FrogSkin Background

I updated this blog post from long ago to include a new video and some photos.

Tommy McLintic of South Africa first showed me this very effective background. He is also author of the “Let’s Make a Gadget” postings on this blog.

This method might look very laborious and tedious, but a surprizingly large area can be covered without too much effort if you enjoy the craft and want something special. I use it mainly for small projects.


    1. I first draw a feint guide line about 5mm from the edge of the surface I want to decorate – this line will later be the guide for a border stamp I will use around the background effect.
    2. Next I start with the cased leather and the largest smooth seed stamp I have – a Craftool #S864. It must have a round a dome as possible.
      In the example above you will see little dimples in the ‘mounds’ – my leather is fairly thin and I do not want to punch them in too hard or deep.

    1. I follow no rule when I place these first dots – as soon as you think a pattern might evolve, break away. I like to group some of the largest dots together as you see above, and then when those are all done, I look for any large open spaces and either place a few smaller groups or single dots.
    2. With the following size of seeder down (Craftool #S631), I surround all the large ‘mounds’ with smaller ones. You could also just work randomly and that would give a different effect.

    1. Be careful as you use smaller seeders – they need considerably less striking force on your mallet to make an impression and you will be used to a harder tap with the larger punch.
      Remember also that it takes many small dots to fill even a small area, so you do not want to leave too much space open for the smallest seeder.

    1. The smallest seeder, a Craftool #S931, is then used to fill in the gaps.

      If you want to, you can take the latgest seeder again and just ‘redo’ one or two of the larger dots that have lost its shape.

    2. An example of the coloring done with an airbrush – difficult to stay within the border tool used around the background.

Here are some examples where I have used this on projects.  First my wife’s handbag:

The rest of the bag was airbrushed – you can see it was spirit based dye – it did not penetrate all that well.   Now, after more than twenty years,  it looks antique, but I would have liked it to be more solid in color.  Waterbased dye penetrate better when used in an airbrush.

A very simple example of the frog skin pattern being used for a covered buckle:

 

This is a bag I made about ten years ago and I use it to carry tools and what-not to leather shows and guild meetings.  It also shows some other arrangements of the seeder tools:

 

Here is a video that shows some ideas about backgrounds:

Vinagroon

…. or a cheap effective way to turn leather black, without fighting with dyes and without fear of it bleeding off on clothing.

This is a very old method.  In its simplest form:  you let vinegar chew on some iron/steel for a few days and use it to chemically change the leather color to black.

The photo below shows what I am experimenting with.  I took five of those nails, covered them with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 18 hours later dipped the piece of leather in the solution.

I have added a pint of vinegar and twenty more nails and now I will let that stand for a few days and play again.

UPDATE:  So it stood for a week and then I took the first part of this video showing the filtering of the vinagroon.

The second part of the video, where I am using it, was taken a week after the filtering process.

I like simplicity, but for the sake of giving you a complete picture, I will quote from the interwebs here:

From the forum of the America Leather Chemists Association:

The black color is the reaction of Ferric salts or oxide with tannings, nice formula for leather crafts, but it is a pain in the neck in vegetable tannery.

About “neutralizing” the vinegar’s acid:  The leather may be damaged by the excess of acid: white vinegar is acetic acid and if applied in excess can give some problem according to what was stated in the post. Iron react with vegetable tannins giving a product that is black.

 

Neutralizing the leather is not wrong. In the industrial process this is also being used even though the term is confusing because it does not mean to take the leather up to the neutral pH condition or the 7.0 value. It means to neutralize some of the acid inside the leather to avoid acid damage. The final pH for vegetable leather can be around 4.0 and this is far from neutral.

Chuck Burrows posted this in 2010:

VINEGAR BLACK 
For giving color to the grain of leather there is no blacking that will at all compare with the well known vinegar black. This may be made in various ways. The simplest, and, without doubt, the best, is to procure shavings from an iron turner (note: some folks get the turnings from brake drums) and cover them with pure cider vinegar; heat up and set aside for a week or two, then heat again and set in a cool place for two weeks; pour off the vinegar, allow it to stand for a few days, and draw off and cork up in bottles. This will keep for a long time, and, while producing a deep black on leather, will not stain the hands. 

