Knowledge, advice and resources for making fine leather goods

How A $2 Knife Helped Me Sharpen A $50 Knife

21st March

This is part one of a short series on sharpening.

I sometimes check different leatherworking forums to see what people are doing and saw a post about someone having trouble sharpening a L’Indispensable knife. They went into detail about the different ways they had tried sharpening, they had looked at guides and videos online and tried a technique over and over but were unable to get anywhere. Their last sentence made me really feel for them. “It’s getting frustrating spending so much on a knife when at this point my $2 X-Acto knife is outperforming the $50 knife.”

I’m not sure if they bought this knife from us, but my immediate thought was to do a write up on sharpening because I really wanted to help them out. There are many articles, videos and even classes on sharpening which made me stop and think, … Read More »

5 Principles These Leather Goods Craftspeople Followed To Create Hugely Successful Companies

28th February

At Fine Leatherworking we get a wide range of customers in search of luxury quality leather working tools. We get beginners who want to do great work but don’t know where to start, and we get experienced craftsmen who are looking to improve the quality of their work.

Every once in a while however, we get a customer who is different. They’re usually older and they call because they want to talk to a person first before ordering online. They often have a very specific question about a tool or material that we have on our store. Somewhere in our conversation, they mention a company that they work at and I Google it as we are talking. That’s when I discover that this polite gentleman is the owner of a huge leather goods company. I’m always shocked when I get these … Read More »

A Nice Overview of Making Watch Straps

10th August

This Making of a Watch Strap article on is a great overview of not only making straps but also how leather is layered together on the ‘face’ and back sides.  Author Mark Bernado also covers edging and the long process to great finished edges.  It’s exactly how we finish edges and the 15+ step process is quite involved.  The results however speak for themselves.

Western Leather Academy

15th December

Award winning saddlemaker and French native, Pedro Pedrini does amazing work in custom high end saddles. His work is highly coveted by riders and ranges from saddles to silversmithing and other leather goods.

Pedro also teaches several courses in saddlemaking in Maryville, CA (about 1 hour north of Sacramento) which range from a full 10 week course to single day affairs.  Definitely worth checking out if you are interested in building saddles or other large scale leather projects.

More info can be found here at Western Leather Academy

Customer Creations November

24th November

Fantastic work by Arno

Great detail work and stitching


Pack Basket by Billy Ray




Hermes Hearts and Crafts

29th May

No doubt many of you have seen this video but for those who haven’t, it’s a great documentary on the craft of leatherworking.


Full 45 minute video at Hermes Hearts and Crafts.

Customer Creations May 2013

27th May

Customer Leathercraft creations

This one I made:

Updated Saddle Stitch Video

25th May

I received an update from Nigel who made another saddle stitch with more details.

Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. If it helps, the Saddle Stitch in More Detail covered both left and right hand stitching, also corners, back stitch and a few other bits. This video is just left handed. Have a look and see if it helps.



He also does a great job explaining the basics of using a pricking iron including how to deal with corners.

We’re proud to say that we sell the proper sized #2 harness needles he mentions, not the oversized ones other places sell.

Keep Chuggin

10th May

Just a quick post to help out some fellow leatherworkers in their project. Gibb Brownlie and Freyja Thayer have a small company that is trying to make a big offering in the form of a leather wrap for drinking vessels.  Their video on Kickstarter did a full meta in it’s Portlandia-esque style while also conveying the great attention to detail they had in every aspect of production. Here’s more from Freyja Thayer:

I’ve been working with leather for about 7 years.  I love it because it’s long lasting, durable and it smells great. Also it’s one of the few things that just looks better with age.  I have a JUKI LU-563 industrial walking foot sewing machine.  It can sew through just about anything like butter.   We hand cut our pieces with a utility knife. It can be pretty labor intensive … Read More »

Customer Creations April 2013

11th April

Photos of work from our customers.  Really nice work all!

Vergez Blanchard- hand forged leathercraft tools (photos)

6th April

The first time I saw Vergez Blanchard tools was when I started taking leatherworking classes with my teacher. I immediately noticed how nice they were. Really nice. Easy to use, sturdy build- these were not your modern stamped or die tools but a throwback to an older tradition of tool making. When we started our store and did our research, we found out how long that tradition really was. Nearly 200 years.

Although some aspects of their tool making process have changed, Blanchard’s tools are still mostly made by hand. A single tool goes through several steps includes shaping, tempering and polishing. A 10 tooth pricking iron take several hours and three people to make. We asked more about their tool forging and they were nice enough to take a few pictures:

Their forge:

Firing steel for tool making

Power hammer used to shape tool

Grinding … Read More »

Detailed Saddle Stitch For Hand Sewing Leather Video

13th March

I was getting ready to record a more detailed saddle stitch video for the blog but happily discovered that Nigel from Armitage Leather put together a nice detailed video on how to hand sew leather.  I think Nigel is left-handed so you’d reverse the technique for right handers but it is the same idea.

