afdfirefighter

Newbie Getting Started - What Tools? What Sewing Machine? Tips?

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New to the forum, new to leather working. The picture of the radio strap is what I am going to make. I am thinking a 10/11 oz leather. Looking at options of buying it already dyed black or buying and dyeing myself. Would love input on type of leather, where to buy the most economical leather, what are the bare tools I need (letter stamps, hole punches, strap end punch, strap cutter, what edge burnisher [for dremel], edge beveler). Maul or Mallet? 

I am also looking to buy a cheap sewing machine to get started. I know it will probably only last a few months but I would like to upgrade once I get better at it. Would this sew some leather?  https://www.amazon.com/Heavy-Duty-4423-Decorative-Automatic/dp/B003VWXZQ0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1543936712&sr=8-4&keywords=Singer+4452

I know this is a lot but I greatly appreciate the help. Thank you in advance. 

image7-3-e1519924020374.jpeg

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For starters that sawing machine is no good for leather, especially that thick. If you are not planning to make a lot of it (I mean multiple pieces) I would skip the idea of using a sawing machine. It's just not worth it.

I would also advise to try and shop in person, when starting out you need to see the tools and leather with your own eyes to heave a better idea of what to expect. Maybe someone from Indiana can suggest a shop closer to you.

Look for some tutorials on YouTube how people make belts, make note of the tools they use and consider if you need them all (there is some preference for fancy tools that are not essential when just starting out). What you have on the photo are belts in essence, even the one with firefighting emblem is one wide belt wrapped around another belt.

Also, strongly advise you to make one without all the fancy tooling like letters and emblems. Basic belt making skills are what you need to master first before taking anything else.

 

 

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I would guess that most US leather companies would cut your straps to width and length for you just contact the ones on the heading

As a firefighter Tandy offer reduced rates you just need to register first

I would imagine you need the straps to break in a emergency it you get hung up on something , if so maybe a lighter weight leather 7-8 or 8-9 ounce

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Heavy duty sewing machines are not leather sewing machines.  They may be suitable for garment  and other thin leathers.  See this post

Tom

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The others have given you good advice.

Unless you're going into production your best bet will be sewing them by hand.

No domestic sewing machine is going to be suitable for thick leather.  Even if you could find one that can feed multiple layers of thick leather you will be limited by the thread sizes it can handle and the stitch lengths they are made for.

 

 

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1 minute ago, rodneywt1180b said:

The others have given you good advice.

Unless you're going into production your best bet will be sewing them by hand.

No domestic sewing machine is going to be suitable for thick leather.  Even if you could find one that can feed multiple layers of thick leather you will be limited by the thread sizes it can handle and the stitch lengths they are made for.

 

 

Thank you for all of your responses. I am not going to say "production" but I do plan to do this most evenings as a small side business. You think by hand punching the holes and hand sewing that it will be the fastest and best way to do this? There are a lot of guys using machines for these things. Maybe I need to use a thinner leather?

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If you plan to go into it as a side business then it makes sense to get a machine.  Hand stitching is arguably the best method due to the nature of the saddle stitch but it's not the fastest and it takes a lot of practice to make them look good.

Use the right leather for the job.  Others here can advise you on that far better than I can. I wouldn't use too thin a leather though.  It won't do the job it's intended for.  If you plan on selling, your product needs to be right from the start.  Using the wrong materials will eventually come back to haunt you.  

My advice on a machine would be to plan to spend significantly more for the right machine the first time instead of trying to get by with something that just isn't designed for leather.

If you go used I would recommend finding a reputable dealer in industrial machines who offers repair services too.  There are too many Craig's List and Ebay sellers out there who claim domestic machines are industrial and will sew leather.  There's also a big difference in an industrial machine set up to sew silk undergarments and one that's designed to sew leather. A good dealer won't sell you the wrong machine.

I'm the wrong guy to ask "Which Machine?"  I have experience with domestic machines but not leather machines.  Take a look around on the forum.  There's a lot of good info here on which machines are right for the job.

