Starting leather work can be quite overwhelming considering the number of leather work tools available and how expensive they may cost. This post contains the most optimized and researched set of leather work tools you can get that will have you set up for your entire journey in leather work with $200.
Here are 15 Tools Needed To Start Leather Work;
|1. Self-Healing Cutting Mat||$20|
|2. Poly Punching Board||$13|
|4. Cobbler’s Hammer||$15|
|5. Leather Thickness Gauge||$15|
|7. Diamond Chisels||$12|
|8. Leather Hole Punches||$15|
|9. Rotary Leather hole Punch||$8|
|10. Utility Knife or Box Cutter||$6|
|11. Exacto Knife||$7|
|12. Rotary Cutter||$13|
|13. Skiving Tool||$14|
|15. A Leather Sewing Kit||$21|
Total Expected Average
Cost of Tools:
The prices above are average prices from different online and brick and mortar shops. The great news is that the prices are overestimated to make room for inflation so if you purchase these tools today, your cost will be substantially lower than $200.
There are several tools most people buy when starting leather work and end up never finding use for them especially in the early days. With the tools listed above, you’re guaranteed that you will find use for every single one of them for all manner of leather work projects from a complete beginner level to an intermediate level.
In addition to the the overall average prices, this post goes into details about the characteristics of the tools, various ways the tools can be applied, how to get them, and so much more. Keep reading to find out more!
Working Surfaces For Beginners
These are the basic leatherwork surfaces for beginner you will have to get. You will assemble all of your leather work tools and do all your cutting on them. As a beginner the best leather working surfaces you will need are a self healing cutting mat and a poly punching board.
1. Self-Healing Cutting Mat
The leather self healing cutting mat is a surface not only for cutting but also for taking measurements, gluing, dying, etc. It’s essentially going to be the primary working surface on which you will assemble all other tools. With a self-healing mat, you can turn your coffee table or kitchen table into a leather work bench.
Since it’s self-healing, the cutting mat takes cuts nicely and heals the cuts made on it. Also, it prevents glue, dye, and paint spills from getting onto your actual work surface. It’s great because not only does it heal from cuts but also the self healing mats can easily be cleaned.
So in your leather work beginner kit, the cutting mat is a staple and you need to get one that fits your space whether an A4, A3 or A2 size, etc. Usually, the A2 / A3 sizes are pretty standard for all projects.
Generally, a standard double side A3 or A2 size high-quality self-healing cutting mat from amazon will be at a better price. Check it out over here
Check out an article I wrote earlier about the Best Self Healing Cutting Mats. In this article, I shed more light on everything about Self-healing mats and some really great recommendations.
2. Poly Punching Board
You will use the poly punching board as a support for all the punches you will make on your leather. When you use chisels, pricking irons, or stamps, you wouldn’t want to do it directly on you cutting mat. You will position a poly punching board right underneath the leather you’re tooling or punching to protect your cutting mat and main surface.
One key take away is that the poly board shouldn’t have to be too big. Something around the size of 15 cm x 15 cm will be perfect since you only need it positioned around the part of the leather that is being tooled or punched.
With such small size poly punching board you can expect to pay nothing more than $15 from your local craft store for something of substantial quality. Otherwise you can simply employ your regular kitchen poly cutting board.
Striking Tools For Beginners
The best beginner striking tools for leather is a maul and a cobblers hammer.
For every leather work project you make, you’re definitely going to need a striking tool for stamping or tooling, etc. Mauls are a lot modern compared to the traditional wooden mallets, plastic, or rawhide mallets.
Mauls are often made up of nylon heads with wooden handles. With the right size of maul (16oz – 18oz preferably or at least a 1.5pound) you should be able to accomplish all “striking” tasks you will require for your leather work projects.
Mauls in general can be really expensive and cost up to $90 but you can pay one-third to one-forth the general price for this Leather maul which is of high quality and durability.
4. Cobbler’s Hammer
This is certainly one of the staple leather work tools. A cobbler’s hammer is a non marking hammer meaning it doesn’t create marks when it’s used to hammer leather surfaces. A cobbler’s hammer has domed-rounded face used to beat down glued leather surfaces to set down the glued leather properly.
It’s also useful for hammering down stitches to flatten, even out, and set down the stitching. With it’s smooth surfaces, it’s almost forbidden to use them to hit nails, punches or anything hard. The tail end of the cobbler’s hammer if chisel-like is great for making creases on leather for gluing, or folded edges.
