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“Dave Tandy (1889-1966) was a man of vigor and vision, but above all, he was a salesman. The art of selling and merchandising was a game he loved and played his entire life. Dave inspired his son Charles to share his enthusiasm for selling, and their merchandising innovations have been among the most important factors of our success.” – James L. West, Start on a Shoe String
Dave Tandy grew up working on his father’s farm in the Rio Grande Valley and disliked the long hours and backbreaking work. After graduating high school, he decided to take a job as a salesmen at a shoe store in Temple, Texas and enjoyed the opportunity to influence his own income. In 1914, he took another job in the shoe-findings department of a business in Dallas, Texas, where his immediate supervisor was a gentleman named Norton Hinckley. The two went on to begin their own shoe-findings business in Fort Worth, TX as the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company in 1919.
Hinckley and Tandy were a good pair. Hinckley was quiet and methodical, overseeing most of the internal operations, whereas Tandy was charming and ambitious, championing the sales end of the operation. To help get the business’ name in the community, Tandy became an advocate for Fort Worth and was elected the Vice President and Director of the Chamber of Commerce. He was also one of the organizers and first presidents of the Fort Worth Sales Executive Club. Despite his community activism, times were still tough in the shoe findings business.
The company continued to struggle up until outbreak of World War II. Leather became a vital part of the war effort, most of which was being purchased by the government. Dave received a letter from his son Charles who was in the Navy and stationing in Hawaii at the time. He mentioned how leathercrafts were being used in the base hospitals and that it might be venture for the business to consider. Always one to find opportunity in challenge, Dave found that he could get priority for selling specialty leathers to the armed forces for therapeutic leathercraft programs. These specialty leathers worked well for tooling handbags, belts, billfolds, and other piece goods, and that element of their business grew and became very profitable.
When Charles Tandy returned from service in 1947, the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company opened two pilot stores specializing in leathercraft. The began to go into two different directions and eventually split in 1950, with Norton Hinckley taking the shoe supply business and the Tandy family aggressively pursuing the leathercraft business. Dave Tandy became the president of the fledgling Tandy Leather Company; his first vice presidents were Charles Tandy and Jim West.
The father and son duo worked quite well as a team. Dave had 30 years of experience in the business and knew the merchandise whereas Charles was more keenly aware of what was happening in the marketplace and focused on expanding the leathercraft industry. To help market the business, they developed a catalog and grew their mailing list by placing small ads in Popular Science magazine.
By 1954, the Tandy brand had extended to 67 stores in 36 states. As Dave’s health began to become a concern and the chain continuing to grow more rapidly than he could have imagined, he began to relinquish more and more of the running of the business to Charles. In 1956, Dave Tandy retired as president, leaving the future of the leathercraft industry in the capable hands of his son Charles.
Cliff Ketchum (1918 – 1984) approached leather carving as an art form, raising the bar of floral carving for many of his early contemporaries. A true master of the swivel knife, Ketchum’s precise detail, impeccable style, and dedication to finesse made his work the envy of many.
Growing up in Arizona, Cliff loved to watch the stampers at the Porter’s Saddlery. When in high school, he began doing piece work at a rate of 35 cents an hour. He apprenticed under Master Saddlemaker Luis Ringlero and managed to work his way through a year of college at the University of Arizona living off of his leatherwork.
At age 22, he briefly moved to California to start a saddle shop in San Fernando Valley Lichtenberger-Feruson stamping for Ed Gilmour when the war beckoned. Ketchum joined the Army and served in the war effort from 1942 to 1946, before returning to the Los Angeles area where he started his own saddle shop with Art Hugenberger.
The San Fernando Valley Saddlery stamped saddles for the television and film industry, as well as a number of the Hollywood elite, including John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Audie Murphey. Stunt men prized his saddles, and many saddle makers apprenticed under Ketchum’s guidance, including Stohlman Award winner Verlane Desgrange.
