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About the Leather-working SIG

John Norine ( @jnorine on Talk ) is the current Leather-working SIG Leader.

Jorge Soto ( @webdevel on Talk ) is the Leather-working SIG Leader emeritus.

The Leather-working SIG is for DMS Members who are interested in all aspects of working with leather. We have a wide range of skills from absolute beginners to artisans. With the help of our instructors, we provide several Intro to Leather-working classes, as well as Project classes each month. Please see the Calendar to register for these classes.

Leather-working SIG Goals

  1. Maintain the quality of our existing tools by regularly monitoring the leather-working cabinet and reporting missing/damaged tools.
  2. Train Members on the safe and proper use of our tools during Intro to Leather-working and Project classes.
  3. Acquire tools as the opportunity arises and funds are available.
  4. Encourage leather-working by offering skills based project classes.

Meeting Minutes

File:Leather SIG meeting 6-14.pdf June 14th: Monthly SIG meeting

Tools and Supplies

Leather-working Cabinet

All tools and supplies are located in the leather-working cabinets in the Creative Arts Studio.

Leather-working Cabinet

General use access to the tools and materials in the leather-working cabinets requires training. There are two ways to gain access to the cabinet.

  1. Complete Intro to Leather-working: Intro to Leather-working covers the safety topics that grant a member access to the cabinet. It also covers introductory information about leather use, the tools in our cabinet, and their use. It does not teach skills. This class is recommended to anyone interested in leather, and what we have available at DMS. The Intro to Leather class is always free.
  2. Complete a Leather-working Project Class: Starting in 2018, all Project Classes cover the safety topics that grant a member access to the cabinet. Project classes teach skills, specifically around creating an item. These classes are great for learning how to work with leather, and you walk away with something you made. There is typically a nominal fee that covers the cost of materials used.

Visit the Calendar to register for classes.

Sewing Machines

The leather sewing machines (Pfaff 130 and the Rex 607) are available for member use, however, additional training is required. Please see the Calendar for classes or contact @webdevel on Talk.

Pfaff 130 Rex 607 Thor GA441
Thor GA441.jpg

Supplies and Consumables Cost

Leather Hardware Container
Leather Hardware is available for purchase in the 2nd leather-working cabinet.

We have several sizes and types of rivets, snaps, and Chicago Screws available for Members to use. Please pay for items you use with the Square kiosk in Creative Arts. Offering this variety only works if Member pay for what they use, even if it's less than a dollar because it adds up quickly.

We have the hand press dies for all hardware listed below.

Consumable Cost Location
Hand Stitching Thread

Ritza 25 (Tiger Thread) Red, Black, Brown, White

$0.07 per yard Sewing Tub in Leather Cabinet
Chicago Screws

Brass and Nickel Plated in 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" sizes

$0.20 each Yellow Stanley Organizer in Leather Cabinet

Brass, Nickel Plate in small, medium, and large sizes

Small: Cap 1/4" (6 mm), Post 1/4" (6 mm), Base 1/4" (6 mm)

Medium: Cap 5/16" (8 mm), Post 5/16" (8 mm), Base 5/16" (8 mm)

Large: Cap 5/16" (8 mm), Post 1/2" (13 mm), Base 5/16" (8 mm)

$0.05 each any size Yellow Stanley Organizer in Leather Cabinet
Segma Snaps

Nickel Plate

Segma style snaps. Line 16. 3/8" (1 cm) cap diameter.

$0.25 each Yellow Stanley Organizer in Leather Cabinet
Line 20 Snaps

Brass, Nickel Plate, and Copper

3/16" (0.5 cm) post for 5-7 oz. leather. 7/16" (1.1 cm) cap diameter.

$0.50 each Yellow Stanley Organizer in Leather Cabinet
Line 24 Snaps

Brass, Nickel Plate, and Copper

5/16" post for 8-10 oz. leather. 9/16" cap diameter.

$0.50 each Yellow Stanley Organizer in Leather Cabinet

Leather Projects / Templates

The table below links to leather project pages. Each page lists the materials and tools needed to make the project and contains the Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files that can be used to create your own templates.

Leather Project Difficulty Completion Time Notes
Clam Shell Zipper Pouch Beginner 90 minutes -
Coin Pouch Beginner 30-60 minutes -
Dopp Kit Intermediate 90-120 minutes External Link to tutorial
Field Notes Cover Beginner 120 minutes -
Traditional 4 Slot Wallet Beginner 60-90 minutes -
Midori Style Notebook Beginner 60-90 minutes -
No Sew Medieval Belt Pouch Beginner 60-90 minutes -
Leather Pen Sleeve Beginner 60-90 minutes Either Veg-Tan or Chrome leather

Beginner: Requires no previous leather-working experience.

  • Intermediate: Requires knowledge of special tools and their use.

Making Templates

Download the files from the project page and extract them from the zip file.