How I do it most times:
I use de-oiled 4/0 steel wool: dip in acetone, squeeze out the extra and hang to dry – then tear or cut into small pieces. Add one pads worth of the de-oiled steel wool to one quart of white or cider vinegar – I use those plastic coffee “cans” and punch a single small hole in the lid to let of any gas buildup. Let it set in the hot sun which will speed the reaction. I let it set for about two weeks until there is only a light vinegar odor left and/or the bulk of the steel wool has been dissolved. I also keep a new batch “cooking” all the time so I have a constant supply.
For the deepest black, apply a bath of strong black tea first (this increase the tannins) and let it soak in good, then apply a generous amount of the vinegar black. Let set for about a half hour and then rinse with a mix of baking soda and warm water, about a 1/8 cup soda to a half gallon of water, apply let set for a few minutes and then rinse off. While still damp apply a light coat or two of your favorite saddle oil. Once dry top coat as normal
Experiment – I test a piece of each new side without oiling to see how well it takes the blacking, if need be I’ll do a second black tea mix to darken, then apply the oil which also helps darken.

Instead of steel wool you can use chopped up bailing or fence wire – the smaller the better since it will dissolve in the vinegar bath faster.

1) Does the ‘rooning process change the color of natural thread? No
2) Should I sew before or after I apply the vinegaroon? either way – your choice
3) For the ‘rooning process, how do you apply it? Dip the item, dauber it on, brush it on, etc? Could the vinegaroon be kept in a spray bottle and sprayed on the item? all of the above – which ever way works best for you and the item you are working on. I prefer dIp dying since it is simply the easiest for me, but I also brush it on for larger pieces – a spray bottle should work fine, but you would need to filter it good to prevent any clogging

Swivel Knife Stropping

First off, lets make a difference between a sharp blade and a polished blade:

  • Almost all blades are manufactured as “sharp” blades – that is, they come with the correct angles to their blades – roughly a 48 degree combined bevel as shown in the illustration below.
  • A polished blade is where those beveled edges of the blade has been stropped and polished to remove TWO things – the grinding marks from when the blade was manufactured and secondly the residue that builds up on the blade from the leather.

This means that sharpening a blade is seldom necessary.  I used my first swivel knife blade for more than twenty years before the stropping so deformed the shape that I had to put it on a grind stone and just reshape it again.

When you buy a new blade, here is what I suggest you do:

  • Spend at least half an hour stropping / polishing the blade as shown in the following video (card board with jeweler’s rouge on it works just fine).
  • Then you can start with it on the leather.
  • Every time you pick up your swivel knife to use it, strop it for a few minutes.
  • If you do a lot of work with it, strop it every five minutes.   After a while, you will get the feel of a blade that is gliding through the leather as if it is cutting through butter, and a blade that “stutters”.  As soon as it cuts with jerky movements, you know it needs more stropping.

I hope this helps – please contact me if you have any more questions.

 

Using Eco-flo Pro-Stain

Probably one of the top stains on the market today for the leathercrafter.
To quote the Tandy Website:

“It’s a blend of natural and synthetic waxes, dye-stuffs and binders with high penetration and dyeing power. This stain will not bleed or rub off. Colors can be mixed to form different hues. It can also be thinned with water to reduce intensity.”

BUT, it has to be applied properly to be effective. Remember also that it was developed as a stain to color large areas of leather. However, I have used it very successfully with a small brush in selected areas only.

One of the most important points for getting good even coverage on the leather: SATURATE the LEATHER with the DYE/STAIN. If that gives you a too dark finish, then DILUTE the dye / stain!

Fuzzies

Well, I mean the often fuzzy ‘under’ side or flesh side of veg tan leather.

There is some people who think that a smooth backside to the leather means a higher quality. A smooth back (flesh) side of leather is merely achieved in the tanneries when they split the hides to get them an even thickness.

However, often it is nice to have the back of your project nice and smooth, a belt, for example.

There are a few ways of doing this – here are the two methods I use most often.

