In last month’s blog post, we discussed leatherworking as a hobby. Hopefully, you decided to take us up on that suggestion and have begun your new adventure! Since you likely have started to research and invest in leatherworking tools, we’d like to offer ways to make them last. Keep reading below for helpful tips on caring for your tools.
Leather Tool Maintenance
Leatherworking tools will need regular care and maintenance to ensure the longevity of their usage. Cleaning, sharpening, oiling, and checking your tools are vital for optimal performance and getting the best results in your leatherworking. The frequency of your tool maintenance often depends on the type of tool, how often you use it, and what it is used for. Tool maintenance will hopefully become an enjoyable task as this extra care aids in achieving the best outcome from your leather tools. We will explore different types of tools that are used in the proper care and maintenance of your leatherworking tools.
One important part of tool upkeep is keeping your blades sharp. A common tool that can be used to sharpen blades of all sizes is a sharpening stone. These solid blocks can be synthetic, chemical, and natural compositions and can vary in size and shape. They are run over the blade edge in a linear movement to help smooth out the blade and reduce the existence of burrs. Different compounds and sharpening stone materials will provide a variety of sharpening levels.
The leather strop is another main tool that is used in the care and maintenance process. It is a long, flexible, rectangular piece of leather used to even out tiny burrs on the blade’s edge. This smooths and sharpens the edge. Typically when a blade dulls, it’s because of nicks and burrs which will degrade the quality of the cutting edge of the blade. Blades are usually sharpened by the use of increasingly fine-grained stones or sharpeners, using the more coarse sharpening stones at the beginning to even out larger burrs, then transitioning to finer stones to work on smaller burrs. The leather strop is used last because it is the finest-grained sharpening tool. It ensures a smooth blade edge, while also polishing the leather tool.
The goal of using a leather strop is to refine an already-sharpened blade edge. However, over usage of the leather strop can damage the blade by removing too much metal. It’s uncommon but does happen. The key is to maintain regular care, but also on an as-needed basis to ensure you don’t wear out your tools prematurely.
Once you feel your blade is properly sharpened, using a sharpening compound will help to polish it off so this is typically the last step in the sharpening process. Sharpening compounds are a mixture of natural or chemical materials that are finely abrasive and will refine the sharpened edge. They create an almost new edge to the blade. Adding the sharpening compound to the leather strop is an effective way to achieve this polished finish.
Leather strops can be used with chemical components to aid in the sharpening process. Aluminum oxide is a compound of aluminum and oxide that, when rubbed into the leather strop, will create a smoother, finer, sharper blade edge than when just using the leather strop alone.
Another compound that can be used with the leather strop to assist in getting the best results is a jeweler’s rouge. It’s rubbed into the flesh side of the leather strop and helps to create a finer edge on the blade. This process, like the others, will allow your tool to achieve the best cutting results.
Tool Organization and Cleaning
With proper maintenance and organization, you’ll be ready to begin when you come back to your hobby and be able to achieve the best results in your leather projects. We recommend organizing your tools in leather holders, a workbench, or a toolbox to minimize scraping or other types of damage that can occur when tools are thrown together. It is also an important part of the cleaning process to wipe them down after each use and store them in a cool, dry space.
At Texas Saddlery we take so much care and pride in our work, and that begins with proper tool maintenance. While this vital step of leatherworking could be overlooked, we encourage you to add it to your routine. You will see the best possible results from your hard work and will see the return on your tool investment. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have regarding the cleaning and maintenance of your tools, and we’ll be happy to advise!