A skiver is a tool designed to help make leather thinner than it already is. While a leather skiver will tremendously help you thin or skive your leather with a lot of ease, there are some instances where you might want to thin your leather with no skiver available.
In this article, I’m going to show you 3 easy ways to thin leather without using a skiver.
So how do you thin leather without using a skiver? There are 3 possible ways you would be able to thin your leather without a skiver. You will be able to thin your leather using a sandpaper block, a kitchen putty knife, or an Exacto knife. Although getting a skiver is the best way to go, these alternatives will do a great job with a bit of practice.
In the remaining parts of this article, I’m going to show you a step-by-step guide on how to uses these somewhat non-conventional tools to thin or skive leather to the desired thickness without a skiver. Keep reading to find out more!
Thinning Or Skiving Leather
Thinning leather also known as skiving leather is a way to get any thickness of leather to any preferred thinness.
Related Article: Leather Skiving Tools (Plus it’s Most Essential Accessories)
Generally, your typical leather skiver will be a head knife, a leather splitter machine, a leather skiving machine, or a leather skiving knife.
Thinning or skiving leather is an essential skill to master if you make bridals, bookbinding, shoemaking, or you’re simply a hobbyist.
Related Article: Why Do You Skive Leather?
You’re definitely going to need to make your leather thinner, supple, flexible, and soft by removing some of its flesh sides.
When thinning or skiving leather one tool that’s going to help you measure accurately is a leather thickness gauge.
Related Article: 5 Best Leather Thickness Gauge
But if you do not fancy a leather thickness gauge, you can rely on your sense of touch and sight to perceive the thickness you’re looking for.
While skiving or thinning leather is not something you would want to be doing after a hard day’s work, tired, or distracted, skiving leather is generally quite easy even if you’re an absolute beginner or a pro.
If you’re interested, you can check out a guide I wrote earlier on the best skiving knives for leather.
1. Using The Exacto Knife To Thin Leather
The Exacto knife also marketed as the Xacto knife, precision knife, hobby knife, or craft knife is a common tool you will find in most toolboxes around the house.
It’s a simple but highly versatile tool that can be used for everything from cutting plastics, cards, to leather and everything in-between plus it’s generally a fairly easy tool to use.
Just like you can see in the picture above, it comes with a very small sharp blade mounted on a pen-like handle.
An Exacto knife has a very simple buildup: which is a knurled collar that loosens and tightens a collet with a slot that holds one replaceable blade at a time.
If you want to learn more about the Exacto knife, What it is, Types, Uses, Some Tips and Tricks then you would want to check out this article I wrote early that’s going to help you with everything you need to know about Exacto knives.
How To Use An Exacto Knife To Thin Leather
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use an Exacto knife to thin or skive leather if you do not have a skiver.
You’re going to have the best result with skiving with the exacto knife if you’re going to be skiving strips or straps of leather.
Related Article: 10 Best Tools To Cut Leather Belts, Straps, & Strips
- A cutting pad
- An Exacto Knife
- Leather To Be Skived (leather strips or straps preferably)
Step 1: Lay your strips or straps of leather on the surface of the cutting pad with the flesh side facing the cutting board.
Step 2: Holding your leather firmly down, make a dent into the strip of leather while positioning your exacto knife so that its blade is as close to being horizontal as possible. It will be almost as if you’re slicing the leather but not all the way through.
Step 3: Push the blade of the exacto knife away from yourself, slicing the top surface of the leather off.
You would want to use long strokes as much as possible. Also, you want to make sure not to lift your blade as you skive.
Move very slowly so as to cut the leather as uniformly as possible.
Step 4: If you would be using the exacto knife to thin down a slightly thicker or a much wider strap of leather, you would want to at this point repeat STEP 3 until you have thinned the leather down to a thickness of your choice.
Important Tips On Using The Exacto Knife To Thin Leather
- My first tip when using an exacto knife to skive is to start at a shallower angle and go over the leather a few times to get it to the thinness of your choice. You would want to do this instead of rushing and trying to make a much thicker skive at a go.
- Always make sure your exacto blades are sharp. If the blades of your exacto knife are dull, it can skid over the surface of the leather and put a hole or slit into the finished parts of the leather.