Although a likable and laid back individual, Ketchum was a staunch businessman who knew the value of his work. Some of the Hollywood shops tried to pit him against Ken Griffin to drive down prices, however the two organized local leatherworkers to compare prices and agree not to undercut each other. Like Griffin, Ketchum was also a regular contributor to the early Doodle Pages produced by Craftool, regularly sharing insights and tips on mastering floral carving.
In his 30’s, the Los Angeles based Ketchum was invited to try his hand at acting. Slim and tall, he often got cast in Western rolls and went on to appear in Gunsmoke, Tales of Wells Fargo, 77 Sunset Strip, Pork Chop Hill, and The Young Land.
Fun Fact: As a young man, legendary saddlemaker Don King spent some time cowboying around Arizona. One of King’s regular stops was Porter’s Saddle Shop, where an 18 year old Cliff Ketchum first encouraged him to try his hand at leatherworking.
Multiple images in this article are attributed to the The Leather Craftsman Magazine.
The history of Tandy Leather is closely tied with the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Charles Tandy enlisted into the military in the spring of 1941 when the Navy offered a limited number of commissions to students attending Harvard’s School of Business. During his initial tour of duty in Hawaii, young Charles discovered how leather crafts were being used for therapeutic and recreational applications in the military hospitals. He wrote to his father about his ideas of how to help stabilize and grow the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company’s shoe supply business back in Fort Worth, Texas.
With the outbreak of World War II, leather became vital to the war effort and was limited for civilian use. Dave Tandy considered his son’s suggestions and found that specialty leathers that were still available worked nicely for tooling small projects. The company began providing resources for therapeutic leathercraft programs in hospitals, military recreation centers, and for rehabilitation.
Al Stohlman and many of the other early pioneers of leathercraft were veterans who began tinkering with leather during their tours of duty and paved the way for the leathercraft industry upon their discharge.
“Back then a lot of the military gear was made with leather, so it was fairly common that soldiers learned to repair or customize their own leather gear,” said Charlie Davenport, Tandy Leather’s Director of Research & Development, who served as a Corporal in the Marine Corps Infantry during Desert Storm. “Many of these troops contributed to the developing popularity of leathercraft.”
Upon sharing their leather projects, often friends and relatives would want to know where they could learn. Tandy became a popular destination for military families, many soldiers teaching their kids leathercraft while on leave.
“I was really introduced to leathercraft in high school by a teacher who had been a Colonel in WWII,” said George Hurst, who earned the rank of Sergeant First Class when working for the Army Security Agency during the Korean War. “I was very thankful to have access to leathercraft during my time in the military. Working with leather provided a creative outlet during leisure time; it felt more productive than playing cards or watching old movies, and often I’d turn a profit on reselling my projects”
Hurst also remembers the impact that leathercraft had on long-term care patients, such as military hospitals and VA facilities. It has traditionally been used in both physical therapy to rehabilitate motor skills and mental therapy to provide a task to keep their mind focused. In both cases, leathercraft has often been useful in fighting the onset of depression and anxiety in patients by providing a sense of value and productivity.
“My personal story about military experience and leathercraft are probably different from most folks,” said Van Woodruff, retired Army Sergeant First Class. “In 2008, I was diagnosed with OCD; not the ‘attention to detail’ kind, but rather a condition that made me extremely reclusive. I was medically retired in March 2014 after 13 years of service, but leatherworking has been my personal salvation, providing me with an outlet since 2009.”
Having seen the countless certificates and plaques on superior officer’s Glory Walls, he wanted to create something that would stand out and be unique. Now Woodruff works full time in his leathershop, creating projects he refers to as “Leather Biographies”; framed pieces of custom leather art that share the story of the soldier’s military experience.
To many of our employees and customers at Tandy Leather, Memorial Day is much more than just a day off to celebrate with family; we observe this day in remembrance of those who sacrificed so we have the freedom to celebrate.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!