If you use Eco-Flo Pro Stain on a belt or project, use the stain on the back as well – it will slick down the fleshside beautifully and should not bleed off on clothes after you have sealed it with a finish. I have carried a piece of leather with this Pro Stain on both sides – no finish – in my pants pockets for a year and there was no bleeding at all.

Second method:

Get hold of Gum Tragacanth. You can apply that a little at a time and rub down the back of the leather with an old spoon. To smooth it down even more permanently, you can then cover the back of the leather with Super Sheen – an acrylic product that will effectively seal off the back of the leather.

Both these products are available at your local leather supply store or they should be able to order it for you.

FuzziesThe belt piece before anything is done to it – you can see the typical loose fuzzies on the back.


Fuzzies

After the gum has dried on the leather you can see the difference between the covered part and the untreated part.

Fuzzies

This is a very upclose of the treated back side of the piece of belt.

This post from August 2007 has been updated. The gentleman in the videos is my long time friend and mentor, Larry Moskiewicz

The Making of a Knife Sheath

This post shows some basic steps in producing a simple project.

..and here is the second video – it is long but shows the full basket weave stamping and border stamping.
The first basket weave shows Chan Geer’s method of getting the basketweave perfect every time!

If you want to see this method of doing basket weave in print, contact the Leather Crafters and Saddler’s Journal.   They can help you with back issues that the articles about basketweave was printed.

 

There will be one or two more after this fourth one….

Video number five shows the saddle stitch by hand, using two needles and an awl in hand.

Rope and other Easy Borders

This is an update of an old entry and I am going to try to get it at the top of the blog again.  I am adding the Video just made of this very simple effect.

Here is the detail instructions for doing the rope effect and other very simple and effective stamped borders.

Click on the image to see a larger version and then follow the instructions in the text.

leathowto004.jpg

First begin by scoring two parallel lines with a divider. #A

Now cut carefully on those lines with a swivel knife. #B You can optionally also bevel the inside of the lines with a smooth or a textured beveler, as you can see on the left of the #B part.

In all these border designs the lined stamp F910 is used. #C

Now stamp a row of these ‘triangles’ against one of the cut lines as you can see in #D (the bottom line was done first).

To do the second line, in the opposite direction, study the enlarged piece to see how the tool is now lined up: one side of the tool is first lined up with the cut line (as in the first row) and the other side of the tool is lined up with the impression against the opposite line so that there is a slight ridge between them.

To clarify further – in the enlargement there is one impression at the top and three running in the opposite direction against the bottom line – see how the one impression in the top line up with the middle of the three impressions at the bottom.

As I indicated earlier, you can optionally bevel the two parallel lines after you have cut them with the swivel knife and before you start the stamping.  Illustration #E was done without any beveling and illustration #F was done over beveled lines.

The border can be used very successfully around 90º corners.  I like to use the dividers again to score the lines I am going to use.  When I reach the corner, I let the inside leg stand still while the outer leg does the radius around the corner.

As you can see in illustration #G, the outside edge is stamped first and in the bend of the corner, I tilt the tool slightly forward so that it makes a smaller impression and so that it does not overstamp the edge.  Then when I work on the inside line in the other direction, I keep to the same spacing I did on a straight line:  every stamp corresponds to another on the outside line and is spaced so that there is a slight ridge between the two.

You will find that this causes the impressions to bunch up at the very corner so that all the sharp tips are almost on top of each other and this is OK!

Illustration #I shows the success of this border on curved lines.  Again the outside edges are stamped first up to the point where the lines may curve in the opposite direction.  There I stop with that side of the border and first do the other side, which will now become the outside edge of the curve as I proceed.

See more variations using the same F910 tool at the LEATHERLEARN WEBSITE.

Start a Four Strand in Two Colors

When you look at these postings, remember that it is a blog and the older postings is below and the latest is at the top.

This one, for example, builds on the previous posting where I showed the plain start of a four strand round braid with and without a core. Here I will show you two videos on starting the same four strand braid, but using two colors.

The first method will give you a spiral pattern around the braid:

and the second will give you a diamond pattern in the two colors: