Luava leather working tools for a beginner in leather crafting
August 06, 2021

Leather working tools for a beginner in leather crafting

Leather working tools for a beginner

Are you wondering what are the basic leather working tools for a beginner? You've come to the right place as this is a post about all the necessary leather working tools for a beginner in leather crafting. Below you see a simple list of all the tools needed with a link to either an eBay or another provider. Most of the tools you can find cheap on eBay but some of the tool are worth investing a bit more.

This is a list of tools that I prefer to use - someone else might have a slightly different list of the basic leather working tools but with these tools you can easily start getting into leather crafting. The first project should be a wallet so all these tools are listed with that in mind. So let's get into it!

Basic tools

Here is a checklist of the basic leather working tools for a beginner.

  • Leather: not a tool per se but I recommend to start with vegetable-tanned Pueblo leather by Badalassi Carlo or Maya leather by Conceria Il Ponte. Ideal thickness for wallets and other small items is about 1,4mm / 3.5oz.
  • Wallet template: you might not have a design ready so print a template to practise. Stock & Barrel has many excellent digital wallet templates for you to try out. You'll need a computer and a printer for this but if you don't have them you can try some of these plastic templates on eBay.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner wallet template awl
Wallet template parts ready to be drawn on the leather by an awl.

  • Awl: for drawing the outlines of the product template to the leather for cutting. If you want save a bit money you could use a needle or something pointy. Using an awl is just much more comfortable. An awl is also used to help stitching by making the holes a bit open for the needles.
  • Cutting mat: a mat to cut the leather on. The size a5 or larger has more room to work with.
  • Utility knife: a sharp and thin blade for precise cutting + extra blades. Also available in your nearest hardware store. Hint: you can sharpen the blades many times before cutting the tip off.
  • Ruler with non-slip cork back: for cutting straight lines. Cork back makes the cutting safer as the ruler might move when using some pressure while cutting. I prefer a whole ruler, not the folding ones.
  • Leather glue: to glue leather pieces together. Remember to use glue on both sides that needs to be glued together. 
  • Glue spreader: to spread the glue evenly to the edges.
  • Binder clips or edge roller: to put pressure on the glued parts so that they really stick together. I use the roller also to flatten the stitch in order to make it flat and even. Remember to use scrap leather in all uses when using clips or roller to avoid marks.
  • Divider: this is to mark the stitching line so that your stitching will be straight. You can also use a groover which has other abilities.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner scaled divider stitching line marking tool
This scaled divider is used to mark the stitching line on the edge of the product. The scale is just for comfort.

  • Pricking iron / stitching punch: to make the stitching holes. There are round, flat/straight and flat/diagonal shaped holes to choose from. This tool is something you should invest on but if you're unsure which shape to choose order a cheap pricking iron or stitching punch on eBay first. I use Sinabroks flat/straight and round.

Luava wallet leather working tools for a beginner sinabroks flat pricking iron stitching punch
Sinabroks pricking irons and stitching punches are really high quality. They cost more but they will last much longer than a cheap one.

  • Mallet: you use this to hit the end of the punch to make the holes to the leather. This is made with hard nylon which doesn't harm your punch. Never use a metal hammer because it will "mushroom" your punch.
  • Harness needles: to stitch with. Harness needles are blunt so when you're stitching it doesn't pierce the leather (you want the needle to go through the hole not the leather). Choose the needle hole size by the thread thickness - if you use 1mm thick thread make sure the hole is larger.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner john james harness needles leather wallet waxed thread
John James harness needles are excellent for leather crafting.

  • Waxed thread: for stitching the leather parts together. Try out flat and round thread with several thicknesses to find the one(s) you prefer. I use mostly 0,8mm thick flat waxed thread.
  • Lighter: to burn the ends of the threads. Don't use a lighter that has a large flame because it might affect on the surface of the leather.
  • Bone folder: demonstration for the use of the tool:  First you glue two pockets together from three sides. Then you create the stitching line, punch the stitching holes and stitch your product together. The distance from the edge of the wallet to the stitch might be smaller than the area you spread the glue - so the glue reaches over the stitch to inside the pocket. Bone folder is the tool for you to "open" the pocket from inside by separating the glued parts from each other inside the pocket after the stitch.
  • Round ruler: make round corners for your wallet using this ruler with your utility knife. This is the cheapest way but you can also purchase a whole set for round 1/4 corner punches.

Edge finishing

If you want to take your leather crafting to a bit further edge finishing is the next step. Here is the necessary tools to do that:
  • Edge beveler: this tool removes the sharp edges of the leather. More info about using it on YouTube but it's a mandatory tool if you like your edges look more finished. You can find a cheap one like these from eBay but I would invest on a high-quality beveler.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner palosanto factory edge beveler
Kemovancraft and Palosanto factory makes one of the best edge bevelers in the world.

  • Sand paper: to make the beveled corner round and the edge smooth. This is a part where you can go nuts by using 10 different grit sand paper. I use one as I'm not a fanatic edge finisher but most common is to use 150, 600, and 1200. These you can find on the nearest hardware store.
  • Tokonole: to close the fibres of the leather in the edges and make them smooth.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner tokonole seiwa edge slicker wallet
Edge slicker is used to rub Tokonole to the edges to close the fibres of the leather and to make it smooth.

  • Slicker: this is used to rub Tokonole to the edges. Also known as edge burnishing tool.
  • Edge wax: rub this to the edges with a rug to really make the edge shine.
  • Canvas: rub the edge wax with a canvas to finish the edge. You can use a piece of an old canvas tote bag to use in this part. I use a cotton napkin.
  • Polishing compound: to sharpen your blades and in this case your precious edge beveler. Apply some compound to the flesh side of a piece of leather and slide your tool on that surface several times. After that do the same on the skin side of the leather to finish the sharpening.

Tools for a more advanced hobbyist

If you like to take this to the next level and make your crafting a bit more comfortable these are the next tools in line:

  • Logo stamp: to make your very own makers mark to the product. This is of course optional but pretty soon you want to mark your own creations.
  • Stitching pony: a tool that keeps your product in place while stitching. Cheaper models like these are also available in eBay but I've noticed that this one is the most convenient.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner dreamfactory stitching pony medium
DreamFactory makes really great and affordable stitching ponies.

  • Template weight: a heavy weight that keeps the piece of the design template in place while you're marking the templates outlines to the leather.  Basically you need something heavy that fits on top of the template that doesn't block the edges of the piece. I use an old hammer head.

Luava leather working tools for a beginner template weight
I use an old hammer head with a customized handle as a template weight.

  • French leather skiver: with this tool you make a piece of leather thinner so if the wallet has many pockets it doesn't get too thick. You can also use Japanese skiving knife but skiving with it is much more challenging.

Start leather working with a low investment

When starting leather working you don't know if you're going to love it - works with any hobby. Purchase only the necessary tools and see if you like it. I did that and now I've upgraded many of my tools but the basic tools I work with daily basis is mostly bought from eBay with couple of bucks. You will know which tools to upgrade when the time comes.

If you have any questions about leather crafting or leather working tools, please contact me and I'll try to help you as well as I can!

Juuso / Luava