sinderella

How to properly cut leather strips?

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Hello, everyone!

I am so glad I have found this place as everything I did in the past, was done "testing" and looking up tutorials that do not exist.

 

I started doing some leather harnesses and accessories, and I need to cut thin strips of leather. I used scissors to begin, and then I bought a professional cutter, but the trick with the cutter is that when I have to cut long strips, the cutter tends to "slip" and if that happens the whole stripe is lost.

What are your suggestions for properly cutting leather?

 

Thank you!

Edited by sinderella

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@sinderella I hope i'm understanding correctly...Are you using a strap cutter like the below? The trick to using this is to already have a straight edge on your leather that you can work against. To get that straight edge use a sharp knife and a long ruller. Once you have a fairly straight edge, set your tool to only take about 1/4" off until you're certain that you have a perfectly straight edge. Then you can set your desired width and pull the tool along the leather to cut the strap. Make sure you're keeping the tool flush against that straight edge of the leather as you pull the tool down the length. If you allow space between your tool and the piece of leather that you're cutting, you'll have an uneven strap. Hope that makes sense!

Also here is a good video illustrating the above.

Check out my site for a free beginner's tool guide

strap cutter.jpg

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byggyns   

I just did several long straps over the weekend. The key I found was to let the handle of the tool get slightly under the edge of the leather this angles the blade very slightly toward the leather, which keeps the blade from wandering toward the edge and making the strap too narrow. too much angle will get the blade dragging, and make the edge rough. I let the cut edge of the leather stay right above my hand, just overlapping the handle by a small amount.

I was using a wooden strap cutter like the one in the picture above. I have a metal one from Osborne, but have not given that one a try yet.

I was doing 1" straps from a large side of Kodiak Leather from Tandy. The first one got a little narrow in spots, but that one had some marks from the clips the tannery used, so not a huge loss. The others were really consistent. It's not easy to cut 5 good 7' to 8' long strips, but I managed.

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Sharpening and polishing the blades for the strap cutter will help a lot.

It sounds crazy to try and sharpen a blade that small, but it is worth the effort.

I thought my cutter was junk until someone suggested sharpening the blade.

Leather work and blade sharpening kind of go hand in hand.

If you're like me it will take you a while to sort thru it and force yourself to learn. But leather is so much easier with sharp tools.

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TomG   

Try this video.  I know Chuck and he is a true master craftsman.  Pay attention to how he holds the cut strap as he pulls the cutter.  And a sharp blade is a MUST.

 

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BJP   

Practice.. and use the strap cutter slow and steady.     Do it too fast and you are no doubt going to have crooked lines here n there.   

I get it over with at the beginning and cut my whole hide into 3 different widths for my leashes and collars.  Then I hang them in order of width to relax them.  

I find that running the strap cutter steadily without stopping too much gives me better lines and straighter straps   

 

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Semi-related question... when you purchase pre-cut strips from a place like Tandy or Springfield, is there a general rule about what part of the hide they're cut from? Like are they typically from a side or belly or could they be from just about anywhere?

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catskin   

Get a proper draw gauge and a bit of practice, with my Osborne's I can run down 8 feet of hide with no problem. Wood warps with changing humidity and may not run true. Any wood one I have seen are a poor tool compared to a steel one, even the aluminum ones are nothing compared to a good steel one.

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I use the same cutter that gabby fella in the video uses.  Difference is, I pull it just as he does about the 2 minute mark, maybe enough to get an inch or so beyond the tool.  Then I come around the cutter and PUSH the cutter away from me, holding the end of the strap in the right hand and pushing the tool with the left (if facing the way he has it).

I don't sharpen blades --- they're replaceable.  But they're long enough you can use the top until less sharp, then move it down (inside the tool) and use the other end for a while.

This works fine for cutting DOZENS of straps.  If you want to cut HUNDREDS of straps, maybe a powered strap cutter with spacers is in order?

 

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I've had pretty good luck with this Tandy Lace Cutter. May not work real great with heavier leathers, but it cuts lace like a breeze.

tabletop-lace-cutter-3112-00.jpg

Edited by LatigoAmigo

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johnv474   
 

Semi-related question... when you purchase pre-cut strips from a place like Tandy or Springfield, is there a general rule about what part of the hide they're cut from? Like are they typically from a side or belly or could they be from just about anywhere?

