Article and Video by Bruce Cheaney
Leather Tool Review, Leather tools, New, Vintage, Antique & Collectible Tools, Leathercraft Tools, Materials, Supplies.
Leather tools I use every day are very important to me and I have complied a list of the top ten leather tools that I use the most often for my leather crafting, saddle making, belt making, sheath making ect. If you are just now getting started with leather craft this list will give you some direction on what you might need for leather working tools. If I had to start over and retool my leathercraft work bench here is my choice for leather tools; 1. Leathercraft Knife (craftsman trimming knife) 2. Round Knife 3. Skife Knife 4. Saddlers Awl Haft 5. Saddlers Awls 6. CSO Western Edgers 7. Tight Corner Edger 8. Wing Dividers 9. Scratch Compass 10. Leather Working Hammer.
The following pictures show the leather tools I use every day and suits my needs, some of the tools have been modified so they perform better. It is a good idea to have a special place on your workbench for each tool to protect the points and cutting edges so they will be sharp when you need to use them.
Leathercraft knife also know as craftsman trimming knife I have also called it a midget knife with curved stubb blade I’m sure it has many names. In the old days the I.P.Hyde company made these and they also made the blades and they where great and the blades lasted longer than the ones available today. The two craftsman trimming knives pictured above came from the weaver leather company, Mt.Hope Ohio they come with a plastic handle or a wooden handle they also sell the blades, I recommend getting at least a dozen to start off with I don’t like running out so I try to keep a stock pile of them, these blades are extremely sharp right out of the package no need to sharpen, just strap it on your whet strap. I use these knives for saddle making, knife sheath making, belt and guitar strap making, and all kinds of leather craft projects.
The knife pictured above is called a round knife, this particular one is a knife I got from weaver leather and I have been using it for a while now, the thing I like about this round knife is it is thin and easy to sharpen. I can lay it down on whet rock and the edge comes in contact with the rock and the knife is easily sharpened, this knife really holds a edge meaning it stays sharp. C.S. Osborne makes two round knives they are #70 & #71 this is a good choice also, the edges are just a little thicker and you may have to hone it done to you get to the edge. There are cardboard sharpening wheels for bench grinders you can use to put a quick edge on a knife but I don’t really like using one because you can burn your edge up by getting it to hot and also it is a little dangerous if the the wheel grabs the knife out of your hands, so just to be safe just use a sharpening stone such as a Washita, soft Arkansas, hard Arkansas, black hard Arkansas or a India fine stone. I mainly use a round knife for long straight cuts, rounding ends on straps and skiving leather.
Leather tools like the hand skife are tools that I use every day the skife knife pictured above is the Tandy Leather Factory brand, I really like it a lot because the blades change out fairly easy and works good right out of the package. C. S. Osborne makes a skife knife and you can find those at weaver leather company or possibly direct from C.S. Osborne I have been using these hand skifes for years and have two on my leather craft bench at all times. I like and prefer the Schick brand injector razor blades they are the sharpest of them all but you can find them in 10, 100, 1000 packs at weaver leather or the leather factory. Have patience when learning how to work and use your hand skife and keep safety in mind. You can master the hand skife and you will be able to put a bevel on leather to give it a nice beveled edge, things I use the hand skife for are, shaving ground seats, skirt fillers, horn wraps, swell covers for custom saddles as well as turn backs on leather straps or anything that needs to be made thinner.
Leather tools review continues with C.S. Osborne & company no.145 awl haft, this is a good awl haft to have on your leathercraft work bench. It is a good idea to have at least two of these awls one with a CSO45 – 2 1/4″ length saddlers harness awl and one with a CSO47 – 2 5/8″ saddlers awl, with the bigger awl you can punch through three to five layers of leather like gun holsters and knife sheathes, with the 2 1/4″ awl it is suitable for one or two layers of leather like belts, harness, pouches, and cell phone cases. Each time you order a awl blade from a supply house you can expect a slight difference in the size due to the production run of the awl being manufactured. My Grandfather Sterling Price Cheaney used to love to sew by hand, he sewed just about everything he made by hand even though he had a harness stitcher and sewing machines. I guess it was in his blood to sew by hand, saddle making dates back to the 1850’s with the Cheaney Family. Bruce Cheaney Gainesville, Texas.