Leather cobbler’s hammer are generally expensive, but one like this Cobbler’s Hammer will match any of the high quality ones and its substantially low priced. You will find it on Amazon!
You can check out my guide on getting leather hammers for leather work. It’s a complete guide on everything you need to know about hammers for leather work.
Measuring Tools For Beginners
Taking various measurements on leather for beginners is best done with a metal square ruler and a leather thickness gauge.
5. Leather Thickness Gauge
As a beginner, being able to predict the exact thickness of leather you’re working with from time to time at various stages of your leather work project can be quite difficult; at least for me and a couple of my colleagues when we first started in leather work.
The leather thickness gauge is a really cool device you can use to check the thickness of your leather pieces. Within a matter of seconds you will be able to measure very accurately the exact thickness of the leather you’re working with.
The great news is that while there are some really expensive ones on the market, you can get this Leather Thickness Gauge from Amazon for much lesser price than what’s on the general market. Check it out!
I have a guide written earlier on leather thickness gauges. You would want to check it out over here for all of my favorites and all there is to know about leather thickness gauges.
Certainly, a ruler had to be in here! When you start out in leather work, all your cutting will be done by hand and what really helps is when you have a metal square ruler.
Metal rulers not plastic or wooden because it won’t chip like a wood or plastic would, so it’s much safer and you will be able to place your cutting knives along the edge of the metal ruler as you cut.
You can go for a straight ruler or a metal square. I particularly prefer the metal square ruler because it’s easy to square up things on the leather and makes the project very accurate.
Rulers are integral part of leather work cutting. You will mainly use a metal rule also as a guide, precisely, when using your cutting tools like the exacto knife and the utility knife.
The metal rulers you would use are your $3 – $12 regular metal rulers that you may already have laying around your house. Ideally, you would also want to go for a fairly long ruler (at least 50cm) so that you will be able to have enough length to work with.
Punching Tools For Beginners
This category are tools you will use to punch holes on leather for various purposes. The best beginner punching tools for starting leather work are diamond chisels, leather hole punches, and a rotary leather hole punch.
7. Diamond Chisels
The diamond chisel also known as the stitching chisel is great for punching holes on leather before sewing. In the initial stages of your leather work, most of your works will be finished by hand stitching and this tool will come in handy.
Getting the diamond chisel as a beginner simplifies the operation of making stitch holes unlike using something like the pricking iron which will only prick the leather but not all the way through and will require you to use an awl to further pierce through the leather before stitching.
You can get a 3mm prong pitch diamond chisel for your smaller leather work goods such as wallets, purses, bill folder, etc and a diamond chisel with a 4mm prong pitch for larger projects such a bags.
Prong pitch is the spaces between the teeth or prongs of a pricking iron, a diamond chisel, or a stitching chisel
With a good depth on the prongs, an ideal prong pitch on the teeth of the diamond chisel, and a gentle tab with a mallet or maul, you will make stitching holes really fast, more accurately and consistent compared to the more traditional ways of pushing an awl through a piercing during stitching.
To make your hole punches for stitches pretty fast and more accurate, you can get this high-quality stainless steel diamond chisel from Amazon! Although diamond chisels may cost as high as $60 – $100 on average, you can find some high quality ones costing Three to four times less on popular online shops like amazon and eBay.
For more information on Diamond chisels, really helpful tips and a thorough review on a variety of diamond chisels, you can check out this article I wrote earlier here!
8. Leather Hole Punches
The leather hole punches are very helpful if you will be using leather hardware such as eyelets, rivets, grommets, press studs, etc. You will use the leather hole punches to make holes on any part of the leather.
While there are some really great rotary leather hole punches that sort of make the entire hole making process very easy (especially with holes close to the edges of your leather project), I find individual punches to be very useful for beginners since it can be used to punch holes on every part of the leather.
Generally the most common sizes you would use often that covers a lot of projects are the sizes 1, 2, and 4.
9. Rotary Leather hole Punch
While you will be using the single hole punches highlighted in this article for holes literally anywhere on your leather, getting a rotary leather hole punch will be fantastic for all the holes you will be making especially on the edges of your leather work articles.
So like most beginners, you will do a lot of hand punches and stitching and the rotary punch has nice small holes for stitching and also holes big enough for belts, strap holes, and all kinds of leather work projects you will have to punch holes.
With Less than 10 bucks, in hand, you can get a solid rotary hole punch you can use for various punches on the edges of your leather work goods.
Check out my complete guide for Rotary leather hole punches.
