Monday, 2 May 2016

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ken Griffin

Ken Griffin (1914-1988) was a key contributor to the birth of the modern age of leathercraft, helping bridge the gap between an era of vocational leatherworkers to a craft that is available and accessible to the leather hobbyist around the world.  A renowned master of his time, Griffin’s handmade stamps served as the models for many of the original Craftools. His books and his introduction of the Doodle Page helped teach the masses the love of leathercraft.  His success in the leatherworking industry provided Griffin the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a magician, also earning he and his wife global notoriety in a second vocation.

Born in Magnum, Oklahoma, Ken Griffin was the youngest of 10.  When he was young, Ken loved to draw and read, his favorite being Western Americana.  He took his first job on a ranch in Deming, New Mexico as a Cowboy for the summer when he was fourteen and spent his summers rodeoing and working on ranches.

Ken Griffin Leathercraft

Ken regularly visited a local saddle shop for leather goods or to get his saddle repaired and always admired the hand carved leatherwork.  The shop owner offered him a job and taught him to build saddles, repair harnesses, and stamp leather.  Ken went on to work for a number of other saddle shops, eventually finding himself working for Hollywood’s Ed Bohlin, “Saddle Maker to the Stars”.

Ken began commissioning small piece work in the evenings, which evolved into a small manufacturing business.  The shop he was working with hired a young local actress named Roberta to wear their products out to shows and meetings to promote the business, and Ken began teaching the new shop assistant about working with leather.  Not long after, Ken and Roberta had planned to marry.

The manufacturing business began to grow and Ken oversaw the manufacturing team.  Ken continued to fulfill specialty commissions for Ed Bohlin as well as creating pieces for some of Hollywood biggest stars including Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Sammy Davis, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers.  He became running buddies with legendary saddlemaker F.O. Baird, and began to organize the local stampers to make agreements to never undercut each other’s prices.  Many attended, however some artisans such as Al Shelton had a tendency to keep to themselves.  Young Al Stohlman was just starting out and was more dependent on special orders; no one considered him a threat at that time.  He was a good artist, but the group jested “Do you think he’ll ever learn to stamp?”

Ken Griffin Leather Carving

Ken found it more lucrative to stamp commissioned pieces rather than producing finished goods, so the majority of his work was on consignment from local leather shops.  In addition to raising their 5 children, Roberta became the pick-up and delivery person for merchandise.  She also began taking classes on lacing and braiding from Joey Smith, bringing another feature to their family leather business.

During that time, saddle makers and carvers thought “crafty” stampers where a flash in the pan; however, Dave Tandy did not.  When Dave started his craft store devoted to leather hobbyists rather than professionals, the first Tandy catalog cover featured a carved border of Ken’s stamping that had been designed as a belt pattern.  Ken admired the creativity that leather hobbyists brought to leatherworking, becoming good friends with early leather innovators from Southern California such as Christine Stanley, Lou Roth, and Cliff Ketchum.

Ken had always designed his own stamping tools and attracted the attention of Dick McGahen.  When McGahen founded the Craftool Company, Ken’s tools became the models for the original Craftool stamps.  One afternoon, McGahen was contemplating how to advertise the new stamping tools, to which Ken suggested that perhaps they put sketches in each flyer that will show how to use a particular tool.  “Call it a Doodle Page, or something like that.”

Ken Griffin Doodle Page

Ken created many of the original Doodle Pages, as well as writing The Ken Griffin Scrapbook and Art of Leather Carving  that were sold by the Craftool Co.  He is also responsible for coming up with the idea for the Lucky Seven starter kit and the Lucky Eight Belt Book features an original Ken Griffin foto-carve belt pattern.

Ken always secretly loved magic and even carried cards in his pocket as a young cowboy to practice card manipulations.  With his success in the leather industry, he was afforded the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of being a magician.  The Griffin’s sold their house and hit the road as a family, all of whom worked for their show,“Navo, American Indian Magician”.  During their tours, the Griffins would visit leatherworkers around the United States and Roberta would regularly share industry updates in her column Leather Skivings published in The Craftsman magazine.

Ken and Roberta Griffin Magician

The family toured around the country, teaching the children through distance learning programs, until the oldest were approaching high school in the mid-1950’s.  Having shared his talents at a vast number of different saddlery’s during their Summers, Ken had his pick of where to settle down.  The first on his list was the Miles City Saddlery in Miles City, Montana.  Owner Joe Conway excitedly invited him to make Miles City his home.

