How to Make Leather Thinner: Know the Basics

Leather skiving is a process of thinning down leather for specific purposes. You may want to work on thinner leather when making straps, creating details on your project, or fitting two pieces of leather together without having little bumps. The process of leather skiving  uses several tools and equipment to produce a thinner leather.

What are the ways to thin leather? You can use hand tools such as a skiving knife, round knife, french edge, super skiver, and safety beveler to thin leather. Another way is through a machine called a bell knife skiving machine used for a more accurate result. 

Leather products do not always require the same thickness. In smaller-sized products like belts and bags, some parts need to be thinned to avoid bigger lumps and provide a suitable space for bending or stretching the material. Here, I will talk about the step-by-step procedures on how to thin leather by hand or by machine using the right tools for each.    

Skiving Leather by Hand

A traditional way of thinning leather is by the use of different skiving knives. Ensuring that the blades of these knives are sharp is essential in getting the desired thickness for each leather material. Firmer leather requires a lot of effort in skiving, so different hand tools are used for this purpose. Since we are working with knives and blades, it is always advisable to use them with precaution, especially when you are a beginner. Follow these simple steps of skiving leather by hand.

Thinning Leather using Skiving Knife

A skiving knife is made from an old hacksaw blade, which is suitable for creating a knife. This tool is commonly used in thinning edges of leather for an easy stitching process. Just make sure to have a sheath for this knife to avoid unnecessary cuts.

Tools and Materials

  • Leather
  • Cutting board
  • Skiving knife


Cut the piece of leather that you want to thin. Then, lay it on top of the cutting board. After that, glide the skiving knife through the feather side of the leather. It would be best if you skived in the direction away from you. Change the angle of the blade depending on how thick of leather you want to remove.

The Use of Round Knife

A round knife is another helpful tool in thinning leather. This tool is the most versatile and most used knife in leatherwork. The blade’s sides are suitable for skiving edges of the leather, and the center blade for other parts of the leather that needs thinning. 

Tools and Materials

  • Leather
  • Cutting board
  • Round knife


Lay down the leather flat on the cutting board. Then, use the center part blade of the round knife in skiving the leather. For skiving edges, tilt the knife a little to cover the edges of the leather.

French Edger

This tool is made of a hardwood handle and a six mm wide blade, mainly used for thinning edges of the leather. It is good to remove the same amount of leather for an extended period because of its small blade. This is a helpful tool in creating pockets and depth designs on your leather.

Tools and Materials

  • Leather
  • Cutting board
  • French edger


Skive through the edges using the french edger. Make sure that the blade hits the cutting board. Then, move the tool from the bottom to the top of the leather. This tool takes away smaller pieces of leather compared to other hand tools.

Super Skiver

The blade of this tool is curved a bit so you can make a small or big cut. This is a handy tool for beginners who needs more practice controlling skiving tools. We use it the same way as a peeler. However, it is not advisable to use skiving firm leather.

Tools and Materials

  • Leather
  • Cutting board
  • Super skiver


Have your leather prepared on top of the cutting board. Then, using enough force, glide the skiver from top to bottom of the leather. You can also skive sideways for safety. The blades of the skiver can also be replaced to suit the specific size you want.

Safety Beveler

A safety beveler is a skiving tool commonly used for taking away weight from folded or bent leather. It has a slot for a replaceable blade, so you start with a fresh blade every time. It is designed to smooth around the curved edges of the leather.

Tools and Materials

  • Leather
  • Cutting board
  • Safety beveler


Put the leather on top of the cutting board. Then, carefully work around the part of the leather that needs skiving. After that, start cutting from small pieces to measure how much pressure you need to insert in skiving. Since we are working on bent or folded parts, be careful to skive just the right amount of leather to preserve the strength of each bent piece.

Tips and Tricks in Proper Hand Tool Use

Follow these simple tips and tricks to maximize the use of each hand tool in skiving leather. These are helpful guidelines to consider before starting your project to make sure that tools are correctly utilized.

Always make sure that blades are sharpened before skiving. A sharp knife goes a long way to provide a smooth glide to the leather and a consistent finish.

Make use of the hand tool that suits your hand well. For right-handed people, skiving in the direction away from their body works well, while left-handed people often do skiving towards their body’s direction. 

You may use more than one hand tool in skiving. Not all hand tools work well in skiving edges. A french edger is one tool that works well in thinning edges.

Do not put too much pressure on the tools when skiving. The force needed for skiving depends on how thick leather you want to remove and how firm your leather is.

Safety precautions should always be observed first hand when working with sharp hand tools.

Skiving Leather using a Machine

Bell knife skiving machine is electronic equipment used to make skiving easier for leather workers. This speeds up the process of thinning leather for a more professional and accurate look. It has specific measurements which you can set to get that consistent thickness you need for your project. 

Understanding the Use of Bell Knife Skiving Machine

Using a skiving machine requires knowledge on the proper use of each part to assure the user’s safety and the quality of the leather to be produced. Here are the essential components of the bell knife skiving machine and its uses.

Bell knife is the main cutting head of the machine. It is shaped like a church bell which is where it got its name. This part is where the leather passes for thinning. Another part is the Cutting Edge where the leather is fed in to be skived by the bell knife.

Stone Drive Wheel is a fast rotating stone used for sharpening the knife in a skiving machine and pushing the leather as it passes the cutting edge.

Pressure Foot holds the leather that is being fed in the machine. It presses the material and determines the width and angle of the skiving.

Depth Stop measures the thickness that will be skived in your leather. It can be adjusted depending on your desired measurement.

Bottom Feed Roller helps feed the leather by creating tension between the leather and the knife without damaging the material. Lastly, the Leather Release Lever releases the leather when it becomes stuck in the machine.

How to Use the Bell Knife Skiving Machine

Here are the simple steps in operating the skiving machine. Take note of the function of each part making sure that they are used accordingly. Make sure not to remove the safety guard of the machine to avoid any accidents. This guard covers the cutting edge to protect users from getting cut. 

First cut the desired piece of leather that you want to thin. Next, using the pedal, put your foot down and feed the leather in the cutting edge part of the machine. Then, line the leather with the depth stop to measure the desired thickness of leather you want to remove. 

Turn the machine on. Then, pass the leather under the bell knife. After that, hold the other end of the leather while waiting for it to pass under the bell knife. Finally, vary the angle of the skive by adjusting the angle on the foot pedal. You can also adjust the speed of the cutter and the stone drive wheel.


Skiving leather provides an overall professional look to our product. It is essential to create a good amount of depth and avoid any lump in the design. When choosing the right tools to use, it always depends on the person skiving the leather. Hand tools are great for beginners as the procedures are almost the same. Machine skiving equipment, on the other hand, aids in faster and more accurate production and requires knowledge on the use of the equipment. Lastly, safety comes first when working with knives, so always follow precautions while working.

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