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I think I bought the wrong type of leather to practice on? Or....

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Or maybe I just have really crappy tools? I don't know...(To be clear, I am an absolute newbie, haven't crafted a single project yet)

Here is the leather I bought:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/8-lbs-Upholstery-Cow-Hide-Large-Scrap-Leather-Pieces-Mixed-Color-SizeandWeight/352961148768?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649

And here are the tools I currently have:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0755D1T7D/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

So...I'm even having trouble cutting the leather in a straight line (using a utility knife with a sharp blade) because this leather is incredibly flimsy (though I'll admit I have learned to work around this problem but not to the point where I would be confident in cutting into some top quality veg tanned leather)

I also can't get a straight line with the groover because once again, the leather is too flimsy, or my technique is terrible. The "guide" that is supposed to line up how far in I want the groove keeps pushing on the leather and bending it, making it impossible to get a straight line.

^I have the same problem with the edge beveler (skiver?). The leather is too flimsy, or my technique is terrible, or the tool isn't sharp enough...

I can't know any of this because I have no shop that I can go to near me to inspect leather before I buy it, and I have no leatherworking friends IRL that can test their skills on the leather that I purchased. The videos I watch on tutorials only show them working on the top shelf stuff...

https://imgur.com/a/7h9LrOD

^ That is a picture of just one of the pieces of leather I bought, which makes me really sad because there are about 10-12 pieces almost that size of all different colors for less than 30$. More than I would ever need to practice on for next to nothing price-wise.

SO...What should I do here?

Did I buy the wrong type of leather? Are my tools garbage? Is my technique terrible (well I'm sure it is), a mixture of the 3? Something else?

I need some help here because I really want to get into this, I have ideas for a ton of different projects I want to do but I really don't want to break the bank just practicing, or wasting my time and money and then end up giving up.

Thanks in advance for any responses. =)

Edited by TestTube

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That isn't the wrong leather per se, but it is the wrong leather for trying to do with it what you are trying to do with it.

It appears to be chrome tanned and thin. Use scissors to cut it or a roller blade or round knife. You can still use it for your first projects but you aren't going to get it to burnish or carve. A small pouch, perhaps a few other bits and baubles depending on how thick it is.

I'd avoid eBay leather until you can identify leather. 27 bucks for that is a bit steep IMO when you could've gotten some veg tan shipped for not too much more.

Keep playing around with it though, you will learn some stuff with it still so it isn't a waste or anything.

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10 minutes ago, battlemunky said:

That isn't the wrong leather per se, but it is the wrong leather for trying to do with it what you are trying to do with it.

It appears to be chrome tanned and thin. Use scissors to cut it or a roller blade or round knife. You can still use it for your first projects but you aren't going to get it to burnish or carve. A small pouch, perhaps a few other bits and baubles depending on how thick it is.

I'd avoid eBay leather until you can identify leather. 27 bucks for that is a bit steep IMO when you could've gotten some veg tan shipped for not too much more.

Keep playing around with it though, you will learn some stuff with it still so it isn't a waste or anything.

I actually thought this was quite cheap, 10-12 pieces that are about that size for 28.74$? I dunno heh.

Anyways, what kind of projects should I be looking to use this type of leather for, in order to practice?

And also, what kind of leather (and how much of it) would you suggest I get to practice for what I am trying to do? I supposed that I know (or, at least I should say I think) I need some vegetable tanned leather because I want to be able to stamp it, dye it if need be, I want it to be a bit stiffer, etc.

^I just don't know where I would find this without breaking the bank. Is there a such thing as lower quality (and thus lower cost), bulk vegetable-tanned leather like I described?

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I think what you are looking for is a "vegetable tan" or "veg tan" you can get a bundle of scraps to give it try any place that sells leather.  Tandy, s and t, Springfield,  weaver leather I would give frog jelly a shout.

Edited by Grumpymann

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There are two basic types of leather Chrome tanned normally used for clothing and furniture and often very flexible and Vegetable tanned (veg tan) leather which is used for a far wider range of items, including Belts, Wallets, Camera cases, Horse tack and so on, and also used for Tooling where you basically engrave leather using hand tools or stamps

I would suggest you start with a single shoulder of Veg Tan with a thickness on about 1-1.2 mm which you can use for wallets and other small items to learn on

Veg tan leather can be very thin say 0.6 mm pig skin for lining bags etc to very thick for traditional shoe soles. It can also be very soft and bend easily or stiff like thick cardboard so the best way to buy if you have a dealer near you is to look and feel before buying

Some dealers also offer economy leather which is far cheaper and often used for training, this often will have marks or bites that make it unsuitable for first class presentation but great to learn on

Hope this helps

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Here are some hopefully helpful comments, though not necessarily in perfect flowing English!