After the children had graduated, Ken and Roberta hit the road again with their magic act, “The Ken Griffin Show”.  The show featured scenery, props, and costumes, becoming one of the largest of its kind in the US at that time.  The pair spent the rest of their lives touring as a magic act, being featured on the Ed Sullivan show and performing in at least 8 USO tours.


Fun Fact: Ken and Roberta Griffin were awarded the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft in 1984 for their contributions to the leather industry.  They were also honored with the Award of Merit by the Academy of Magical Arts in 1979.

Fun Fact: Some of Ken Griffin’s original Doodle Page carvings from the late 40’s and early 50’s are on display at the Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery.

Ken and Roberta Griffin

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Leaders In Leathercraft: Al Shelton

Al Shelton (1920-2016) was known affectionately as the “Cowboy Artist to the Stars” for his decades of artistry within the Hollywood community.  In his iconic leather workshop on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California, Shelton created carved leather works for celebrities such as Clark Gable, Burt Reynolds, President Ronald Reagan, and many others.  Throughout his career, Shelton openly shared his wealth of knowledge in leathercraft and influenced generations upon generations of industry leaders.

Al Shelton Stohlman Award

Born in 1920, Al Shelton was raised by his father in a humble and hardworking family in Akron, Colorado.  As a teen, Shelton contracted scarlet fever, which lead to his dropping out of school at the age of 15.  He had always admired the culture of the cowboy, so he set off two years later to try his hand in the trade.

Shelton went on to work as a cowboy in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska over the next three and a half years.  Although most of the saddles he saw were rather plain, the occasional ornate saddle he would come across fascinated him and he wanted to teach himself how it was done.  He decided to decorate his own saddle, however he did not realize that the background was embossed, so he used broken razor blades to shave down the leather to get depth and used nails to make designs.  It was not the lavish effect he had hoped for.

After his stint as a cowboy, Shelton took a job at an auction yard in Denver for a few years.  At the age of 23, he wandered into the Powder River Saddlery to simply have a look around and take in the aroma of leather.  After talking to employees about the craft, Shelton found himself with an instruction book, a handful of tools, and several scraps of leather.  It quickly became his favorite past time and, after only 3 months of practice, he was offered a job at the saddlery as an apprentice.  He was anxious to prove himself and began trying a little too hard.  The foreman’s advice stuck with him; “Al, you’ll have to slow down!  Learn to do your work good first… speed will come later.”

Al Shelton Signature Leathercraft

After nearly a year with the saddlery, Shelton decided to trek out West towards California where he dreamed of working on the fancy silver mounted saddles done by Edward H. Bohlin Saddlery in Hollywood.  He worked over the next year at several saddle shops, learning different techniques from each and developing his own style.

Shelton decided to become a freelance leather artisan in 1945 and started his own business.  He had a booth making and selling leather goods in Hollywood’s Farmers Market, where hundreds of sight seers daily would watch and ask questions about leathercraft while he worked.  After 5 years, he moved to his studio in Studio City, California where he enjoyed a little more solitude to be able to focus on his work.

Shelton also began teaching around this time.  While instructing the likes of Lou Roth at Pacific Arts and Crafts, Shelton began collaborating with Dick McGahen of the Craftool Company to publish a number of Doodle Pages and a pattern book.  Operation Leather Carving was released in 1950, which featured a variety of floral patterns that highlighted Shelton’s style of flowing lines and intricate leaves and flowers.

Al Shelton Tandy Leather Doodle Page

Throughout his career, Shelton became well known within the Hollywood community, expertly crafting director’s chairs, script covers, briefcases, belts, belt buckles, watchbands, and a plethora of other leather goods for films, television, and the Hollywood elite.  His designs were featured on album covers for Western artists such as Patsy Cline and his work has been displayed in prominent museums throughout the world, including the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles.

Regardless of his success, Shelton remained humble and dedicated himself to teaching others.  His life work included the publication of well over 100 how-to articles in leathercraft magazines, most notably his “Tricks of the Trade” series.  In 2004, Shelton was awarded the prestigious Al Stohlman Award for Achievement In Leathercraft.

Al Shelton Tricks Of The Trade

Fun Fact: In addition to leathercraft, Shelton taught himself bronze sculpting, oil painting, and water color painting.  Although he kept himself too busy to self-promote much, his business cards were hand painted with water colors.

