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Old 01-27-2011, 12:11 AM   #1
BigV
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DIY Leather

I love leather.

My creative, DIY, more-time-than-money, here, hold my beer side has long been common knowledge around here. But I have somehow become enchanted by leather. I have made a few projects by now, and I'd love to share them with you. This one here is not my first project, but it is one of the most successful toys I've made.

pic 01: First, a paper pattern. This stuff is expensive, so I'd like to make my mistakes on a paper bag first.

pic 02: Now I transfer that pattern to the leather.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:24 AM   #2
BigV
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This is very heavy, vegetable tanned leather. To get the stiffness and heft I'm looking for I needed to make it double thickness. That means I need to sew the two pieces together. To do this I have a specialized sewing awl.

pic 01: To make my stitches neat and even, I use a tool like a spur, a little spiked wheel to mark where the stitches should go. You can see the little dotted line along the handle of the paddle where I'll make my stitches. If you look carefully, you can see four or so large holes I made at the beginning with a punch. This was a good first try, but there was no way for me to make the holes go through the second layer of leather, so I quit, and just pierced both layers with the awl.

pic 02: Now I've made a couple stitches, lets' see how they work.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:35 AM   #3
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The way this works is I decide how long the line of stitches will be, say eighteen inches. I push the awl through the first hole, and pull through twenty-seven inches of thread. Now, the awl is in my right hand with the little bobbin of thread on it, and there's twenty-seven inches of thread hanging out from the first hole on the left side of the workpiece. Next, I move to the next stitch, press it through and then withdraw a little bit.

Since the thread is connected to the needle at the point, and the needle has a shallow groove in it, when I press through the first time, it pulls taught. Then when I pull the awl back, the thread's no longer under tension and a slack loop appears.

pic 01: Starting another new stitch.

pic 02: Pulling back making a little slack loop.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:40 AM   #4
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Now I'm going to make the actual lock stitch. I take the free end of the thread on the left and put it through the loop. Then I pull the awl out, leaving the loop of thread "locked" by the thread on the left. I then pull both threads outward in opposite directions, equalizing the tension so the place where they're crossed is in between the layers of leather. If I pull one too far, that side just has a flat straight thread with a little perpendicular crossing thread. Not good. So I have to pull the opposite side until it pulls the straight thread down into the stitch hole and "buries" the lock. Repeat this one million times, give or take.

pic 01: Starting the free end through the loop.

pic 02: Pulling the awl/needle back through the workpiece.
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Old 01-27-2011, 01:03 AM   #5
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Hours later, with the outside edges of my pinkie fingers raw from pulling the thread taught, I finished the stitching. I am *very* happy with the result. Having said that, now that I've done this simple project, I can see a few things I can do next time to make it even better.

First of all, I'll make a shallow groove where the dotted line of stitches will appear. This will let the thread rest below the surface of the leather, protecting the stitches from being abraded. Honestly, in this particular piece, there's no practical danger of the threads being worn down to the breaking point. But for other projects, this will make a nice difference.

Next time, I'll make a much greater effort to make my stitches enter the leather at a perfectly consistent distance AND angle. The length of the stitches is nicely consistent, but the exit point on the "back" side of the paddle is somewhat variable, making a shakier line of stitches. Functionally, fine. Aesthetically, it looks kinda country. I'll do better next time.

There are other details you can't see since I didn't bother to capture them during the build process. I put a radiused edge on the whole paddle, save the end opposite the handle. This gave it a much nicer feel and a nicer look.

Next time, I'll also burnish these radiused edges making them shiny smoooooth. Next time.

If you look back you'll see I used brown thread. I put a lovely coat of black shoe polish on this one and the thread's black now. Still looks nice though.

Next time, I'll put a hole in the handle for a hanging strap or wrist strap.

Next time, some carving or stamping.... I have *lots* of ideas for next time. Valentine's day is coming soon. Watch this space!

pic 01: The bitter (biter) end. I like this treatment of the end of the paddle. It makes a distinctive mark, and it looks surprising, like someone bit through the end of the toy!

pic 02: Wide shot of the finished project. It sure takes a nice shine, doesn't it?
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Old 01-27-2011, 08:33 AM   #6
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Oooh!
Just came here from the NSFW thread.
The toy isn't my kinda thing, but I admire the workmanship, and indeed it is a thing of beauty.
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Old 01-27-2011, 09:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sundae Girl View Post
Oooh!
Just came here from the NSFW thread.
The toy isn't my kinda thing, but I admire the workmanship, and indeed it is a thing of beauty.
SG may be holding back on ideas for it's use
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Old 04-09-2011, 01:02 AM   #8
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Ok. Time for a new project.

This is a keyfob for my girlfriend.

pic 01:
My patterns

pic 02:
transferred to the leather. This is veg tanned leather and quite thick, about a quarter inch. In fact, this piece is cut from the same piece of hide as the project above.
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Old 04-09-2011, 01:14 AM   #9
BigV
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Once the pattern was transferred to the material, I used these small chisels to cut the piece from the material.

pic 01:
Here I'm starting my cuts.

pic 02:
All done at last. This represents a lot of cuts.
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:39 AM   #10
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beautiful paddle! um, what's your address, again?
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Old 04-09-2011, 12:52 PM   #11
BigV
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloud View Post
beautiful paddle! um, what's your address, again?
Thank you, Cloud. You should definitely stay tuned.
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
I have somehow become enchanted by leather.
(smiles) you're not the first
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:46 PM   #13
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pic 01: I've learned to make sure that when I make double thickness items like this to reverse one of the patterns so I can put the flesh sides together leaving the hair sides on the outside.

pic 02: The top one will have a cutaway in the center. More chisel work.
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:52 PM   #14
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pic 01: Here's the cutaway top with the full back behind.

pic 02 : I intend to hand sew these two sides together. I have a new (to me) sewing method, different from the method used on the bitten paddle above. One of the differences is that I want the stitches to rest in a shallow recess to protect them. I'm practicing making the groove the holes and stitches will lie in.
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Old 04-09-2011, 04:01 PM   #15
BigV
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pic 01: Once I got my groove down (heh), I used this marking tool to make regularly spaced marks to guide me as I made the holes.

pic 02: I have to confess, I didn't use a hand awl for all these holes. I used my new sewing machine (deserving of a whole thread by itself--no pun intended) to punch these holes.
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