  • The quickest and cheapest option is to print to paper, then trace the template directly on the leather.
  • Use the vector file to laser cut the template on chipboard, wood, or acrylic.
  • 1/16 or 1/8 acrylic is the best option as it will last the longest and not wear out like chipboard will.

Please see the Go/No-Go List of Materials prior to cutting to make sure your leather type is approved.

Leather Suppliers

This list is here for convenience and reference. DMS does not have any kind of pricing agreement with any of the suppliers listed.

Leather Suppliers List


YouTube Notables

General Information


While there are many natural tanning methods for various types of leather utilizing tanning agents including urine, brains, kidney, animal tallows, fish oils, eggs, sour milk, acorns, yucca, cactus seeds, wild rhubarb, ashes, decayed wood and corn meal. Modern tanneries typically adhere to a few standard methods:

Leather finishes that CAN be cut using DMS Laser:

  • Vegetable Tanning: Vegetable materials derived from tree bark and various other plants are used in the tanning process.

Leather finishes that CANNOT be cut on DMS Laser!

  • Chrome tanning: This process uses soluble chromium salts, primarily chromium sulfate, to tan the leather.
  • Alum Tanning: Leather primarily used for lace and occasionally latigo is tanned with colorless aluminum salts.
  • Chrome Oil Tanning: Leather is chrome tanned and then treated with oils to preserve the leather and add some water resistance.
  • Veg Chrome Re-tanning: Leather is vegetable tanned and then re-tanned in chromium salts giving it a satin finish.
  • Chrome Veg Re-tanning: Leather is chrome tanned and then vegetable tanned. This is the normal tanning process for latigo.

Weight Conversions

Ounces Millimeters Inch Fraction Inch Decimal Irons
1 .4 1/64 .015625 .75
2 .8 1/32 .031250 1.5
3 1.2 3/64 .046875 2.25
4 1.6 1/16 .062500 3
5 2 5/64 .078125 3.75
6 2.4 3/32 .093750 4.5
7 2.8 7/64 .109375 5.25
8 3.2 1/8 .125000 6
9 3.6 9/64 .140625 6.75
10 4 5/32 .156250 7.50
11 4.4 11/64 .171875 8.25
12 4.8 3/16 .187500 9
13 5.2 13/64 .203125 9.75
14 5.6 7/32 .218750 10.5
15 6 15/64 .234375 11.25
16 6.4 1/4 .250000 12
Example Project uses by weight