Multiple images in this article are attributed to the Leather Crafters and Saddler’s Journal and Make It With Leather Magazine.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ann Stohlman

Ann Stohlman (1924-2004) was a keystone in establishing the foundation of modern leathercraft.   Collaborating with her husband Al Stohlman, Ann assisted with leather projects, typed manuscripts, and produced many of the books that are still the best leatherworking resources available today.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ann Stohlman

Born Ann Lloyd, she grew up on logging camps with her father in Oregon and northern California.  He taught her how to chop wood, use fire arms, hunt, fish, cut meat, and other things necessary for surviving harsh winters.  Ann was said to have shot her first deer at age 9.

In the Spring of 1963, Ann met some friends at the Big Creek Lodge for a weekend of fishing.  When she arrived, there was a lot of excitement about someone doing leathercraft demonstrations there that evening, which she didn’t have much interest in attending.  “Don’t you know who Al Stohlman is?” they asked, to which she replied, “No, and I bet he doesn’t know who Ann McDonald is!”

She joined her friends at the demonstration, which was followed by Al playing guitar and sharing stories about the war.  The two spent the next day fishing together, and then continued to correspond through mail after parting ways.  Al visited Ann in San Francisco one weekend and they discovered that they quite enjoyed each other’s company.  Shortly after, the two were married that August in Tijuana, Mexico.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ann Stohlman

When first wed, Al was still making saddles on his ranch in Hemet, California.  His work was very popular and he was having trouble keeping up with orders, so Ann insisted that Al teach her so she could help.  Within three years, Ann was making saddles all by herself, including the cutting, fitting, carving, dyeing, sewing, and finishing.  Ann preferred realistic designs of flowers and oak leaves for her saddles rather than the acanthus leaves and swirls that Al favored, which she referred to as “Texas cabbage”.

As they worked together, they taught each other the skills they had individually learned growing up.  Al taught her how to play guitar, read music, ride a horse, use a lariat, and the necessary things to know around the ranch.  Ann taught Al how to improve his cooking, fish, hunt big game, and how to butcher and package meat for the winter.  Anything they didn’t know how to do individually, they would study together at the library.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ann Stohlman

Southern California became too crowded to suit them, so the couple bought a 200-acre ranch in Cache Creek, British Columbia and moved there in 1969.  Although they continued their saddle business, they shifted their concentration on getting their knowledge into print while they were still able.  Together, they published over 30 how-to books on working with leather, as well as three expansive books on saddle making.

Ann Stohlman’s legacy lives on through the Ann Stohlman Youth Award for Achievement in Leathercraft that was establish in 1994 through the Al & Ann Stohlman Award Foundation.  To date, more then 40 Ann Stohlman Youth Awards have been granted to participants under the age of 19 who demonstrate their aptitude in working with leather and are willing to share their talents with others.


Leaders In Leathercraft: Ann Stohlman

Fun Fact: Ann would often make identical shirts, pants, vests, and jackets for she and Al, which they wore in matching pairs virtually every day. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Leaders In Leathercraft: Oliver Sturdy

Oliver “Ollie” Sturdy (1911-1997) was a well-respected machinist, highly-recognized for his ability and quality workmanship, who served as the manufacturing arm of a budding Craftool Company.

Oliver "Ollie" Sturdy of the Craftool Co.

Oliver Sturdy moved to Los Angeles in his early teens and was self-taught when it came to creating metal tools.  He was running a small machine shop out of his garage when he first met Dick McGahen, who approached Sturdy with a hand full of saddle stamps and inquired if he would be interested in making some.  Sturdy told McGahen, “I don’t want to get involved with a lot of experimental work.  How many of these do you think we want to make?” to which McGahen replied, “Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but we might make 5,000 of them.”  Sturdy laughed, “There aren’t 5,000 people in the country who would buy those things!”

At the time, McGahen’s Craftool Company had employed Ellis Barnes, Ken Griffin, and a number of others who had been hand-making tools and could not keep up with the high volume being purchased by the Tandy Leather Company.  Sturdy enjoyed a challenge, so he took the job and subcontracted for Craftool as the  Sturdy Die & Machine Company.  He put his heart and soul in to machining stamps for the Craftool Company and managed the production end for McGahen.

Sturdy was also a hobbyist pilot and would occasionally fly to Hemet, California to visit Al Stohlman, who was designing many of the stamps for Craftool.  Stohlman did not have a phone, so Sturdy would fly over Stohlman’s house to let him know that he’d like to meet with him.  If Stohlman wanted to talk to Sturdy, he’d lay out two logs parallel to one another and Sturdy would land.  If not, Stohlman would lay the logs out in an X, and Sturdy would return another time.

