Working with leather

Discussion in 'Costuming and Props' started by cyranodb, Apr 26, 2004.

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  1. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    OK...I admit I don't know the first thing about working with leather so I was hoping someone might have some ideas about working with the stuff. Firstly, what are some of the better leather dyes to work with? I have some regular sheets of plain tanned leather and I'll have to dye them a dark brown. Secondly, I'll be using Fimo or simlilar materials to make rounded semi-hemipherical parts that I will have to attach to leather belts...what type of glue would you recommend to help me attach them? Lastly, if I wanted to actually shape the leather, like if I wanted to mold it around a blaster I have to make a holster for it, how would you suggest I go about doing that?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions you can give. Hope I don't mess it it up :)

    Mike
  2. Smiling-Otter Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2001
    star 3
    Well, with any luck, you have a Tandy Leather store nearby - they're few and far between, nowdays. The Leather Factory (which bought Tandy Leather) has a good online site. Michael's usually carries some of their stuff, but the store near me doesn't have much. All these places should have books on basic leathercraft.

    I'm no expert, but making a holster involves soaking the leather so that it becomes pliable before molding it to the gun. That way, the it fits nice and snug.
  3. zhi-don_aquintas Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 17, 2002
    star 4
    i make jedi belts, but for holsters i would pm jedi loreen shadowchaser. look under EL lightsabers for her. she made a really nice leather belt with holster. she also made pouches for her jedi belt.
  4. spacelady Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 16, 2003
    star 5
    There's a page on Padawans guide to making holsters, but it's for Padmé, but I guess it could work. If you do try it, you might want to buy do a sample test first, and then once you know basicly what to do, you can do the real thing. Here's the link:

    Holsters

    I hope that helps. :)
    ~Spacelady
  5. Jayne Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2002
    star 2
    I'm working with leather right now, too, and I've hit a simmilar snag. I can't find a good tutorial on how to insert a rivet (the little metal studs that hold the pieces together) or how to buy them. I think I need the super dummies version, because the only thing I could find online was talking something about how to make nice round ends, and I need to know more than just the ends, I need to know what to get and everything. Does anyone know of a super-starter tutorial or a good starter book for the beginner?
  6. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    Wow...this is becoming more complicated that I thought it was going to be.
  7. Kai-Rhann Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 12, 2002
    star 2
    Since I have background in leatherworking (worked for Tandy Leather for 5 years, and have been leathercrafting for over 15 years) I thought I should chime in...

    For anyone wanting to make leather projects...belts, holsters, etc. ...I would really suggest the small investment of an instructional manual from Tandy Leather, The Leather Factory, or other source.

    Tandy has a couple of really inexpensive, highly useful book (booklets really) that I recomend: Basic Leathercraft, and the Leathercrafting Book. These are not very costly, in fact the more expensive one is the Leathercrafting Book, and it is $9.99. This book should cover all the basics you will need.

    Other books such as The Leatherworking Handbook are much more in depth (and expensive). At $29.99,The Leatherworking Handbook goes much further than most people are going to need, unless they are serious about getting into leahterworking as a hobby.

    These books can be found at Tandy Leather's website tandyleather.com and I encourage you to browse the books. If you have a Tandy or Leather Factory store nearby, all the better.

    Leathercrafting is something that with just a little bit of skill and study, you can accomplish great things.

    Hope that helps out some...

    ~Kai Rhann
  8. VillieGee Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 30, 2002
    star 3
    Hey. I don't know crap about how you're SUPPOSED to do leatherworking, but I did make a pair of holsters out of leather for a Tomb Raider costume for a friend. I read in the Aurra Sing bounty hunter book that you can soak the leather, then drape it over the gun and let it dry so it keeps the shape. The leather I got was way too soft for that (it was cheaper), so I used a leather awl I got from Michael's to sew a sort of sleeve that went around a Sintra core. It worked for what I was making.

    The only specific thing I can answer from your questions is that I don't think there's any kind of glue on the planet that would give you good results on leather. Anything strong enough to bind it to the leather is probably going to make it stiff and crappy looking. I would make the pieces you're making that you want to attach with a little loop on the back or a hole through it so you can stitch it on. It'll look a hundred times better.
  9. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    Wow...some really great stuff so far. I probably should get a book before I do anything and probably will. I kind of figured that I'd have to soak the leather to form it over the blaster, but I wonder how I keep the blaster from getting soaked....I suppose I can wrap it in plastic to protect it from the wet leather.
  10. Kai-Rhann Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 12, 2002
    star 2
    Actually, after "soaking" the leather (basically, just imersing it in water and removing it...just enough so that the leather fiber is wet throughout...a quick dunk lasting only about 10 seconds) you need to allow it to "case". When the leather returns to it's natural color, but is still wet, it is "cased", and the leather fiber is no longer expanding. Then you proceed with wet-forming it around the blaster. Doing this will get a better fit. Once formed, remove the blaster and dry it off. Allow the holster to dry (preferably overnight) undisturbed. Once dry, you can proceed with dying and finishing it.