The two yellow handled awls are C.S. Osborne #4 Heavy Duty Scratch Awls the smaller one measures 5″ overall and the larger one measures 7 3/4″ overall. There are many uses for these awls I use the smaller one for the tooling and carving bench for transferring patterns to leather and rubbing out marks I need removed. The larger #4 awl I use for all kinds of leathercraft and saddle making I have nine of these on my work bench, these awls are extremely tough I put them to the test everyday and they are strong and durable. When you get a new awl like these you have to do a little bit of reshaping the tip because it is to sharp this is where a 1X42 inch belt sander will come in handy as well as a bench grinder with a 3M wheel & cotton buffing wheel with a bar of polishing rouge these items can be found at Weaver Leather or Jantz Supply as well as Ebay. I rework the awl shaft with a 80 grit sanding belt then 120 grit and then a 320 grit, shape it the way I want it to be then polish it with a cotton buffing wheel, the awls you see here have been reworked to suit my needs and will give many years of useful service.
C.S. Osborne & Co. USA Western Edgers with turned up tip are good for saddle making and leathercraft. The two western edgers pictured here are the # 133 western edger, I have used for many years and are my go to edgers anytime I need to edge leather. The sizes I use the most are the #1 & #2 I find that these two sizes work for everything I need to edge. Great for edging belts, spur straps, guitar straps, vegetable tanned leather & saddle skirting. When I need to sharpen my edgers I use a chain saw file and with a light touch just clean up the edge to make it crisp and then use emory cloth wrapped around a round rod the right size and polish the cutting edge.
The edger you see pictured here is a edger designed for tight corners this is a leather tool that I got from Weaver Leather, Mt. Hope, Ohio. I really like this tight corner edger because of the precision cutting edge and it stays shape it has good steel and is easy to maintain, I use it for real tight inside radius and have noticed it really works well on soft leather that might bunch up using one of my other edgers. The one pictured here is a #1 one that is the size I would recommend, it works very well. Other type edgers for edging leather are the Bissonette, round edger, saddle skirt, Vissard and french edger.
Leather tools like these wing dividers are a tool that I could not do without because they are easy to adjust and can be adjusted quickly and hold without slipping, as you may have noticed their is and additional thread nut for fine adjustment but I very seldom ever use this feature I keep it tightened. This is 6″ wing divider made by the C.S. Osborne & Co. Made in USA. They also make a 8″ & 10″ wing divider but I prefer the 6″ for most of my leather crafting projects because they are easy to handle and not bulky. These wing dividers are dropped forged and are made of steel, when you get a new set you may need to reshape and polish the tips because the are very sharp and tend to cut the leather surface. I use the dividers pictured here to layout borders on saddles that I am making as well as borders on belts, guitar straps, spur straps, and marking circles so they can be cut out of leather, for example the hole on a swell cover for a saddle.
The scratch compass pictured here has a number two groover, this leather working tool is just about the same size as the wing dividers I use. I have used this scratch compass since 1981 and they are a long lasting tool that will serve many more years, that is a good feature of C.S. Osborne & Co. leather tools. I use these scratch compasses for scratching the stitch groove in my saddle skirts, flank straps, flank cinches, fenders for saddles and other items like belts, guitar straps, knife sheaths ect.
You will get a kick out of where I found this leather working hammer I found this on Ebay for ten dollars it is a great old vintage leather hammer with the markings on the bottom side Montgomery Ward & Co, Dropped Forged. When I got it it was rusted so I took it over to the Bit and Spur Shop and polished it with micron sanding belts and buffed it with a cotton buff and jewelers rouge, next I put a new handle on it, the hammer head measures 3 1/2″ and has a 1 1/4″ face the handle measures 10 1/2″ and is just right for me. So it pays to take your time and look around on Ebay for leather working tools or vintage tools and hammers and you will find a gem. Bruce Cheaney Leather Tool Review, Gainesville, Texas.