The collection of Oliver Sturdy's original Craftool stamps is on display at the Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery

The collection of Oliver Sturdy’s original Craftool master stamps is on display at the Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery

In May of 1958, Sturdy was approached with a business proposition yet again; however this time by Charles Tandy, Jim West, and Luther Henderson of the Tandy Leather Company.  Sturdy sold his business to Tandy Leather and the Sturdy Die & Machine Company became Craftool Manufacturing in March of 1961, and Sturdy moved to Fort Worth in August of 1962 to serve as the General Manager of the new manufacturing division.

The Craftool Company continued under his management until 1967, when Ollie developed and began managing Tandy Machine Tooling Company.  With this company, Ollie was able to create and manufacture special tools and equipment for various divisions of the Tandy Corporation, including the Tandy Factory, Craftool, and Textan.

Oliver "Ollie" Sturdy of the Craftool Co.

Leaving Craftool in the able hands of Fred Absher, Sturdy retired in 1972.  His retirement allowed him the opportunity to fly his private plane with family and friends as well as to travel the Pacific Northwest extensively with his wife, Juanita.


Fun Fact: Although rare, tool collectors may come across a stamping tool marked “Sturdy” accompanied by a rusty mark that reads “Craftool”.  The very first run of stamping tools Oliver Sturdy produced had “Sturdy” printed on them rather than Craftool.  McGahen insisted that future tools not be identified by maker, but rather simply read “Craftool” instead.  He had Sturdy add “Craftool” to the first run of “Sturdy” stamps, however it was added after they had already been chrome plated, so the Craftool mark was never sealed. 

Oliver Sturdy original leathercraft stamp

Monday, 18 January 2016

Leaders In Leathercraft: Jim Gick

Jim Gick (1917-1993) assisted in the development of modern leathercraft through Pacific Arts & Crafts, his involvement with the creation of the Craftaid, and his contributions to the general craft industry.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Jim Gick by Tandy Leather

Jim Gick initially discovered a love for crafting when visiting the USO while serving in WWII.  After the war, he was so enthralled with producing handmade projects that he and his brother-in-law, Al Pauly, opened the Pacific Model Supply in Southern California in 1947.  As interest in the business grew, the store expanded in to the Pacific Arts & Crafts in 1950.  Here they taught leathercraft, copper tooling, plaster painting, model airplanes and cars, crepe paper, and more.  The classes were very popular, often filling the store with eager onlookers wanting to learn.  Even with the addition of a ceramic studio and a complete wood shop, leathercraft still accounted for 50% of the business.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Jim Gick by Tandy Leather

Gick decided to put more focus on the leather end of the business and bought out Pauly to bring in leather carving expert Joey Smith as a partner and an instructor.  Their classes brought a lot of attention to leathercraft, catching the attention of leathercrafters such as Al Shelton, as well as artist and inventor Lou Roth.  After innovating a plastic engraving sheet to help apply patterns on to leather to expedite teaching, Roth, Gick, Smith, Al Stohlman and Dick McGahen started a company to manufacture these new “Craftaids” through the Craftool Company.

Pacific Arts & Crafts also became a popular gathering place for leather artists of Southern California.  These craftsmen would actively do demonstrations and often meet socially, in time developing a formal leathercraft guild.  The Leather Guild paved the way for future leathercraft guilds and included prominent names such as Al Stohlman, Ken Griffin, Christine Stanley, Ladd Harverty, Cliff Ketchum, and many other well-known leather artisans.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Jim Gick by Tandy Leather

Gick enjoyed teaching so much that he wanted to expand his business and begin transferring his knowledge of crafts to paper.  He began photographing step-by-step instructions for crafting which he then would add more detailed lesson in text, lead to publishing several crafting books as Gick Enterprise.

After publishing some of his first books, Gick joined the Tandy group in 1960 and moved to Fort Worth as the Assistant General Manager of the American Handicraft Division.  After two years, he was promoted to Merchandising Manager of Tandy Leather Co. where he was responsible for handling merchandising for Tandy Leather Co., American Handicraft stores, and the Craftool Co.

In 1965, Gick returned to California to help open additional American Handcraft stores, and spent the next few years developing various craft brands before deciding to return to publishing under Gick Publishing Inc., eventually retiring in 1979.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Jim Gick by Tandy Leather


Tandy Leather would like to extend a special “Thank You” to Jim Gick’s son, James Gick, for sharing photographs and biographical information about his father.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 13: Double Loop Lacing

Join us in this weekly video series with award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!  In this series, Jim teaches viewers to create a wallet from scratch, including lessons on tooling, dyeing, finishing, construction, assembly, and lacing.

