Saturday, November 7, 2020

Water Stain

 Using Eco-Flo Water Stain (the one in the square bottle)

Probably one of the top stains on the market today for the leathercrafter. To understand how to properly use it, I want to quote what was on the Tandy Website in 2019:

"It’s a blend of natural and synthetic waxes, dye-stuffs and binders with high penetration and dyeing power. This stain will not bleed or rub off. Colors can be mixed to form different hues. It can also be thinned with water to reduce intensity."
BUT, it has to be applied properly to be effective. Remember also that it was developed as a stain to color large areas of leather. 

It is important that the leather is dry before you apply the stain.  Damp or wet leather will give unpredictable results:

However, I have used it very successfully with a small brush in selected areas only, by staying in one spot for a long time.

One of the most important points for getting good even coverage on the leather:
Shake the bottle for five minutes, have coffee and shake for five minutes more.... 
 Then spend at least two minutes applying the stain with a sponge. 
 It will go on super dark, dry very light, and then pop when you apply a conditioner or sealer.
Published Mar 2019

Friday, November 6, 2020

Stropping a Swivel Knife

First off, lets make a difference between a sharp blade and a polished blade:

  • Almost all blades are manufactured as "sharp" blades - that is, they come with the correct angles to their blades - roughly a 48 degree combined bevel as shown in the illustration below.
  • A polished blade is where those beveled edges of the blade has been stropped and polished to remove TWO things - the grinding marks from when the blade was manufactured and secondly the residue that builds up on the blade from the leather.

This means that sharpening a blade is seldom necessary.  I used my first swivel knife blade for more than twenty years before the stropping so deformed the shape that I had to put it on a grind stone and just reshape it again. 

When you buy a new blade, here is what I suggest you do:

  • Spend at least half an hour stropping / polishing the blade as shown in the following video (card board with jeweler's rouge on it works just fine).
  • Then you can start with it on the leather.
  • Every time you pick up your swivel knife to use it, strop it for a few minutes.
  • If you do a lot of work with it, strop it every five minutes.   
  • After a while, you will get the feel of a blade that is gliding through the leather as if it is cutting through butter, and a blade that "stutters".  As soon as it cuts with jerky movements, you know it needs more stropping.


  I hope this helps - please contact me if you have any more questions.  

Published Aug 2015 

Thursday, November 5, 2020


The Ultimate Leather Finish / Dressing Any Leathercrafter can Use! 

I have successfully made my own Dubbin: 
I rendered sheep fat for the tallow (beautiful white stuff - also good for cooking and preparing cast iron cookware), and then I added Beeswax and cod liver oil (or Neatsfoot oil), lanolin and glycerin. 
The result is all I expected and I do not feel anxious any more about having to import my Dubbin from South Africa!

Etherington & Roberts says it is made of tallow and cod oil. Thelma Newman, in her book "Leather as Art and Craft" describes DUBBIN as a mixture of Tallow and Cod liver Oil.

I suspect Dr Jackson's Hide Rejuvenator is very close to Dubbin.  Also Colorado Leather Balm, made from beef tallow.

Why I Like DUBBIN so Much!
  1. DUBBIN feeds and protects the leather from the inside and replaces all the oils taken out of the leather during the tanning process.
  2. DUBBIN brings out a deep glowing color in leather. In un-dyed leather it will cause the leather to turn a golden honey color when exposed to light.
  3. DUBBIN is very good for your hands - especially in winter. I always apply it by hand - it allows me to regulate exactly how much I put on.
  4. DUBBIN never accentuates stains on leather - it rather tends to clean up any water or light stains.
  5. DUBBIN Can be used over any dye or finish, such as spirit dyes and water based dyes as well as water based inks.
  6. DUBBIN allows leather to become supple without loosing its shape - it helps the leather to stay "alive" and always as beautiful as new.
To Make Your Own 

