One of the most important tips that can be given to any leatherworker, especially beginners, is to TEST EVERYTHING FIRST!!
Let me illustrate:
For most projects I leave some extra leather around the edge – mainly to make sure that after I have tooled and the leather is dry again, I cut it out at the original project size. Also for small projects like this, I usually leave two on the same piece of leather so that I have bigger leather to rest my hand on as I tool.
This extra leather affords me the opportunity to test various aspects of the project of the project first. The things I test is
* whether a tool is appropriate and maybe how hard to strike it
* whether it is actually the right tool that will achieve the effect I want
* how this leather will react to what I want to do
* how will this dye work on this leather and will the eventual color be correct
* how is a sealer / finish / conditioner going to work with the dye I have
* just to get my hand and eye a little practice before I tackle the actual project.
There are some effects I use that I do not always test, like the woodgrain effect above, because I use it so often. But if I wanted to try a new border for it, I might just do a mall piece of it on the side first.
Here are a few cut off pieces I saved over the last few days. You can see I also test how my boss sewing machine is going to deal with this leather thickness under its current settings. And there is a test for setting eyelets – I wanted to know if I had to punch a hole first if I wanted to insert the eyelets in cardboard sandwiched between to thin leathers. Even a test for the right slit punch when I had to duplicate a specific lacing pattern.
Above the most important testing was to see which gold paint would give the right effect and would look good.
I hope this helps!