Leatherworking is a rewarding craft, whether you are just starting out and investing in your first starter tool kit for leather work, or whether you have many years and various skills under your belt. There is always something new to learn and incorporate into your projects or products.
Happily, you don’t need much in the way of a leather working kit to make your first usable (and treasured) item. We’ve spoken to experts in leatherwork and in teaching the craft to create a list of the essential tool kit for leather craft.
With the right leather working kit and just a few basic skills such as:
selecting the correct leather
burnishing or polishing
– you can create a belt that fits perfectly; a safe, smart collar for your dog or cat; an attractive wallet that will last a lifetime; home furnishings such as a cushion cover or leather-covered door handle; or a unique bag (maybe a workbag to carry your leather crafting kit).
Although the basic skills will apply to all the project types above, the types of leather needed will differ. Abbey England stock high-quality leathers for any job, whether you need vegetable tanned shoulder in a variety of shades to make a belt or collar, a leather for bags and shoes, or something soft and colourful for lining or clothes making. You can read more about leather here.
Abbey supply makers, manufacturers, and leather working tutors all over the world and there is likely to be a leather craft or saddlery skills class near you. Most schools will teach specific skills from basic competences or saddle flocking to bridle making, sometimes to a set curriculum, as well as running bespoke leather skills classes or leather project one-to-ones. Most training providers will have all elements of the essential tool kit for leather craft available for students to use. However, if you want to refine your leather craft skills at home, or you need something special, Abbey can help. Whatever you can imagine, we can help you make, whether you need bag frames or buckles, thread or textiles, dyes or dee rings, we have it – with advice freely available too.
We love to see what our customers have made and regularly feature your work on Facebook and Instagram. We find it inspiring to watch small business grow and develop – you will find Abbey products everywhere, including bags and cases, sport and leisure accessories such as knife sheaths, dog leads and collars, fashion items like boots, belts, and jackets, and in saddles, bridles, and harness.
As you progress you may want to consider building both your tool kit for leather and your skill set so that you can advance into box work or leather forming. Those wishing to really unleash their creativity might look to assemble a leather working tooling kit to begin tooling leather, where various stamps and tools are used to decorate the leather surface of your project.
If you have any questions about products on our list below or need guidance when ordering your leather crafting kit, we’ll be happy to help.
A leather cutting board to protect your leather working kit and your workbench … or kitchen table. It is useful to have an area or a surface, such as a leather cutting board, reserved for the task of cutting your leather. Try to avoid gluing or dying on your cutting board!
The Barnsley Single Head Knife is an essential knife for the beginner. It is easier to learn to use this knife because it is a relatively small. It is also extremely versatile, capable of fine work or work in small spaces, and making straight or curved cuts, pattern cutting, and skiving.
For measuring, and cutting straight edges, a metal rule is a must. It is useful to have both imperial and metric measurements. You may also find that a tailor’s tape measure is a useful addition in the workshop.
An edge tool neatly removes, or bevels, the sharp edge of cut leather. You may wish to do this for reasons of safety or comfort if making bridles, collars or even belts, and to create a finished look.
The higher the number of edge tool, the more leather will be removed and the softer the edge. You can choose the size of edge tool based on the effect you want, and based on the thickness of leather, using a lower number on lighter leathers.
A plastic mallet or nylon hammer are needed for use with stitch markers, pricking irons and punches. All enable the leather worker to apply force without damaging tools or other surfaces. However, the style of mallet (as with any tool) is a personal choice, and many find a wooden mallet or hickory mallet can be a good option for the beginner as it gives good feedback and is not as heavy.
Here at Abbey England, you have several choices to add to your leather working kit.
A sharp awl is used to pierce holes through leather in preparation for stitching. It can be useful to have two awls to hand, in which case you may choose a 2” and a 1 ¾” sewing awl blade, both in a 3.5” awl handle.
The heavier the leather the longer and heavier the blade needed, and the stronger the push through the leather, the larger diameter the hole.
Good technique and care of your needles will help them last longer. It is useful to have sizes #3 and #4 in the workshop, but the size you grow to prefer using, will depend on what you are working with and your own style of working.