Here is my suggested quantities (I vary them every time I make a batch - just like grandma used to bake with a handful of this and a pinch of that.....):
  • 1 kilogram lard [2 lb] - I prefer sheep lard. It has to be rendered - cut it up and boil it in water until the lard separates out clear from the water and gunk. Pour it off so that you can let it cool off and solidify.
  • Less than 100 grams of beeswax [1oz or less]
  • 1/2 liter of Cod Liver Oil [16 fl oz].
    If the thought puts you off, replace it with Neatsfoot oil or olive oil, in fact, any plant or animal oil, but definitely not a mineral oil (that will attack your leather).
    I have doused a piece of leather in Cod Liver oil - it smelled fishy for four hours, and then the oil and leather started to talk to each other and all that was left, was a very traditional leather smell.
     Cod Liver oil used to be a very traditional oil used in working with leather and some ascribe the very romantic smell of the previous century car interiors and saddles and leather goods, to Cod Liver oil.
  • 60 ml of Lanolin [2 fl oz]. I have found pure lanolin sold in pharmacies for use by breastfeeding mothers.
  • 60 ml of Glycerin [2 fl oz].
Simply melt them together gently - the result should be creamy and easy to apply to leather. 

Answers to DUBBIN critics: 

It is sometimes said that DUBBIN rots stitching on leather articles. 
When applying DUBBIN you must simply make sure that you do not leave chunks of Dubbin in folds or seams of the leather - this will collect dust, trapped by the thick DUBBIN and the dust will then rot the stitching. 
I always polish a project that I have just applied DUBBIN to, with a soft brush - there seems to be some beeswax in DUBBIN that will cause the leather to have a natural shine when treated like this. 

I posed the following question to the Leather Chemists of America:
I make my own Dubbin as a leather dressing - mainly for veg tan. I am curious as to the ingredients I use and how meaningful they are (are they all necessary?) Beeswax Sheep Tallow Cod Liver Oil Glyserin Lanolin
I see on the ALCA dictionary that there is also mention of aluminum stearate in dubbin - what is its purpose and where can the-man-on-the-street buy this?
This was the answer I got back:
Each of the materials in your dubbin has a unique character and therefore imparts a special trait to the leather.
The wax protects the surface and adds that unique feel to the treated leather.
The tallow penetrates a little better, but also contributes to that waxy nature, but also has a lower melting point, so it changes more effectively when warmed slightly than the wax which remains solid to a bit warmer condition.
The fish oil penetrates deep and softens as well as providing anti-oxidant properties and even some tanning when heated.
The glycerin is a good humectant and keeps the leather from over drying by pulling moisture from the air.
Lanolin is also unique, though some folks are sensitive to lanolin and should always be advised that it is in the leather. This sheep byproduct has long been taunted as a great soften and water repellent for leather.

Clearly the amount of each of these materials in the dubbin can be a major issue, but that is something that I am sure you have seen with time and experience as you adjust your formula.

Aluminum stearate is just soap, though most would probably consider it more a grease than a soap. It combines a wax and humectant roll, but just as most leather experts warn against the use of saddle soap, I think you will quickly see that this soap really has little to offer your mix.
The biggest issue with soaps and leather is that soaps are made under highly alkaline conditions, and unless that basicity (alkaline pH) is neutralized it can carry terrible consequences to the acid leather.