Cutting Tools For Beginners
The cutting tools are cutting instruments you will require to render various forms of cuts on leather. The best beginner cutting tools are the exact knives, utility knives or box cutters, and rotary cutters.
10. Exacto Knife
The Exacto knife is a super-sharp interchangeable blade fixed on a pen shaped handle, used for general leather work. You will find them being marketed as a X-acto knife, precision knife, hobby knife, or craft knife.
The function of the exacto knife is numerous some of which are slicing, whittling, heavy-weight leather cutting, detailed cuts, etc.
It’s a fairly cheap tool considering the various kinds of uses it has. One of the key things you will notice with most exacto knives is that the design, regardless of the brand, can have it’s blades interchangeable between different brands.
For more details about the Exacto knives, it’s blade types, uses, and some truly amazing tips, check out this research I did on this highly versatile tool.
11. Utility Knife or Box Cutter
Although you might already have an exacto knife at this point that will do almost everything the utility knife will do for you, I still recommend getting a utility knife for several reasons.
The utility knife is your super-rugged all round knife you must have for cutting all sorts or things including leather. The utility knife has a solid built and the way it’s held makes you feel you can cut through anything.
It gives you a much solid grip, unlike the delicate grip you will get with the exacto knives. They come with replaceable blades you can easily swap out when it dulls out and are quite on the low price end for a single tool and even with a good set of utility knives your guaranteed not to pay so much.
These knives are super easy to use and you may probably have one laying around, you might as well use it for your leather work.
12. Rotary Cutter
The rotary cutter is made up of a circular shaped revolving blade with a handle generally used for making the most perfect straight cuts on very thin leathers.
You will find this tool particularly very useful when starting out in leather work because it’s safe and easy to use. The standard size you will get that will suit all of your medium and lightweight leather cutting are 45mm or 60mm rotary cutter.
You can find a lot more information about rotary cutters for leatherwork in this previous publication done.
13. Skiving Tool
Skiving tools are essential to leather work and even as a beginner you will find so much use for it when starting out. The skiving knife is what you would use to reduce the thickness of the leather to make gluing two or more leathers and folding easy.
You can use the skiving tool to reduce the bulky edges of the leather before folding it over for sewing or lacing.
In many cases, you would want to glue two or more pieces of leather together to get a preferred thickness. The skiving knife is what you will use to reduce the thickness before you do the gluing.
A classic example is when making leather belts, the part of the leather that would have to be folded over for the buckle, has to be skived with skiving tools to make the fold easier and avoid it being bulky.
Also for bookbinding, pockets of wallets/purses, etc, you will need to take the leather down to a feather-edge to make folding and gluing a lot easier and prevent the leather work from bulking up.
So anywhere on the leather you wouldn’t want a lot of thickness, the skiving knife is the tool you would use to get rid of it. There are a lot of fancy skiving knives out there that costs on average more than $30 but as a beginner, all you need is a very good safety skiver which is less costly. They’re more easier to use and they don’t cost a lot.
Using a leather skiving tool can be quite challenging especially if you’re just starting out but to make it a lot easier, I worked on a post early on.
I wrote a guide on leather skiving tools which detailed everything about skiving tools and a couple of varieties you can considering addition to the one listed in this post. You can check it out here!
Beeswax is essentially wax gotten from bees that is processed to be used for wood or leather polishes and candles.
In leather work, a total beginner will use beeswax for 2 main things. To finish the edges of leather articles before burnishing and on thread to make it easy for stitching.
Get yourself a 170g – 200g of all natural Eco-friendly Beeswax that will see you through a lot of leather work projects for literarily chicken change!
15. Leather Sewing Kit
A sewing kit will come in handy for all the sewing you will be doing. Generally, a leather tool kit will contain a bunch of inferior tools but I found getting a kit specific to a leather work activity like sewing is great instead of an all round leather work tools kit. This reduces the chances of getting inferior tools.
A kit like this Leather Sewing Kit in the picture above will not cost you so much but will offer you the most important range of leather sewing tools. The leather sewing kit you pick out anywhere else should contain, if not all, at least the following below.
- Stitch Groover
- Leather Stitch Marker
- Stitching Awl
- Scratch Awl
- Leather Edge Beveler
- Leather Thread
- Leather Hand Sewing Needles
- Leather Edge Slicker or Burnisher
A stitch groover is a handheld tool used for marking areas for stitching on leather and also creates grooves in which the stitches that will be made will sit. The stitch groover makes stitches on leather very accurate and helps reduce wear and abrasion on the thread.