1 oz – linings

2-3 oz – linings, molded or embossed items

3-4 oz – embossed items, light billfold backs small clutch or garments

4-5 oz – billfold backs, masks or clutches

5-6 oz – small cases and notebook covers

6-7 oz – carved handbags, camera cases and journal covers

7-8 oz – narrow belts, knife sheaths and small holsters

8-9 oz – belts, holsters and saddle bags

9-10 oz – heavy holsters and belts over 1 ½” wide

Cuts of Leather

Cuts 77.jpg


  • Aniline: Dyes and finishes that contain no pigment. When used on leather they provide a rich, clear stain that allows the natural character of the article to be seen. Organic synthesis of coal tar produces the oily liquid used in creating the dyes and resins.
  • Bark tanned: Leather which has been vegetable tanned mainly using the tannins contained in tree bark.
  • Bridle leather: Firm, rich-colored leather with enough oils to withstand weather.
  • Buffed leather: Leather from which the grain is removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder. This process is used in correcting or altering grain.
  • Cementable: Refers to leather(s) that can be glued as a means of final attachment during the construction of leather goods.
  • Combination Tanned: Leathers that are tanned using both chrome and blends of vegetable extracts along with emulsified or unrefined oils and waxes.
  • Cordovan leather: See Shell.
  • Corrected Grain: Leather that has been sanded to make its surface more uniform and often referred to as top grain and it is lacking an intact full grain surface. These leathers are usually heavily pigmented.
  • Cowhide: Term specifically applied to leather made from the hides of cows , although the term is sometimes used loosely to designate any leather tanned from the hides of bovines.
  • Double back: A hard-to-find cut offering maximum usable area with virtually no waste and excellent strap/belt yield.
  • Drum dyeing: The application of dyestuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum and tumbled to allow for full dye penetration into the fibers of the leather.
  • Emboss: To give a flat piece of leather a pattern or texture that stands out in relief through pressing with tremendous pressure. Sometimes leather is embossed to make it appear to be a different type of leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern onto cowhide.
  • Fat Liquored: Leather that has been nourished and conditioned with emulsified oils.
  • Fat Wrinkle: Wrinkles in the grain of the leather caused by fat deposits in the animal that create beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation leather.
  • Finish: Generally defines a surface application on the leather to color protect or mask imperfections. More specifically, it refers to all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.
  • Full Grain: Leather that has its surface left completely intact, showing all natural characteristics of the hide. The grain layer or dermis has not been altered.
  • Grain : The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, cell, wrinkles and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather.
  • Hand: A leather industry term used to describe the feel, i.e. the suppleness or fullness of the leather. Typically, soft, medium and firm.
  • Hand Glazed: Leather that has been polished with a glass rod.
  • Harness leather: Stuffed with heavy tallows for exceptional weight, thickness, ease of cutting, durability and weather resistance.
  • Hot Stuffed: Leather that has been nourished and conditioned with unrefined oils and greases. This is achieved without the use of water and emulsifiers and gives a much richer feel. Hot stuffed leathers typically exhibit pull-up and good water resistance.
  • Hump Hole: A narrow slit occasionally found along the spine. The holes are cut into the hides of certain breeds of steer naturally having a hump on the spine so that the hide will lay flat during tanning. Typically, this slit does not have much effect on overall yield.
  • Kip or Kipskin: Leather prepared from the skin of immature grass-fed bovines, intermediate in grade between calfskin and cowhide. It dyes and stamps well.
  • Latigo : Soft supple combination tanned leather typically used in applications where strength and rigid pliability are required.
  • Mill-Dyed: Leather that has had dyes introduced during retannage.
  • Milling: The leather is tumbled or “milled” in a large drum to produce a softer more pliable product. Many times this operation can create a slight pebble appearance on the surface of the leather. Occasionally, leather is double-milled where this process is repeated making the leather even softer and almost the feel of deerskin.
  • Naked Leather: A dyed leather which has received no topical application that may mask or alter the natural state of the leather.
  • Nubuck : A leather where the surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft, velvety effect. This differs from suede in that suede is created from the flesh (inner) side of the a hide and nubuck is created using the grain (outer) side allowing the leather to retain its strength and durability.
  • Pasted: Leather that has been dried by fixing it to large glass or ceramic plates. Pasted leathers have very little stretch and smooth grain character.
  • Patent: Heavily finished leather with a highly lustrous baked enamel appearance.
  • Patina: A natural characteristic that develops on full grain leather through normal use over a period of time.
  • Perforated leather: Leather that has been die-cut with a pattern of small holes.
  • Pull-up: The temporary lightening of certain leathers when folded. This is caused by displacing oil and waxes.3
  • Rawhide: Untanned or partially tanned hides. Normally, rawhide has had the hair removed.
  • Retan: To impregnate and condition preserved hides with additional tanning liquors and extracts in a secondary tanning process.
  • Shearling: The skin from a recently sheared sheep or lamb that has been tanned and dressed with the wool left on.
  • Shell: A dense fiber structure found only in the hindquarters of equine animals. Leather made from this tissue is referred to as cordovan or shell cordovan. It is very strong and durable and utilizes a unique splitting and tanning technique making it very prized and costly.
  • Shrunken Grain Leather: A full, natural grain leather which has been shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain character of the leather.
  • Side: Half of a hide cut along the spine.
  • Skirting: Refers to heavy cuts of vegetable tanned leather used mainly in saddle making.
  • Skive: To shave, slice or divide by peeling leather into a thinner layer by means of a skiving knife or splitter.
  • Sole bend: Cut of leather taken from the best portion of the hide as this extra thick leather features a firm (hard) tannage designed especially for shoe soles.
  • Suede: A fibrous leather, typically made from the reticular part of the hide.
  • Sueding: The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to give a velvet nap effect. The resulting leather is not called suede but nubuck or grain sueded leather.
  • Tannin: Any of the various solvent, astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.
  • Temper: Defines the pliability or softness of leather:
  • -- Firm - leather with hard or rigid characteristics with little flexibility such as leather used in belts and strapwork
  • -- Regular – leather is slightly firm but not rigid and when worked displays smooth even folds such as shoe leather
  • -- Mellow – leather is very limber and pliant with no snap when worked and tends to lack firmness as in hand bag leather
  • -- Soft – leather that is extremely flexible and pliant like that used in garments and upholstery
  • Toggled: Leather that has been air-dried after being stretched on a metal screen and clamped into place.
  • Trim: The removal of the outer edges of the hide not suitable for making leather.
  • Upholstery Leather: A general term for leather processed for many uses including furniture, automobile, aircraft and architectural applications.
  • Vegetable Tanned: A tanning method that employs vegetable liquors derived from tree barks. This method of tanning is very traditional and takes longer to achieve than chrome tanning. It generally produces a leather with greater body and firmness than the more general method of chromium tanning.
  • Weight: Also referred to as thickness or substance. Leather is generally sold in ounces or millimeters, and in increments of ½ oz or 0.2 mm, respectively. For example, 5 – 5 ½ oz (or 2.0 – 2.2 mm) is a typical footwear weight produced.
  • Wet Stuffed: Similar to fat liquored, wet stuffed leathers are nourished and conditioned with emulsified heavier oils and waxes.