Book Review: Leathercraft Tools, How to Use Them, How to Sharpen Them, by Al Stohlman

image We all know how important it is to have the right tool for the job. However, if you don’t know the proper way to use them or how to care for them, at best, you will waste time and material. At worst, you could suffer a painful or permanent injury.

Al Stolman’s Leathercraft Tools is a must have for any leathercrafter. This 97 page book is packed with illustrations and pictures of almost any hand tool you will ever need for leathercraft, detailing its use and care. This book covers knives, punches, rivet setters, bevelers plus many more. Also in this book are tips on how to modify tools to make them work best for you as well as adapt some for leathercraft, such as making a lacing awl from a screwdriver. The illustrations clearly depict the proper use of the tools. If this book is not in your library, it needs to be.

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Not Making a Mess (or Easy Clean Up)

Dying or gluing your projects can create quite a mess that can be difficult to clean up—maybe even impossible. If you have a wooden work surface, oil or spirit based dyes can’t be removed, while water based dyes can stain the surface if not cleaned up right away. And have you ever tried to remove contact cement from a work bench?

Spreading out newspaper can prevent some messes, but there is a better way: a glass table top. Yup, works like a champ! Dye can easily be cleaned up with water, rubbing alcohol, or glass cleaner (depending upon what type of dye is being used). To clean up glue, wipe up what you can and wait for the rest to dry, then use a razor blade scraper to remove the rest of the glue. If I have been using antiquing, I will sometimes use a scraper to clean that up as well and follow up with glass cleaner.

Use the biggest piece of glass that you have space for. If you have very limited space, a 24″ round table topper can be picked up for around 15 bucks. If you’re lucky, you can score a glass table top at a thrift store, a garage sale or on Freecycle. If you have a large enough work surface, the glass from an old sliding glass door is great: just knock off the aluminum frame and you will have a glass surface long enough for dying belts.

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Craft Tip: Belt Template

Most of us, when we first start out in leather craft, begin by making wallets and other items from kits and belts from belt blanks that already have the snaps attached and the buckle tongue slot cut out. Then, as our skills increase, we decide to take the plunge and buy a side of leather and start cutting out our own items rather than using a belt blank or a kit. Belts are usually one of the first items that we attempt to make from “scratch”. It is very satisfying and in the long run much cheaper to do it this way than to use a blank.

After I had made several belts I realized that much of the layout is repetitive regardless of the size, type or width of the belt. You always have to make a tip end and a buckle end. So, I decided to make a template to reduce the amount of time spent laying out a belt. Mine is made from ¼” plexiglass. As you can see from the picture, plexiglass belt templateit has seen a lot of wear and tear, but the measurements are still accurate and it is still functional. Other suitable materials would be plywood, fiberboard, heavy cardboard, or any other firm material.

The drawing above gives you the dimensions that I have settled on over the years. You can alter these to fit your own methods. For example, some folks like to allow one inch between buckle holes rather than the 3/4” that I use. Others might use a rounded tip instead of the style on my template. Also, note that these dimensions are for a center bar buckle. If you are making a belt using a western style or trophy buckle they will be different depending on the length of the buckle.

I hope you find this tip useful.
Yours Aye,

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Projects: Sugar Skull flask

This gallery contains 3 photos.

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Custom Project: Celtic Cat Knotwork Purse

This gallery contains 4 photos.


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Items Made by Leather Skills

Be sure to check our Web Store for finished items made by Greg Manning. They can be found in the “Made by Leather Skills” category. This section will feature standard items that Greg has already made or can make to order, as well as some special project pieces he’s made for sale.

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Process Tip: Snap Setting

When setting snaps on your project, it is important that the tube of the snap’s cap (the post) is the proper length to ensure that the snap setter can roll (or mushroom) the tube correctly to have a good looking fastener that won’t come apart. If the tube is too long, it will end up bending and the snap will be misaligned. If the tube is too short, the snap setter won’t be able to roll the tube enough to keep the snap from failing and coming apart.

To shorten a too long tube, start with a piece of thick scrap leather with a hole punched in it to accommodate the tube. Grab your gloves, safety glasses and rotary tool with its cutoff wheel. Insert the snap’s tube into the punched hole with the amount to be cut off protruding from the grain or hair side of the leather (because it is smoother). Use the cutoff wheel to cut off the desired amount of the tube. For this, I find it is much easier to mount the rotary tool in a vice and hold the scrap of leather. It is not necessary to clean up the cut marks on the tube. The snap setter will take care of them when mushrooming the tube. 

Cutting Off Tube


If the post is too short, some of the project’s leather can be removed from around the punched hole ensuring that there is enough tube available for proper snap setting. I find that the easiest way to do this is with a French Edge Skiving Tool. Simply place one heel or edge of the skiver in the hole for the snap on the flesh side and rotate the skiver, removing the required amount. Make sure to keep your non working hand behind your tool hand to prevent injury if the tool slips.

Removing Excess Leather


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Tool Tip: Strap Cutter

Workshop Hazard

I’ve had my strap cutter hanging on my workshop pegboard in the same spot for years. Recently, as I was reaching for a pencil in the cup sitting under the the strap cutter, I cut my arm on the exposed part of the blade. (It was just a flesh wound.) Having broken my wife’s “Rule Number One” (Don’t hurt her husband!), it suddenly became obvious to me that I needed something to cover the blade and prevent that from happening again.

Swivel knife blades come with little caps, but none of those fit the strap cutter blade. I looked around the garage and found that I had some of those little caps that fit over the end of the coated wire shelves in the closets of our house. (Lots of them, in fact, because we’ve got those shelves in nearly every room.) And happily, these extra caps fit the blade perfectly. Problem solved. 

Disaster Averted

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The Webstore is Live!

Visit the Webstore today! We’ve got nearly 200 products on site and available now, some of which the manufacturer has discontinued and are only available in limited quantities. More items will be added in the coming weeks, but please let us know if you’re looking for something specific. We’re always glad to help our friends and customers find what they need to complete that special project.

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Welcome to the NEW!

Hello friends and fans! We hope you like our new look and format. We will be posting about our leatherworking projects, giving tips and reviews, sharing information on other sites we like and use, and whatever else comes up.

As always, our first DVD is available on this site as well as through Our second DVD is still in the planning stages, but we hope to be filming and releasing it this year. Watch for a special announcement on that front in the coming weeks.

We will also be relaunching our webstore soon, once again giving you the opportunity to purchase the books, tools and supplies we’re talking about right here.

Put your skills to work today!
Greg and Al Manning

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