 Published Aug 2016
Updated Jul 2017

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Stitching Wax

From Bryan Stancliff (Aug 2016):
"One of the major changes I've made in the last year is switching from waxing my thread with beeswax, to using coad.
Coad (also called code, shoemakers wax, sticky wax, black wax and a dozen other names) is a mix of beeswax and one or more pine resin materials. Coad acts as both a lubricant and a glue; as the thread is pulled friction melts the coad, allowing the thread to glide through the stitching holes, once the thread is pulled tight, the coad sets up acting as an adhesive.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different coad recipes. Many of the traditional recipes are designed around producing a black wax and utilize a black pine pitch. This pitch has become difficult to source over the last 50 or so years (even the shoemakers at Williamsburg have trouble getting it), while some of the newer black recipes substitute tar for the pitch.
Most recipes have done away with the black compounds resulting in a "blond" wax. With the widespread availability of colored thread there's really no reason to deal with tar fumes, or in trying to source a material that only two companies in the world produce.
The blond recipes work as well as the black recipes and are much cheaper and safer to produce. I use two different recipes depending on the time of year. I don't have central heat and air in my house, so the temperature tends to run a bit warm in the summer and a bit cool in the winter, and I adjust my coad to suit these temperature changes.
My coad recipe(s) consist of two materials, beeswax and rosin (I use rodeo rosin, $10/pound on eBay, a pound should last a decade or more).
The measurements are by weight, don't go overboard, close enough is good enough. The smaller the components the faster the melt. I can generally crank out a ball in 15 minutes including weighing the material.
Winter recipe: 1 part rosin, 2 parts beeswax.
Summer recipe: 1 part rosin, 1 part beeswax.
You will also need a bucket of cold water. Melt the rosin first, it has a higher melt point and takes longer to liquify. I use direct heat, I've had poor results attempting to melt the rosin in a double boiler. If the rosin starts bubbling lower the heat and pull the container off until it cools a bit.
Once the components are liquid and thoroughly mixed, pour them directly into the water. This flash cools the mix, lowering the temp to a point that it can be handled. Wad the mass up in the water, this gives a chance to check temperature without risking burns. You want it warm, but not too hot to handle.
Pull it from the water and start taffy pulling. It'll feel a bit gritty at first and will probably just tear apart for the first 30 seconds or so.  Just keep at it -  it'll start to smooth and the stretches will get longer. You're probably not going to get a 100% amalgamated mass - you'll probably see little flecks of rosin throughout.  That's fine, just try to get them as small as possible and thoroughly mixed through the mass.
Once it gets difficult to pull start squishing it a bit and then ball it and set it on a piece of plastic or wax paper. Let it set and cool overnight.
To use, run your thread across the surface of the ball and then either pull the thread through your hand, or a piece of cloth a few times to heat the coad and disburse it a bit better, and start sewing.
Since switching to coad I've had zero issues with knots untying (no more knot burning) or back stitches unthreading.
If you knot while stitching (I do on some projects) the coad really locks the stitch in place. The few items I've had to dismantle since switching to coad have required the parts to be fully cut apart (along the stitch line) and pliers were required to remove the remaining thread."


Hand Stitching Leather

 Hand Stitching is not difficult!

In this post I am going to consolidate all my published work on stitching leather by hand. After related blog posts have been incorporated here, I will delete the originals. 

The first video shows classic saddle stitch where two needles and an awl is in your hands - the leather is clamped in a stitching pony or, as in this video, a stitching clam:


In the next video, I show the simplest method of hand sewing with one needle on the end of the thread only and the project is held in one hand - for when you do not have a stitching clamp/pony:


 Stitching something large with two needles and no stitching pony/clamp:


And here is how I keep that piece of leather stable while I work: 


From primitive video times, a few seconds to show how the center post of the tool glides against the edge of the leather. The tool is held at a 45 degree angle to give the small hole in the elbow piece the best chance of cutting the groove..

In this blog post from long ago, you can see a sky hook that my friend Tommy McLintic designed and published: Tommy's Sky Hook 

First published April 2017
Updated 24 October 2019

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Always Test


One of the most important tips that can be given to any leatherworker, especially beginners, is to TEST EVERYTHING FIRST!! 

 Let me illustrate:  

For most projects I leave some extra leather around the edge - mainly to make sure that after I have tooled and the leather is dry again, I cut it out at the original project size.  

Also for small projects like this, I usually leave two on the same piece of leather so that  I have bigger leather to rest my hand on as I tool. 

 This extra leather affords me the opportunity to test various aspects of the project of the project first.   

The things I test is :

 * whether a tool is appropriate and maybe how hard to strike it; 
* whether it is actually the right tool that will achieve the effect I want;   
* how this leather will react to what I want to do; 
* how will this dye work on this leather and will the eventual color be correct;
* how is a sealer / finish / conditioner going to work with the dye I have; 
* just to get my hand and eye a little practice before I tackle the actual project.  

There are some effects I use that I do not always test, like the woodgrain effect above, because I use it so often.   
But if I wanted to try a new border for it, I might just do a mall piece of it on the side first.

Here are a few cut off pieces I saved over the last few days.   
You can see I also test how my boss sewing machine is going to deal with this leather thickness under its current settings.   
And there is a test for setting eyelets - I wanted to know if I had to punch a hole first if I wanted to insert the eyelets in cardboard sandwiched between to thin leathers.    
Even a test for the right slit punch when I had to duplicate a specific lacing pattern.

