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Author Topic: Some basic Leatherwork techniques...  (Read 5957 times)
Zwack
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And introducing the wonderful Irish (Mrs Z).


« on: November 26, 2008, 06:24:53 pm »

Greetings,
I have finished making a leather laptop bag from scratch and while it isn't perfect (hey, I'm just a random amateur) I did my best to document the techniques used in the manufacture so that others might be able to see what they could do with leather.

To start I made a paper template of the same size as the laptop.  Thin card is better as it has more of the thickness of leather, but large quantities of newsprint are easier to find.  Once I had a template I went out and purchased a piece of leather big enough.  In my case I bought a double shoulder which was about 13 square feet.  This was the single most expensive part of the bag (unless you count my time).  I used 8-10oz leather for the bag as I felt it would provide some protection for the contents.  The resulting bag was more like a rigid satchel than a cloth bag.

Having made the template (so the design was fairly fixed) I cut the pieces out.  (Hopefully my web server isn't going to have problems with this... if it does then I might have to move them)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Next I marked the leather where I was going to use a V-Gouge on it.  This cuts a V shaped groove into the leather so that you can then fold it more easily.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Having never used the Gouge before I took some scrap leather and tested it a few times.  I highly recommend this when working with a new tool.  In the past I've just cut the leather very carefully with a knife or used a stitching groover which is a lot harder.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Finally I went back to the real piece and gouged it.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Once the gouging was finished I folded the pieces along the gouge marks.  These folds aren't as sharp as they will be, but this was just to check.  To improve the sharpness of the folds you can case (wet) the leather and use a bone folder (or something like a spoon handle) to get a better crease.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

These little tabs are used to hold Buckles and D-Rings onto the finished bag.  The tab will be folded over, riveted, and then the shield will be stitched down.  The end of the tab has been skived, while the shield part has been grooved with a stitching groover.  This will stop the stitches from standing proud of the leather and will help protect the thread.  Skiving consists of shaving away some of the leather to make it thinner.  In this case the end of the tab is skived as it will be underneath the shield part.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

This close up shows the results a bit better.  The two tools are an adjustable stitching groover and a freehand groover.  The adjustable groover is very useful if you want to make sure that your stitching groove stays the same distance from an edge.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The rivet holes have been punched and the two buckle holders have had the slots cut.  The prong of the buckle will protrude from that slot.  The slots for the buckles were punched with a hole at each end and then the slot was cut with four cuts out from the holes.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Here's one of the D Rings about to be attached to the side of the bag.  I used double cap rapid rivets, they're not the strongest but the stitching is more important on this piece.

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The rivet is in place, and so is the tab.  Notice that the tab has already been slid through the D-Ring.  It might be possible to push the shield part through the D-Ring afterward, but I would rather take the easy way.

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Sorry this is blurry, but the riveting is done.  Yes, the rivet has a star on the cap, I knew it wouldn't be visible after it was done so I didn't worry about it.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

And here are the stitching supplies, an Awl, two (blunt) needles, and some pre-waxed thread.  The last piece is an overstitch wheel.  This has two uses.  The first is to mark where to stitch, it leaves little dents at an even spacing.  The second use is to run it over the stitches after you are finished to give them an even neater appearance.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The shield folded down ready for marking.

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And after marking.  Each of those dents marks a place where there will be a hole and the end of a stitch.

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The thread is threaded through the eye of the needle, then the "point" is pushed through the thread.  This basically ties the needle into the thread.   Twist the ends together and repeat at the other end with a second needle.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Here's a different piece (the end of the shoulder strap) in the middle of being stitched.  Yes, it's a different awl, this one is much better in my experience, but a lot more expensive.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

First you push the awl through the leather from one side.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Then you withdraw it and push the first needle back through the same hole from the other side.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Finally you push the second needle through from the "front"  giving you one stitch on each side.  Repeat until you're done.  The trick is to keep the needles and the awl in your hands at all times and it's a lot faster (it takes a lot of practice though).  I highly recommend "The art of sewing leather" to cover how to start and stop, join threads, and so on.  I tend to end the stitches between the leather and tie a knot so that it is sandwiched in the seam.  When you get to the end then stitch back a few stitches and even if the knot unties then the stitching won't come apart.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


That's the basics.  I'm afraid I didn't take photos of every step of construction because the rest of it is pretty similar.  Sew bits of leather together, until the shape is finished. 

And here's the finished bag from the front.  The tops of the straps are held on with "Button Fasteners" which are basically slightly smaller Sam Browne buttons.  This allows you to adjust the closure by undoing and redoing the buckles, or just open the bag quickly by popping the other end of the strap off.  The Bomb Bay Tea company patch came from Lorien StormFeather (Thank you very much), and I decided not to dye the leather but instead to just treat it with neatsfoot oil and let it darken naturally over time.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The side with some carved Celtic knotwork and the D-ring and Shoulder strap.  The white mark is actually a scar in the leather.  Nothing to do with my work but I think it adds character. 

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The base, there are four distinct rows of stitches here.  The edges of the leather were beveled with a beveler after the seams were trimmed.  Trimming the seams is easiest with a piece of broken plate glass.  Place it flat on the seam and pull the broken edge toward you.  This will shave tiny amounts off until the edge is smooth.  Pay attention while you're doing this, lots of small strokes works best, and don't take too much off (I almost did at one point here).