The stitch groover will often come with an adjustable head and is mostly used along the edges of leather to create guidelines and grooves.
Leather Stitch Marker:
A leather stitch marker as the name implies is used to make stitch marks to aid sewing on leather. It’s necessary because it create tiny holes which serves as guidelines for punching or piercing with an awl when sewing leather.
The stitch marker has a small revolving head and a handle. With or without a ruler, you can mark out stitch guidelines for your leather works. The stitch marker can also be used to create stitch markings decorations on a dampened leather.
The stitching awl is absolutely fantastic for creating holes for hand stitching. It’s used to pierce through the leather to create holes after the leather has been marked with a stitch groover and/or stitch marker.
The stitching awl creates perfect holes that aligns on both ends of the leather being pierced and it a tool used to ensure all holes punched are thorough.
With a stitching awl, you will be able to change the angle of a hole you’re creating to make stitching much more easier and neat.
You will need to be very careful because you wouldn’t want to poke your fingers with the stitching awl.
The scratch awl comes with a handle and a very pointy end used instead of pencil or a pen to mark out patterns or templates on the grain side of leather. This makes it a better option compared to using pencils or pens on your leather.
The scratch awl is also great for piercing holes after stitch markings have been made (with a stitch marker) or for widening already made holes.
Last but not least, instead of buying a leather rougher that can be used to accurately roughen leather surfaces. For example if you want to glue the grain side of leather, you can employ the scratch awl to roughen the areas to be glued (especially grain side) although the leather rougher will do it much more accurately.
The Scratch awl is a very useful stitching tool you should have in your leather sewing kit.
Leather Edge Beveler:
Leather edge bevelers are used to round or trim the top corner edges of leather of varying thickness to give it a professional and top-grade quality finish.
Generally, the smaller the number on the edge beveler the smaller the amounts of trim you will get on the edge of the leather. This makes it suitable for thinner weight leathers. While on the other hand, higher numbers on the edge beveler meaning the more trimming you will get on the edge of the leather. This makes it suitable for thicker weight leathers.
As a beginner, generally a number 1 and number 3 edge beveler will do the trick just about right for you.
The leather edge beveler is important because trimming the edges helps prevent the edges of the leather work projects from developing a mushroom shape.
Using a leather thread is one of the best and secured way of joining different pieces of leather together. You can use a leather thread on a sewing machine or needle. But as a beginner, you will mostly use a thread with a needle since all the stitching you will do in the initial stages will be handmade.
There are generally different kinds of threads you can use to sew leather. There are nylon threads, polyester thread, waxed thread, cotton, etc. These are all great for machine sewing, hand sewing, and embroidery.
The way threads are numbered varies from brand to brand, but generally, you will use a smaller size threads for lightweight leather goods such as wallet, gloves, etc. medium size threads for leather goods such as belts, bags, handbags, suitcases, etc. and for larger size threads for boots, saddles, holsters, etc.
Also, to make sure you don’t run out the threads you’re using when sewing, ensure that the thread you would use is 4times the length of sewing you will be making.
No matter the type of thread you go for, make sure it’s waxed or do well to wax it yourself (that is running the thread over a block of beeswax). This prevents the thread from breaking and makes its passage through the leather stitch holes very smooth especially if you’re hand stitching.
Leather Hand Sewing Needles:
Needles are indeed obvious additions to the leather sewing kit. These are normally metal stitching needles and for leather hand stitching, you might use 2 at a time since the most common hand stitching method is the saddle stitching.
The chosen leather sewing kit for this post contains curved needles that makes it very easy to work on very tight corners you can’t really pull the needle straight through.
Leather Edge Slicker or Burnisher:
Now here’s another tool you can’t simply do without. The leather edge slicker is a wooden handheld tool with a bunch of rounded grooves on it which you will use to burnish off the edges of your leather to give it a nice professional finish.
The leather edge beveler are commonly used by rubbing beeswax, gum, water, or any other leather edge products along the edges of your leather item and then slickering over the waxed edges with the leather burnisher.
This will smoothen the edges of your project quite nicely and make layers and layers of leather feel and act as one piece. You can check out this article I wrote about leather edge slickers.
A little Disclaimer! This is totally a matter of preference as most people will have different recommendations, some similar to my list others not so much. However, this is several days or research to help you with the best of the best leather work tools for beginners and if I’m to start all over again these are the tools I will personally buy.