More on the Rope Effect Border

The Use of the triangle stamp can be applied to a few other very effective borders.

Below the photos you can read some instructions on the other designs.
The second image shows use of some nice borders and effects for a book cover.


The first of these designs start with a row of evenly spaced impressions with a checkered beveler.  #J

Turn the leather around and make impressions with the same beveler in the other direction.  This will have the effect of a ribbon woven through the leather.  #K

Add diagonally opposed impressions with F910, and it now looks is if the ribbon is twisted as it is woven through the leather. #L

The second border design shows a line of basket weave stamps used end-to-end:  two different stamps are shown for this at #M  and  #O.

Now add The F910 stamp again in diagonal fashion and you have a whole new border to play around with. #N and #P

In the third line you make little squares with a checkered beveler – I first stamped a row of them next to each other. #Q  Then I add the top and bottom sides of the little square and lastly the fourth side of the little square opposite to  the first side.

At #S you can see the added effect of using F910 in opposite corners and at #T you can see how it changes whe you use F910 on two side-by-side corners.

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

I hope you enjoy playing with this!

Rope Effect

I have been playing around with a very effective border achieved in the following way:

Mark two parallel lines with a compass.   Cut them with a swivel knife.  Now use a lined sharp-tip beveler along one of the lines to make one row of indents and then turn the leather around to make the row of indents along the other cut line.  The smooth and checkered bevelers, with the same shape, does not have the same good effect, but try them by all means, you might like their effect more.

Color & Finish 106 – Dyes Simplified

I do recommend Al Stohlman’s book, Coloring Leather, (not How to Color Leather).  It is still a very relevant book.

There are a few changes happening in the world of dyes – solvent (spirit based / alcohol based) dyes are being phased out and water based dyes will be the only ones available in a few years time.  Some states have already stopped the sale of solvent (alcohol) based dyes.

Pro-oil dye is a higher quality version of spirit based dye – it is simply spirit based dye with a bit of oil added and a better pigment base –  it gives better penetration into the leather and takes a bit longer to dry.  The coverage is a bit more even.  First choice if you can get it.

Eco-Flow water based dye – the new generation dyes – so far looks to be the next choice, mainly because they will hopefully prove to be a lot more color fast than the old regular spirit based dyes, like Tandy Pro Dye and Fiebing’s spirit dyes.

I know your leather craft store is stocked with hundreds of little bottles, so I will expand on this theme as much as I can, but here is the short version:

  1. The first liquid to hit your leather, is water if you want to tool and/or shape your leather (“casing”).
  2. The next liquid to touch your leather, is dye, if you want to change the color of the leather or parts of the leather.
  3. The third possible liquid you use, is a resist (in order of preference: Neatlac / SuperSheen / Blockout), if you want to shield some parts of the leather by being colored by the next liquid.  There is another article on this blog about resisting.
  4. Now you can consider using an antique finish on the leather, if you wish to have an antiquing effect, mostly on tooled leather (it sits in the tool impressions and makes them more pronounced).
  5. Lastly you add a finish / dressing / conditioner:  for working leather I prefer Dubbin, Dr Jackson’s, Aussie; for leather that was painted with acrylic paints, I prefer and acrylic finish like Supersheen or Satinsheen.

If you want a light stain and thereby enhance the tooling on the leather, you need to dye your project with a much diluted (with water) Eco-Flo dye – that is how a lot of the products shown in the Tandy catalog was done.

To further emphasize the tooling, you can use an antique finish over the dye – the antique finish will add its own color to the project, unless you have the project fully or partially resisted.  I still need to experiment with the new antique gel, but for a more subtle effect, you should be able to dilute the antique gel as well.

I hope this sheds some light!  (… and color….)

Uneven Brush Dying

Dying certain areas only can be even more eye-catching if the dying is done in such a way that the area is darker around the edge and lighter in the center.

Use of All-in-One

This photo shows the project with the dye completely dry – you will notice it is lighter than what it was in the little mini-movie.