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To put it in fireman's perspective...

Domestic/industrial machines = entry tool.

Leather machine = Jaws of Life.

For what you are looking to make 8oz leather would be a good fit. Veg tan leather is what you are looking for. If your budget permits, just start with quality leather. Hermann Oak or Wickett and Craig are what you should be buying.

People starting out find problems with low quality veg tan and they don't realize the leather is the problem. Uneven dying and poor edge finishing come to mind. Most YouTubers never mention this. When you watch Don Gonzales slick an edge with water and a stick in two minutes, he is not using Argentinian leather from Tandy.

As for tooling and painting leather, it takes a lot of practice. Some guys jump out and do really well in the beginning. They have an already established background. Tattoo artists and model builders with air brush experience seem to make some nice stuff right off the bat.

I have been dabbling in leather as a hobby for 4 years now and I wouldn't make a chew toy for my dog with tooling on it.

There is a lot involved in this hobby. And, please don't take this the wrong way. If you want your brothers to have quality crafted items, you will need to invest some time in the craft. This is a frustrating wonderful craft that we all love. But, there are a lot of knocks getting started.

The ongoing joke is instead of buying that hundred dollar belt or wallet, I'll just make it myself.

Four years later, I have invested 3 grand and I have a wallet or belt I can live with.

YMMV. Good luck 

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4 minutes ago, bikermutt07 said:

 

The ongoing joke is instead of buying that hundred dollar belt or wallet, I'll just make it myself.

Four years later, I have invested 3 grand and I have a wallet or belt I can live with.

YMMV. Good luck 

Truth.  I have enough invested in tools to buy a car.  No joke.  It took me years to find my thing in leather work, and I am still learning every day.  

Bare minimum tools for that job are:

Quality leather.  Drum dyed black or natural.  Black is easy to dye, hard to screw up.  Hermann Oak or Wickett Craig

Needles, thread, quality diamond awl and a stitching horse will cost you WAY less than an appropriate sewing machine.  

Letter stamp set, unless you want to carve your own fonts.  

Paints and brushes in assorted colors and sizes.  Don't get caught up in the Angelus hype.  Their paint is average at best for leather.

Rivet setter

Hole punch

Glue pot and glue (Or a tube of glue if you like)

Buckles.

Good knife.  A utility knife will work here, but a strap cutter is easier.

Strap end punches unless you want to cut your own ends.  

Right there you have exceeded the cost of buying a bunch of straps form the guy who made the ones in the pictures.  Not trying to discourage you at all, just saying that its an investment to get your work anywhere near that level.  Especially with painting white on black leather.  There are some steep learning curves with all aspects of leather work, but it is very rewarding work, especially for your buddies on the job.  Good luck!

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Look around for a local (or close to local) leather shop where leather is sewn.  Guy can probably tell you where to get a GOOD sewing awl, and as long as you aren't "stepping on his toes" by offering the same thing he is, might even be willing to just sew them for you for a fee.

Anybody can tell you wonderful pretty stories  about what you "should" have, often followed by a sales pitch :o  What you have there can all be cut easily with a strap cutter, and then you would of course need a hole punch for the rivets, a rivet setter.  A bag punch or slot punch is handy for buckle slots, though it can be done with your hole punch and a knife (punch hole each end, cut out middle).  So, for those:

  • strap cutter
  • utility knife or exacto
  • hole punch sized for rivets
  • awl
  • harness needles and thread
  • paints and brushes
  • snap setter (if that's a snap on the front of the pouch)

Since those are clearly acrylic paints, it would save time and space to purchase the leather already dyed black.

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6 hours ago, bikermutt07 said:

The ongoing joke is instead of buying that hundred dollar belt or wallet, I'll just make it myself.

Four years later, I have invested 3 grand and I have a wallet or belt I can live with.

Hahahah... so true. I think I have invested about 500$ in tools (if I count in the work desk it is even more) and I am not even there to making a wallet I am fully satisfied with.