    NOTE: This is for vegetable tanned leather only (also called "tooling leather"). Leathers such as latigo and other chrome tanned leathers are not the same.

    ~Kai Rhann
  11. VoijaRisa Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    can't find a good tutorial on how to insert a rivet (the little metal studs that hold the pieces together) or how to buy them. I think I need the super dummies version, because the only thing I could find online was talking something about how to make nice round ends, and I need to know more than just the ends, I need to know what to get and everything. Does anyone know of a super-starter tutorial or a good starter book for the beginner?

    It depends on what kind of rivets you're using. There's at least 3 kinds I know of.

    The first is one that just looks like a mushroom and wouldn't be the best for this task. Those are the kinds I use for holding pieces of metal together for my midieval armor.

    The second is the so called "pop-rivets" that are used in construction purposes. These would probably work a bit better but still aren't great.

    The best kind is are simple rivets that come in 2 pieces and are made of nickel. You can get them in leather stores for around $5.00 for 100 of them. There's one that's similar to the mushroom ones and another that's a cap. For these you just put it through the hole, put the pieces together and smash with a hammer.

    I don't have time right now but I have some I can take a picture of later.

    Also cyranodb, you mentioned using leather dye to get it dark brown. Why dye it dark brown? You can probably find leather that's already very dark and then don't have to worry about dying it.
  12. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    Voija,

    Well, I only wanted a couple of small pieces to make a holster and some other costume pieces but I couldn't find anyone that sold small pieces of leather that was already colored and didn't feel like spending over $100 for an entire half a cow that was already pre-dyed. Anywho...figured it would be educational anyway :)
  13. Jayne Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2002
    star 2
    Try Ebay, I know there's at least one saddle shop that sells small quantities of its scraps for 1-3$ per lot. I've gotten some nice pieces that are less than 1 square foot.
  14. AramysStrael Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 9, 2004
    star 4
    I remember watching my dad make leather belts for us boys. One of the things that he did was, as suggested already, soak the leather. Of course for his purposes all he needed to do was sponge soak the belt blanks for form them as he needed. So there is your answer for the leather forming. Now for the dye and glue...
    Any leather shop should have those on hand. I do know that here in Portland, Oregon, we do have a leather store that stocks all colors of dye, as well as leather glue. But by all means, take advantage of all the aforementioned tips.
  15. cyranodb Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 2001
    star 4
    This is some really great stuff. I think first thing I'm gonna do is get me a book on crafting leather, and then take it from there. I didn't know that they made glues specially for leather either. I was hoping something a hot glue gun or something like that would work.
  16. Kai-Rhann Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 12, 2002
    star 2
    The hot-glue gun won't do what you're wanting. In fact, glueing sculpey pieces to a leahter belt will prove rather challenging.

    For leather-to-leather bonds, I prefer either Barge cement or Tany Leather Cement. Barge is a bit stronger. And please note, when glueing leather, you glue rough-side to rough-side. If you need to glue to the smooth side you must rough it up (ie: sand it) in order to have something for the glue to "bite" into.

    If your sculpey pieces are going to be relatively small, and not terribly complex in shape, you might try an epoxy for the bond. Barge cement may not adhere redily to clay pieces, but I've never tried.

    Here are some suggestions:
    1) Make a test piece, by glueing the sculpey onto a short belt piece (perhaps 12 inche long). Once it is in place, and the glue or epoxy has set, gently test it by flexing the belt (as it would be if worn). If it survives this, you may be in luck.

    2)If it is possible to incorporate any stitches, perhaps at the "ends" of your sculpey pieces (ie: if the sculpey is of an animal, you'd stitch at the head and rump of the piece) to "encourage" the piece to stay in place. Not the best solution, but may be useful. NOTE this will depend on the size and design, may not be applicable to your situation. AND make sure the sculpey is of significant thickness so that the act of stitching does not lead to the detriment of the project.

    3)If it's feasable, you might make your pieces from something other than sculpey, that will more easily attatch: leather will bond to leather with no problem using the afore mentioned cements. Metal pieces will be easier to attatch via rivets, small stitches, or even epoxy.

