Punching Leather: Free Leather Craft Beginner Crash Course!

leather punches guide

When it comes to punching leather, there are a few things you need to know. Whether you’re just starting out in leather work or you’ve been doing it for a while, having the right information can make all the difference.

Here’s everything you need to know about punching leather, from the basics to more advanced tools and techniques.

So if you’re ready to start punching leather, read on!

What Does it Mean to Punch Leather? 

Punching leather is a process of using tools to create holes and shapes in a piece of leather material.

While this may sound like an activity you will do in a particular type of sport, punching leather is actually a type of leather working.

It involves using tools to create shapes and holes in the leather material for either decorative or functional purposes.

Why Do You Punch Leather?

Right on queue. There are a lot of reasons you might punch leather. Almost all leatherwork projects will require that you punch a piece of leather. Here are some of the reasons you would punch leather;

  • Punching Leather for Stitching
  • Punching Leather for Thonging
  • Punching Leather for Fittings
  • Punching Leather for Fasteners
  • Punching Leather for Decoration

Punching Leather For Stitching

One of the main reasons we punch leather is when leather needs to be hand-stitched.

When you start out in leatherwork, a lot of your initial projects and even advanced projects will involve hand-stitching the leather together.

Hand-stitching, as the name implies, involves using a needle and thread to sew the leather together by hand.

But in order for the stitching to be successful, the holes need to be punched into the leather material in even spacing.

This is done because, unlike fabric, leather is a tough material, and it needs to be punched before stitching can be done successfully.

The punching process places holes in the leather so that a needle and thread can pass through easily.

The main tools used for punching leather for stitching are leather stitching punches or diamond chisels.

Two important things to keep in mind when punching leather are

  • The spaces between the leather stitching punch, as this ensures the stitch holes are of the right spacings suitable for the project,
  • in an appropriate pattern,
  • and the hand-stitching technique.

Punching Leather for Thonging

Thonging is another common technique in leatherwork that requires punching.

This process involves using thin strips of leather called thongs to attach two different pieces of leather together.

The concept of thonging is similar to hand-stitching, but the differences are;

  • the thongs or lace used,
  • the punching tools used,
  • and to a large extent, the techniques used.

The process requires that holes are punched into both pieces of leather material before attaching them together with a thong.

Punching Leather for Fittings

Another reason you might need to punch leather is for the purpose of attaching fittings.

Fittings such as rivets, eyelets, and grommets require that you make holes in the leather before they can be attached.

For this purpose, a variety of different tools can be used, such as rotary punches, hole punches, or drive punches, to mention a few.

Punching Leather for Fasteners

Similarly, to attach fasteners or locks, you will also need to make holes in the leather before they can be attached.

Fasteners in leather refer to leather attachments that help you close or open leather items. Some of these fasteners include press studs, buckles, etc.

When punching leather for fasteners, it is of the utmost importance to make sure you choose a hole diameter that perfectly fits your desired attachments and accessories.

This is quite important as it will determine the durability and strength of your leather items.

The tools used for this purpose are usually specialized ones such as strap end punches, rotary punches, spur grommet setters, and snap setters.

These tools allow you to precisely punch the right-sized holes into your leather material so that the fasteners can be attached properly.

Punching Leather for Decoration

The final reason you might punch leather is for the purpose of decoration.

You can punch randomized or specific patterns into the leather to give it a unique design or look.

The tools used for this purpose are generally interchangeable punch sets, which allow you to create different patterns with just one tool.

These tools also provide you with more control and precision in the punching process due to the various size heads that can be interchanged.

Types of Leather Punching Tools

The types of leather punching tools you need will depend on the type of project. I have hinted at a few of them already, but here is a comprehensive list of the different types.

Leather Stitch Punch

This is by far the most common leatherwork punching tool. It comes in varying head sizes and prongs.

The leather stitch punch is used to punch slit holes in leather for stitching techniques like running stitch, saddle stitch, and overstitch.

This tool lays our stitching holes and makes hand-stitching your leather pieces together easier.

Rotary Punch

The rotary punch is also a leather punching tool that comes with a revolving head.

It is designed to make round holes in leather and other materials. The size of the hole depends on the size head that is selected.

It can be used for a variety of projects, including fasteners, rivets, grommets, making holes in belts, watch straps, and more.

Leather Hole Punch or Drive Punch

This is a specialized tool used to make individual holes in leather. It is made up of two parts; the punch head and the handle.

The drive punch also comes with a variety of interchangeable heads or individual heads that allow you to make different-sized holes in leather for rivets, eyelets, and other fittings.

Pricking Irons

Pricking irons are a type of leather tool that can be used to punch leather but not all the way through.

You can say it is used to mark the leather in a way that you can easily go ahead and use an awl to pierce the leather all the way through during stitching.

How to Punch Leather

Punching leather is a great way to add intricate details to your leather craft projects. With the right tools, punching leather can be a breeze — all you need is a bit of practice and patience.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to punch leather:

Step 1:

  • Start by selecting the right tool for the job.
  • Choose a suitable hole punch, rotary punch, or pricking iron, depending on your project.

Step 2:

  • Make sure you use the right diameter to fit the fasteners, fittings, or decorations you plan on using.

Step 3:

  • Mark out the parts of the leather you would want to punch using a divider or a ruler and scratch awl.

Step 4:

  • Place your leather material on a punch mat and secure it in place.

Step 5:

  • Position your leather punch tool on the marked spot and use a wooden mallet, maul, or rawhide mallet to strike it.
  • Keep striking the punch tool until it is fully punched through the leather.
  • Move on to the next marked spot and continue punching the leather until all the designated spots are properly punched.

Final Thoughts

Punching leather is an essential skill for creating professional-looking leather pieces. And with the right tools and techniques, you can easily punch leather for any project.

So, equip yourself with the right tools, take some time to practice, and you’ll be a pro at punching leather in no time!

Good luck!


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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