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