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at



Materials Used In Lesson 13:

Lacing Chisels

Utility Knife

Medium Brown Water Stain 

Wool Dauber

3/32″ (2mm) Premium Calf Lace

Lacing Needle

Horn Creaser 



A few things learned from this video:

After wallet is all stuck together, it is time to add holes for stitching.  To accomplish this, we will be using a set of lacing chisels to add holes in to the leather to run lace through.  We want the holes to be distanced roughly the same size of our lace (3/32”, 2 mm), so we will use a 4 prong version and a single prong version of the 3/32” chisels.

You can sharpen chisels like other cutting tools, so make sure that they have a sharp cutting edge on them.  Also, make sure that you are punching in to a cutting board to protect both the chisel tips and the marble.

In the last video, we traced the guideline for the chisels on to the leather with a wing divider.  Now we will start by using the single prong chisel to punch a diagonal hole in each corner.  Once the corners are in place, you may begin punching holes along the guidelines. Using the 4 prong chisel, start by overlapping one prong in the diagonal corner slit and make a light impression along the guideline to see the proper distance to begin with.  From there, use the 4 prong chisel to begin punching holes in your leather along the guide line.  Always overlap the first prong in the last hole that you made to punch 3 holes at a time to ensure the consistent spacing.

As you get towards the end of a guideline, use the 4 prong chisel to mark the rest of the potential holes, making light impressions in the leather to ensure the pattern comes out evenly in the corner.  If it does not, adjust the hole pattern slightly towards the middle to compensate so that the spacing comes out evenly on the ends.

After all of the holes have been punched in to the leather, make sure to clean up the edges before stitching. When assembling your project, you may find that parts of the wallet interior slightly overhang the wallet back.  To ensure a clean edge, use a utility knife and trim up these areas until the edges are flush.  Also, use the knife to round off the corners just a little bit to remove the square corner, which will help the lacing lay down more cleanly around the corner.  Use the same medium brown waterstain that we used on the interior to touch up any natural colored leather that is now showing along the edge.


Note: Although the following is a thorough explanation of how to Double Loop Lace, the instructions are much easier to follow by seeing them visually, as presented in the video above.  Please refer to the video for further instructions.

For this project, we will be using a 3/32” calf lace in a brown that is close in color to the interior.  As a general rule, always use the best materials that you can to get the best finished result.  Begin with a double arm’s length worth of lace.  Do not try to start by using enough lace for the entire project.  This will not only slow you down, but it also frays the lace as you stitch your project.  By working with a double arm’s length, lacing will be more manageable and create a better looking finished product..

To lace this project, you will need to use a stitching needle.  To best fit the lace on to the needle, trim the end of the lace to a point.  The longer and narrower the point is, the easier the lace will fit on the needle.  Also, skiving the back of the point to thin it down from its full thickness will allow for a better connection with the needle.  Slide the lace in between the prongs with the grain side against the teeth of the needle and apply pressure with something solid, such as a horn creaser, to close the prongs securely.

To begin lacing, start on the end of the wallet rather than the top or the bottom.  Pushing the needle in from the tooled side of the wallet, pass through the leather about 5 holes in from the left corner with the rough side of the lace up and the smooth side down.  Pull the lace through until all that remains is a tail roughly a few inches long.  Always run the lace through your fingers to get any kinks out of it.

The next stitch will go through the adjacent hole.  Making sure that the tail is caught underneath this first loop, you will find that this stitch forms an X with the first one.  The next stitch will go underneath the X that was created where the lace crosses over itself.

After you pull through the X, stitch through the next hole, always from the tooled side of the leather.  You should find that this loop will cross over your last stitch and create a new X.  Continue this pattern to the corner, with all of the stitches consistently coming from the same side.  Pull these stitches snug, but not tight to avoid stretching the lace or curling the corners of your project.

You will continue this pattern when lacing a corner, however you will go through three holes twice: the corner hole you punched diagonally and the holes on either side.  By going through these holes twice, it will maintain the pattern when rounding the corner.  If the stitching holes are too tight when passing through a second time, a lacing fid can help broaden the hole for a second pass.