Above the most important testing was to see which gold paint would give the right effect and would look good. 

 I hope this helps!

Published April 2018

Monday, November 2, 2020

First test of WaterBased Neatlac



 Jan 2019: I got hold of the new Neatlac (waterbased) and so I have started to test to see if it lives up to the quality of its obnoxious, but good quality highly used, predecessor.

So [A] I used it on Eco-Flo Water Stain. It made the color pop beautifully, but arrow [1] and arrow [2] shows that you should not let it pool anywhere (I put it on liberally so that it would pool so that I could see the effect). 

In [B] I used it as a resist under Eco-Flo Hi-liter - worked very well as a resist (in all of these tests I only used 1 single layer of Neatlac).

Piece [C] was first stained with Eco-Flo Hi-liter, and then the Neatlac was used as a sealer over it (also used as sealer on piece [B] ).

Arrow [4] shows a spot where the brush did pick up the stain - so I am going to stay with LeatherSheen from a spraycan to seal in any antique stain. My friend Jim Linnell showed me how to put a sealer like this on with a sponge: you simply work it until it is even - the sponge will pick up some of the antiquing, but you just keep working it until it shows even.

The difference between the light and dark indicated by arrow [3] is merely a border between more and less oxidation - the Neatlac had no effect there.   In the second photo, the arrow shows a border between Neatlac and no Neatlac - [a] has Neatlac as a resist to Fiebings Antique Paste, and [b] has no resist.

So it looks like Pro Resist by Fiebings is a better resist for its own paste.

Piece [c] simply had Neatlac as a topcoat over the natural leather - no color - nice and shiny. I think with practice and more experiments this product might just be as good as it was when it was still a bit poisonous many years ago.

First published Jan 2019

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Stamp Maker Registry

 This is a list of custom leather stamp makers.

It is in no particular sequence and I am neutral about all of them.

1. Sergey Neskromniy - Etsy Shop

2. Tack Templates - Website

3. Jeff Mosbey - Grey Ghost Graphics

4. LeatherStampMaker - Website

5.  Steel Stamps Inc. - Website

6.  Gelandangan - Australia - Website

7.  WarBonnetTools - - Website

8.  SixElementWorkshop - USA Northwest - Website

9.  Custom Leather Stamps - Etsy Store


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Border Fun


There is no end to what you can do with all the stamping tools in your arsenal - whether you have three or three hundred. 

I was asked how the ball border was done that is found on the first photo of our guild calendar:   

So here are two possibilities:   

A:  Draw the first line of the border  (I would do these first 5 steps first on a cut off piece of leather to get all the settings correct) 

B:  Cut the one line with a swivel knife. 

C:  Bevel the inside of the line. 

D:  Place the seeder impressions (here is used S864 - a big smooth seeder) 

E:  Set the compass according to the seeder size, draw the second line, cut it and bevel the inside of that line.  

F:  A very effective simple border! 

G:  You can add another parallel cut and beveled line on either side for a more prominent effect. Here is a related effect with a different tool. It is a D444 - designed for a meander border. 

H:  Used on its own between two cut and beveled lines. 

I:  A smooth seeder added in the middle of each circle. 

More fun: I have really liked doing the rope edge effect with the lined triangle beveler (F910) 

[Search here for 'ROPE' to see the other instructions]. 

Well, someone I am helping getting started took that and did a variation and also came up with a cool border done with a basket weave stamp! Here is a close up - in this section the inside lines of the two swivel line cuts were beveled first with a textured beveler.  

In this one no bevelling was done before the basketweave was stamped with the F910 along the lines.  

In this video are some ideas about using veiners and specifically as borders around a backgrounded area:

(It was a Facebook Live video - so maybe a bit longwinded and in an unusual format)

First Published Jan 2013
Update Feb 2020 & July 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Leaf Liner Weave

Many years ago I explored tooled weaving patterns that was a bit different from basketweave stamping.  So a fellow leatherworker who was also a tool maker, made me two stamps that could do this.  Here is a progression of a weave stamped with these two tools:


The other day I started playing with a leaf liner stamp - you can do many different weaves with is stamp.  (At the end of this post is a video that shows how I hold the stamps to achieve the weaving bars. This first sequence I started with, ended up in a weave pattern with an open block between the weaves:


 So then I made it so that every bar does a over-two-under-two pattern:


 Which led to this weave: 


 Here is the pattern I like most - the weaving bars are angled such that the angle between them is less than 90 degrees and the stamp impressions are a bit closer together:  


.. and here you can see the same weave with a different sized leaf liner stamp:


 And here is the video showing the details of holding the tool - it is my second test with the new camera from Aldi:


First Published Aug 2018

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fine Writing

Fine Script

This is a can I covered many years ago. The writing was done with a very fine point on a wood burning pen:

To see how to make a very inexpensive heat controlled burning pen, goto the GOURD SITE

Originally posted August 2007.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Getting Leather Soft


There is not a single product that softens leather.
And dyes, alcohol or water based, do not stiffen up leather. 
Let me explain: 
Think of this in terms of the leather fibers - kind-of like the fingers of your two hands interlaced.
When you get the leather wet to tool or form it or dye the leather, and while the leather fibers are limp, the leather is pliable. 
Now as the leather dries, the dye, and to a lesser extent the water, makes the leather fibers sticky, they stick to each other, and when it is dry, the leather feels stiff. 

Many people confuse this stiffness with "casing and/or dyeing dries out the leather".  You will hear often that alcohol based dyes "evaporates the oil from the leather".  [The oil/fat have already be taken out of the leather by the tannery - that is why you can case it and dye it.]

 Now you put oil, a sealer, or conditioner on and nothing changes....!?!?! 

The fibers still stick to each other because of the dye, and maybe now also the sealer. 

BUT, as soon as you start manipulating and bending the leather, the fibers break free of each other and the leather becomes softer. 

If you had applied a conditioner like dubbin or Aussie or Neatsfoot oil, the fibers that break free from each other, get lubricated and the leather feels even softer because the fibers now also get lubricated. 

 I hope this helps!

Published Aug 2016
Updated Oct 2020

Monday, October 26, 2020

Journal Cover

These are fun to make, are not a lot of work and make very nice gifts (any time of year is a good time to stock up on Christmas gifts!).

The insides can be any bound journal - I prefer Moleskin journals.

I want to introduce you to a unique shape I developed for the journal covers.

This is what it looks like from the front:

The "wings" that you see on the right are there for a very special purpose:  they hold whatever fastener you want to use for the journal.   Many people make journals that has string tied around them - often fastened to a button that is on the front of the cover.   What I dislike about most other methods that I have seen, is that the journal cover does not lie flat when you want to write in it.

I use snaps on those wings, and that way there is nothing bulky on the front or back of the journal cover to prevent you from writing on a flat surface.

This design also allows a handy space to slide a pen into.

On the inside I stitch one or two sleeves into which the outer cover of the journal can slide.  In the photo you will see this one has two sleeves - one on the left (the front of the cover)  and one on the right (what will be the back of the cover).   In the photo you will see the smaller easy-to-remove diary planner I was asked to make space for.

The size of the sleeves should also be noted - they are made almost as wide as the journal page.  Again, regardless of whether you are writing in the back or front of the journal, you will have a flat surface behind your page, and not a ridge where the sleeve ends.

I do make the sleeves of the thinnest leather I can lay my hands on so as not to have too bulky and end product.

If I have a sleeve only on one side of the cover for a single journal, I only stitch on that side, but nothing prevents you to stitch all round as I have done here (I had to because I have two sleeves inside).

Here is a video to help you get to the size for your own sized journal:

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Home Made Brush


- by Tommy "Edgar" McLintic

As may be seen on the attached illustrations, the main working component of the brush is a strip of sponge held in place with a rubber band. This type of brush has many advantages:

  • it is very cheap to construct, and to use; 

  • it is very convenient in the sense that after use, the sponge tip need not be cleaned in a suitable solvent, it may just be removed and discarded; 

  • sponge is a far better medium for putting on dyes, stains and other colours onto leather; 

  • and there is no danger of any hairs coming loose from the brush.


In figure 1 the components of the brush are clearly illustrated, and figure 2 shows how the components are assembled into the complete brush. 

The dimensions given are general dimensions, and you must use dimensions that are suitable for your purposes. 

