Workshop essentials

Workshop essentials

Hi and welcome to my workshop. Every pattern has a list of tools that you need to build that particular project. In this article I would like to show what I use to build my prototypes. 

I didn't take pictures of the printer and masking tape, because, well, that's obvious :) Let's start!


Stitching chisels



Stitching chisels, or stitching irons, is what I recommend to use with all my patterns. These are 5 mm Craftool diamond prong chisels, actually they are 5.2 mm, but any other brand marked as 5 mm will do. You can use french style as well, I like diamond prongs because the holes are more visible, and they are pointed right in the center so you can place them on the dots on the pattern more accurately. These were pretty cheap and I am using them for more than 4 years and I can't say anything bad about them. However, I am planning to upgrade to something fancy :) I have 1 prong too, but I almost never use it, 6 and 2 is enough.


Mallet Or Maul


 Mine isn't too fancy and I ordered it from Amazon. The aluminum handle isn't the most pleasant thing in the world (hence the leather wrap), but I had a maul with a wooden handle and it started to break with time. Some day I will buy a custom one with a handle made of leather washers. :) It's just not the first thing on the list. Oh, also the handle on this one always tends to get unscrewed, some Loctite might be needed to fix that. 

It is a question of personal preference but commonly the mallet is used for punching and the maul more for tooling leather.


Straight Edge




I have various - a few really long ones, an aluminum triangle, this one (being an inch wide it is really helpful when cutting straps, I just align it to the edge of the leather and cut, voila, I get a 1" wide piece of strap). I also have a transparent plastic triangle, that one is handy when cutting the margins of a printed pattern. 


Seam Ripper




My best friend.  When things go wrong, you are gonna need one. Tip: when using it, keep your fingers out of the way (I think I hear you saying "Thank you, Captain Obvious"). 


Rotary Cutter



This is my knife of choice - everyone has their favorite way of cutting leather, some even prefer round (or "head") knife, for me it is way too scary. Always keep spare blades, it's no fun using it with a dull blade. 





This is one of my favorite tools, too, I bought them a few weeks ago and very happy with the blades. They are around $60 and totally worth the price. For paper and other stuff I have another pair of scissors, these are exclusively for leather. 


Paper knife



 I use this one too, for certain types of job. Retracting the blade every time after you are done cutting is a very, very good habit.


Bent Pliers



 These are a nice aid when stitching through a few layers of leather, when needle sometimes is too hard to pull out. I used my multitool pliers before, but my multitool doesn't have a spring in them (important) and they're not bent (that helps a lot as well). These are just cheap ones from local hardware store.


Harness Needles 




 I like the smallest size possible because they are easier to pull through, though it can be a bit of a struggle to thread them. To make it easier, I always cut the thread at an angle (about 45º). Also, I don't like to use the needles that have wide ears, because that would make me use my bent pliers more often. Also a good idea to keep a supply of them, they bend and they break :) 


Revolving Punch Pliers




The one I use quite often when the holes are close to the edge. These are nice to use and don't require too much effort. Dual action is probably even better because if you are making a corset out of 6 oz leather you will appreciate that. I wouldn't recommend the cheap simple ones, those are tough on your hands.


Strap End Punches



Sorry for the rust folks, I live in tropical climate, it's just part of life here :) So, these are the two you will need for my patterns - the round strap end punch and the English strap end punch, both 1". They aren't cheap but totally worth it. I have to mention that the one on the left is relatively new (I used a homemade one before) and it is a Craftool, but it is slightly wider than 1" which I personally find inconvenient. I still use it but I would prefer if it was exactly 1". So take some measuring tool when going shopping to make sure it is what they say it is. The rusty one is C.S.Osborne and I can't say anything bad about it. Nice punch.


Oblong ("Bag") Punches 



These are 2 sizes you will need: 1" and 3/4". 1" is on the left, it is a Craftool and I am happy with it, it came sharp, makes a clean cut, and easy to position. On the right is a rusty Chinese monster and it will get replaced soon. I bought a set of these on Ebay dirt cheap when I just started, and they are very hard to position precisely because of their odd shape, and they don't last long (the 1" even broke). Okay, you get what you pay for :) 


Rivet Setters and Nippers



When it comes to installing copper rivets, you are gonna need these guys. In the middle is the standard C.S.Osborne setter (I use number #12 rivets with 1/2" post length, I buy them by a pound). It has the hole and the domer. The domer doesn't work for me to nicely round the "nipple" of the rivet after trimming, so I ordered a custom domer at our metal workshop with a smaller dome, that one works perfectly (and it is stainless steel, so it's fancy). The nippers are for trimming the rivet posts, those I found on the boat from previous owner. 


Hole Punches



These are, from left to right, 3/8", 1/4" and 1/8" hole punches, the latter is a handle with a set of different diameters but I use just this one all the time.


Buttonhole Punch



I don't know how about you, but I always read it wrong. This is needed when you use button studs. You can do without, but I am much happier since I bought this one because it makes it easier and better looking. The size depends on the size of your button studs. Mine is 5 mm. 


Little Anvil



This one is also custom made, it is stainless and quite heavy and I use it for installing my copper rivets. Any little anvil would do.


Burnisher and Tokonole



When I work with veg tan, I try to take care of the edges most of the time. That's all I use for that. Well, also sandpaper, I have 60 grit, and a piece of a finer one, not sure what it is maybe 180-220. 


Leather Marking Pen



I like these silver pens because they are visible on all colors of leather and easy to erase afterwards, however I don't use them on veg tan. I bought a box of them don't remember where.


Branding Iron




This is my little branding iron, I am now waiting for a new big stamp and a heat press, but with this size of the stamps the iron works quite well. My big stamp is 2" long, small one is 1". The brush came with the iron and is good for cleaning the stamps after use. There is also the handle, and I made a special tool roll for all this precious stuff. 




I have a lot more tools in my workshop, but these are the ones that I use the most. I decided not to include other hardware setters (for double cap rivets, for grommets, button studs and such) this time, because that's a question of preference and the type of hardware you're using.  


Post your comments or questions below, and see you in the next post :) 

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1 comment

Your seam ripper comment made me LOL! One day I’ll invest in a nicer bag punch, I have the same set you probably bought and I really have to wail on it to get it through even 6oz leather. Great post! You have just the right tools for making beautiful things, and helping us to make beautiful things!

Amy Kuczewski

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