If you've bought mixed upholstery leather it's probably quite thin, say around 1mm; and also flexible, as you've discovered. That means the best you can use it for is small items like key fobs, card holders, wallets, or perhaps pouches, covers, and slips for small items like Swiss Army Knives, pens, torches/flashlights, craft knives

It won't be easy to do edge bevelling as it's so thin & flexible, so the easiest thing would be to leave that and just do a bit of gentle sanding and burnishing when you've sewn up the item

Neither would you be able to do stitch grooving. A couple of years ago I went to a lecture & demonstration by Nigel Armitage, and on his recommendation I no longer use a stitch groover, whatever the thickness of the leather. Instead I mark the line of the stitching with dividers; this is sufficient and my stitching has improved. I got my dividers from the secondhand stall at my local market for about £3

I have also changed to John James needles, which are very good yet still quite cheap You want John James Saddler's Harness Needles item code L3912 in sizes 002 and 004, which will cover most things. Get them from Rocky Mountain Leather supply or Search Google

I can't really tell from the picture, but the thread in your kit looks a bit thick, especially for the thin leather you have at the moment. Try Twist braided polyester thread also from RMLS. 

For cutting leather you need a steel ruler, which does 3 things - measuring (obviously), a straight edge for cutting against, and a clamp by holding it down firmly to prevent the leather from moving and stretching

For cutting thin leather use a rotary cutter; Olfa and Fiskars are the best known but there are others. Or heavy scissors. These tools are available from Tandy, or Search accordingly. But you can do a lot of good work with a utility knife, especially if you sharpen and strop the blade, even new ones. This reduces and polishes the shoulder of the bevel, and it slides through even better

Yes, the YT videos do use good stuff, but nevertheless there is a lot of advice & information on there. As you watch on particular items you'll see the sort of tools & techniques that are used.These two channels are often recommended - Ian Atkinson and Nigel Armitage,

Ian has a video on tools for beginners leatherwork which includes using a rotary cutter, but look at other similar videos as well. Nigel has a video on making a simple wallet which has a lot of advice & explanation

the cheapest leather is bellies or splits. Not good enough for top class work or large items, but perfectly good enough for learning; in fact many of the cheaper shop bought wallets are made from splits

Make a strop from oddments of wood & leather; this is just about the easiest piece of leatherwork you can do, and you'll use it again & again Search YT and the sharpening section on this forum; treat yourself to some proper honing/stropping compound; it's not that expensive and a small bar will last for ages

" I have ideas for a ton of different projects I want to do" -- so why don't you tell us, then we can advise you accordingly?

You will need a self healing cutting mat, get the biggest you can manage

Edited by zuludog

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19 hours ago, zuludog said:

" I have ideas for a ton of different projects I want to do" -- so why don't you tell us, then we can advise you accordingly?

Okay, so, at the moment I want to make:

  • (2) Journal cover(s) for these: http://www.nanamipaper.com/products/copy-of-seven-seas-standard-a5-blank-journal.html#reviews <- This is what actually got me started looking into leatherworking. I wanted to buy a cover for this notebook and on this same website they do sell several different brands of leather covers for this notebook but the cheapest one is 76.00$ and the most expensive is 83.00$ (USD). Both aren't even 2 square feet of leather total and are nothing special. Certainly they are high-quality leather but I mean no design, nothing, just a cover. I knew that I could make something better (in time) AND for cheaper AND feel more proud about it.
  • Individualized pen cases (I'm a fountain pen collector)
  • A larger case for 10 or 20 pens.
  • A cover for my Kindle (Ebook reader).
  • A new wallet
  • A case for my laptop

And other oddities: bookmarks, tassels, and I also want to use this as a way to give out gifts to people, but that's quite vague.

^So there you go. That's generally what I want to make at the moment. *Especially* the journal covers.