This project is done with a very old piece of leather – at least thirty years old – it is an old tri-leg chair kit. The leather is already darkened by light, so I chose darker colors to color with. The dye is the new Eco-Flo Cranberry Red dye. It is water-based.

I start off with diluting the dye a lot with water and I just cover the whole area with a thin color. Then I use less diluted dye and only work around the edges, so that the area is dyed darker around the edge and lighter in the center.
REMEMBER: The dye causes the leather to be WET and therefor darker, so it is not immediately clear what the project will look like when the leather dries out. The dye will get lighter as it dries.

This little MINI MOVIE shows the final step with undiluted dye.

Use of All-in-OneThis photo shows a similar effect with Eco-Flo dark mahogany. Here the dye, and leather, is still wet and it does not look as though the transition from dark to light is going to be gradual enough. I will have to judge that only when the dye is completely dry.

X1 AppliedThe completed seat after I applied a coat of X1 dressing. The dye came out the way I wanted it, and I then applied X1 dressing to bring out the tooling in sharp definition.

I cannot help being a bit upset that this product is being take off the market. The new colored hi-liters does not have that same effect without coloring the leather. X1 only accentuates the tooling in a very non-obtrusive way.

Completed seatCompleted seatThe chair complete.

If you want to know where to get the legs, contact Dan at Logo’s Leather: Logo’s

Using Resist – for Antiqueing


I had this request: “I have been using block-out to keep my dye out of what I have stamped, but I can’t get it to resist. Please help me with my leather resist problem.”

Dyes and resistMy first answer would be that it could be that you are trying to use a spirit based dye over the resist and that will be less successful. On this scanned piece of leather I covered the bottom half of the leather with super sheen as a resist.

On the very left I used antique gel on the leather – it wiped off nice and clean off the resist.

In the center I used Eco-Flo water based dye and although it did not wipe off the resist so very completely, the result is still successful.

On the right I used a normal spirit based dye and the obvious result is awful. Now let us have a look at the intended use of a resist:
Purpose: A resist is used before you use an antique stain to make sure the antique finish/stain does not change the color of the leather, but only gets into the tool impressions so that it gets to the antique effect.

Products: Several products can be used as a resist: Neatlac, SuperSheen, SatinSheen, Blockout, RTC. As you can see, all these products are also classified as finishes, i.e. they are also used as finishes on veg-tan leather after dyes have been applied.

When to Resist: After tooling the project, you decide on a color for the project. This color change in the leather is achieved with dye. If you are also going to apply an antique stain to the project, and you do not want the antique gel / paste / liquid to change the overall color of the project, you need to apply a resist over the project first. Everyone recommends two layers of resist – and you must allow then to dry properly (I do overnight).

The Effect: When you now apply the antique stain, and wipe it off with a soft damp cloth, the stain will only remain in the tool impressions and you will be able to wipe it off the smooth parts of the leather. You will have to seal in the antique stain by putting a layer of finish over the stain.

Variations on Resist: You might choose to use the resist only on the tooled design and not on the background – a two tone effect. This will take some fancy brush work with a fine artist brush. It will mean that the antique stain will change the color of the leather on the unresisted areas, but on the tooled areas you will be able to wipe most of the stain off the leather.

Using Resist - BeforeThis first photo shows some variations: From top left clockwise: 1. The whole design and background was dyed with Eco-Flo Range Tan Dye and the left half of the quarter was resisted with Super Sheen. 2. In the top right the design only was resisted with Block Out. MINI-MOVIE 3. Bottom right the whole quarter was resisted with Block Out – bot design and background. 4. Bottom left the background was dyed brown with Eco-Flow Timber Brown [MINI-MOVIE] and the design was resisted with Super Sheen.

Using Resist - AfterAfter the first photo, Antique Gel Medium Brown was applied as seen in the little Minimovies (to follow in a day or two) and this is a photo of the results.

Problems with Resist: Resist is not very successful to keep dye away from leather, especially the spirit based (alcohol based) dyes. These dyes will penetrate through most resists.