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On 12/6/2018 at 8:11 AM, JLSleather said:

Look around for a local (or close to local) leather shop where leather is sewn.  Guy can probably tell you where to get a GOOD sewing awl, and as long as you aren't "stepping on his toes" by offering the same thing he is, might even be willing to just sew them for you for a fee.

Anybody can tell you wonderful pretty stories  about what you "should" have, often followed by a sales pitch :o  What you have there can all be cut easily with a strap cutter, and then you would of course need a hole punch for the rivets, a rivet setter.  A bag punch or slot punch is handy for buckle slots, though it can be done with your hole punch and a knife (punch hole each end, cut out middle).  So, for those:

  • strap cutter
  • utility knife or exacto
  • hole punch sized for rivets
  • awl
  • harness needles and thread
  • paints and brushes
  • snap setter (if that's a snap on the front of the pouch)

Since those are clearly acrylic paints, it would save time and space to purchase the leather already dyed black.

Thank you for the reply. As everyone has said, I know this will be a learning curve and I understand I am going to have $1000-2000 in startup expense to have the right tools to do quality work. I had a very similar list to what you just said. 

  • sewing machine
  • strap cutter
  • strap end punch
  • oblong punch
  • hole punch set
  • stamps (numbers, letters, logos)
  • hardware for the different products I want to make
  • edge beveler
  • burnisher
  • maul
  • stitch groover
  • rivet setter and cutter pliers

So acrylic paints is the way to go in terms of durability and everything?

 

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On 12/6/2018 at 6:09 AM, immiketoo said:

Truth.  I have enough invested in tools to buy a car.  No joke.  It took me years to find my thing in leather work, and I am still learning every day.  

Bare minimum tools for that job are:

Quality leather.  Drum dyed black or natural.  Black is easy to dye, hard to screw up.  Hermann Oak or Wickett Craig

Needles, thread, quality diamond awl and a stitching horse will cost you WAY less than an appropriate sewing machine.  

Letter stamp set, unless you want to carve your own fonts.  

Paints and brushes in assorted colors and sizes.  Don't get caught up in the Angelus hype.  Their paint is average at best for leather.

Rivet setter

Hole punch

Glue pot and glue (Or a tube of glue if you like)

Buckles.

Good knife.  A utility knife will work here, but a strap cutter is easier.

Strap end punches unless you want to cut your own ends.  

Right there you have exceeded the cost of buying a bunch of straps form the guy who made the ones in the pictures.  Not trying to discourage you at all, just saying that its an investment to get your work anywhere near that level.  Especially with painting white on black leather.  There are some steep learning curves with all aspects of leather work, but it is very rewarding work, especially for your buddies on the job.  Good luck!

You mentioned Hermann Oak and Wickett Craig. Do you have an experience with English Briddle? I asked Weaver Leathers what my best options were for leather (pre-dyed or natural) and the two best options they gave me were below. Tandy also has 10/11 oz in store for around $145 but I am not sure what kind of leather that is. Thank you for the education on the leather here. 
 

02-360S Weaver Select English Bridle Leather – Prices 9/10oz $250.00

https://www.weaverleathersupply.com/catalog/item-detail/02-360s-9-10/black-english-bridle-leather/pr_2073/cp_/shop-now/leather/veg-tan-dyed/english-bridle

 

04-530S Weaver Select Natural Strap Leather – Prices 9/10oz $240.00 / 10/11oz $240.00

https://www.weaverleathersupply.com/catalog/item-detail/04-530s-6-7/veg-tanned-natural-strap/pr_2283/cp_/shop-now/leather/veg-tan-natural/tooling-sides

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10 minutes ago, afdfirefighter said:

So acrylic paints is the way to go in terms of durability and everything?

No, "durability" would not be a trait I would advertise with acrylics.  They adhere to a lot of surfaces and they are largely opaque, so the black underneath wouldn't "show through".  But they are ONLY adhering to the surface and are not recommended for articles getting heavy use.  For items getting USE, certainly DYES are better than PAINTS.  The trade-off is that you won't be able to use DYE on black leather, as the dye will penetrate and the leather will just show the black.  This is oversimplified, but that is the result.  Having said that, some acrylics are better than others.