    Hopefully some of that might be useful to you...

    ~Kai Rhann
  17. cyodarun Retired RMFF CR

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2002
    star 4
    I agree with the Barge cement being the best. I am not sure what you are attaching but I would consider rivets or belt loops rather than glue.

    When you are forming leather, as said, get it wet, I usually soak it for 20+ minutes in warm water, then let it sit for a bit b/4 starting to form it. (I prefer to use 4-5oz leather as it holds the form nicely, but you can use 2-3oz with decent results and it is easier to stretch) To start the form I would use the acutal object you are trying to duplicate, you may need to protect it depending on what it is made of...be careful as the products used for tanning can be hard on your skin, etc.....For my Jedi pouches I made wood forms out of 2x4's, a little glue, a dremel, and sanding does wonders.

    Depending on what you are trying to do, stretch the leather over the object as best you can,the leather store should have a small plastic tool called a bone splitter or spreader??? Get one, it is a couple bucks and is invaluable. I tack the leather down to a piece of press board or something similar (with brass tacks, as nails will cause the leather to discolor) let it dry. Then glue or stitch the pieces together. I usually let my forms dry at least overnight.


    If it is just one piece, it may be a little more tricky if you are trying to round out a piece of leather, I have used velcro, plastic or rubber clamps, and rope to hold the leather to the form while it is drying. Stretching it is most important if you are trying to round the corners.

    Not sure if this helps cyranodb but pm me if you would like to chat a bit about your project, I will help if I can.

  18. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
    One suggestion about Barge (which is fabulous stuff) -- work in a well ventilated area! It's fumey.




  19. jedimelis Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 5, 2002
    star 2
    My question is regarding leather working but not about holsters.... anyone have any experience in "tooling" the leather??? I am planning on making a tabard that requires the proper design "indentations".... If I could accomplish thise without any superexpensive tools that would be best.... I am planning on trying to use a wood-buring tool but that will char the leather....
  20. Jauhzmynn Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2002
    star 4
    Ok Rivets: The 'falt" ones.
    You can affiv thsoe one of two ways.
    1. with a hammer and an avil(SMall cylander, w/ a flat side and a concave side). That's ok, but you can end up denting a few sets of rivets before "mastering" it. I dented 7 sets. I was thakful they'er cheap and I had a packet fo 100 of them.:-D

    2. Using a handheld rivit setter. Kai Rahnn might know the gadget's proper name.
    I wish I'd had one of these.:)
    The screw back rivits are excellant fpr the knobby things on the Jedi belt.

  21. Kai-Rhann Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 12, 2002
    star 2
    As to the tooling of leather: once more I will recomend a book. Tandy has plenty of books on tooling leather. And as a note, I don't really recomend "branding" (using a wood burner)...smelly and crispy results can be attained. Besides, tooling looks much better and is easier to control the results.

    For general carving of simple geometric patterns and so forth, you might be able to get by simply with a swivel knife and a wide beveller (Craftool).

    One thing to point out, use only vegetable tanned (also called "tooling leather") for this. Vegetable tanned leahter's fiber is un-altered. Chrome tanned leathers (good for garments and such, but NOT holsters and knife cases or anything else for use with METAL objects...as chromium sulfide is the primary tanning agent) have fibers that are tightly sealed due to the tanning process used. Vegetable tanned leahters are for projects that involve tooling, carving, empossing and so forth and may be dyed or stained as you desire.

    That brings up a good thing to remind everyone about: do not dye the backside of your leather projects, just as it says on the instructions printed on the bottles of dyes and finishes. This is not a conspiracy to prevent you from having a belt that is colored on both sides. Dyes contain chemicals that can rob leather of essential oils that keep them flexible. The backside of leather is actually the subdermal layers of the skin, and is very absorbant: hence it will soak up the dye, and dry out the leather much to it's detriment...this leads to cracking and other problems (and since you should not apply a finish...as this also soaks in, and that's no fun with a finish that is, say, an acrylic or laquer base...it can result in "bleeding" of dye onto clothing).

    If you're planning tabbards, or anything that needs to remain somewhat flexible, the "weight" (industry term indicating thickness) of the leather is important... something like 2-3 ounce or possibly as heavy as 4-5 ounce leather would be okay. Mind you, vegetable tanned leathers do not behave like chrome tanned leahters in that they are "stiff" by comparison. Chrome tanned leathers are soft and pliable, even on heavy thicknesses such as 4-5 ounce (such as chaps are made from).

    Sorry so lengthy, but thought at least some of that was important...

    ~Kai Rhann
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