Not Yet Tested: The new Eco-Flo dyes are all water based and might just work very well with the resist technique described above. Hopefully I can test these tomorrow and take some photos to enhance this blog entry! Keep an eye on this space!

Color & Finish 105 – Dye with a Brush

Oil based dye with a brush
For this mini tutorial, oil based dye is being applied with a brush. The same technique would be used with alcohol (spirit) based dyes. The background of an inverted carving is being dyed – the design is left natural.

Take note how the fully loaded brush is never set down right next to the edge of the area to be dyed – this is to prevent the dye from bleeding into the area that has to remain dye free. Because the black dye in this case is quite forgiving, mere application of the dye will ensure even coverage. So as the dye in the brush is used up, the brush is brought closer and closer to the edge of the design.

This little MINI MOVIE has no sound yet.

Color & Finish 104 – All-in-One

Use of All-in-One

All-in-One is a product sold by Tandy Leather Factory. It is both a dye and a finish all in one!

It works very well in situations where you want to dye a complete piece of leather. It also has a darkening effect in tool impressions. The finish is much like Super Sheen, a water based acrylic finish. There is therfore no fumes to sniff or worry about.

In the MINI MOVIE you will see how this product is applied and how the excess is wiped off. Take care to wipe off very lightly so that the All-in-One that is in the tool impressions, do not get wipes out of those depressons – you want it to dry there to have the eventual darker effect.

The photo below show the finshed piece of leather incorporated into a card holder.

(The back part of the card holder was done in the frog skin pattern shown else where in this blog and then it was colored with acrylic paint.)

Finished Card Holder

Color & Finish 103 – Antique Stain

Applying Antique Finishes

  • This step can be left out so that your dye job remains clean and fresh looking.
  • Antique Finish is supposed to be used only after you have dyed leather, not on un-dyed leather.
  • Although antique finish is water based, it is not an acrylic, so it is not very permanent and will wear off. It has to be sealed with a finish.

The intended use of antique finish is as follows:

  1. Let your project dry completely after applying water-based, spirit-based or oil-based dye.
  2. Cover the project with a resist, which can be any of the following : Neatlac, Supersheen, Block-out or RTC.
  3. Let the resist dry, as in overnight.
  4. Now apply the antique paste or liquid with a damp sponge very liberally, so that it gets into all your tooling impressions and cracks.
  5. Have a clean damp sponge handy and start wiping off the excess finish from the non-tooled areas. You do not want this to dry streaky on the leather where there is no tooling. Gradually work towards the tooled areas and wipe the excess finish off there as well, leaving only the accentuated tooled areas with finish in.
  6. Let the finish dry overnight again and then apply the finish of your choice to seal the antique.

Please send any questions you might have, to leatherworker at – that way I can expand these instructions to be more complete!

Color & Finish 102 – Dye

As these instructional postings are still a work in progress, you can check back often – as soon as the basic skeleton is in place, I will be adding visual instructions with photos and mini videos.

Leather can be left natural and not dyed – in time it will turn a beautiful honey color. This natural darkening will be accelerated if some oil is put on the leather as a dressing. (See the posting about dressings and finishes.)

The oil and spirit (alcohol) based dyes sold by Tandy and Fiebings are meant for dyeing veg-tan leather only. Although it might look successful on any other leather, it will most likely bleed off or rub off on clothing. In other words, it is not meant for leather fibers that has some sort of finish on already.

Clean Leather
In order for the dye to take evenly on the leather, the surface of the leather has to be clean and free of oily marks. I prefer to keep the leather surface clean from the start of the project. If I have to lean on the leather or rest my hand on the leather, I rest it on a piece of off-cut leather to reduce the possibility of natural oil from my hand or arm to cause marks on the leather.

If you want to, you can clean the leather with a damp sponge or rag with some diluted saddle soap on. Then rinse it and let it dry.

Dye Even
Give this a thought: Perfectly evenly dyed leather will look like factory produced leather or vinyl. Leather is a natural product and uneven in nature.

