"SkinsIn" Leathercrafting

Take some nice clean vegetable tanned cowhide and a little bit of understanding and discover the joy of an age old craft.

The thickness of leather is measured in 64th's of an inch and this corresponds to another measurement of weight, so the thickness of leather is described in ounces. The square foot of leather that is 7/64 of an inch thick should weigh 7 ounces and will be called 7/8 or 6/7 ounce cowhide. A good heavy belt is from seven to ten ounces in weight or 7/64" to 10/64" in thickness. The process of tooling a design into leather involves cutting into the first few ounces of thickness with a knife blade and then bringing the design into relief by stamping down into the background. Various other techniques are often applied to add relief but it is always amazing just how much a piece can come alive with so little thickness to tool. Most often the work is then transformed into a very useful and personal product. Leather goods have been valued highly for thousands of years. Think for just a moment about all those old belts, shoes and other leather stuff that you just can't seem to throw away long after you stopped using them. You can it call it an art, a craft, or just plain therapy, but the result is often something that is a pleasure to see and, even if it is not a great looking piece, it will probably work well and last a long time. Below are a few of my pieces that I have managed to keep:

If you want to see more detail just click on the image of course.

Leather Picture - Sailing Ship This carving of the sailing ship (11" x 14") was made to demonstrate how well white "Cova Dye" would stick to leather. The sails are pushed out from the back a little (embossed), but the 7/8 oz. tooling cowhide works well when there are many overlaps. The hardest part was cutting the lines. I remember using a steel ruler.
Switch Plate You may often find yourself looking for things to make from various size smaller pieces and all sizes and weights become useful for a wide variety of interesting projects This switch plate cover is a good example of a useful item which can be decorated in a wide variety of interesting styles to suit any room in the house. I have also seen metal backing applied for stiffness and 3/4 oz. used to cover an old metal plate.This cover plate (2 3/4" x 4 1/2") is made from belt weight cowhide with strips glued to the back to build it out on the edge. I believe the design is from a Tandy Doodle Page by Gene Noland..

Saddle Lamp Image This is a traditional saddle lamp that I made as a Christmas present. It is important to rubber cement the 3/4 oz. cowhide down to a lightweight tag board so it does not go all out of shape as you tool it. I used rawhide for the shade but I did not have the time to burn a scene on it. This is sure a good project to get a lot of tooling mileage out of a rather small quantity of leather. After punching holes in the rawhide, I soaked it in a bucket of water for about 20 minutes before shaping it to the frame. Don't think that you would want to soak it too long or it would stretch too much.

Pintail Ducks This carving of a pair of Pintail Ducks (9"x 12") took some special care because in is often difficult to cut two parallel line and not have them run together. If cuts do cross them, the top grain of the leather will often separate from the bottom and be rather unsightly. It is better to bevel the leather at points of intersection. Some day this should be colored but for now it is hanging on the wall with just a light coat of TanKote on it. This was also taken from a Tandy Doodle Page.


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