Lessons in Leather-Work - I. Tools, etc.
In buying tools for leather-work the amateur will do well to get good ones. Four or five steel ones are sufficient to start work with. These are;
- a cutting knife,
- tracing tool,
- modelling iron, and
- one or more punches.
In addition it is necessary to have a black vulcanite set-square, boxwood rule, fine drawing pins, H.B. pencil, a roll of adhesive paper, tissue paper, meal filling or wax, tracing cloth—which is better than paper, as the damp leather does not affect it so much and it is more durable—and a piece of prepared leather. The tools are sold ground and polished, but they need some finishing touches before they are ready for use.
Most workers possess an oil-stone. Be warned that before using an oil-stone, you must always see that it is perfectly clean and free from grit. It is necesssary to drop on it a little fine oil—not linseed oil, as that hardens on the stone—and then rub the blade of the knife firmly up and down the stone, holding it at a slant so that the edge is wedge-shaped, as the cut made by the knife must be wider at the surface than below, to get a good clear line, and a too thin edge to the blade only scratches the leather. It is well to try the knife on a spare piece of leather, and should it drag in cutting, or the line not be clear, to rub the side that is faulty on a leather strop on which a little crocus powder has been rubbed. A strop should always be kept at hand, as it is most necessary that the knife be kept bright and sharp, for a blunt one only spoils the work.
The tracing tool should be carefully rubbed on a piece of very fine glass paper and finished on the strop, to be sure that the point is smooth and about the same size as the width of the cut made by the knife. If this point is not noted the sides of the leather in opening the cut will be pressed down and spoilt. The modelling iron also must be well burnished.
Using the leatherwork knife
The first thing to learn is the use of the knife, and odd pieces of leather are very useful for trying it on. The knife blade, which is rather like that of a penknife with the point broken off and the end sharpened again, in form of a V, must be kept quite vertical between the fingers and thumb of the right hand, and one finger of the left hand used to guide and push the blade along the line.
To start the cut one must press the thick back edge firmly into the leather through about one half of the thickness and cut from the worker. In lifting the knife at the end of a line or to turn the leather, it should be pressed in firmly so as not to let it slip off or mak. a poor line. If care is not taken it will not be easy to start again in the same place, and a second cut leaves a fine strip of leather that can never be got rid of in the after part of the work. Until the pupil is quite perfect in the cutting, it is no good beginning on a good piece of leather, or attempting to finish a piece of work.
The next paper will be on the style of design suitable for this work and directions for starting it.