leather shapes leather shapes



  Some of the tools used in hand-crafted leatherwork 

scratch awls


English, Swiss and French paring knives

 cutting knives

clicker knife with spare straight blade

Scratch awls

Bodkin and pricker

English, Swiss and French paring knives

Cutting knives

Clicker knife & spare straight blade

Paring knife:- The English paring knife is made of high carbon steel to hold a razor edge. Overall length: 9". Edge length: 2 ¼".  It has an all steel blade and is also used in the boot and shoe trade, and is used mainly for paring down edges. With the Swiss paring knife the shape of the blade is similar to the French knife but without the handle. Overall length: 7" long, blade width: 1 ¾". Also called a skiving knife, or doling knife (doler being a French verb, meaning to "smooth").

Bodkin (or awl):- A plain, tapered, long steel spike set in a wooden handle, for making holes. The pricker (as in the illustration) is a short pointed awl used for marking out patterns etc.

French Paring Knife:- Tempered steel blade set in a hard wood handle. Overall length: 7" long. Blade length: 4", blade width: 1 ¾". A wide-blade chisel-like tool, which, because of the broad blade, is ideal for taking thin shavings off the surface of the leather by holding it in an almost horizontal position. It is also a paring knife and is used a lot by bookbinders and shoemakers.

Cutting knives:- Strong handled knives often with sickle-shaped blades, used for cutting thicker leather such as sole leather.

Clicker knife:- For cutting out heavy leather. The one illustrated is known as the American-handle knife. The handle can be unscrewed and a replacement blade inserted, either of the same shape or with a curve. The term "clicker" is supposed to have originated from the noise the blade makes when the cutting point of the knife leaves the edge of the leather and hits the board beneath.

Clicker press:- This bench-top clicker, the MA Series III press with swing-arm cutting head, (see Lucris Manufacturing Pty Ltd  and Website here. can perform many types of die cutting with steel rule dies and clicker dies. The surprising power and strength of this industrial quality clicker sets it apart from all other clickers in its class.
It can be used for leather, embroidery, badge cutting, card stock, magnetic cards, coasters, small plastic shapes, straps and belt ends, clothing, rubber, key fobs, cork, plastic, felt and many other materials.

MA Series III press

Ruggedly built with a cam-actuated mechanical advantage, it requires little effort, making its operation very easy. The swing arm provides you with a clear view of the work table (cutting board) so it's easy to see what you're doing, with the rotating head giving you easy access. Specifications :- Cutting pressure — up to 5 tons, Width — 12" (305 mm), Height — 14" (356 mm), Weight — 100 lbs (45 kg), Cutting board — 12" x 9", Machine (+handle up) — 38" (812 mm), Swing rotation — 360°, Max. cutting thickness — " (10 mm).
The cutting board is slightly larger than a standard sheet of A4 paper, so any shapes you can fit within that size can easily be cut with this tool.

a hand-operated machine for paring leather

a hand-operated machine for paring leather

a safety beveller for skiving

staple and tack lifter

a hand-operated machine for paring leather

Japanese drill punch

Brockman paring machine

P&S paring machine

Safety beveller

Staple and tack lifter

Scharf paring machine

Head knife:- The head knife is a versatile cutting tool, and is very useful for skiving. The blade easily handles all types of cut.

Japanese drill/screw punch:- The brass chuck holds one of the 7 drill bits supplied with the punch. Pressure is exerted downwards, causing the bit to spin, drilling through multiple layers of paper and board, leather etc without "snagging". The advantage of this tool is that unlike your usual plier-like punch, this one is not constrained by where you want a hole. You can drill a hole anywhere, not just the edges, by bearing down on the handle.  To compensate for the lack of leverage you do get in a plier-like punch, the shaft of this screw punch rotates as you press, neatly slicing a trim hole. The drill comes with 7 bits 10mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 35mm and 40mm. Additional bits of 45mm and 50mm are also available now. Spare sets of bits are also available. Available from: Here.

Lace cutter:- Very useful for using up the scraps of leather you always having lying about. The pictures show how it works using a piece of scrap leather about 6" x 6". First cut a small hole in the centre of the leather. Next, put the lace cutter up through the hole. Now begin to cut by pulling the cutter up against the inside edge of the hole. Once you have a piece of lace a couple of inches long, grab the end of the lace and pull firmly. As you pull the lace through, the piece of scrap will rotate around the cutter very quickly and the end you are pulling will just keep getting longer.

Lace cutter

close up of lace cutter head

Lace cutter shown going through its paces

put head of lace cutter through hole and pull against its side grab the first couple of inches of cut lace and start to pull continue to pull lace no more lace can be cut from this scrap now


How to use the lace cutter


The lace cutter, (below, left) by C S Osborne & Co, looks simple, and is simple, it cuts uniform strips (¹/8" to " wide) of suede or grain leather. Calibrated fulcrum and knife come with an easily followed instruction sheet. Extra blades available separately. Website Here.

The Australian strander/lace cutter is made of cast steel, chrome plated, with solid brass parts. It is adjustable and will cut lace up to ½ wide. Extra blades available. This little tool is a staple in most whipmakers' and leather braiders' workshops. You simply spin the wheel to adjust to the width of strand needed, feed the beginning of your lace into the strander, and start cutting. This is a simple and very useful tool that is ergonomically designed to be easy on the hands - and on the brain. Website Here.