Super key is how the awl moves in your hand.  Until I mastered this, my hand sewing was sloooowwwww!!! Here’s the video:

Using Pricking Irons

14th February

Pricking irons (also called stitching irons) are not often used in the US so why would we add them to our store? They’re a bit on the pricier side and hardly anybody has heard of them! But those who do know about them have experienced how they produce beautiful rows of consistently spaced stitches. Pricking irons, especially Blanchard ones last a really long time if properly cared for and also save wear on your sewing awl making them a must-have if you do a lot of hand sewing.

Many leather workers use stitching wheels which are great for curves but my problem with wheels has always been marking long straight lines of stitches. For those who are new to pricking iron we thought we’d do a short tutorial on their basic use. By following these steps you’ll be able to use … Read More »

Q&A: Jerry Tolochko of Restrepo Leather

6th January

This is part of a series of posts where we interview leather goods makers from around the world. We’re reaching out to people who are part of the new generation of leather workers seeking to elevate the craft of making leather goods.

I did a phone interview with Jerry Tolochko, co-founder of Restrepo Leather.  He and his wife Robin live down in Bogota, Colombia and make a high quality line of bags for men and women.

Jerry and Robin partnered with an existing shop in Bogota where many of the artisans there have been working in leather for a long time. They have helped the store open up to the international market, particularly the US. They run the marketing, distribution and customer service for the online store as well as collaborate on the design of the products. Jerry’s first class in leatherworking … Read More »

Making a Sewing Clam

10th December

In addition to leatherworking I also do some woodworking and recently started making a full sized sewing clam to replace my go-to stitching pony.  Doing research on the web, I found a video that is a sort of documentary intro to a company that makes them in France.  The video, called ‘La Pince à Coudre‘ was made by Bastien Thomas and is very useful if you are considering making a sewing clam yourself or if you simply want to know more about how they are made.

A visit to Kyoshin Elle

7th December

Recently we went on a trip to Japan and though this was purely a family vacation, I thought it would be cool to check out some of the leather crafters in Japan.  One of the biggest advantages of working with leather in Japan is the wide availability of materials and tools. You can simply walk up to any Tokyu Hands department store and there will be an entire aisle devoted to just leather and tools.  I was in the middle of Kobe and had no trouble picking up a few tools and hardly had to go out of my way.

My favorite place though was Kyoshin Elle (協進エル), a leather store in Tokyo.  They stock tools from all over including Seiwa, Craft Sha and of course their own brand.  They have a healthy selection of leather and those very nice stamping … Read More »

Saddle Stitching Video Round Up

3rd December

Today is a round up of saddle stitching videos.  Saddle stitching is one of the strongest stitches that you can do and is much stronger than a machine stitch. Unfortunately, it also has to be done by hand.  Why is it stronger?  Barrett Alley has a nice explanation and a nifty diagram:

 When a machine lock stitch breaks, the thread on both sides on the material is loosened and the product becomes weak or falls apart. If a hand sewn saddle stitch breaks, the thread is only loosened on one side and the stitch running on the other side of the material continues to hold the materials together.

There are many techniques to doing a saddle stitch but the basic principals are the same. Two needles, doing figure eights down a line at the edge of your material.

If you’re a complete beginner, … Read More »

Parachuter Bag

5th November

A very cool bag by Aviation Luggage from Kildare Ireland. Owner Garvan de Bruir hand makes all of the items which are inspired by vintage aviation.

Source: via Sean on Pinterest

Niwa Leather

5th November

Niwa Leather is a fantastic shop in Kashiwa Chiba, Japan. They do high quality wallets, clutches and handbags finished leather on both sides and, as you can see, amazing edge work.

Source: via Fine Leatherworking

Leatherworking Classes

30th October

I like to work in many different mediums and have taken lots of classes and courses over the years in woodworking, mask carving, dance, leatherworking, you name it.  One thing that I’ve found absolutely essential to getting good at any craft is finding a great teacher.  You can look around on the internet, read books and watch videos but nothing beats the live interaction of a teacher especially in making physical things.  There are efficiencies and techniques of working that are hard to translate over a paper or digital medium and I’ve learned so much from classes but also simply watching someone who is really good at what they do work on a piece.

I’m always amazed at how fast and accurate a master craftsperson works and the benefit of learning directly from them is that you don’t have to spend … Read More »