- In a worse case scenario, you’re twice as likely to put a slit on your fingers if your exacto blades are dull.
- Never wet or dampened your leather before using an exacto knife to skive or thin it.
- You would want to as much as possible limit your skiving to only the flesh side of the leather.
- To make shallower splits, you would want to hold the exacto knife horizontal to the surface of the leather.
- To make a deeper bevel, hold your exacto knife more perpendicular.
2. You Can Use Sandpaper Blocks To Thin Leather
Sandpaper is a very useful tool around most woodworking shops but it’s also a common and a must-have tool for most leatherwork shop.
Sandpaper is a paper that is stuck with sand or other abrasive materials and in leatherwork, it’s often used for smoothening the edges and the flesh side of leather.
While there is sanding machinery you can use, using a sanding block would probably be one of the best and cheapest ways to thin leather without a skiver.
Using this method is going to result in your leather evenly thinned out, very clean, smooth, and professional-looking.
How To Choose Sandpaper For Your Sanding Blocks
There are two important things you would want to consider when it comes to the sandpaper you’re going to use to make your sandpaper blocks.
1. Sandpaper Base Layer
The first thing to consider is the base layer of the sandpaper. Although this material is popularly called sandpaper it’s not always made up of paper.
Sandpaper apart from the usual paper base may also come with either a fabric base or a combination of paper and fabric as its base layer.
Not only is the paper base the most common sandpaper but also makes for the cheapest sandpaper.
Because paper is not the most durable material, this type of sandpaper base makes this sandpaper disposable. You’re likely to dispose of a paper base sandpaper after just a single-use.
The fabric base sandpaper on the other hand is a lot more wear-resistant.
This is because the fabric-based are coated with special resins that give this type of sandpaper its moisture-repellent qualities.
So you would be able to wash and reuse the fabric base sandpaper. One special thing about this type of sandpaper is that it can be used to sand hard-to-reach places on your leather.
The final type of sandpaper base I’m going to touch on is the sandpaper with the combined base layer which is paper and fabric.
This is going to be the most durable sandpaper to go for if you want to make a very durable sandpaper block that you can use over and over again for thinning your leathers.
Your sandpaper blocks are going to be moisture-resistant and wear-resistant and you will be able to reuse this over and over again.
2. Grit Size
Grit is a rating used to measure the abrasiveness of the sandpaper. It’s also used to measure the size of the abrasive materials on the sandpaper.
Basically, the higher the grit number the finer abrasion and the smoother the sanding is going to be on the surface of the leather.
In the same way, the lower the grit number the coarser the abrasion on the sandpaper. The sandpaper with lower grit will generally sand leather a lot quicker.
How To Make A Sandpaper Block
You will need to make a sandpaper block in order to comfortably thin your leather to a desired thickness or as it were thinness.
- A piece of 2×2 or 2×6 wooden block. (You can cut it to the size that fits your hand)
- Tacking Nails
Step 1: Cut your wooden block to size or pick out one that’s already cut to size.
Step 2: Cut the sandpaper to the size of your wooden block.
Step 3: Wrap the sandpaper around the wooden block and secure it with the tacking nails. Done!
How To Use Sandpaper Block To Thin Leather
While this is going to work very well, I must admit using a sandpaper block is going to be one of the most tiresome ways to thin leather without a skiver.
Here’s how you go about it but first these are the things you will need.
- Sandpaper Block
- Piece Of Plywood
- Tacking pins
Step 1: Stretch your leather over a board or plywood with tacking pins or push pins. Make sure the surface of the board you’re stretching over has no sand or debris.
Step 2: Put on a nose mask (a dust mask preferably).
Step 3: Sand the leather with your sandpaper block to thin it out nice and evenly.
Step 4: Repeat the sanding process until you get the thickness you want.
3. Use Kitchen Knife To Thin Leather
Last but not the least, you will also be able to use your regular kitchen knife to thin leather if you do not have any leather skivers readily available.
This will particularly work if you just want to skive the edges of wallet pieces, the ends of watchbands, and a couple of other small leather goods.
You will be able to do this perfectly if you have an old putty knife or you have a very sharp kitchen knife – it would, however, take a bit of practice.