12 minutes ago, afdfirefighter said:

You mentioned Hermann Oak and Wickett Craig. Do you have an experience with English Briddle? I asked Weaver Leathers what my best options were

Never used H.O. bridle, but I have used some very nice stuff from W/C.  Again, the benefit of not dyeing it, but the issue of not being able to color beyond acrylic paints (and the longevity issue that creates).

Keep in mind that if you make leather goods, then buying leather from a supplier who also makes leather goods is in effect paying your competition.

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2 minutes ago, JLSleather said:

Keep in mind that if you make leather goods, then buying leather from a supplier who also makes leather goods is in effect paying your competition.

So where you would suggest I get good quality leather? Tandy Leather is local to me but I don't mind buying online and having it shipped. Sorry for not being very knowledgeable on this...

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I don't know where YOU should purchase leather, but here are some thoughts I've had at various times, FWIW ..

Hermann Oak and W/C both have some great leather.  As a rule, an order from HO or W/C will be delayed by 2-4 weeks.

Tandy has had some good stuff too - don't count them out, especially if you are close.  If you can get something there that works for you, that's a win.  Even if it's priced $30-40 higher, you'd spend that on shipping anyway and that way you get to SEE and APPROVE the leather you'll use (a BIG plus these days) plus you don't have the wait time. 

I have also purchased some good leather from Springfield Leather in MO.  I would prefer to be there to see what Im buying, but not cost effective for me to make the trip.  Delivery is pretty quick compared to the tanneries, though there is a substantial price markup for the convenience.  Like Tandy, there is the advantage of "one-stop shopping", since you can also order your dyes, snaps, etc.. all from one place.  Purchasing one order instead of multiple orders will reduce shipping charges, though again-- if you're using dyes there will be a 'hazardous' material charge, which can be considerable.  All of which is yet another plus for your local tandy, where the "shipping" charge is the cost of gas in the truck and lunch for that cutie girl at the counter ;)

 

 

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2 hours ago, afdfirefighter said:

You mentioned Hermann Oak and Wickett Craig. Do you have an experience with English Briddle? I asked Weaver Leathers what my best options were for leather (pre-dyed or natural) and the two best options they gave me were below. Tandy also has 10/11 oz in store for around $145 but I am not sure what kind of leather that is. Thank you for the education on the leather here. 
 

02-360S Weaver Select English Bridle Leather – Prices 9/10oz $250.00

https://www.weaverleathersupply.com/catalog/item-detail/02-360s-9-10/black-english-bridle-leather/pr_2073/cp_/shop-now/leather/veg-tan-dyed/english-bridle

 

04-530S Weaver Select Natural Strap Leather – Prices 9/10oz $240.00 / 10/11oz $240.00

https://www.weaverleathersupply.com/catalog/item-detail/04-530s-6-7/veg-tanned-natural-strap/pr_2283/cp_/shop-now/leather/veg-tan-natural/tooling-sides

English bridle is great leather but because of the waxes in the leather, it makes it difficult for paint to stick.  This is why I mentioned natural leather dyed black above.  Also, regarding paints and the use of them on this item.  There is no way to get the vibrance you are looking for from dyes.  Red is possible, but in my experience, blue dyes almost never give that color vibrance unless you apply them thinned with an air brush.  You'll have to experiment with that.

Were I to make one of these, I would hand dye natural leather black, leaving all of the tooled areas un-deyed.  The reason for this is because painting white paint over black dye is fraught with problems, and you end up with a crappy looking grey until you get to about 1000 coats, which is then too thick and cracks and peels.  I tried this in my first year and ended up having to remake two barstools from the start on account of it.