How to use the Aussie Strander

Dene Williams Strander:-This ingenious little tool is the next generation in stranders, made by R. M. Williams' son to do all the little extra useful things you wished your old basic Australian strander could have done. With this new strander, you can now set the strand width to two different measurements, then use a special spring-loaded thumb button to gradually taper between the two widths you have selected. This is a perfect solution for dealing with stretchy areas of your hide, as well as quickly and easily tapering the strands of your overlay and bellies. The top guard is also spring loaded to lift up so that you can place the strander onto the middle of a section of lace, instead of needing to feed it all the way through from the beginning as is necessary with the other basic Australian Strander. Left-handed DW Stranders are also available. No website, but can be found here:- Dene & Maureen Williams, 276 Hodgsonvale Road, Hodgsonvale, Queensland 4352, Australia (near Toowoomba). Telephone 07 4630 9708. Email: denewhips@icr.com.au


How to use the Dene Williams Strander


lacecutter Australian Strander/lacecutter
Osborne lacecutter Australian strander/lacecutter Dene Williams strander/lacecutter

Paring machine:- This machine, designed and made by James Brockman, (I regret to say that the Brockman Paring Machine has been discontinued by the manufacturer) is simple to use and set up. It is simply screwed or clamped to your bench top and a standard razor blade is inserted between bed and platen where it automatically slots into the correct position and attitude for cutting.

There are two adjusters, one for thickness, the other for angle. The first raises or lowers the anvil adjusting its relationship to the blade according to the depth of pare required. The second rotates the anvil to correct the parallel or to achieve a bevelled or feathered cut. A groove can be pared in the leather by winding an adhesive tape strip, the width of the groove required around the anvil before making a cut in the normal way.

Using the machine is straightforward. Keeping the leather in tension it is fed over the anvil and under the blade, this removes a shaving, leaving that part of the skin an even thickness. It will accurately pare the narrowest strips, useful when doing inlay or onlay work. The machine has a generous support loop allowing large areas to be pared by making a number of parallel sweeps.

The P&S leather paring machine (available from: Here) is based on the tried and tested Brockman design. It is simple to set up and operate. The leather is pulled between the anvil and fixed blade. By raising the anvil, thin cuts can be taken until the required thickness is achieved. It is an invaluable tool for quickly preparing inlays, onlays, labels and thin leather pieces for repairs or half and quarter bindings. The machine has a large throat area to accommodate the pared leather when preparing larger pieces for full leather bindings. The anvil can also be adjusted to produce a feathered edge if required. It is sold with a spare pack of blades.

The Scharf-Fix machine, No. 2000, is an easily adjustable tool which turns paring leather into a simple routine. The machine allows for easy and accurate adjustment in terms of depth as well as the angle of the cut, without any motors or complicated mechanisms. Available from: Here. With over 50 years of use in the field, the Scharf-Fix machine sets the standard in table-top manual paring machines. The perfect tool for paring leather for inlays and onlays. The machine includes 10 blades as well as four rollers of varying widths to allow for paring of very narrow pieces of leather. Both genuine as well as generic Scharfix Blades are sold for use with this machine.

Round knife:- The round knife is an ideal cutting knife for even the heaviest of leathers. Cuts smoothly without pulling or stretching the leather.



Safety beveller:- A dependable and reliable standby. It is shaped to prevent the over-enthusiastic worker cutting too deeply. Consequently it skives leather smoothly and easily.

Staple and tack lifter:- Osborne tools from the USA are arguably the best  tools in the world and this staple and tack remover is no exception. It has a very robust handle and can be used with or without tapping it with a mallet. It will withstand any amount of twisting and turning without loosening the handle.

Strap Cutter or Plough Gauge:- Adjustable tools that are pulled so as to cut parallel strips. Accurate cutting is simple as long as an initial straight edge has been prepared. If you are making a lot of belts these tools are essential.

stitching clam spirit lamp paring knife revolving punch rawhide hammer steel rule scratch awl flat-nosed pliers pricking irons beeswax linen thread bone folder dividers harness needles stitching awls edge bevellers single creaser compass race knife clicking knife spare blades scissors strop

heavy steel rule pricking irons plough guage heavy wooden mallet shoemaker's hammer crew punches oval and round punches litho stone loop clamp boxwod burnishers cork block leather-covered bulldog clips various round punches small screw crease pricking wheels and carriage
Figure 1 Figure 2

Figure 1 shows some essential hand-tools:- 1 stitching clam, 2 spirit lamp, 3 paring knife, 4 6-way revolving punch, 5 rawhide hammer, 6 steel rule, 7 scratch awl, 8 flat-nosed pliers, 9 pricking irons no's 7 & 8, 10 beeswax, 11 linen thread, 12 bone folder, 13 dividers, 14 harness needles, 15 stitching awls, 16 edge bevellers, 17 single creaser, 18 compass race, 19 knife, 20 clicking knife, 21 spare clicking knife blade, 22 scissors, 23 strop.

Figure 2 illustrates some useful-to-have hand-tools:- 1 heavy steel rule, 2 pricking irons no's 9 & 10, 3 plough gauge, 4 heavy wooden mallet, 5 shoemaker's hammer, 6 crew punches, 7 oval and round punches, 8 litho stone, 9 loop clamp, 10 boxwood burnishers, 11 cork block, 12 leather-covered bulldog clips, 13 various round punches, 14 small screw crease, 15 pricking wheels and carriage.

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leather shapes leather shapes