I personally prefer to use a wooden dowel for the handle, but the brush may also be constructed, as shown in figure 3, using firm 8 to 10 oz leather, either cemented or riveted together. 

Instead of using leather strips on either side of the central leather core, strips of wood or plastic may also be used. 

The handle is not discarded each time after use, and a little more time and effort should be spent on the construction of the handle.

The working tip, and most important part of the brush is made of normal sponge, 1/4“ <6mm> thick, and about 4“ <100mm> long, held over a firm but flexible leather core with a normal elastic band. 

The width of the sponge depends on the purpose of the brush required, however, I have found that 3/4" <20mm> is ideal for general purpose leatherwork. It is a good idea to make a few brushes with widths that you personally find useful in your leatherwork.

When the sponge is fitted to the flexible leather tip, it must not be pulled tightly over the leather. The sponge should be a little loose, and not compressed at all.   Should the sponge be compressed, it will work well, but it will not hold any appreciable amount of dye.


The brush is used the same as any normal bristle brush, but in my opinion, the finish that is achieved with the sponge is far better than with a normal brush, and it is much easier to use. The sponge holds as much colour or stain as a bristle brush, but the sponge releases the colour in a much more controlled manner, thereby giving you a much more even spread of colour or stain.

There are circumstances where a firmer sponge may be useful , especially when colouring the edges of leather belts etc., and a few brushes with narrower tips, using a firmer sponge, if available, should be made. 

There is nothing against using normal sponge for colouring belt edges etc. - all that must be remembered, is not to press the brush too firmly against the leather edge. 

I have spoken to certain other leathercrafters and they prefer not to clean or replace the sponge of the brushes each time  they use it for the colouring of belt edges.   They rather let the dye dry completely on the sponge after use, and when they use the brush again, the firmness of the sponge due to the dried dye, is ideal for the colouring of subsequent belt edges. The normal solvents in the dye does soften the brush a little, and this is just enough to enable the sponge to hold dye, but the sponge still remains firm enough for the accurate colouring of belt edges.

The biggest advantage of this type of brush is that the sponge tip is entirely disposable after use. There is no necessity to clean the brush with suitable solvents etc. after use. Simply remove the used sponge and rubber band by pulling it down, and off the leather tip. Replace the tip with a fresh piece of sponge and rubber band. 

So as not to get any dye on your hands when removing the sponge, simply put your hand in a small plastic bag, remove the tip with that hand, and then pull the bag inside out over the used sponge and discard the plastic bag and its contents.

Keep a supply of pre-cut sponge strips for the various widths of brushes that you will be using, as well as a supply of small plastic bags and rubber bands available. This will prevent you having to cut a strip of fresh sponge each time, and to hunt for a small plastic bag and rubber band, each time that you need them.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Acid and Acidity

I posted these questions to the Leather Chemists of America:

  • Is veg tan less acidic than chrome tan?   Holster makers believe this to be true - they avoid chrome tan against the metal of fire arms and report that they have seen pitting of the metal with prolonged storing.
  • Can an acrylic finish on chrome tan give it enough of a barrier that the acidity will no longer be a problem?
  • Can you simply rinse vegtan in calcium carbonate to neutralize it to a pH of 7?
  • I hope you do not mind a 'leather user' joining this forum, but I find so much useful information here! And I would like to use the knowledge I pick up here, to educate as much of us as leatherworkers as I can, as to the proper care and use of leather!

Here is a compilation of the answers:

"The common pH scale is from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is acidic, above 7 is basic or alkaline. The hair is removed from a hide with lime and sulfide which produces a pH above 13.

That is extremely alkaline. However, this condition is then transformed into an acidic state for most tannages. It is tempting and almost accurate to say that all leather is acidic, but there are some minor exceptions which do not normally apply to commercial leathers.

Before tanning, chrome leather is pickled in acid lowering the pH usually to 2.5 or lower (very, very acidic). After tanning the pH is raised to around 4 to set the chrome (actually it is the tanning step). In vegtan leather, the process for tannage is a lowering of the pH to set the tannins, but again the target pH is about 4 (a little less these days). Of course these are all wet processes and not the final pH of most leathers.