I *think* what I need to buy is 2-3oz vegetable-tanned leather. Hell, I'm almost ready to buy an entire side of it for 130$, but I have a feeling that would be a bad idea with 0 experience lol. 

I did just order a bunch of other, higher quality tools though, which has me feeling a bit weird considering I haven't made anything yet, but I'm determined to have it pay off eventually.

Edited by TestTube

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here is a chart that might be useful 

LeatherWeight-chart.jpg

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I saw that same chart which says 7oz but then I also saw another chart with different information (7oz is the highest suggestion I've seen so far) and also it's posted on nanamipaper's website that the covers that they sell that I was referring in the previous post are made with 2-3oz leather.

 ^ The top comment on this reddit post also suggests 2-3oz leather (Though someone else on there says they use 5oz, I'm so confused)

So I've got no idea what is right...

On another note though...let's say that 2-3oz leather is the proper size for a notebook cover after all. On Tandyleather.com the exact leather I want the most is offered only in 3-4oz...do you think it *really* will matter *that* much if I just go with that instead?

And if that IS okay, would it mess with my ability to make any of the other projects I want to make?

Edited by TestTube

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OK, here are some more rambling comments -

Firstly, there is a helluva lot of information on YouTube. Play around with the Search Box by putting in similar entries & categories then following the links & prompts. For example - 'making a leather journal cover'; 'making a leather notebook cover'; 'making leather book covers' There will be several videos

Similarly Search for making leather laptop/kindle/ipad/tablet/macbook covers/pen covers/pen slips/ pen rolls/card holders/wallets and there will be lots of videos. Even if they are not exactly for the item you have, the methods of construction, materials, and designs will be very similar. you just have to watch as many as you have the stamina for!

The bag of sample leather that you already have would probably be OK for pen covers, card holders, and possibly wallets. You can mix up different colours, thicknesses, and types of leather, which can be attractive. If nothing else, it will be practice, and you've gotta start somewhere

I don't know much about Nanami journals, as I don't use that sort of notebook but it seems that there are several very similar loose leaf journals on the market - Field Notes, Moleskine, Midori etc. I'm guessing that they are all made in the same way, so look at these makes as well as the one you want. You will notice that some of them incorporate a pen holder

Ian Atkinson has two good videos which look comprehensive, detailed, and straightforward to me --- Leather Build Along #3 Moleskine Cover and Leather Build Along #7 Midori Style Notebook cover

My suggestions for leather are 1,5mm  thick for pen covers & wallets,; and 2,0mm thick for notebook covers, though you can have a very slight variation. I'm afraid it's one of those things that you just have to find out for yourself

Some suppliers sell journal cover kits, which are cheaper than ready made, but easier than doing it all yourself. shop around on Google and see what you think

But before you buy anything Search YT for 'choosing leather'. There are several videos, and I think they would be useful. Phone up the suppliers and ask their advice ; after all they know their products, and it is in their own interests to help you. They may also have some cheap leather that they don't bother listing on their websites, for you to practice on

Yes, handing out bookmarks and key fobs is a good idea, and put the word around friends, neighbours, work colleagues and so on. You never know, someone might just have their Grandfather's old tools stashed away in the loft, just waiting for a good home. And when you feel you're good enough, it might bring you requests and commissions

To answer you last question, I think that 2-3oz is a bit thin for a journal cover; I'd go for 3-4oz. You could till make pen slips and card holders with 3-4oz, but it might be a bit thick for a wallet with lots of pockets

All these comments are my opinions. Before you go out and buy $100 worth of leather or whatever, leave it a few days or a week to see what other replies you get, and see what others have to say

Edited by zuludog

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Alright. Thanks, man.

And please, by all means, ramble on if you have anything else to add. You're being very helpful. =)

I will wait before I make any purchases, but what do you think yourself:

If I were to buy some 3-4oz leather to make my covers, pen holders/cases with, do you think that this thickness will be adequate for other things that I listed? Like, the cover for my kindle ebook reader? The laptop case? etc.

Edited by TestTube

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On 4/5/2020 at 3:08 AM, TestTube said:

SO...What should I do here?

Did I buy the wrong type of leather? Are my tools garbage? Is my technique terrible (well I'm sure it is), a mixture of the 3? Something else?

I need some help here because I really want to get into this, I have ideas for a ton of different projects I want to do but I really don't want to break the bank just practicing, or wasting my time and money and then end up giving up.

