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 weaverleathersupply.com.

6 Replies to “The Leather Element: How to Calculate Length for Mystery Braid Projects”

  1. Very helpful. I have a picture of a braid or lacing technique that I cannot figure out how to do. How do contact you for possible help.

  2. Hello,
    Love your great videos on you tube!
    I have a question regarding how to stiffen leather that my be close to 100 years old.
    I have purchased an antique glider horse for my grand-daughter and the leather ears are flopping down.
    I would like to stiffen the ears straight up again but not sure how without totally replacing them.I currently have temporary toothpicks holding up the ears (See pictures)
    Any comment would be Greatly Appreciated.
    Thanks, Pete
    Please send me an email if you would like to see those pictures as I couldn’t Send them to you here

    1. Hi, a question..…….,does mystery braiding significantly reduce the tensile strength of the leather and therefore weaken it – in this instance English Bridle 50mm wide 5mm thick into five strands eg for use as a dog lead?

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