As you find yourself with roughly a foot of lace left, begin planning where to dry splice your lace.  Avoid dry splicing on the fold as it makes it may make the wallet more bulky.  To dry splice, instead of looping all the way through the next hole, bring the needle through the hole on the tooled size and then up between the layers of leather.  Trim the remaining lace, leaving a tail roughly one inch long.  With the new piece of lace on the needle, pass through the hole on the inside of the wallet that was missed when lacing between the layers.  Pull the new lace through until there is roughly a 1 inch tail left there as well.  Lay the two tails down together and continue lacing as you were.  By lacing these two pieces underneath the pattern, they become very secure and the seam disappears.


Nearing the end of the lacing for your project, you will find yourself close to where you started.  To create a seamless pattern in the lace, there are a few extra steps to take in completing the lacing.

Note: This step may be made easier by watching the video at 00:00 for a visual aid. 

To accomplish this seamless look, lace all the way until you reach the point where the last stitch could be made.  Pass through the last hole that is available, however do not pass through the last X.

If you look at where you began lacing, you will notice that it is pulled to the side a bit rather than the nice, consistent pattern you have on the rest of the lace.  If were to join right there, there would be an obvious joint.

To avoid this, use a stylus to unlace 3-4 stitches from where you began to prepare blending the pattern.  After you have removed these stitches, you should find that the angles where you ended and where you began are the same. Note: As you remove the last stitch, there will be a loop that remains as part of the first grouping.  This loop is important, so do not pull the lace so tight that the loop disappears.

There will now be a tail several inches long from where you have unstitched where the lacing began. Placing your stylus between the layers of leather, pull this tail up between layers, unlacing it from only one of the two holes.  Cut off this tail down to an inch and lay it down to be laced in as you did when dry splicing.

Continue lacing again, passing through the X and then through the hole until you arrive near the end.

You will get to a point where you have 2 holes left on the tooled side and one hole left on the back.  You will pass through the next hole, leaving one hole on the tooled side and none left of the back.  Before going through the X, pass through the loop that is left from the under side.  As you then pass through the X, the lace will pull down the loop.

At this point, you are still left with one hole left on the tooled side, and no holes left on the back.  Pass through the same loop from the top side once again, which should create the same pattern running along the entire edge.  To finish it off, pass the needle through the remaining hole on the tooled side and pass the lace between the two pieces of leather, pulling it through the money compartment.   Trim off the remaining lace.

To add the finishing touches to your double loop lacing, use a mallet to gently tap down the edges flat.

Tandy Leather Wallet Back By Jim Linnell

Thank you for joining us in this project series!  We hope that you have enjoyed creating this project with Jim and learned a few things along the way!  

Comment below with tools or techniques you would like to potentially see covered in future videos.  

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 12: Wallet Assembly

Join us in this weekly video series with award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!  In this series, Jim teaches viewers to create a wallet from scratch, including lessons on tooling, dyeing, finishing, construction, assembly, and lacing.

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at



Materials Used In Lesson 12:

Wing Divider


Lining Leather

Tanner’s Bond Rubber Cement

Leather Shears 

Tanner’s Bond Adhesive Tape


A few things learned from this video:

When removing the mat board from the back of your leather, peel the mat board off of the leather rather than peeling the leather from the mat board to ensure that you do not stretch or contort your leather.  It is typical that the mat board will leave remnants behind, which is part of the reason why adding a liner is a good idea for a nice, smooth finish on the inside of the wallet.

Before assembling the wallet, mark your lines for stitching with a pair of wing dividers roughly half way in from the edge (approximately 1/8”) to scribe a guide for your lacing chisel.

Use a piece of light weight lining leather that is slightly larger than your project to line the back of your wallet for a professional finish without adding much extra bulk.  Rubber cement is ideal for gluing these pieces in place as it holds everything together, however it will also flex and move with the wallet to avoid wrinkling.

Apply a light coat of rubber cement all the way to the edges on the back of your tooled pieces of leather as well as on the surface of the lining leather.  Rubber cement works best when it is applied to both surfaces and allowed to dry a bit until it gets tacky prior to joining the pieces.

After your pieces are stuck together, use leather shears to cut off the excess lining leather.

When putting together the wallet, make sure that you are matching your wallet interior to the exterior so that you are assembling everything in the correct direction.

Double sided adhesive tape works really well for assembling the wallet interior.  It is cleaner and quicker to use than rubber cement and helps keep everything in place with a semi-permanent bond for lacing.  When your wallet interior is stuck together in place, you are ready for the final step – Double Loop Lacing.


