Leather Tools for Bag Making
We love working with leather. Whether it’s adding leather straps and details to a bag or making projects from leather itself, there’s lots of fun to be had with this classic, versatile material. Leather working can be a new frontier for many stitchers, so we thought we’d take some time to break it all down.
Having the correct tool for the job (and keeping them sharp and well taken care of!) makes a huge difference in terms of ease-of-use and the quality of your finished work. If you’re as obsessed as we are about working with leather, we highly recommend investing in these essential items for your bag making tool kit.
You have three main options when preparing leather for bag straps:
(1) Our maker kits are a great place to begin if you’re new to working with leather. They come with all the leather you need, pre-cut, hole punched, and ready to use
(2) You can purchase strips of pre-strapped leather in various widths from your local leather supply store and cut it to length yourself. Tandy Leather is a trusted leather supply chain with locations across the country.
(3) For the full hands-on experience, you can buy a hide and strap it yourself! By far the best tool for this job is a wooden leather strap cutter. Pick up an extra set of blades to go with it, because you’ll want to make sure it stays nice and sharp!
Finishing Your Strap Ends
Once you have your leather straps, it’s time to cut them to length and finish the ends. For flat, right-angle ends, all you need is a cutting mat, a quilting ruler, and a sharp rotary cutter. Alternatively, you could finish your strap ends with end punches, which come in different shapes, like rounded or English point strap. Keep in mind that end punches come in different widths, so you’ll want to make sure you get the right size for your straps.
To add rivets to your leather, you’ll need to punch some holes. You have a couple of options here when it comes to tools, and because they are useful in different situations, you might considering investing in both. (Either way, this leather pen is great for making your hole marks! It shows up well and wipes off if you make a mistake.)
The first way you can punch holes is with a rotary leather punch. A rotary punch is a great catch-all tool for making holes in both leather and fabric, when the holes are close to the edge of your fabric. Its wheel lets you select from 6 different punch sizes to match the size of your hardware. We sell a high-quality, easy-squeeze rotary punch in our online shop.
When you need to punch a hole closer to the center of a piece of fabric or large piece of leather, a drive punch tool is the way to go. Drive punches come in multiple sizes, so make sure you get the size that corresponds to the hardware you’re installing. All you need is a mallet and a cutting board to go with it.
Setting Double Cap Rivets
Double cap rivets are a great way to add leather to your bag without a sewing machine. All you need is a hammer and a hard surface to set them. You can use a metal anvil, a scrap of quartz from a countertop store, or even just a concrete floor as your hard surface.
Setting Chicago Screws
Chicago screws are another hardware fastener that’s great for bag making. They’re especially useful in situations where you need to fasten a leather strap beneath the closed end of a zipper (like with our Fremont Tote), and getting in there to set a rivet is too tricky. You can tighten a Chicago Screw with a screwdriver, but the very best way to ensure a strong, tight setting is with a Chicago Screw Tool.
Dot Anvil & Magnetic Snap Rivets
Magnetic snaps rivets are our favorite way to add a closure or fastener to any bag project. They are quick and easy to use, and the two sides automatically find each other, so you can open and close your bag without any fussing. The best way to set them is with this small dot anvil and a rivet setter.
A fun way to personalize your leather projects is by using stamps to add letters, words, or symbols to them. We have this set of alphabet stamps in the studio. You should be able to find a basic set of letter and number stamps at any leather supply store. These emoji ones are pretty rad too. We’ve found that stamping works best on veg tanned leather, as opposed to leather that’s been dyed or stained.