Leather Gouge: What is it, Types, Tips and How it’s Used

leather gouge

Have you ever found yourself working on a leather project and you had to use one of those bulky or thick leather and found it really difficult to make precise sharp folds? Or perhaps you may have wondered if there’s a leatherwork tool that could help you cut clean grooves for stitching or decoration on leather. Then I can tell you the leather gouge will come in handy for you.

What’s a Leather Gouge?

A leather gouge is a leatherwork tool used to peel off either the grain side or flesh side of the leather resulting in a groove that will serve as stitching lines, folding lines or simply for decorative lines. Leather gouges can come with either fixed or adjustable depths.

Does this tool sound cool, or what? Continue reading to find out more about this tool and see if the leather gouge is really the choice for you.

Types of Leather Gouge

The leather gouge is one of the indispensable leatherwork tools. As a leathercrafter, you will sooner or later understand how difficult it is to fold a piece of leather either on wallet flaps, adding volumes to inner compartments of bags, wallets, purses, etc.

Generally, folding leather is not as easy as folding a piece of paper although natural leather to be precise is very workable. This is because leather is thicker and a bit hard to crease. However, with the right kind of tool, it will be a walk in the park.

They come in different types and while there are a lot of brands in the leather gouge space, we don’t necessarily refer to the brands as types but rather the type of cuts the leather gouge makes.

The most common types are the V-gouge and the U-gouge. Depending on the type of brand you buy, the V and U gouges can be adjusted for deeper or shallow cuts. Other U and V-gouges will also come with a fixed depth with no adjustments.

The Leather V-Gouge

The V-gouge is the most most common type of leather gouge you will come across on the market. The V-gouge works just like the wood carving gouge tool. The blade of a leather V-gouge is shaped like the letter V and is able to make a deep V-shaped groove or trench suitable for stitching especially if you don’t want thick heavy threads laying on the surface of your projects.

You will mostly find the adjustable V-gouge to be the most appropriate gouge to work with because it gives you more control over the kind of depth you could have done on different thicknesses of leather. Also, the non-adjustable leather gouge that is, the fixed ones are also great if you work with leather of similar thickness.

Importance of The Leather Gouge

Leather gouges are pretty much important leatherwork tools for various reasons.

1. The leather gouge is important because it’s a useful tool for making stitching grooves to enable bulky or heavy thread stitches to sit nicely on the leather. This also helps to protect the stitches especially the stitch on products that see a lot of wear and tear. Stitches that aren’t allowed to sit in grooves can weaken the stitches over time.

2. Leather gouge also helps to create folds on thick leather at 30 degrees, 90 degrees, make square corners or any other angle much easier.

3. It’s also really useful when you want to wrap a piece of leather on a round object. You can cut parallel grooves on the flesh side of the leather so that it becomes easy to wrap around objects.

4. Gives your leather project a neat professional finish.

5. Leather gouge can be used to make decorative grooves on the grain side of the leather which can be either be dyed or left plain.

You can find an article I wrote earlier about the 3 best leather gouge you can find on Amazon. It’s a post I thoroughly researched to make your leather gouge selection process very easy yet find high-quality and appropriate leather gouges for your leatherwork.

12 Tips on How to Use a Leather Gouge

The skillset required to use a leather gouge is absolutely basic. Even as a beginner, you’d be able to figure it out after a few tries on a scrap piece of leather. Here are a few tips to get yourself acquainted with leather gouges before starting out.

  • Always place the leather to be tooled on a flat surface such a marble slab or a cutting mat to avoid destroying the surface underneath.
  • If you happen to use an adjustable leather gouge, do well to set it to your preferred depth before tooling.
  • You’re likely to always gouge on the flesh side of your leather when creating folds making the grooves you create well hidden while retaining the tensile strength and structural integrity of the grain side.
  • Try out the depth of the leather gouge on a piece of leather offcut with similar thickness to your workpiece so as to know how deep the leather gouge cuts, the amount of pressure you will need to complete a cut, and to also prevent cutting through the leather.
  • Cutting too deep is when you can possibly see a visible ridge on the opposite side of the leather.
  • In most cases dampening the leather with ordinary water helps with control of the cuts on the leather.
  • Always ensure your leather gouge is sharp before use because more accidents occur with dull blades than sharp ones.
  • The best kind of groove you should aim at is that which you push the leather gouge over the leather in one quick smooth motion.
  • Gouging on the flesh side is always difficult and you will certainly not be able to make a smooth cut. Feel free to make short chopping groove cut and then going over the line a few times until you’ve created an even groove.
  • Keep your leather down in a sturdy position with one hand while you gouge with the other.
  • Flip the leather for easy access and flexibility when cutting grooves. Usually, you will cut grooves halfway on a line and flip the leather around to cut the remaining.
  • You can pat down folded sides of the leather with a rawhide mallet or maul.

How to Use a Leather Gouge

Using a leather gouge takes only a few simple steps to accomplish.

  1. Mark out the areas you want to create a groove to be folded, stitched, or decorated. You can use a pencil or a ruler.
  2. Adjust the depth on the leather gouge according to how deep you want it.
  3. Try out the depth of the leather gouge on a scrap piece of leather with the same thickness to get comfortable with the kind of pressure you’d need to apply and the kind of strokes to use.
  4. Start making your grooves on the workpiece. You can use a ruler especially when creating straight lines.

Useful Video: How to Use a Leather Gouge


Working with the right kind of tool coupled with learning the know-how goes a long way to help with the professional look of your leather projects. The leather gouge is a great tool for all leathercrafters whether professional or beginner. The leather gouge will make activities such as folding, stitching lines, decorative grooves very easy.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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