In chrome leathers the pH may actually end up much higher than in vegtan, but that depends a lot on the coloring (dye) process which is often the last wet process. If a heavy dye must be set, say black, often a lot of formic acid is used to fix that dye, so once again the pH may easily drop below 4. However, it is not just the acid that causes this leather to be very corrosive to metals, it is also the salt and the chrome itself which catalyzes oxidation of metals. Typically vegtan leather is very low in salt, as well as tannins being anti-oxidants.

Personally, I would want a Mossback, lining or other barrier between my gun, metal frame glasses, knife or other metal object stored in a leather protective or carrying case, sheath or holster, but I tend to be a little over the top. Certainly acrylic could do the job if applied adequately. Obviously, in the real world where naked leather is in contact with swords, guns, knives, eye glasses, etc., very routinely, little real damage is commonly seen.

If one would buy leather with low salt, low acid content and proper lubrication for this application (gun holsters) there would be little reason to be concerned. For chrome leather this would probably include a good, soft retannage in order to modify the surface. A good example would likely be found in military specifications for leather used in such applications. However, I have barked up this tree enough to know that no one is willing to hear the story. They just want to buy a piece of leather and go. So if they are wise enough to be concerned, tell them to check out Mossbacking and just use a similar gum, plastic or lining that they know to be non-corrosive.


As to dipping vegtan leather in carbonate of soda.....NOT A GOOD IDEA! This will raise the pH just fine, but that will de-tan the leather. Even de-tanning the surface is not a good idea.

Chrome tannage creates lots of salts in the leather! Sulphates between charged aminos and sodiums as the counter ions, for instance. The fact that most tannages are produced by water-born chemistry, yields a certain corrosivety to leather towards metals.

Vegtanned leather strap was also classically used for the evening-out of freshly sharpened edges of cutting steel, thus artisans feel that vegtanned leather is a natural companion to a sharp cutting instrument. The truth is that most tannages release acids from collagen, or associated materials like phenolic resins present.

My suggestion for cases made of leather is that they should breathe well for moisture release but should have a dry breathing film, water-barrier against the metallic surface being protected and enclosed in the case. I would suggest that the thinnest would be made by a water-emulsified nitrocellulose (Hydrolacker) application on the surface touching the metal, and nothing else! Moss-backs that consist of waxes and protein combinations could be OK, but acrylic resins (paint without pigment!) is too good a water vapor barrier and thus might actually aid galvanic corrosion by helping conduct electric currents.

I maintain that the corrosion of a metal surface is normally occurring through a water containing media, and hence breathe-ability in order to dry-out, is an important characteristic to cases made of leather. I hope this is useful and that the forum helps you."

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Wet or Dry

I recently heard the question if there is a difference whether the leather is wet or dry when you apply Eco-Flo Water Stain, that is the one in the square bottle. 

And Yes, it does.  Here is the outcome of a small experiment: Piece A was dry when the stain was applied and piece B was damp. 

 The stain was applied and you can see how differently they dried (above the black line). I then applied a thin layer of Hide Rejuvenator as a conditioner just to show the true color of the stain (below the black line). 

 So the difference is much less pronounced once you have the conditioner applied, but there still remains a subtle difference. 

The correct way to apply the Eco-Flow Water Stain is explained in this video:

Friday, September 11, 2020


 I did some marbling on leather very many years ago in South Africa and recently my interest was sparked again by the ingenious methods Steven Miller came up with where he floats dyes on shaving cream!

Here are a few tests I did using his Shaving Cream method.  Really easy to do!

This is Steven's Facebook video showing him do the shaving cream method:


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Homeschool Project 1

Here is the first post with video specifically made for homeschoolers.  

I will show you here to make cable organizers that will keep your earphone and charger cables well contained.

It is a guidance for parents - your guiding of the kids will be required.

I will update this post as I get feedback/questions.  Just leave your comment below this post.