Thanks in advance for any responses. =)

There's always a way. I made this from just the same leather. My leather shop has a bin full of sheep/calf/goat sized leathers, mainly garment/upholstery grade And I really enjoyed designing and making this huge tote.

finished tote 002.JPG

I backed it with cheap pigskin lining and it lovely and soft. If the backing is a different colour just leave an allowance to fold the outer edges so the lining doesn't show. I even made a bag for a young lady and reversed the same leather as lining so it had a kind of suede on the inside.

Edited by toxo

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OK, here are my comments on leather thicknesses for your work -

2 - 3oz = approx 1mm for pen slips, card holders, wallets

3 - 4oz = approx 1,5mm for pen slips, card holders, wallets and smaller electronic gizmos like mobile phones and Kindle

5 - 6oz = approx 2mm for journal covers and laptop & kindle covers

I suggest you make a few things with the bag of mixed leather you already have, and see how you go on. Then buy some 2mm leather to make the journal cover, as that seems to be the thing you would most like to do at the moment; and 1,5mm leather for the pen slips 

But before you buy anything, ask the suppliers. Making covers for laptops, journals, & Kindles is very popular and they must have sold hundreds of pieces of leather for that, so tell them what you want, and they should sort you out. I only know of Tandy and Rocky Mountain Leather Supply in the USA, but others will come along and make their own recommendations

A single shoulder of each would probably be the cheapest option to start with, but the supplier might have offers or other suggestions.

Personally, I would buy ready dyed veg tan as that saves buying dyes and messing around. the disadvantage is that you have only the one colour, so it would probably be some sort of mid brown or tan, unless you have something else in mind; the websites will show the range of colours available. But as you will see on videos you could choose natural veg tan and dye it yourself, the choice is up to you

While you're waiting, get watching those videos!

Edited by zuludog

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52 minutes ago, Frodo said:

Go to this site and buy this item.   it will give you an idea of  the different size leather 

 

https://www.springfieldleather.com/2lbs-Lightweight-Veg-Tan-Scrap

Exactly what I would have suggested to practice and learn with.

If you would like some veg color options
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Assorted-Color-Veg-tan-Remnant-5LBS

Then this is some bundles we put together for just this type of thing.
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Journal-Makers-Oil-Tan-Bundle
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Special-Journal-Makers-Bundle

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The journal bundles look pretty good to me. I'd buy one of each

Oh, and it looks like I've found another US supplier

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2 hours ago, Frodo said:

Go to this site and buy this item.   it will give you an idea of  the different size leather 

 

https://www.springfieldleather.com/2lbs-Lightweight-Veg-Tan-Scrap

 

1 hour ago, TonySFLDLTHR said:

Exactly what I would have suggested to practice and learn with.

If you would like some veg color options
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Assorted-Color-Veg-tan-Remnant-5LBS

Then this is some bundles we put together for just this type of thing.
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Journal-Makers-Oil-Tan-Bundle
https://www.springfieldleather.com/Special-Journal-Makers-Bundle

Oh my, I'm so glad I signed up for this forum and asked for some help haha..

I'm definitely going to order some of one of those suggestions sometime today.

I have this image in my head of me being someone that only buys natural vegetable-tanned leather (uncolored) and just a bunch of different dyes lying around instead of buying stuff pre-dyed.

^Is there anything wrong with that like it not being cost-effective, or something else?

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32 minutes ago, TestTube said:

^Is there anything wrong with that like it not being cost-effective, or something else?

Some of the rich colors seen in vat-dyed leathers cannot be duplicated with a bottle of dye. 

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3 hours ago, TestTube said:

I have this image in my head of me being someone that only buys natural vegetable-tanned leather (uncolored) and just a bunch of different dyes lying around instead of buying stuff pre-dyed.

^Is there anything wrong with that like it not being cost-effective, or something else?

Yes, so much to learn, to do, and to try, all at once - welcome to the fun!

