Getting Started with Leatherworking Basic Tools

Leather is one of the most durable materials in the market historically used around 3000 years ago. Leatherworking involves many processes, from cutting, stitching to burnishing, with the use of necessary tools. If you are interested in leather for a hobby or business, here are basic tools that you should definitely have to get started.

What are the basic tools in leatherworking? Basic tools include a mat, a knife, leather, and thread scissors. Tools for hole-making, a scratch awl, diamond chisel, and a mallet.  Slicker, edge beveler, and groover for polishing. For stitching, use a needle, thread, and stitching pony or clam.

If you plan to start leatherworking, then having the necessary tools is a must. These are indispensable because they are the foundation of producing good leather products. Like me, I first took an interest in leather because of its value for money. It is interesting because you can create a leather product that shows your skills and personality with just inexpensive, handy tools. This article will list the basic tools for leatherworking that you should have.

Kickstart With A Variety of Cutting Tools

An essential part of leatherworking is achieving an accurate and clean cut. You can do this with the right choice of cutting tools. Here are some of the cutting essentials used by novice and expert leatherworkers. 

A Cutting Board Steady As Rock

Cutting boards come in many materials like poly boards, glass, and granite. These are made sturdy to perform best for your skiving or cutting needs. 

Some cutting boards and mats have grid marks that guide you to achieve right angle cuts. Self-healing mats are also available. When a blade glides over its surface, the mark closes on its own. This allows you to use them for a more extended period.

Cutting mats protect your blade from cutting damage. It is placed underneath a leather for cutting, scratching, or punch holes. It keeps the blade sharp by allowing it to glide over its surface. It protects the work table underneath and absorbs impact from pounding using a mallet in flattening surfaces of leather.

Sleek and solid cutting boards are used for skiving leather. This allows you to get a thin sliver of the leather piece without the worry of uncontrollable movements.

Leather Shears For All Cutting Jobs

Leather shears have many types. It comes with blunt or sharp tips. It cuts various leather types from thick and soft leathers. Some shears have a serrated edge to prevent the leather from sliding out, gripping it firmly. Take note that there is quite a struggle in cutting extensive lengths of thicker leathers using shears. The thicker the leather, the more tension it will give to your fingers when cutting. 

Leather Knife For a Smooth Glide

A leather knife typically has a wooden handle and replaceable blades in some types. It comes in various blade shapes (Half moon, quarter moon knife, clicker, etc.). The different blade shape is ideal for specific cutting directions like straight or curved pieces. 

You can also have a skiving knife for thinning leather and cutting in angles. Precision knives or precision cutters are also available for detailed and smaller projects. Most blades of leather knives are made of high-quality leather to cater all cutting needs. Caution: Leather knives have very sharp corners. Make sure it is kept covered with a sheath.

Snipping With Thread Cutters  

You can use thread cutters for cutting the excess thread in leathers that are too big for scissors. It has a sharp blade with a spring junction in the handle that bounces back when snipping makes. Its small but compact size makes it easier to maneuver than scissors or shears.

Straighten It Up With A Steel Ruler

This ruler is also a safety tool made with steel. A cutting edge with around 4mm thick where the blade can smoothly glide. The ruler’s backside has a leather grip that prevents it from sliding around. With a steel ruler, you can avoid getting your finger cut and get straight slashes in your leather.

Right Stitching Tools For A Refined Seam

Stitching leather is challenging. It will involve getting it done cleanly, dealing with leather thickness. You will achieve refined seams on your leather if you stitch the right way with these tools.

Prick It With Scratch Awls 

Awls are used to mark or pierce leather. It has a pointy end with a wooden or metal handle. Scratch awls are dragged across the leather to leave marks for pattern making. It is also used to prick holes in the leather for the needle as a starting point for stitching. For starters, you should have this.

Beginner-Friendly Diamond Chisels

A  diamond chisel has prongs and a handle made up of metal. It can have four,six, eight or more prongs in each chisel with different hole sizes suitable for different thread sizes. It has a center-point that you can use as a reference to produce even stitch holes. You can use a diamond chisel for initial holes and pierce all the way through by awls.

You can also use diamond chisels for adding structure to your leather. It goes through thick layers of leather by using a mallet. Take note that it produces a little puckering or fraying so make sure to use this appropriately in the back side of the leather.

Pound it Lightly With A Mallet

A mallet is needed so that tools like a diamond chisel and awls can penetrate the leather. It gives a concentrated force when hitting the tools. Non-metal mallet is used because it does not leave a mark on the leather. When striking, you should do it on a sturdy surface. 

Right Needle Choice

In leatherwork, you do not need to have sharp and pointed needles. Blunt-tip ones are used since there are already premarked holes in the leather made by diamond chisel or awls.

Needles comes in multiple sizes and should match the hole your awl or chisel makes. Do not be frustrated by a broken needle, this really happens in doing your projects. Just get a new one and you are good to go!

Looking Closer at A Thread

A strong thread that can hold the leather together like bonded nylon thread is commonly used in leather. It has a lot of sizes that vary from brand to brand but usually, the lower the number, the thicker the thread is. It should be bonded, so the thread will not start unraveling during stitching.

The thread size should match the needle eye. Threads are then waxed so that it can go through smoothly when stitching.

Comfortable Manual Sew With A Stitching Pony 

A stitching pony also called a stitching clam is used for saddle stitching. It is usually made up of wood. It has a clam that holds your work while sewing so you can use both hands. It can be adjusted with different leather bulkiness because of the hinged jaw it has and has a magnet on the side for needles to stick on. 

Enhanced With Polishing Tools

Leather is a versatile material. It can look rustic or natural and polished depending on your preference. These tools are necessary to achieve a professional look and surely should be on your list.

Edge Beveler For Rounding it Up

Bevelers have forked sharp tips. The forked tip allows you to strip to trim the leather into neat and round edges. This is not necessary, but it will add more details and a finished look to your leatherwork. Edge bevelers can go from size zero to six. Size two is usually recommended for beginners. Remember to always bevel both sides as this prepares the leather for burnishing.

Burnisher For The Final Touches

Burnishing is done to smoothen the leather’s frayed or unpolished edges. A slicker is used in burnishing. It can be made up of wood, metal, or brass. It has curves along its body to accommodate hand drip and comfortable leather position. It is paired with a burnish like beeswax, water, or gum tragacanth. 

The friction created by rubbing up and down the edge takes water out and seals the leather edges. It protects the leatherwork from damage for longer use and gives the leather an impressive look.


The basic tools with the necessary skills will indeed aid you to produce good quality leathercraft perfect for market and personal use. You can purchase all sorts of variations in each tool but one for each kind is enough for a start. Explore getting used to these tools and enjoy leathercraft making!

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