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

With the front open you can see the three inside pockets, each one has a small button fastener.  While all three look crooked here it's the photograph.  In reality the one on the left is the only one that isn't straight.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The back, not particularly exciting, but when you consider that all of those stitches around the back are needed (they hold the lining leather in place as well as attach the back to the bottom and sides) and were done by hand, you can see why the bag took about four weeks to complete (part time, a couple of hours a day during the week, longer at weekends).  The lining leather on the back holds a piece of a sleeping mat in as well, while the leather on the base holds another two.  This gives the interior a foam compartment for the laptop to slide into. 

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Here you can see the lined interior with a foam compartment and a second compartment (large enough for a 3" ring binder) plus the front pockets.  The middle pocket is open and you can see the three concealed pen loops.  The dark leather on the interior is lining leather.  This is pretty thin (1-2oz) textured, pre-dyed leather used to cover the rougher surface of the interior.  If you look at the front edge carefully you can see the relative thicknesses of the two leathers.  The pocket flaps and the pen holder were actually made from some lighter weight leather (6-8oz) that I had.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I hope that this is helpful,

Z.
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2008, 06:52:55 pm »

Wow, that is impressive! Nive write-up, too. It's cool to see the work that goes into a piece like this Smiley
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2008, 07:01:13 pm »

as one amature(ish) leather worker to another i must say well done sir, it's good to know that i'm not the only one with a tandy fixation  Grin

good work on the carving as well, its not somethig i've attemted yet as i'm working on getting my fabrication skill to a high level first but what you've done looks fantastic.

one thing i did nothice though was that it doesnt look like you've applyed a finish to the leather, if not i'd surget you do as this will help wather proofing, which is always a bonus for bags, especialy when electrical goodies are beeing carried  Grin
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2008, 08:04:13 pm »

Brilliant work!  The effort that went into that really shows through and you've created something that will last a verrrry long time!

Well done!
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2008, 10:22:39 pm »

brilliant work  Smiley
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Zwack
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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2008, 10:29:13 pm »

Thank you all.

As far as finishing the leather goes there are many options.  I didn't dye it at all, nor have I sealed it with Neatlac, Super Shene or Satin Shene.  However the neatsfoot oil that I used will waterproof the leather to some extent.  Would you suggest any other finish?  

I posted a basic guide to carving leather on my website http://www.mutant.net/bg/leather/ along with an example of using a utility knife and a spoon handle to carve a simple design without regular tools.  While you can achieve better results with better tools you can do a surprising amount without.

Z.
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2008, 10:29:53 pm »

Well documented.   Makes me want to attempt leather working again
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2008, 10:55:52 pm »

Thank you all.

As far as finishing the leather goes there are many options.  I didn't dye it at all, nor have I sealed it with Neatlac, Super Shene or Satin Shene.  However the neatsfoot oil that I used will waterproof the leather to some extent.  Would you suggest any other finish?  

I posted a basic guide to carving leather on my website http://www.mutant.net/bg/leather/ along with an example of using a utility knife and a spoon handle to carve a simple design without regular tools.  While you can achieve better results with better tools you can do a surprising amount without.

Z.


I made a similar project about two years ago (albeit on a much smaller scale) and, although I chose to dye mine, I made my own finish to waterproof it.
I used 1 part paraffin wax, 1 part beeswax, and 1 part neatsfoot.  I melted the waxes in a mason jar stuck in a pot of boiling water, then stirred in the oil.  Its heavier than most finishes, but tougher once its rubbed in nicely....
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2008, 07:59:47 am »

Nicely done! I've been mulling over my head what to do with a large piece of heavy leather I bought not long ago. Thanks for solving the mystery of the OVERSTITCH WHEEL. Couldn't for the life of me figure out what that thing was called. Jeebus!

Cheers!
M

PS. Nice Bomb Bay Tea Co. patch!
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2008, 08:59:10 am »

Good work mate, very good for a first piece.

Sicne you made such a nice tutorial, I'd like to add that if you're going to dye your work, I'd recomend doing it after tooling the leather and readying for stitching, but before assembly.
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2008, 11:32:49 am »

i'd give it a going over with some carnauba cream, just to finish off the water proofing, it'll make it easier to clean as well
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Samuel Crowe
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2008, 09:45:06 pm »

Nicely done, looks like it had lots of small pieces to deal with and get lined up.

I've gotten lazy and moved away from stitching on big pieces and use an ungodly amount of brass screw posts. I also like having modular pieces, like this one. My Version 1 comb and altoid tin holster. I stiched the comb part because it needed to be form fitting but the pouch below it, obscured by my arm, is folded and mounted using screw posts.


Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 05:43:47 am »

Excellent Job !
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2009, 05:21:11 pm »

Nice i have been looking for some leather techniques that i could use. I was burning simple images in you leather with the solder iron. heheh.
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« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2009, 12:29:05 am »

Nice one... have been doing a harness for some armor and was going to attempt some sort of shoulder holster next... all this info is very handy... although I think I'll use my Sailrite for the stitching. Cheesy
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« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2009, 09:52:50 am »

Wow, that's fascinating, especially how its stitched.
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Zwack
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« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2009, 04:19:14 pm »

Wow, that's fascinating, especially how its stitched.


There's a bit more detail on stitching in the Leather belt thread.  I realised I didn't really cover preparing the thread very well...

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/bg-forum/index.php?topic=13017.0

Z.
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2009, 08:59:54 pm »



   thought we asked you to step off mate
I thought someone asked you to start making sense.
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2009, 10:05:11 pm »

Yay BBT!
The bag ain't bad either.   Wink

DB

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