Join us next week as we complete our wallet with a thorough tutorial on Double Loop Lacing!  

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 11: Dyeing & Finishing Wallet Interior

Join us in this weekly video series with award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!  In this series, Jim teaches viewers to create a wallet from scratch, including lessons on tooling, dyeing, finishing, construction, assembly, and lacing.

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at


Materials Used In Lesson 11:

Medium Brown Waterstain

Super Shene

Neutral colored Eco-Flo Edgeflex

Nitrile Disposable Gloves

Wool Daubers

High Density Sponge

Horn Creaser


A few things learned from this video:

Now that the parts are cut out, formed, shaped, and have creases added, the final step in preparing our wallet interior is dyeing and finishing.

Coloring interior with the same Medium Brown Waterstain used for the Inlay Dyeing will give a consistent color to our project.

To keep your work area clean, lay out craft paper beneath your project.  Gloves are also a good idea to help prevent the dye from penetrating in to your skin.

Using a wool dauber to spread the Waterstain, apply the dye with circular motions for consistent coverage; applying dye in straight lines may cause a streaky pattern on your final product.  Ensure that you have dyed both sides of the interior pieces, as well as the edges, to avoid any unfinished leather from showing through in your project.

When dyeing a folded piece, allow it to dry in its final form to maintain shape for assembly.

Always allow each step to dry completely prior to the next finish or application that you use.

After the dye has dried overnight, apply Super Shene for a glossy, finished interior.  Applying a light coat to both sides will allow these pieces dry with a firmer finish.

While leather is still moist from Super Shene, you can also rub a burnisher or slicker over the edges to create light friction that will give these pieces a polished finish for a professional looking appearance.

Edgeflex will give a harder finish as well as a professional looking glossed edge.  Although it comes in a variety of colors, for this project we used the neutral finish to apply a clear varnish on the polished edges.  Mini daubers are great for this step as they keep the edge finish right on the edge rather than spilling over on the face of your project.

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 11: Dyeing & Finishing Wallet Interior

Join us next week as we line and assemble the wallet interior in preparation for our final steps!  

Monday, 16 November 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 10: Creating A Wallet Interior

Join us in this weekly video series with award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!  In this series, Jim teaches viewers to create a wallet from scratch, including lessons on tooling, dyeing, finishing, construction, assembly, and lacing.

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at



Materials Used In Lesson 10:

Bag Stiffener

2-3 oz Vegetable Tan Leather

Utility Knife

Poly Cutting Board

Small Round Punch

Adjustable Creaser

Horn Creaser


A few things learned from this video:

For cutting patterns that you intend to use many times, it’s good practice to trace the outlines on to bag stiffener to make the pattern reusable.   Write on each piece the project name and how many pieces to cut, and then punch a hole in it so the pieces can be kept together with a key post.

For the wallet interior, we will be using 2-3 oz vegetable tan cowhide leather.  Using a thinner leather helps prevent adding much weight or additional bulk when the wallet is folded up.

Lay out the patterns on your leather to ensure you get the most out of your piece.  For the wallet pockets, reverse the pattern pieces to cut left and right versions.

Take a common pencil and draw around the outline of each of these pattern pieces.  The cut will be on these pencil lines, so this light mark will not be an issue.  Remember to trace slots on the project as well.

When cutting the pattern out of the leather, there are a lot of different options.  Traditionally a round knife may be used, or a good pair of shears could work as well; however a utility knife gets the job done and it is easy to keep the cutting edge sharp by replacing the blade.

Using a high density plastic cutting surface will protect the blade as you are cutting and won’t drag.  Using a cutting knife on wood or hard rubber may result in the blade sticking in to the cutting surface, making it difficult to cut a clean line.

When cutting a pattern piece out of a side of leather, it may be easier to first trim around the piece out so that you are not struggling with a large piece of leather.

When cutting the slots on the pocket, notice that there are holes at either end of the slit to help the pieces fit together.  A simple way to accomplish this step is to use a small round punch on the holes, followed by cutting the line with your knife.

Use an adjustable creaser to add a decorative crease along the edge of a pocket for a finished look.  Adjusting the creaser to your preferred width, lay one edge of along the outside of the dampened leather to act as a guide for the crease.  To get a good impression from this tool, you will want to apply a significant amount of pressure, however you can also go back over the line multiple times to give it more prominence.  A creaser is preferred for to accomplish this aesthetic as the blunt edge on the creaser compresses the leather whereas other tools, such as a wing divider, would instead scratch the line in to the leather.