Buy Golden hi-flow acrylic in Titanium white.  It is by FAR the best white acrylic available for this task.  Paint your white first, preferably with an airbrush and then add the rest of the colors.  Most acrylic paints have some translucence to them, so a white base will make those other colors pop.  Do not try spirit dye on top of paint.  Its a nightmare.  I've tried :P  I have also tried all the other paints available with a few possible exceptions.

Tandy carries some fine leather.  Their European butts are exceptionally nice, but they are a bit pricy.  

As to durability, Jeff is right that dyes are more durable, but the effect you want cannot be done only with dyes.  You will at least need white and gold paint.  Lumiere gold is a great metallic gold paint for those details BTW.  Paint it over white base as well or you'll be painting gold a long time.  Its very transparent.  Now, for a strap, if you make your tooled areas part of the strap that normally hang straight, your paint will last years, however if you apply light coats and sneak up to your desired color, there is far less chance of your paint cracking or chipping.  I have barstools in the field that have been in constant use for 6 years that still look brand new.  The trick is proper preparation as mentioned above.  Bare leather will give the paint good adhesion.  (Never oil your leather before paint by the way).  Once you have a good base, the other colors will stick quite well and not chip off.
 

Here is an example of red dye full strength with white paint applied in the method described above.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

IMG_0848.JPG

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10 minutes ago, immiketoo said:

English bridle is great leather but because of the waxes in the leather, it makes it difficult for paint to stick.  This is why I mentioned natural leather dyed black above.  Also, regarding paints and the use of them on this item.  There is no way to get the vibrance you are looking for from dyes.  Red is possible, but in my experience, blue dyes almost never give that color vibrance unless you apply them thinned with an air brush.  You'll have to experiment with that.

Were I to make one of these, I would hand dye natural leather black, leaving all of the tooled areas un-deyed.  The reason for this is because painting white paint over black dye is fraught with problems, and you end up with a crappy looking grey until you get to about 1000 coats, which is then too thick and cracks and peels.  I tried this in my first year and ended up having to remake two barstools from the start on account of it.

Buy Golden hi-flow acrylic in Titanium white.  It is by FAR the best white acrylic available for this task.  Paint your white first, preferably with an airbrush and then add the rest of the colors.  Most acrylic paints have some translucence to them, so a white base will make those other colors pop.  Do not try spirit dye on top of paint.  Its a nightmare.  I've tried :P  I have also tried all the other paints available with a few possible exceptions.

Tandy carries some fine leather.  Their European butts are exceptionally nice, but they are a bit pricy.  

As to durability, Jeff is right that dyes are more durable, but the effect you want cannot be done only with dyes.  You will at least need white and gold paint.  Lumiere gold is a great metallic gold paint for those details BTW.  Paint it over white base as well or you'll be painting gold a long time.  Its very transparent.  Now, for a strap, if you make your tooled areas part of the strap that normally hang straight, your paint will last years, however if you apply light coats and sneak up to your desired color, there is far less chance of your paint cracking or chipping.  I have barstools in the field that have been in constant use for 6 years that still look brand new.  The trick is proper preparation as mentioned above.  Bare leather will give the paint good adhesion.  (Never oil your leather before paint by the way).  Once you have a good base, the other colors will stick quite well and not chip off.
 

Here is an example of red dye full strength with white paint applied in the method described above.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

IMG_0848.JPG

Thank you for the great detailed tips. The pic below is another fire strap maker. Looks like he is painting directly over the black. You don't think this would last as long as leaving the letters undyed and coming back and painting? BTW that looks great. 

IMG_1944.JPG

IMG_1957.JPG

IMG_2011.JPG

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It may.  In my experience, paint stick better to un-Dyed leather.  I started doing it that way because I don’t like thick chunky paint like he’s using or the color bleed through that happens with dye. Some people seal the dye first and then paint, which seems to work for them.  I started with a lot of white so that never worked for me, and I arrived at my process out of necessity.

the only thing I can say is try a few ways and see what works best for you.  I took a lot of advice along the way and it’s led me to where I am now, but experience is the best teacher.  Also, thin paint is much easier to control during application.

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