The two journal bundles look as though they have a good range of the usual sorts of leather colours - shades of brown, tan, possibly black and grey. I'd say start with those and see how you go on - they have, after all, been professionally dyed

If, after that, you want different colours or fancy dyeing your own you could get the bundle of natural veg tan scrap, or a larger piece for a particular job, perhaps when you've gained some experience

Incidentally, natural veg tan can look attractive if it is left undyed and just greased. It mellows to a sort of dull yellow/mustard colour

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I actually, just for now purchased only the 2lbs of light veg tanned leather scraps to mess around with. I was put off by some of the reviews for the journaling leather they had for 50 bucks. Lets see what comes in the mail and also I ordered almost 250$ worth of tools so far that I need to wait on as well so, let me see what comes in and let me see what I can do with it all and I will go from there.  I'm just going to return that original set I purchased considering I replaced just about every part in higher quality, and then some.

In the meantime, I've been watching a TON of videos (like, way more than I normally could, considering we're all locked away in our homes at the moment, at least in the USA)

Thank you guys so much for all the help, I'm already in love with this forum and I'm here to stay. If anyone else wants to chime in with an opinion or suggestion or whatever, feel free by all means, in the meantime I'm gonna do some more research and brainstorm some more project ideas. =)

Edited by TestTube

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Ha ha ha, sucker! I stepped in this trap about 6 years ago and only find myself deeper and deeper. There was just no way I was gonna pay $150 for that sheath...

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Since many others have offered you advice on leather, I will refrain to keep things simple. What I WOULD suggest, is, rather than just "USA" for your location, put your ACTUAL location so we could direct you to regional sources. Here in the Northwest we have several very good, very helpful leather dealers, and I'm sure that others have the same. So, help US help YOU. I promise not to send you spam! ;)

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On 4/6/2020 at 7:56 PM, tsunkasapa said:

Since many others have offered you advice on leather, I will refrain to keep things simple. What I WOULD suggest, is, rather than just "USA" for your location, put your ACTUAL location so we could direct you to regional sources. Here in the Northwest we have several very good, very helpful leather dealers, and I'm sure that others have the same. So, help US help YOU. I promise not to send you spam! ;)

I live in south Jersey (New Jersey) USA.

On 4/6/2020 at 8:56 AM, Frodo said:

Go to this site and buy this item.   it will give you an idea of  the different size leather 

 

https://www.springfieldleather.com/2lbs-Lightweight-Veg-Tan-Scrap

Soooo, it arrived !!!!...aaand....okay still new, don't bite my head off, but here's the quote from that link:

About two pounds of vegetable tanned leather pieces that are great for small projects like linings, wallet backs, embossing, notebook covers and much more. These are lightweight pieces (2-6 oz.) that are a mix of import veg tan and Hermann Oak leather. Naturally great for tooling. Total accumulation of pieces is roughly 8 sq. ft. of leather.

And here's what I received:

springfieldLeather.thumb.jpg.39ca4bd735bef2bc3dc2c038a1fde9a8.jpg

Okay now, what am I to expect for 22$ right?, aaand YES I did buy this to practice with and to test out different thicknesses, but you tell me, is that right there what I should have been expecting?

Basically I'm asking you guys to be angry or happy for me so I can jump on the bandwagon.

EDIT: (Let me just be clear that I wasn't expecting 8 square feet of beautiful unblemished leather, but I definitely was at least *hoping* for some pieces useable for a small project that I wouldn't want to throw away when I was done, oh well heh. The picture on the website and that picture reminds me of the McDonalds' Big Mac commercials)

Edited by TestTube

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Put it on a scale. is it 2 pounds or not? 

 

If it is 2 pounds then you received exactly what was advertised  If it is not 2 pounds call Springfield and tell them they fudged up

 

let me introduce you to some of that blemished leather

 

Looks pretty good once stained...

 

 

20200304_033853.jpg

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Alright. Until I get the rest of the tools I ordered I can't really do much for now anyway. That does look nice in your picture though so I will have to see in the future. 

I'm wondering how imperfections like this happen. Are these where the animal was bruised somehow? Or is there really no way to tell / maybe you'd have to see it in person?

It's as if someone took a hammer and smacked parts of the leather at random and/or shaved away parts on the back. I'm not even sure what I would call those "dips" in the leather...they're not just aesthetically unpleasing, they're actually like almost holes. The leather is clearly weaker at those spots, like I could easily rip them open with my bare hands and very little force if I was so inclined.

Anyways...it IS two pounds and I won't be doing any complaining to Springfield. These pieces will serve their purpose regardless. I need to buy myself some dyes now though which I was gonna do anyway.

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