The adjustable creaser can also be used to add an accordion pattern to the middle interior piece so that it will not wrinkle when folded in half.

When folding a piece of leather, such as the interior double wallet pocket, dampen the top layer of the leather and then form the piece.    Using a tool such as a horn creaser can help add a bit of pressure to cleanly get a nice crease.  Allow the piece to dry in that shape.

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 10: Creating A Wallet Interior

Join us next week as we begin coloring and assembly of the wallet interior!  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 9: Dyeing and Finishing

Join us in this weekly video series with award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!  In this series, Jim teaches viewers to create a wallet from scratch, including lessons on tooling, dyeing, finishing, construction, assembly, and lacing.

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at



Materials Used In Lesson 9:

Medium Brown Waterstain

Super Shene

Briar Brown Hi-Lite

Fine Tip Paint Brush

High Density Sponge

Nitrile Disposable Gloves


The steps covered in this video are:

Inlay dyeing the background with waterstain; allow to dry overnight.

Apply a heavy coat of Super Shene resist; allow to dry

Apply a second, lighter coat of Super Shene resist; allow to dry

Apply antique finish with Hi-Lite


A few things learned from this video:

Inlay Dyeing

Whenever dyeing and staining, these processes often work best when you allow the leather completely dry out.

Inlay dyeing helps add contrast to your background and makes everything to stand out.  For this step, waterstains are a very effective dye to use.  Waterstains are a relatively new type of dye, however they offer a nice, rich, consistent color that stays where you put it and doesn’t rub off.

When inlay dyeing, it is important to have an ample amount of dye in the brush.  Start out in the larger areas of the design and work closer to the edges as the amount of dye in your brush lightens.  Don’t get in too much of a hurry and use an appropriately sized brush to be able to do the fine detail.  Be very deliberate about where you put the color as dyes are permanent.

As you work in to small pointed corners where elements of the design intersect, make sure that you angle your brush so that it can reach in to the point and that it is not dragging stain where you don’t want it.  Don’t hesitate to turn turn your project around as much as you need to so that you can point your brush to reach in to some of these narrow openings.  It is handy to have paper towel available to be able to brush off excess dye if brushing in to these tight areas.

When you think you are done with the inlay dyeing, check your project over carefully to make sure that you haven’t missed any of the background areas as it is difficult to revisit this step after you have put the finish on.

Allow dye to dry overnight.  When coloring, make sure that you allow the project to dry completely between each of the steps before moving on to the next one.


Adding A Resist

Super Shene is an effective resist finish that will help prevent the antique from getting in to the leather.

When applying Super Shene, daubers and sheep’s wool have both been traditional ways to apply finish, however a high-density sponge is preferred as it doesn’t leave any bubbling, applies the liquid evenly, and doesn’t leave behind any fibers in the finish.   A good practice is to dampen the sponge and then ring out all of the moisture to help soften it so that it can conform to the design.

For the first coat of resist, use a pretty liberal amount of Super Shene.  Get a good consistent coat and work it in to the leather in a circular motion.  It will appear milky looking when applying, however the resist dries clear.  Allow to dry completely before applying the second coat of Super Shene.

When applying the second coat of Super Shene, it does not need to be quite as heavily applied as the first coat, however make sure that it gets down in to all of the details of the project.

Super Shene protects the project and makes it water resistant, adding a nice finish to the project.  Some leathercrafters may actually stop at this step, however the final antiquing process is what really highlights the details in your design!


Antiquing Your Project

Antiquing liquids are designed to settle in to the cuts and impressions of the leather.  If the leather were left unsealed, these products would also stain the leather; applying resist step allows the antiquing to only settle in to the designs.  This allows the leather to remain its original color, while providing additional contrast and depth to the tooling details.

This project achieved the antiquing effect with an acrylic type of finish called Hi-Lite in a Briar Brown color.  Apply the liquid fairly liberally with a high density sponge, completely covering the entire surface of the leather.  Make sure to use enough liquid so that a good amount of the Hi-Lite is worked in to every cut and impression on your project.

As soon as the Hi-Lite has been worked in to all of the details, use a paper towel to remove the excess liquid from the surface areas.  Paper towels are preferred for this step as the fibers from other applicators may remove some of the antiquing effect from the detail.

Allow the antiquing to dry a bit and come back with a dampened paper towel to gently adjust the finish to your liking.

Join us next week as we begin construction and assembly of the wallet interior!