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Author Topic: how to form leather?  (Read 50136 times)
United States United States

« on: August 28, 2010, 05:35:08 am »

I am new to leather working. I got my first piece yesterday. Anywho how do I form the leather so its hard and holds shape.
Dorian Ambrose
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 06:16:43 am »

There are many ways to form and harden leather. Which technique to use, depends on the leather in question and the result you want.

The simplest way is water hardening.
Simply soak your leather in water for about 15 minutes. You can now stretch and form it. Makes sure it is held in place while drying (a proper mold is the best solution).
When it is dry, it will hold the shape.

The temperature of the water is the main factor here. The warmer it is, the harder the leather will be. But the warmer it gets, the more difficult it becomes to control. At certain temperatures the leather will dry very hard and brittle, which generally is not a good thing. This happens at different temperatures depending on the type of leather.
I would recommend that you stick with cold water to begin with and experiment from there.

For armour, I have often used wax as well.
The simplest way is to take a piece that has been water hardened and place it in the oven (150-200 C usually works for me, but other people may have different experiences). Keep an eye on it.
Take it out and "paint" it with melted wax (I use bee's wax, but other types may work as well). The leather will soak up the wax. As it cools, it will stop soaking up wax. Reheat and repeat until it has soaked up as much wax as it can. Then let it cool.
This will produce very hard leather (but not brittle, if done right).

There are many more ways to do it, but these are very simple and works for most applications.
For more specialized techniques, we will need to know something about the materials you have and the result you are looking for.

Hope this helps.
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2010, 08:44:52 am »

Excellent post from Dorian Ambrose, the water hardening is probably easiest for a beginner, if you use the wax method you can also, if the leather piece isn`t too big, use a wax bath in which you melt the wax in a double boiler (a pan set over a pan of hot water) by dipping it into the hot wax.
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2010, 12:57:51 pm »

To be able to form it you want to make sure that you have veg tanned leather, other types of leather will work less well or not at all. You can also get part tanned leather which has a core of what is effectively rawhide

There are various different approaches to the wetting process, the main thing is to get it thoroughly wetted but not absolutely dripping wet . I've got got good results by the following method.

-Soak the leather in in quite warm water, about as hot as you can comfortable hold your hand in until bubbles stop forming on the surface.

-Place the leather in a plastic bag and leave overnight in a cool place. This allows any excess water to escape but stops it from drying out too much and ensures that its evenly wetted.

-Form the leather round your mold. This can be either  specially prepared mold or the object you want to form it to, suitably protected from damp if necessary. Plastic cling film works well for this. The main thing to get a good shape is to keep working it until it is fully dry, the back of a spoon can be a useful tool for this. Beware that the wet leather will mark quite easily so take care. By working gradually you can achieve surprisingly deep curves and crisp edges.

The leather will shrink somewhat during this process which can be useful in achieving a snug fit.

If you;re making something like a pouch or sheath which has several components sewn together its ususaly best to do the forming with the item assembled, although with very complex shapes you might need several forming and assembly stages. As with all leatherwork forward planning is the key.

A man of eighty has outlived probably three new schools of painting, two of architecture and poetry and a hundred in dress.
Lord Byron
Zeppelin Captain
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 07:15:21 pm »

i've had some good results from making pouches, soaking in luke warm water and then stuffing them tight with newspaper untill it dries out.


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