Except with a little help from an engraving machine, there are just a few basic tools we use here at Anne Wesley to make our leather goods. This is far from a comprehensive list, but it'll give you a basic idea on some of the basic tools we use to craft our handmade leather goods at Anne Wesley. A lot of the tools we use were bought because they're exactly the same as what Hermes, the high-end French luxury leather goods company, uses to craft their items.
When we started leather working, Anne and I never realized how much we also needed to learn about knives. Trust me, we are not knife fanatics and still aren't, but we own five different knives with the most expensive being a shy under $200 and cheapest still around $50. The easy part is buying the knives, the hard part is learning how to sharpen them. It took me a few months, but my knife sharpening skills have jumped leaps and bounds.
The small rounded handle tool at the bottom of the three is called an awl. It's designed to punch through the leather to make stitching holes.
The knife in the middle is essentially a higher quality version of an exacto knife or the leather working version of a surgeons scalpel. I've found it really useful for thinner leathers, especially with the fish skin leather products we make.
The knife at the top is a Japanese leather knife. Right now, it's my favorite knife for cutting thicker leathers, such as the Wickett & Craig "English" Bridle Vegetable Tanned Leather.
The above is a picture of a leather strap cutter. A good portion of our business is making men's leather belts, camera straps, and occasionally shoulder straps. This tool simply helps us cuts even width pieces of leather. It's not necessary to cut straps, but saves a lot of time, though it's actually still easy to make mistakes if one isn't paying enough attention.
A lot of people will be surprised that one of the most important "tool" (Okay it's probably not a tool per say) is glue. Before two pieces are stitched together, they are glued together with glue usually specific to leather work. While it's possible to make items without it, it's certainly a lot harder and in my opinion the edges will not be as nice.
While some leather workers are able to just use an awl to make their stitching holes, the majority of of leather crafters use some kind of marking or punching tool to assist them. The two items on the left are called pricking irons. The item on the right is called a scratch compass/wing divider.
After I decide on the seam allowance, usually around 3-4mm, the scratch compass is used to simply mark a line 3-4mm from the edge. There are some other handy uses for the scratch compass, but this is the most common use of it.
Once I have my straight line, then I'll use the pricking irons to mark the actual stitching holes along that same line. Vergez Blanchards are designed to just mark the holes and not create the stitching hole. So, in this case, I need to use an awl to actually punch through the layers of leather.
Fortunately, these days, there are pricking irons designed to punch all the way through the leather because using an awl requires quite a bit of practice to develop the skill.
Mallets, Hammers, and Boards
In order to use the pricking irons, it's important to have a sturdy surface below, while having something soft enough to not damage your irons. While I've seen a number of leather workers use a tree stump, we use a slab of marble and a pound board on top.
With pricking irons, one should never use a metal hammer, rather it's best to use a mallet, which is the yellow colored tool in the picture above. The hammer on the far left is a Saddler's hammer and this is what we use to actually hammer leather directly.
Thread and Needle
Finally, to complete a sewn project, we need thread and needles. There are a lot of choices, but most high-end leather workers use Fil au Chinois "Lin Cable" Waxed Linen Thread from France. It's the most traditional type of thread, especially compared to polyester thread. It's probably one of the most expensive thread on the market. For example, normal polyester machine thread used for clothing costs around $3.00. Fil au Chinois is about $33.00.