The Leather Element: How to Calculate Length for Mystery Braid Projects

First of all, we want to thank the leathercraft community for making our recently launched project videos such a success. We’ve received positive feedback from leathercrafters around the world who are using our how-to videos to make useful, beautiful projects, and we are humbled by their kindness.

One of our most popular videos so far has been the Leather Mystery Braid Cuff. Chuck Dorsett does a great job of explaining each step in detail, and people seem to find it fairly easy to replicate; however, that doesn’t mean we don’t get questions from our viewers. To reach out to the largest amount of people, we decided that once a week, we would film and post a video that addresses a commonly asked leathercraft question. We’re calling the series “The Leather Element.”

One of the questions viewers asked us about the Leather Mystery Braid Cuff video was, “How long does my leather need to be for my bracelet?” Well, that answer depends on three factors: leather type, leather weight and the number of sets you want to squeeze into a certain distance. Let us explain.

Chrome-tanned, pull-up leather will give your mystery braid bracelet a gorgeous matte, rustic look. If you’re making a mystery braid with two sets, or 12 turns, this type of leather will stretch about 1 ½ inches for every foot. If you’re making a 6-inch (hole-to-hole) bracelet, you’re going to want to come in ¾ of an inch, which is half of 1 ½ inches. When you braid that and then stretch it, it will go back to 6 inches.

However, if we are working with, say, a 5-to-6-ounce vegetable-tanned leather, this will not stretch at all, and we will actually lose about ¾ of an inch per foot once we braid it. Let’s use the 6-inch bracelet as an example again. For this type of leather we will need to actually add about ⅜ to ½ an inch to the entire length of the bracelet for it to go back to 6 inches once we braid it. It’s also important to note that as the weight of the leather increases, the more length we will lose.

Besides type and weight of leather, we also have to factor in how many sets we want to do. One set is six turns of the braid. This looks pretty good, but in our opinion, adding two sets makes a tighter, more attractive braid. So, for example, if one set shortens the leather by about an inch, then two sets will shorten it by about 2 inches, and we have to compensate for that by adding 2 inches to our length.

This is a tough question, and leather type, weight, and the number of sets play a big role in the answer. We hope this blog post helped you with your mystery braid project, and thanks for visiting

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.