First the disclaimer. I am self taught at leatherwork and may well be doing everything the wrong way. I have read a few books but do not always follow what they say. That said I am pretty pleased with my results and have been asked to document the way I have made the wet formed bags I do and so here is how I do it (not necessarily how it should be done)
We are going to make a wet formed bag. From the same mould I make both shoulder bags and possibles pouches. This tutorial is for the possible pouches but there is little to change for a shoulder bag.
Once finished we should end up with a bag looking like this
First thing to do is cut the piece of leather to wet form the front of the bag. In the following pictures I am working with 2.5mm leather but later we will switch to a front I formed from heavier leather (3.5mm). So what I am saying is you can do this with almost any weight of leather.
So lets cut out a bit of leather for the front. Remember to allow plenty of spare. The size you need will of course depend on the size of your form.
Once cut out I let it soak in warm water for 15 minutes to half an hour. You get a feel for when it is ready. Sometimes I will let it sit for another half hour or so before I start forming and sometimes not. So far I have never really noticed a difference in waiting.
The form is a piece of pine, shaped and varnished. I have also glued it to a backing board but you do not need to and it is probably not a help as I can’t move it about once there are too many nail holes round the edge. I also use a bone folder to help shape the leather but you can use a bit of plastic or a butter knife if you do not have one.
I will be nailing the leather in place with copper coated nails, which still stain the leather the same as steel ones. (note; this staining can be remove with Oxalic acid but as this was being stained a dark colour I did not bother)
Place the wet (cased) leather over the form and put the first nail in the centre of the bottom.
Next nail one round the corner but remember to not pull round the corner tight or you will have too much spare leather as you go up the edges. You want to use as much leather as possible between the central nail and being round the corner.
Put a few nails in the curve of the corner to hold everything in place. This sounds easy and it can be but it is quite difficult to not end up with too much leather at the sides from going to tight round the corners. Once one corner is done start on the next. You can already see that I have too much leather for the sides and it is starting to stick up away from the face of the form.
To solve this problem we cut away the spare leather at the corners. Then cut a dart at the last nail on the side. Pivot the leather round at this nail to take up some of the slack. Nail a bit further up, cut another dart and pivot some more to use up more leather. Remember to not cut in too close with the darts or you will end up with part of the dart still showing when the edges are trimmed.
Repeat this on both sides and you should end us as shown below with the leather tight across the whole form. As you can see I have ended up with leather extending over the top of the form. Rather than cut this away I slide the piece of plastic (shown on the right of the picture) under the leather, above the form, to hold this top edge out and allow me to make the bag deeper.
I use a modelling tool to ensure there is a good crease along the angle where the form meets the backboard. I tend to go over this every few hours or any time I am passing to ensure this crease stays well defined as the leather dries to shape. I also use the modelling tool to rub out any tool marks from the forming.
I leave the leather nailed to the form for a few days to make sure it is completely dry. You can remove it sooner but I have found it will tend to shrink a little if you do, so now I ensure it is completely dry.
Once dry I pull out the nails and pop the leather off of the form.
Now at this point in the tutorial we are going to switch to a piece of leather that I formed earlier. This is purely to help with timing as these steps were actually carried out while the above bag was drying. It is formed from a piece of 3.5mm grade “b” hide so it has lots of blemishes etc. I only point this out as the more observant of you will notice a big difference in the quality of the leather and I don’t want you thinking it is because the forming makes the leather blemish etc.
So off the form we trim the edges of the bag and round the corners. At this point I also shape the top end of the bag. I form a semi-circle on the sides and cut straight across from the bottom of these along the front edge. This means the sides will seal against the flap as it curls round and stop stuff falling out. I have rarely seen this done and can’t understand why. It seams obvious to me that a flat top to the sides allows things to fall out the bag.
Now place it onto the leather we will use for the back and flat so that we can mark the width of leather we need.
Cut a strip wide enough for the back and flap and hold this in place to mark where to cut for length to suit the bag.
Now mark the rounding of the flap corners with my patented circle drawing tool.
Cut the corners to shape
Then check it looks right in place
We now cut the tongue that will attach to the flap and go through the buckle. I prefer a shield shape at the top but any shape that takes your fancy should work. You could also just form the tongue into the piece of leather for the flap but I prefer the look of the sewn on one.
I cut the end of the tongue with a strap end cutter but you can just cut it to shape with a knife if you don’t have one. (a handy hint is to buy the biggest strap end cutter you can get. It will cut the end of every strap as small as you want to go so there is no need for a selection of different sized ones)
The bag will have 2 “D” rings at the back to take danglers to attach to a belt as well as a buckle on the front to hold the flap shut. These are attached to the bag with ¾ inch strips of 1 – 1.5mm leather as shown below. I use a slot cutter to cut the slot for the buckle but you can just cut this shape with a knife. (a handy tip if you are buying a slot cutter is to just buy the ¾ inch one. You will rarely need a smaller size and for larger slots you just cut then move the cutter along and cut again to extend the slot)
I also use the slot cutter to cut the slot for the tabs of leather to go through where the buckle is to be located (I also cut the slots for the “D” ring tabs but have not photographed this). You can either put the leather back on the form to give you a bearing while stamping the slot or use another piece of wood or cutting block to give a rest under the piece to be cut.
Edited by MagiKelly, 21 October 2009 - 10:06 AM.