First the requirements:

  1. A sturdy work surface - like a solid wood table.  For tooling/stamping, you will ideally need a piece of granite / marble about 20mm (1") thick.   These are sold at leathercraft suppliers, but you can also get free pieces from places that manufacture tomb stones and kitchen surfaces.
  2. A piece of leather - the thickness to start with would be 5 - 6 oz (the weight of one square foot of leather).
  3. A cutting surface like a kitchen cutting board - wood does not work.
  4. Any very sharp knife - you will see the one I use in the video.
  5. A scratch awl - just a sharp tipped tool to mark the leather, like scribing around your cardboard templates..
  6. A few stamping tools - typically sold by Tandy Leather.
By request, here is a list of the tools from Tandy Leather.
You can also see their full catalog at:

Tandy catalog numbers:

  • Scratch awl - 3217-00
  • Craft knife - 3593-01
  • Conditioner - 21978-00
  • Camouflage tool - 6431-00
  • Seeder tool - 6706-00
  • Beveler 6801-00
For setting the snaps:
  • Line 20 Snaps - 1261-01
  • Setter - 8057-00
  • Anvil - 8105-10
And here is the video showing it all happen:

To set the snaps listed above:

Saturday, September 5, 2020


Homeschool Leathercraft

If you homeschool kids and would like help with leathercraft ideas, you can look in this blog under "Beginner" and also join a newly created group on Facebook:

Suggestions / Questions can be left as comments on this post!

Thursday, August 20, 2020


[Originally published August 2019] 

 I do recommend Al Stohlman's book, Coloring Leather, (not How to Color Leather).  It is still a very relevant book. 

There are a few changes happening in the world of dyes - solvent (spirit based / alcohol based) dyes are being upstaged by the water based dyes.  Some states have stopped the sale of solvent (alcohol) based dyes. 

 Fiebings Pro-dye is a higher quality version of alcohol / spirit based dye - it is simply alcohol based dye (no oil) with a bit of an improved recipe and a superior oil-based pigment -  it gives better penetration into the leather and takes a bit longer to dry.  The coverage is a bit more even.  First choice if you can get it.

 Eco-Flow water based dye - the new generation dyes - so far looks to be an equally good choice, mainly because they are  proving to be a lot more color fast than the old regular spirit based dyes. 

 I know your leather craft store is stocked with hundreds of little bottles, so I will expand on this theme as much as I can, but here is the short version:

  1. The first liquid to hit your leather, is water if you want to tool and/or shape your leather ("casing").
  2. The next liquid to touch your leather, is dye, if you want to change the color of the leather or parts of the leather.
  3. The third possible liquid you use, is a resist (in order of preference: Neatlac / Eco-Flo Top Coat / SuperSheen), if you want to shield some parts of the leather by being colored by the next liquid.  There is another article on this blog about resisting. 
    Fiebings Pro Resist only works with Fiebings Antique Paste.
  4. Now you can consider using an antique finish/stain on the leather, if you wish to have an antiquing effect, mostly on tooled leather (it leaves a dark residue  in the tool impressions and makes them more pronounced).
  5. Lastly you add a finish / dressing / conditioner:  for working leather I prefer Dubbin, Dr Jackson's, Neatlac or Aussie; for leather that was painted with acrylic paints, I prefer and acrylic finish like Supersheen or Satinsheen.

If you want a light stain and thereby enhance the tooling on the leather, one way you can try is to dye your project with a much diluted (with water) Eco-Flo dye, or spirit based dye diluted with rubbing alcohol. To further emphasize the tooling, you can use an antique finish/stain over the dye - the antique stain will add its own color to the project, unless you have the project fully or partially resisted. For a more subtle effect, the Eco-Flow Hi-lite Stain dilutes very successfully! 

 I hope this sheds some light!  (... and color....) 

 (Updated 21 October 2019)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


[Originally published August 2006] 

Oil based dye with a brush

For this mini tutorial, Fiebings Pro Dye is being applied with a brush.    
(In 2006 it was still labeled as Oil Dye, but that really only referred to the fact that they used an oil pigment in the dye - it is still just an alcohol based dye.)

 The same technique would be used with water based dyes - water based dye tends to flow a fraction further than alcohol based dyes, so test it first. 
 The background of an inverted carving is being dyed - the design is left natural. Take note how the fully loaded brush is never set down right next to the edge of the area to be dyed - this is to prevent the dye from bleeding into the area that has to remain dye free. 
 Because the black dye in this case is quite forgiving, mere application of the dye will ensure even coverage. So as the dye in the brush is used up, the brush is brought closer and closer to the edge of the design. [No sound on the following video]


(Updated 26 October 2019)