This is part one of two posts I’m sharing this week on my adventures in leatherwork. I’m a total newbie, but when I find a tool that makes me want to grab all.the.leather. I had to share.
If you make bags like I do, you know how important straps and handles are in overall construction and design. We need them to be the perfect size to hold or wear over our shoulder while made of material that coordinates with our “look”. Webbing, pleather, vinyl, cotton, and linen are all great choices and can be purchased at a reasonable cost.
But what if you want to work with leather? You have the perfect bag pattern that needs leather straps, but you don’t know where to find some. My first suggestion would be to try your local leather supply store. Tandy Leather is a nationwide chain that sells various weight leathers perfect for bags and straps. Another way would be to upcycle! Visit your local thrift store (even ask friends and family) and buy a few older bags. You may not only hit the jackpot with straps, but good hardware too!
Today though, I’m going to share with you a great tool that helps make your own leather straps:
This is the Craftool Strip & Strapmaker. I purchased this at Tandy Leather supply. My Craftool is a bare basic strapmaker, great for everyone and can cut through a variety of leather weights. There are many other brands out there and not all are made of wood. I am a beginner when it comes to leatherwork, so this suits me fine for now.
The leather in my images is a 9oz veg tanned blank strap. Total amount purchased was 1″ x 36″ . This weight is thick and not at all appropriate for typical bag straps, so I need to first cut it to size. The strap cutter is designed to take a width of leather (of various thicknesses) and cut it to your desired size using a very sharp blade. The tool comes with great visual and written directions, so it’s fairly easy to get started.
Here’s my 1″ strap cut down to 10″ length. I want to make two handles 1/2″ x 10″ each so the first thing I do is mark a center down the rough side of my strap (see above). From here I will get the Craftool ready by setting the width I need to cut (1/2″).
The directions will tell you how to loosen and tighten the cross arms (part with the ruler) so the leather slides in and butts up against the grip and blade. You are shown how to tighten the screws to keep things from moving around.
The actual blade is in between the two arms, right where you see the first marked ruled line. From here all you do is push the leather a bit from the other end to get it started through the blade – do not get those fingers near the blade!- When the cut portion has come out the other side enough to safely grab the end, pull it slowly to finish cutting. That’s it. 5 minutes.
I now have two equal width handles ready to attach to my project. If you want to take it to the next level, you can rub down the long sides to smooth out the leather and dye it. Maybe round the short edges to give it a softer look. For my handles I am going to smooth down the sides, then reduce the thickness. This will help me attach a few rivets. I will show you how you can do some of these things in my next post.
Pretty cool, huh? I am still practicing with the craftool, but it’s great knowing I can make custom straps to order and not rely on store bought. Give it a try, you’ll love it!