Wylee

Stamp dilemma

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So I’ve progressed to carving and tooling... I bought a cheap set of stamps on amazon and that was a mistake. Most of them I had to tune up with emery cloth..now I’m ready to buy some nicer stuff.

I have hundreds of old patterns, mostly Tandy and a lot of floral and Sheridan. I figured I’d get the craftool line (to match the patterns) but have read they are junk.. 

At any rate I will be spending about 100$ at a time. Looking to get the most useful stamps first then fill in the blanks as I go. 

PS Tandy is selling most of their stamps for 5.99$ right now.....I know I know I really want the Barry King stuff but not sure I can afford it at the moment.

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Lol to be clear what stamps should I get first and should I buy the craftool stuff or save my money for Barry? 

Im chomping at the bit and want to get started!

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For starting traditional floral work, you need a set of the following (as listed in Al Stohlman's Leatherwork Manual from 1969):
Camouflage, pear shader, beveller, veiner, seeder, and backgrounder. 
Now the difficult part is figuring out where to go from there, since each of these come in a dizzying variety of sizes (large, small, figure, etc.) and textures (smooth, lined, checked, ribbed, etc.) Since you are learning, you won't need 8 bevellers at the start (4 smooth of different sizes, and 4 checked in different sizes.)
Most of us started with the basic set, and then picked up additional tools only as we needed them for a specific project (mulefoot, pebble backgrounder, different border designs, most of the figure carving tools, etc.)

As to whether you should go immediately with the Barry King tools... I don't have the expertise to answer that question (or the budget for those Cadillac tools, either!) :-)
Perhaps you should spend the money on better knives, rather than carving tools, at the moment. I understand the difference between a cheap swivel knife and a good one can make a lot of difference. 
And make sure you understand how to correctly case your leather, or else the tools won't work right and your frustration level will rise, as you can't figure out if the problem is you, the knife/tool, or the leather. 
 

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When your skills are held back by the tools you use, its time to consider buying better tools if they are available and noticeably better

Finer tools may add a tiny bit to your work but skill add far more and is far more important 

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Tandy tools went from being good to bottom of the barrel for many years.  Now, in the face of some of the crap coming at us out of China, they're not looking so bad again, particularly for the price.  Tandy's pro line are good for the price.  Many of the regular Tandy craftools are perfectly serviceable and great to learn with.  Some are fine to continue with!

The quality of some tools is more critical than others.  For example basketweave and geometric tools need to be aligned just right, so better quality tools are a must for those.  others need to make very crisp impressions, so quality is more important there.  Bevelers, and some others aren't so critical and less expensive tools work well from the get-go.  

Additionally, the tools you choose will depend on your personal tooling style.  But you can't really know YOUR style until you've done some work.  My suggestion is to start with inexpensive tools until you know which ones you use all the time, and then slowly replace those with better.  The exception being those above geometrics, etc. where inexpensive tools will just lead to frustration.

- Bill

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15 minutes ago, billybopp said:

The exception being those above geometrics, etc. where inexpensive tools will just lead to frustration.

I totally agree. I bought some really good geometric stamps from @arbalet12 Sergey Neskromniy. His gear is CNC machined in brass or stainless steel, so the impressions are sharp and accurate. Tool prices start around $15USD IIRC.

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Leatherworkers visiting the Stohlman museum sometimes comment on how primitive the tools Al used were. Some were home made, yet he produced gorgeous work that still makes people shake their heads at its artistry and craftmanship.

My tools are mostly Tandy, and I've only ever had to return one tool because the stamp had a burr on it. Recently, I bought a large lot of used tools that included many of the older Tandy tools, which are supposed to be superior to the ones they produce today. I found out that due to their age, that wasn't necessarily so. Some of the old tools, due to wear and tear, weren't quite as sharp as the newer ones.

The tools I've had the most trouble getting a good impression from are some of the larger figure stamps. They need a much heavier blow than the smaller tools to make an impression on the leather. This flower stamp, for instance, is one that doesn't make a good impression:  https://www.tandyleather.com/en/product/w532-craftool-flower-stamp

The tools you'll need depend a lot on what sort of work you do. I don't enjoy basket stamping, for instance, so I don't buy those tools. I do mostly floral carving and figure carving, so I need mainly bevelers, shaders, camo tools, seeders, mule foots and figure tools.

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Thanks all, I think I will start with the Tandy line then. I will be able to buy a bigger lot at one time with their prices. Also I do have a good swivel knife at the moment...I don’t know the brand but the guy I got it from said it’s top of the line from 1968. Lol. Pretty sure I’ll end up with the king knife at some point anyway. 

My art is mostly low brow but I’m in love with the western tooling of days past. 

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10 hours ago, Wylee said:

Thanks all, I think I will start with the Tandy line then. I will be able to buy a bigger lot at one time with their prices. Also I do have a good swivel knife at the moment...I don’t know the brand but the guy I got it from said it’s top of the line from 1968. Lol. Pretty sure I’ll end up with the king knife at some point anyway. 

My art is mostly low brow but I’m in love with the western tooling of days past. 

Once you find your own personal style of tooling - or even if you like tooling, it can be worth upgrading tools.   The nice thing about having a collection of lesser tools, too, is that the ones that don't fit your style STILL get occasional use, and you'll have them for those rare times!  

As for swivel knives, as long as the body fits your hand and operates smoothly, they're pretty much all fine.  The blade is the part that makes a difference, and as long as that gets sharp and doesn't need excessive sharpening that's good to go too.  

-Bill

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Yes, my swivel knife is a Tandy that came with a beginner's kit. I sharpen and strop it every time I sit down to carve, and don't think I've ever found it needed resharpening before I was done with the carving. Most projects just aren't that big, unless you're making saddles or very large items.

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I'm a big fan of the older Craftool stamps for most stamps. Specifically pre 1969 Craftool stamps. Over the years I've purchased a tremendous amount of stamps, 99% of which I don't need but I enjoy collecting them. The older craftool stamps IMO opinion were just made better. I haven't searched for any in a long time as I hardly ever have time to tool anything anymore but when I used to but I would go on eBay and search "Vintage craftool stamp lot". This will probably bring you a couple hundred listings varying in size from 2 stamps for a few bucks to hundreds for thousands. So...due diligence. Many sellers will call any craftool stamp vintage because they know it is worth more if vintage. If you can not see the name and numbers on the stamp in the photos ask the buyer what the name says exactly. If the name on the stamp says Craftool Co. USA or Craftool USA it is post 1969. The pre 69 tools will say Craftool Co and either just a number (pre 63) or Craftool Co with a letter prefix and number (63-69).

 if you go this route check the pictures for nice clean heads on the stamps. There are plenty to be found.

Exceptions to this for me is I like Barry King basket weave stamps and I am also a Fan for Sergey for geometrics and stuff you just can't find anywhere else.

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Man you folks are awesome! Thanks for the additional info. I am making a list and will place an order soon. I’ve even debated selling some traps to fund this new hobby. Fur prices are down and I’ve switched jobs...may not have the time this year to be out on the line.

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