Crafting Leather Projects That Endure with the Right Adhesive

You put hours of time and meticulous effort into your leatherwork. That’s why it’s so important to select the right adhesive for the job. Be sure to read labels closely to make sure an adhesive is compatible with leather. As you can imagine, it can be a leatherworking nightmare when you handcraft a beautiful item only to find that the glue that you used either doesn’t hold properly or alters the leather’s finish in a displeasing manner. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an adhesive appropriate for leather:

1) Look for waterproof or water-resistant formulas, depending on your project. Many of the leather projects we work on require some level of resistance to moisture. Think about the environment in which your project will be used and choose your adhesive selection accordingly. For any items that will need to withstand rugged use outdoors, look for waterproof formulas to deliver maximum durability and longevity.

2) Consider whether you need a temporary or permanent bond. Sometimes we just need a temporary bond to hold leather pieces in place until sewing is complete and choosing lightweight spray glue will suffice. Other times, we want a permanent bond that will last the life of the product. Read the label to ensure you’re purchasing the right level of hold.

3) Choose a formula that achieves the desired hold in one coat. When working with leather, you want an adhesive that gives you fast, effective results. This will help reduce the chance of the leather shifting and making your job more difficult. Some formulas can be separated with cement thinner, like our Barge All Purpose Cement, but others will be almost impossible to remove, so select accordingly!

Keeping these tips in mind will help you select just the right adhesive for your projects. It is often the culmination of small details that go into your project that determine a successful end result.

Teachable: A willingness and capacity to learn

When I think of the adjective “teachable,” I think of grade school. Whether it’s from teachers, parents or their peers, as children learn, their brains become sponges and they soak up everything they are taught; unfortunately, as we get older, we seem to become more close-minded and set in our ways of thinking. This can become a big problem if we want to pursue a new career or hobby. Being unteachable not only frustrates anyone trying to teach us but also will greatly hinder our potential to be successful.

Let’s take leathercrafting for example. There’s a lot of information to learn when you’re new to leatherwork. Learning about leather and its characteristicsproper dyeing techniques, sewing and edge work — not to mention trying to learn ways to decorate leather like tooling, carving or pyrography — can be quite overwhelming.

The cool thing about the leathercraft industry is that crafters love to share their secrets and tips to help others be more successful. If you’re new to the craft and have the opportunity, find an old-school leatherworker that you can apprentice beside. I promise that will be the best learning experience you ever have.

Other awesome sources are teachers such as Chuck, who has been working with leather most of his adult life. He not only applied all the tips and tricks he has learned over the years but also is passing them along to crafters all over the world through online videos.

The bottom line is that when we work with leather, we will undoubtedly make mistakes and mess up some projects. Luckily, if we tap into the many educational resources available to us, we can avoid a lot of mistakes and retain a little pride along the way.

Throughout life we are bound to make mistakes and bad choices because — let’s face it — we’re human; however, if we remain teachable and willing to learn, we can save ourselves a lot of headaches and be a lot more successful in the opportunities we pursue.

“The unteachable man is sentenced to being taught only by experience. The tragedy is he reaches nothing further than his own pain.” ― Criss Jami

-Marcus Miller

A Few Words of Wisdom on Selecting the Best Leather for Your Project, Part 2

In Part 1, we learned a few tips from Weaver Leather’s President Paul Weaver on choosing the right leather. From looking at stretch tolerances to considering the techniques you want to use on your project, Part 1 offered a great overview. Now we will continue with a few more points that you will want to keep in mind.

What cut of leather is best suited for your project?

The total size of your project along with the total number of individual pieces you are making will determine the cut of leather you should use. For example, I recommend sides for products with smaller straps including 12″ x 12″ patterns and items that need extra length. Backs and bends are perfect for products that require the best cut of leather and the least amount of stretch.

How much leather do I need to complete this project?

To ensure all your leather has the same weight and finish, be sure to order an adequate quantity of leather including your waste factor. Planning ahead and placing an order for all the leather you’ll need for your project at the same time will save you time and frustration in the long run. There’s nothing more annoying than getting halfway through a project and running out of materials.

By asking yourself the questions in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you’ll be well on your way to choosing the right leather for your project every time.

A Few Words of Wisdom on Selecting the Best Leather for Your Project, Part 1

When it comes to choosing the right leather, the multitude of options can seem daunting at best. We spoke with Weaver Leather’s President Paul Weaver and he recommends asking yourself the following questions to help make the leather selection process easier.

What should my finished project look like?

I recommend thinking about how the item will be used as well as the intended user. Will it be used indoors or outdoors? Will the person be using it as a decorative item or as an item that requires heavy use? This is always a great way to get some insight into how the item should perform as well as how it should look to help you choose compatible leather.

What strength and stretch tolerances should my leather have?

When strength is considered a major factor, I recommend using full thickness leathers like skirting and harness as well as unsplit latigo and bridle leathers. Unsplit leathers are stronger and do not stretch as much as split leathers because all the fibers remain intact and are not weakened by the splitting process.

Will I need to mould, case, carve, tool, stamp, curve or carve this leather?

If these techniques are to be used, a dry leather such as skirting, strap or regular bridle leather is your best choice. I do not, however, recommend using regular bridle leather for tooling.

What finish should the leather have?

When moulding, stamping or tooling, you’ll usually put your own finish on the leather. If not, you should purchase a leather that’s already been finished by the tannery. The tannery can drum dye or spray the leather in a controlled environment for a professional, consistent finish.

Will the item be used indoors or outdoors?

For products exposed to harsh conditions, I recommend hot stuffed leather like harness, latigo or “English” bridle leather. If you’re moulding or stamping or using dry leather like skirting, be sure to apply oils, dyes and dressings to help prevent drying out and cracking. For items not exposed to harsh conditions, I’ve found that regular strap, bridle and chrome tanned leather usually work fine. For extra protection and long life, I recommend using leather care and conditioning products on all items.

Coming soon, look for information regarding selecting the right cut of leather and how much leather to order in part 2 of this post.

In Both Products and Life, Flexibility Leads to Success

The character trait of flexibility means a willingness to change or compromise as a situation requires.

Throughout the 1800s, one of the primary modes of public transportation was stagecoach. In our hectic day and age, it seems like that would be a romantic way to travel. Sure it was slow-paced so a passenger could enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way, but it was also far from being glamorous. If the fear of bandits or Indian attacks wasn’t enough to keep one on edge, the bumpy roads full of potholes and rocks sure made for a lack of rest or relaxation.

Thanks to ingenuity and leather though, the quality of the ride was greatly improved. Thick leather strips called braces were strung across the chassis, and the body of the coach rode on top of these braces. It formed somewhat of a cradle for the body to swing back and forth, helping to eliminate the harsh motion influenced by the deep ruts and large rocks. Leather was the perfect material to use for braces because it was strong enough to support the weight and abuse it was subjected to, but flexible enough to absorb shock and compromise as the situation required. Other materials didn’t work because they lacked either flexibility or strength. Wood, for example, would have been strong enough but it didn’t offer the flexibility needed to cushion the bumps and provide a smooth ride.

Flexibility is a trait that can greatly influence the quality of our lives. People who are flexible are willing to compromise and understand the concept of give and take. They are also approachable and embrace change. In our fast-changing world it is important for us to practice being flexible. Otherwise, we become obstinate and stubborn and will miss out on some of life’s greatest opportunities because we are unwilling to change when a situation requires us to. As Benjamin Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

By Marcus Miller, Leathercraft Division Manager