The best quality straps would be cut parallel to the spine, ideally ending in the butt area.  However, an awful lot of very good straps/belts are cut from shoulders (second best).  I would take a strap cut from shoulders of a good quality piece of leather over the 'best' cut from a lesser grade of leather.  The worst straps would be cut low on the hide, down near the belly.  That area moves a lot when the animal is alive, and so is much less dense and is much more stretchy.  That's fine for some applications but not for straps.

 

When people sell straps/belt blanks, there is no consistent answer as to what part of the hide they are cut from.   However, long straps over six feet long almost have to be cut from sides because shoulders rarely are that wide.

 

If the strap you get has a very dense area right at the end of the strap, it is likely cut along the spine. Check the back by bending backwards to see how dense the fibers are there.   If the strap is denser in the middle area and less dense at the ends then it is likely cut from shoulders.  The ends get down to the belly area sometimes.

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On 5/2/2017 at 2:41 AM, johnv474 said:

The best quality straps would be cut parallel to the spine, ideally ending in the butt area.  However, an awful lot of very good straps/belts are cut from shoulders (second best).  I would take a strap cut from shoulders of a good quality piece of leather over the 'best' cut from a lesser grade of leather.  The worst straps would be cut low on the hide, down near the belly.  That area moves a lot when the animal is alive, and so is much less dense and is much more stretchy.  That's fine for some applications but not for straps.

 

When people sell straps/belt blanks, there is no consistent answer as to what part of the hide they are cut from.   However, long straps over six feet long almost have to be cut from sides because shoulders rarely are that wide.

 

If the strap you get has a very dense area right at the end of the strap, it is likely cut along the spine. Check the back by bending backwards to see how dense the fibers are there.   If the strap is denser in the middle area and less dense at the ends then it is likely cut from shoulders.  The ends get down to the belly area sometimes.

This is really helpful, thank you!

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The wooden strap cutter works well... until you start getting into full thickness and harness leather. The blades are disposable, best to buy a few 5 packs and keep them handy. You could very well change a blade every side and still come out ahead of the game. My blades on my old wooden cutter would give me 5 or 6 sides of 13-15oz before I knew I had to change/adjust it.

The slipping of the cutter could be three fold:

1 The side isnt properly squared. When there are deviations to the straight line you are forced to "correct" your cutter to compensate exaggerating the slight variance. 

2 You havent tightened the wing nut down hard enough. Couple that with a weak blade and the width will increase as you pull against the leather. The only time I have found myself in this position was with a weak blade with full thickness leather.

3. Slight outward pull of the cutter giving you that horrifying glimpse of daylight between the letter and the cutter handle. You know not only is the strap is wasted unless you can repurpose the good section, but you also have to spend time re-squaring the side. 

 

Funny enough, there is some 10-11oz H.O veg tanned that I have literally broken razor blades on along the back. like 2 cuts off a fresh blade broken. The heavier stuff I use tends not to give me that problem. That said I let my motorized cutter do all the talking nowadays for my strap leather... and the trusty hand cutter for the wider or narrower pieces because forget changing the spacers on that beast. :)

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Just to add my tuppence worth.   For cutting thin strips of leather, I have used several methods, including the Tandy lace cutter.    I finally plumped for the wooden strap cutter for everything. 

Personally, for thin, narrow (to very narrow) strips, I find it easier to control the cut, if I push the leather through the blade.   I use my left hand to guide the leather.

 

Edited by LumpenDoodle2

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G'Day,

Some good hints & tips in there, especially from JLS Leather about moving the blade to make it last longer.

I too have learnt to angle the cutter slightly . 

I mainly use butts & shoulders, but if the belt needs to be longer, then I use a side.

And I guess, if push comes to shove and you run out of blades, use a  ( good) pencil sharpener blade. Thats what I thought they were when I got my very first strap cutter. HA !!  

 

( P.S , I sure I saw scalloped leather blanks in a (old ? ) Tandy  catalogue  once  a long time ago ? Or,  It may have been Birdsall Leather NSW Australia , haven't seen them since. ) 

 

Handstitched :) 

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