You can use a natural or synthetic thread. Wenzel 0.4mm linen thread comes on cards of 15m in 3 colours and is a great start for a craft project. Coats Barbour 0.5mm linen thread is suitable for hand and machine sewing and is available in approximately 165m and 825m spools. You may also choose to use a synthetic thread, for example Tiger Thread, which is a waxed polyester thread suitable for hand-sewing only. Tiger thread comes in many different colours which is great for contrast stitching, and in spools from 250m to 1000m, depending on the diameter you select - from 0.6mm to 1.7mm.
Many find linen thread is kinder to their hands, especially when learning to stitch
Useful for many jobs, but usually to enable a stronger pull on the needle when stitching. Chose a modest size that are neither too big or too heavy for repeated use.
You can find these pliers from your local DIY store.
BURNISHER OR POLISHING STICKE, AND FINISHING AGENT***
For a proper finish the cut edges should be polished to bind the fibres and create a long-lasting shine.
Tragacanth is a gum obtained from the sap of a group of plants known as goat thorn. It has a long history of being used in medicine, cooking, cosmetics, and crafts, particularly for polishing leather. You can also explore the Fiebing range of products depending on the finish you require.
Natural materials like wood or bone (see the bone folder in the next section) are best for this job, along with a canvas or linen rag … plus some elbow grease to generate enough friction and heat to polish and seal the edge of the leather.
If, having purchased and used the tools above, you know that you want to extend and improve your leatherworking skills, the following tools should be added to your collection.
A strap cutter is a simple tool that makes life – and cutting consistent strips – easier. It consists of a wooden body with replaceable blades, and usually cuts from very fine up to around 10cm wide strips. An essential tool whether you are making lip straps for bridles, belts, or collars for hounds. Spare blades are available separately.
Usually heated over a flame and used to mark a bold line along the edge of leather, which is both decorative and helps to burnish and seal the fibres. You can adjust the distance of the line from the edge of the leather using the screw, or use both edges together for a double line.
Available in different sizes, a scratch awl is a versatile tool. It can be used to mark or scribe patterns on leather, and the larger sizes can be used to hold saddle panels in place.
When the end is well-sharpened, a curved awl is useful for blind stitching, as it allows you to make holes that go into the leather and back out the same side without going all the way through. Similarly, it is also useful when lacing a panel onto a saddle.
A clicker is a small and nimble knife, comprising an extension handle which is fitted with a curved or straight blade.Used for many tasks from shoe making to saddlery, you may find the straight blade is much easier to sharpen when setting out.
OTHER PUNCHES – CREW PUNCH, AND OVAL OR ROUND HOLE PUNCH
We have a wide selection of punches to help create the perfect hole on your straps.
A crew punch is an essential part of your leather working kit, and is used to form buckle turns in your belt, collar, or stirrup leathers. While creating symmetrical strap ends is excellent practice in knife control for beginners, you may wish to use a strap end punch as you gain confidence and abilities.
A round punch can be used to make smart, even holes for buckles tongues, or to create decorative patterns on a bag, belt, or wallet,
Similarly, an oval punch may be used to create belt or strap holes or for decorative purposes.
Of course, you are going to need to source the right leathers and other materials to suit the jobs you have planned. At Abbey, we know leather, and source only the best for our customers, whether you are handmaking a bridle, or creating beautiful accessories.
We are the UK distributors of J&E Sedgwick & Co. and Pittard’s leathers, and stock a wide range of vegetable tanned leathers and chromed tanned leathers. Discover our full range below.
Our leathers come in thicknesses of 1mm to 5mm to suit saddle, bridle and harness making, bags, shoes, upholstery, and pet accessories. Depending on type of leather, you can purchase in different volumes, from hide to pre-cut strips.
The Abbey England family supports independent makers and large-scale manufacturers across the globe. Premium quality is our standard. Our extensive range of workshop tools, materials and products, is selected to help make your business a success.
As your business grows, and your spend with Abbey reaches or exceeds £1,000 you will find trade discounts are unlocked. Please contact us for details.