppleness causing cracks at the points where the leather flexes the most. Leather conditioner is designed to sink into the leather and infuse the fibers with moisture ensuring that your leather lasts a longer period of time.

    • Conditioning leather locks moisture out.

    Water can actually draw moisture out of leather leaving it dry and more prone to cracking over time. However, water will not damage your leather if you properly condition before it completely dries out. Most conditioners that you can buy will be oil-based and will lock oil into the leather while creating a water-resistant coating that keeps water out.

P r o c e s s i n g . . .