Getting an acceptable even dye job pivots around one key factor: the surface of the leather has to be saturated with the dye.
Using the dye out of the bottle full strength might end in a too dark effect, especially if you put so much dye on as to get an evenly saturated surface. You can dilute the spirit based dyes with the solvents sold for the purpose, or with rubbing alcohol. You can always dye in two or more “layers” to get the color darker, but by working with diluted dyes, you can saturate the leather and not get it so very dark.

There are experienced leathercrafters that believe in lightly oiling the leather and letting it stand a day or two and then applying the dye. The oil is supposed to resist the dye so that it spreads around a bit more before it actually gets to the fibers to color them. My opinion is that you then place a barrier around the fibers and some of the dye pigments will not penetrate the fibers, but sit on top of the fibers and later rub off on your clothes.

My suggestion is that you might try the following to get the color even: First saturate the leather just with clean rubbing alcohol or solvent and while it is still good and wet, apply the dye – this will allow the dye to bleed and spread more evenly on the leather.

Deliberately uneven
Some of the best leatherwork I have seen, have been where the dye was applied uneven on purpose – say darker around the edge.

One of the foremost leather artist in the world, uses this technique very well – do yourself a favor and go and look at the work of Peter Main . Peter’s new book on coloring is also a must-buy!

Whether you are trying to color evenly or not, I have found that long lengthwise strokes with the applicator is more successful and gives a more natural effect than working in small little circles.

In General

  • You can dye on damp leather.
  • When you apply dye to leather, the leather thinks it is wet, and it will show darker – as the solvent in the dye evaporates, the color will lighten considerably. It is a good idea to let the project sit for a while to dry before you judge whether you dyed dark enough or not.
  • Bright colors like turquios will loose their brilliance as the leather turns naturally darker with exposure to light.
  • White is not a leather color. White can only successfully achieved on leather if it is applied as part of the tanning process. Basically you can dye leather darker, but never lighter.
  • To dye veg tan leather black, you might consider first dyeing it in a dark shade of brown or navy blue or even purple. If the dye then fades a bit, it will not show the natural light brown underneath. However, nowadays the new black dyes come so strongly pigmented that two coats or a dark undercoat are hardly necessary.
  • Make yourself a base of sponge, or layered leather or wood to set the dye bottle in to make sure it does not tip over while you are working – the spirit based dye is evil and WILL climb out of the bottle at every opportunity! For the same reason, always close the lid of the bottle when you are taking a breather – an unattended open dye bottle WILL fall over and spoil your project, the tablecloth, the chair upholstery, your pants and the cat and the carpet…!

Hope This Helps!

Color & Finish 101

This is probably the aspect of leathercraft where there are as many opinions as there are crafters, and most of them will swear by their own methods as gospel truth. So, I want to give you my opinion as well, but with the hope that it will clarify some of the confusion that exist around dyes, stains, finishes, dressings and oils.This whole discussion will center around vegetable-tan (treebark tanned) leather. This is the only leather to be treated with the products I will discuss.

The basic sequence in any project will more than likely be as follows:

  1. The project is cut out and tooling / stamping is done.
  2. The leather is dyed – either completely or selectively.
  3. A choice is made between a) not using an antique stain, b) lightly using an antique stain just to highlight tooling or c) making heavy use of an antique stain in such a way as to drastically add to the color of the leather.
  4. A finish or dressing is added to the leather to waterproof and lubricate the leather fibers.
  5. The project is assembled.

Step 2 above, dyeing, can be left out if you want the natural color to remain, but remember that antique stains over un-dyed leather might not be successful at all.

Step 3 can be left out all together.

Step 4 can never be left out! You always have to feed leather! Putting a dressing on leather will bring out the color of the dyes (make it glow), waterproof the leather (your best defence against stains) and make the leather softer (if you have not treated it for the making of armor.
OK, more soon! If you have any questions, please e-mail me and I will add to this blog as fast as I can! My e-mail address is leatherworker at